Saturday, December 31, 2011

I've been a bad blogger the last six months. It's not that important things haven't been happening - they have. But I've had little energy to write what I've been feeling and thinking. For once, I've been a bit too busy living my life to spend so much time pondering it.

Aside from the struggles and joys of being a newlywed, teaching courses for students who live just under 4,000 miles away, health problems for both me and my husband (and the cats!), singing in my church choir and Christmas cantata, having family visit a few days, and being part of two bible study groups, one of the real joys I've had this year is my renewed love for reading.

I have always been a voracious reader. As a child, I would often get yelled at for not coming down to dinner on time because I was too engrossed in a book. I would build sheet tents in my bedroom and read for hours, or hide a flashlight in bed so I could read long after I was supposed to have my lights out. This love of reading was well and strong until I started graduate school. I had so much work to do - which, usually, involved reading at least one book per week per course - that I never had time to read for fun. In the 7 years I was in grad school, I maybe read 15 books for fun. Usually, I was just too exhausted to read by the time I was done with work and teaching.

One of my joys the past six months is that I have been reading like crazy. I've read 39 complete books since we got married (6 of them just in the week since Christmas day!).  I'm also in the middle of three more books. Some I wanted to read for work. Some I wanted to read to give my spirit a joy-lift.  And others are just goofy fun, or that I'm reading in part to have something to share with my husband.  I want to remember what I've read, so I'm making a list:

Horus Heresy Books - these are science fiction books in a series that my husband loves, related to miniatures gaming that he's been involved with for 20 years. Not my usual cup of tea, but it gives us something to enjoy together, so I'm learning to play the game and read the novels.
• Dan Abnett, Horus Rising
• Graham McNeill, False Gods
• Ben Counter, Galaxy in Flames
• James Swallow, The Flight of the Eisenstein
• Graham McNeill, Fulgrim
• Mitchel Scanlon, Descent of Angels
• Mike Lee, Fallen Angels

Jean Plaidy Books - I discovered this writer of historical fiction novels and fell in love. They are well-researched and have good bibliographies and, so far at least, are fairly accurate historically. They're also just great fun!
The Courts of Love: The Story of Eleanor of Aquitaine
• Katharine of Aragon: The Story of a Spanish Princess and an English Queen
• The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Anne of York
• To Hold the Crown: The Story of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
• The Thistle and the Rose: The Story of Margaret, Princess of England, Queen of Scotland
• Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard
Barbara Johnson Books - these are part of my "joy-lift" for my spirit. Johnson passed away a few years back, but her books are wonderful little love letters from God designed to make you laugh while God ministers to your hurting heart.
Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy
• Splashes of Joy in the Cesspools of Life
• Leaking Laffs Between Pampers and Depends
• He’s Gonna Toot and I’m Gonna Scoot
Religious Non-Fiction
• Max Lucado, God’s Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours
• Ken Ham, et al, The New Answers Book 3
• Josh Hamilton, Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back
• Steve Saint, End of the Spear
• Steve Saint, Walking His Trail: Signs of God Along the Way
• Elizabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor
• Davey and Marie Jank, Our Witchdoctors Are Too Weak: The Rebirth of an Amazon Tribe
• Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli, Falling in Love with Jesus
• Anne Graham Lotz, Expecting to See Jesus: A Wake-up Call for God’s People
• Beth Moore with Dale McCleskey, Jesus the One and Only
More Historical Fiction
• Christi Phillips, The Devlin Diary - I also read her first novel, The Rosetti Letter, and loved both of them.
• Philippa Gregory, The White Queen
• Georgette Heyer, The Conquerer: A Novel of William the Conquerer, the Bastard Son Who Overpowered a Kingdom and the Woman Who Melted His Heart
• Lynn Austin, While We’re Far Apart

Other Fiction
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Greater than the Sum
• Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind
• Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Tribulation Force
• Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Nicolae
• Craig Shaw Gardner, The Cylons’ Secret
• Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

History Non-Fiction
• Graeme Donald, The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln and 44 Other Forgotten Figures from History
• Michael Farquhar, A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors

My favorites were probably the Devlin Diary, both books by Nate Saint, all 4 books by Barbara Johnson, and my two goofy history books.

I have so many books I want to read, and am in the middle of a handul right now:
1. Louisa May Alcott, Little Women - it is still uplifting, even the third time I read it.
2. Adam Selzer, The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History - absolutely hilarious!
3. Barbara Johnson, Living Somewhere Between Estrogen and Death

I also have four more fictional books on tap. I love reading! Happy 2012!!

Friday, September 30, 2011


I have to confess, I have discovered hatred in my heart. I hate cancer.

Cancer is insidious.  Sometimes it creeps up very slowly, barely perceptible yet devastating.  Sometimes it comes with a bang, overnight and with no warning.  Sometimes its effects are completely visible; sometimes it is a totally invisible disease and you could never guess that it was ravaging someone's body. It morphs and changes and resists treatment at times.

Cancer seems to be literally all around right now. Just a few people I'm praying for right now:
* My mom - living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer for at least the last 2.5 years, despite the destruction of two of the vertebrae in her lower back
* Three of my aunts who have, over the past 3 years, successfully battled stage 1 and in situ breast cancer
* The family of a dear friend from college - her mom passed into eternity early this morning after a very quick fight against ovarian cancer
* The wife of my former pastor, who was just diagnosed with lung cancer a few weeks ago
* The brother of one of the women in my Thursday bible study, who was just diagnosed and is enduring chemotherapy right now
* A 19-year old teen from my parents' church back East who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in April and is enduring months of chemo and stem cell transplant therapy at St. Jude's in Memphis, TN
* A little 7 year-old girl here in town who has also been fighting a terribly aggressive brain cancer for the past two years

And that doesn't count those in my life who have been lost, or who have lost close family members to cancer. One of my mom's closest friends died a few years ago of a very aggressive brain cancer (the exact same cancer that Senator Ted Kennedy fought).  At least two friends have lost their fathers to cancer in the last 5 years. 

I really hate cancer. 

But cancer is not victorious.  Even when, in the case of so many of my friends, it appears to win.  If there is one thing God is making abundantly clear to me this year, it is that HE alone is sovereign.  He alone has power over life and death.  He alone has the power to heal.  He alone deserves glory and honor and praise.  He alone controls the heavens and the earth, and is Lord over all creatures in the heavens and the earth and under the earth. 

We are studying the book of James at church, and the first chapter says:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" ~James 1:2-5

This week has been full of trials.  Friends and family members passing away.  Spiritual attack.  Painful illness flare-ups.  Frustration. Exhaustion.

But it has also been full of God's faithfulness.  I have never been more sure of my God, my Lord Jesus Christ.  I have never been more sure of His love for me.  I have never been more assured of His sovereignty. 

Oh, Jesus, teach us to love you and to trust you - no matter the circumstances that come our way, even through cancer.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


This week has been a trying week, but there is much to celebrate and for which to praise God. Obviously, the first few days of the week were very difficult, learning that Mom's cancer was growing in a new spot again. That day and night for her were awful, and when they tried to do her first radiation treatment, she was in extreme pain and it was pretty traumatic.  The nurse was very patient, however, and let Mom figure out a way to move into position that worked for her.  Thank God for that nurse!

But things improved after that.  They have upped her pain meds quite a bit, and that evening, the thing that never happens in hospitals happened: they let her sleep for 6 hours, uninterrupted! She felt wonderful Thursday, and, after her second radiation treatment, she was discharged! It was really a wonderful day. And, on my end, I managed to record four lectures in two days, so I have a month of lectures ready to go.  Yesterday I managed to get access to Blackboard and spent most of the afternoon/evening setting up my two classes.  I still don't have an email account, however, so that's problematic for multiple reasons.

Today, my husband and I went to a class for newcomers at our church.  It was a really interesting experience, and gives me a lot more confidence that this is the church home God is calling us to.  It was also a welcome time for us to be together.  Last night we had some things we had to talk through, and it was a bit stressful.  So it was nice to have worked through some of that and have time as a couple today.

So yeah... this week has been really hard but God is still good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God is in control, even in these bad circumstances

This is no time for fear. This is a time for faith and determination.
Don't lose the vision here, carried away by the motion.
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart.
There is one thing that will always be true. It holds the world together.

God is in control. We believe that his children will not be forsaken.
God is in control. We will choose to remember and never be shaken.
There is no power above or beside Him.
We know, oh, God is in control.

History marches on. There is a bottom line drawn across the ages.
Culture can make its plan, oh, but the line never changes.
No matter how the deception may fly,
there is one thing that has always been true. It will be true forever.

God is in control. We believe that his children will not be forsaken.
God is in control. We will choose to remember and never be shaken.
There is no power above or beside Him.
We know, oh, God is in control.

He will never let you down. Why start to worry now? Why start to worry now?
He is still the Lord of all we see and He is still the loving Father watching over you and me!
Watching over you, watching over me, watching over everything.
Watching over you, watching over me, every little sparrow, every little king.

God is in control. We believe that his children will not be forsaken.
God is in control. We will choose to remember and never be shaken.
There is no power above or behind Him. We know, oh, God is in control.
~"God is in Control," by Twila Paris

Amen. God is in control.

I need to remember this today, because we got discouraging news about my mom's medical condition. She had been doing so well this year, but then a few things started to happen that were unexpected.

First, she had a kidney stone. It went away easily, so that was good. But then her pain came back stronger. They said she had some infections and put her on antibiotics.  But the pain got worse and, over the weekend, they admitted her to the hospital for tests.

Today, they finally gave my parents the diagnoses:
1. Mom has a tumor pressing against her spinal column - the cord itself is undamaged, but it is dangerous and could, if not removed or shrunk, could lead to paralysis.
2. She also has a fracture in her T-9 vertebrae - it sounds like this is at the same place as the tumor.
3. This all indicates that her cancer meds are no longer effective, because they did not prevent the growth of this new tumor.

So the treatment is the following:
1. Steroids to reduce inflammation in her spine
2. Radiation treatment for the tumor
3. New cancer meds in the hopes that a different medicine will keep everything from growing again
4. New medicine to try to strengthen her bones and prevent more fractures.

So... yeah. I'm a bit shell-shocked.  I've been expecting this for two years. But it feels like all the air has been sucked out of me again.

But I have this hope - I know that God, the LORD God Almighty, my LORD Jesus Christ is in total control. After I got off the phone with my dad, I started singing praises. Because, ultimately, God is my only hope, and the rock of my salvation.  He alone is in control. He has all power and authority over all created things. He alone is God. And, while it might seem strange to praise God after getting horrible news, it felt right. I am totally helpless. I can't make the cancer go away. I can't reduce my mom's pain. I can't give my dad strength. All I can do is pray to my Father, the One who Sees Me. The great healer. The creator God who rules over all. He is in control, and I know His children will never be forsaken.

Praise God with me, and please pray for healing, strength, wisdom, and peace for my parents.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My problem with self-help philosophy

Being home, with cable tv, has been a bit of a strange experience for me these past two weeks.  I didn't have tv this past year, so now being home alone all day means I've rediscovering the (tiny fraction of) good and (large fraction of) bad. 

One thing that's new - for me, at least - is this new Oprah network.  I see (well, hear, more often, since I tend to use the tv for background noise when I'm working) ads for it almost everywhere. As part of that, I have heard countless commercials for something - I'm not sure if it's a new show or what - that sounds basically like a platform for her "live your best life" philosophy. 

Every time I hear it, I have to fight the urge to answer back at the tv.  I have nothing against Oprah, and don't usually care one way or the other about what she does.  But whenever I hear elements of this self-help philosophy, I want to answer back, "No!!"

You see, this philosophy, this mode of thought that says that you have all that you need inside you to live an awesome life, that if we just look inside and be the better people that's deep inside, we can improve the world - it's incredibly deceptive.  It sounds great, right?  Who doesn't want to live better?  Who doesn't want to be a better person?  Who doesn't want to make the world better for their children and their families and friends?  There's nothing wrong with that!

But the central deception is this: this worldly philosophy tells you that YOU are the answer.  It's all about you, and your goodness. 
  • But scripture says that there is no one who is wholly good, no one who is perfect - "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
It says that the best of things comes from inside you - that you can be the source of goodness on earth.
  • But scripture says that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)
  • Scripture also says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • Finally, Jesus said, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good - except God alone." (Mark 10:18)
This philosophy says that all you need is you, and you can change the world.
  • But Christ said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27)
  • Job cried out, "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are HIS."
  • Jeremiah said, "But God made the earth by his power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.  When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.  He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from His storehouses."
Why  do I want to cry out every time I hear this "you"-based philosophy, whether through Oprah or through any of a number of other very prominent people in our society?  Because they are missing the central need of each and every person - the need for God. 

Paul declared, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life?" (Romans 5:6-10)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a better world, for wanting to be a better person, for wanting to live the best life.  But the catch is that, apart from God, you can do nothing.  You are not the source of this change - He is.  You are not powerful enough to change the world, but HE is. You are not good, He is. 

And when you turn to Him, He gives in abundance. Don't believe me? Listen to what He says.
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
  • The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
  • Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:4-6)
  • But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
  • Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Living a better life is a wonderful goal. But the way to achieve is not in our own power.  It's only by the power of God Almighty, Jesus the Christ, that we can affect change.

So the next time you hear anyone teaching that the power is within you, your response should be, "The only power that's in me is that of the Holy Spirit of the Living God!"

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Truth and consequences

I just heard a story that made me pray that God would forgive us for our arrogance and stupidity. The story was that a number of "conservative evangelicals" have come out denying the historical Adam and Eve.  Their argument?  That "scientific evidence" makes it "unlikely" that the diversity of the genetic code could have begun from one single couple. 

So that I don't go on a huge rant, I'll skip right to the heart of the matter.  Who are you going to believe - God or man?

Who are you going to trust for truth and morality - the creator God who is wholly good, wholly just, wholly righteous, or humans, who kill, maim, destroy, steal, and hurt each other?

Whose wisdom will you trust - the LORD, who knows all things, created all things, and can "show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know," or that of man, which changes all the time, and which admits that we understand very little of this world. 

Ultimately, it comes down to this:  Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  Either God is who He says He is, and His word is true, or he is an invention of crazy people who lived in the Middle East and needed something to explain their world. Choose one.

These church leaders will one day stand before the Lord God Almighty and answer for their choices.  So will the rest of us.  Choose either to believe God, fully and by faith, or choose to reject His word based on the incompete knowledge of mankind.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100th post

Wow, has this been an emotionally crazy few weeks.  There was all the stress & worry and sobbing about who I am, what God has for me, and how we're paying our bills this month.  Then there was a God-inspired revelation that my focus was dead wrong, and that I needed to change where I looked - and to whom I looked - if I wanted any sort of relief.  (And if my husband wanted relief from his emotional, sobbing wife.) 

Can I just say how phenomenally better I've been the last few days?  All the cares still exist, but I have had a peace that I can't understand these last few days.  It has been a 100% God-given peace, and He alone should get the glory.  Hallelujah, amen!

This week has been one of mini celebrations. My husband's birthday is today, and we don't really have any money for me to splurge on a big gift. So I decided to do something every day of the week to make him feel special.  Monday, I baked some cinnamon streusel muffins he had wanted.  Tuesday, I slipped a little love letter in his briefcase for him to find while at work.  Yesterday, I went to the store (2, actually), and bought some breakfast foods he had been wanting and now can have thanks to our new toaster (my mom's present to him).  I had them presented on the counter, along with a magazine I knew he'd enjoy and a serious birthday card, so he was greeted by them when he walked in the door. Today, I slipped another card into the bag I prepared with his lunch (our leftovers), and am baking a cake for him. Tomorrow, once the work week is done, I'll take him out to dinner wherever he wants to go.

And then there's this. Today, on my husband's 31st birthday and the two-month-iversary of our wedding, I got a job! Wasn't really expecting anything to come of this, but a month or two ago a former coworker from my phd program wrote and asked if I'd be interested in possibly teaching a course online.  I said I'd be interested and submitted my cv and application, but didn't think anything would come of it.  Two days ago, that coworker called and asked if I'd be willing to have a phone interview. I said okay.  I had it today at noon, and by 1 p.m., they were offering me the job teaching two sections of Western Civ online. 

It's not a lot of money, and if my salary had to be enough to support our family, I'd have to turn it down. But since we always saw my salary as supplemental, to cover those last remaining bills, it's really ok for me at this point to earn only $3,000 per course.  I might have to go through this whole job thing in the spring or summer, but at least for right now, it is a complete answer to prayer.  It will be enough for us to survive financially, and I will have the flexibility to take care of my husband and our house the way I want to do, and I will probably have the opportunity to volunteer or get involved at church or with a ministry as well.

Talk about your emotional roller coasters! But praise be to God, and God alone, for He is my rock and my salvation!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

SSMT 2011 updated

Well, it doesn't look like the job possibillity from yesterday is going to work out for me. Back to job search and applications.

In the meantime, I really am trying to keep my focus in the right place.  So to help with that, I'm going to see how many of the verses I'm trying to learn for the Living Proof Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2011 I can write out. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Numbers 23:19 - God is not a man, that He should lie. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?

Daniel 3:17-18 - If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us and will deliver us from your hand, o king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, o king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Isaiah 43:19 - See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up - do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

Psalm 4:4 - In your anger, do not sin. When you sit on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

John 10:27-29 - My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hands.  My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hands.

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Romans 15:13 - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, that you may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 5:6-7 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.

1 Peter 4:10 - Everyone should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering the grace of God in all its various forms.

John 15:5 - I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me, you can do nothing.

Psalm 30:11-12 - You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 - Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Micah 7:7 - But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord.  I wait for God my savior; my God will hear me.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

Ezekiel 36:26 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will removed from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So, all totaled, if I have a list of the references, I know 12 without any mistakes, forgot or messed up two phrases (the bold ones), and have not quite gotten down my latest verse from August 1st. 

I know that what matters is not that I get the phrases exactly right, but that they live in me.  Oh Lord, let these words change me!

Monday, August 8, 2011

So I got a call from the secretary at church today, offering the email of someone whose company is looking for employees to work from home.  I called the woman and spoke with her about the position.  It's essentially a scheduling position, serving as an at-home call center for a company that owns 8 auto body shops in the area.  The hours seemed a bit fuzzy, as did the pay. 

I was trying to answer her questions honestly, and then we came to the point where she asked about my prior experience.  I tried to explain as simply as I could about being in grad school, teaching, and why I am looking for jobs outside of academia.  She asked if this was the kind of job I was hoping to find.  I answered honestly - no, not really, but the realities of my field are such that it doesn't make sense to not be looking for other avenues so we can pay our bills each month.  Then she said, "The thing is, with your prior experience, I worry that you would start working and then not like it. It takes a lot of work to train someone..."

Am I crazy for feeling a bit insulted?  I don't know what she intended to say, but it felt to me like she was saying, "I don't know if you're worth my time and effort."  That left a truly sour taste in my mouth.  I tried to respond as nicely and professionally as I could, and then said I would appreciate the opportunity to talk about this with my husband before deciding whether to pursue it further.  She said that was fine.

I feel like I'm going a bit crazy.  This might be a decent job - it would be a paycheck, at the very least.  Would I be a fool not to pursue it?  I'm not sure I'd get a lot of respect from this woman, who would be my boss, since she's already said out loud that she's not sure I'd be worth the great effort it would take on her part to train me.  I don't want to turn a good thing down. But I don't know what to do now.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How I learned to stop worrying Christ

Most anyone who is a child of God and a worrier has struggled with Matthew 6:25-34 -
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
My first, natural response has always been, "Yeah. Right. I'll just turn off my brain and stop worrying. Easy." (That would be sarcasm, my friends!)  It never made any sense to me.  There are a number of things that work against this for me.
1. I'm a woman.  Ask most any of us - we worry.  I'm wired to be a caretaker, and part of that is worrying, fretting at times over other people's safety, health, happiness, and future. 
2. I think way too much.  Especially when I have nothing else to do, I think.  And what do I think about? Often, I think about the future. Sometimes it's years in the future, sometimes it's only a few hours ahead. But I'm constantly thinking about it. And when there are situations that seem very tenuous, I think even more about them.  (And no, this is not logical. It's illogical to spend more time thinking about the things you can't control.  But tell that to my brain.)
As I've said in earlier posts, I have been ridiculously stressed about our finances and my unemployment.  I spent most of this past week crying into my husband's shoulder because I was so worried.  I prayed a lot and kept telling God, "I don't know what you want from me right now!  If I can't teach, what am I supposed to be doing?" Not worrying just didn't seem possible.  How can I turn off my brain?
And then I started doing a bible study that I had picked up at the Christian bookstore near my parents' home.  One of them is about managing moods as a woman, and the other is about living above stress & worry. Both things are things I struggle with quite a bit.  At one point, of course, the study on stress & worry pointed me to the above passage.  I even looked up and told my husband, "I don't want to read this passage. I know what it says, and I still can't seem to do it!"
And it's true - I do know what it says.  At least, I thought I did.  You see, I had made a very large mistake.  Almost every time I was struggling with worry, I stopped at the wrong spot. I stopped after it said, "So do not worry..." in verse 31.  And then I would proceed to berate myself for worrying, feel guilty about worrying, and pray to ask God to help me to not worry so much.  I would connect it to Philippians 4:6 - "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  And to 1 Peter 5:10, "Cast all your anxiety upon God, for He cares for you."
But, my friends, I was wrong.  God is not telling us to stop worrying, and that's the end of it.  He knows that we worry - He made us, after all.  The point is not to try your best to just stop worrying.  The point is that our focus is entirely misdirected.
The point is that when we worry, our thoughts are most definitely not on Christ.  When we worry, our thoughts are consumed with the circumstances, with our fears, with our inadequacy. 
I missed the point. Because I missed the key to not worrying - "BUT seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
You see, the key to not worrying about tomorrow isn't to "just stop worrying."  It's to shift your focus. Rather than worrying all day about our finances and my unemployment, I need to seek Him FIRST.  It doesn't mean that I still am not concerned.  It doesn't mean that I won't still spend hours each day pouring through job listings and sending in applications.  But it means that when I start to get truly anxious, when I start to question God and His trustworthiness, I need to stop and seek Him first. 
That is how I am going to try to stop worrying. And I will trust that He is faithful. I will remind myself of the verse that sparked a total revival in my life two years ago this month - "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." ~Psalm 37:4

Crazy brains and shopping

My husband and I do things very differently from each other.  And by "very differently," I of course mean about as opposite as humanly possible. 

I plan everything, in detail, before I do it. (Important things, at least.) His planning ability stop as soon as teaching is done for the day.

I need things organized, with places for everything so I can get everything cleaned up and easy to find. He goes by the rule, "Out of sight, out of mind," and so if it's put away, he won't remember it. So everything stays in piles.

I talk. A lot. Especially if I'm scared or worried or frustrated. He internalizes everything and rarely talks about something that might worry him or make him upset.

I ask about his day and want a story - what happened, how did you feel, what did you do?  He responds with the same handful of responses, usually three words or less, and while he likes when I tell him stories, feels no need to tell a story about a blah day.

He has ADD - and no, it's not just an excuse because he was a disruptive kid. In fact, he was an extremely well-behaved kid. His brain really does work very differently and it takes a ton of mental effort to stay focused the way he needs to for work.  I don't have ADD and the things that are hard for him are easy for my brain.

We are learning how to deal with these differences one moment at a time. Funny enough, one of the areas that was a potential minefield of tension for our different brains was... grocery shopping. 

You see, he has always gone grocery shopping by randomly going to the grocery store, wandering through aisles and picking out things that look good, and maybe (if he was lucky) having food for two or three main meals.  Then, if he wanted something different later in the week, he'd go back.  And back again.  It wasn't unusual to go to the store 3-4 times a week.  And never with a plan. After spending a few months in total with his parents, I've seen that they are exactly the same way.  It wasn't unusual for his dad to stop at the grocery store every few days on his way home from work so we could cook dinner. 

I, on the other hand, hate going grocery shopping like that.  I want a plan.  And not just a list of food that I'd like, but an actual plan of what I could have to eat for the week.  I sit down and try to plan out the week's dinners, make sure I have ideas for lunches (since I have never been a fan of traditional lunch foods), and enough sustenance for breakfasts as well.  Once I have a plan for meals, I then write out my list of ingredients.  And, ideally, I won't deviate from my list if at all possible. 

So the past two weeks, we've tried to compromise.  I do the meal planning - last week, I jotted down ideas on the back of an envelope in the grocery store parking lot so we could buy food after church and come home for or weekly Sunday brunch.  This week, since we had all we needed for the brunch - eggs, bacon, hash browns - I got to make a list at home and then we went.  It makes my brain happy, and my husband is still able to add some extras into the cart that weren't on the list.  Today, I think I spied some ice cream and cookies and salad dressing. 

We're working out little by little how to be a good team.  So far, all things considered, I think we're doing fairly well.  And just because I want to document what I'm cooking, here are our meals from last week and what I've got planned for this week:

Last Week
1. Slow-cooker pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches
2. Slow-cooker chicken tacos with fiesta lime seasoning
3. Slow-cooker chicken, Santa Fe-style veggies, salsa, and rice
4. Leftovers
5. Pizza
6. Take-out on a night I had a horrendous migraine and my husband had to be at work from 7 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
*And I honestly can't remember what we had on Sunday!

This Week
1. Chicken & veggies stir-fry - either with teriyaki or sweet & sour sauce, cooked in our new wok
2. Mashed potato & sausage bake - a recipe I found in a cook book my grandmother just sent me
3. BBQ pork sandwiches - quickly becoming a favorite, cooked with country-style ribs in my slow cooker
4. Jambalaya
5. Homemade burgers on our grill with sweet potato fries
6. Tacos

And one night will by my husband's 31st birthday celebration.  I need to plan some baking to treat him all week, but I want it to be a surprise.  I'll probably bake a cake, but I might also make some cookies or chocolate muffins or something.

That's all for now.  Happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Doing nothing

So what do you when you have nothing to do?

I am struggling. My husband is now back to work full time, since he and the other teachers have meetings this week and start teaching next Monday.  That means I'm at home, alone, from about 6:30 a.m. until whenever he can get home at the end of the day - which typically will be at least 5 p.m. And I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing.

I spend hours every day pouring through job listings and applying to anything that I think I could do. And so far, I've had one in-person interview, one phone interview, missed one in-person interview for a part-time job due to illness, and have been told by at least 4 other places that they can't see how I could fit what they need.  In general, I'm told that I am over-educated and under-experienced.  My only jobs for the last 10 years have all been in teaching at the college level one way or another. And no one will even give me a shot.  I got a call today asking me to come in for an interview for some financial group, but when I looked them up afterward, I wasn't reassured by the info I found and probably will cancel the interview.  It's a gut feeling, but I don't want to ignore it when it doesn't feel right.

But I don't know where this leaves me.  What am I supposed to be doing? I have worked so ridiculously hard for the past 12 years in college and grad school, I have developed public speaking, written communication, typing, computer software, organizational, and instructional skills. And no one will even give me a second look. Jobs that I know I could do with ease, because I've done them before one way or another, won't give me a chance because I have too much of the wrong education and not enough specific experience for them to care. 

So what does that leave for me? I can't even get entry-level jobs that I'm pretty sure I've seen teenagers doing, even though I could probably be working as their manager with ease. Unfortunately, I have a very hard time applying for retail or restaurant positions - the ones that require no experience - because I have so many problems with my body that I honestly don't think I could work a job that required me to be on my feet, standing, walking, or lifting, for 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

And so I'm at home. It's close to 110 degrees outside, so being outside isn't much fun. I stay in the house. I run some errands, cook, clean, do laundry... and worry about the fact that in three weeks we won't have enough money to cover our mortgage and all the other bills. And I feel like a failure. A failure at work, a failure at helping our family. 

It would be a very different matter if we were raising a child and we chose for me to stay home and be primarily the nurturer (assuming we could ever afford to live on only one salary, that is).  But this isn't my choice. I don't want to be out of work. I have lost count of how many jobs I have applied for since we got back from our honeymoon. And I have nothing to show for it. I'm lost. What am I supposed to be doing if I can't find work, can't help pay the bills, and can't do much of anything else?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Down day

There are perhaps very few things you can be doing that help to crush your self-esteem more than looking for work. I've been out of work for 2 months, and despite applying to something like 80 jobs in that time (during which I also got married!), I've had almost no interest.  I had two in-person interviews, one phone interview, and one potential interview that I missed because I got very sick and couldn't get there. Oh, and I had a job offer today that is extremely sketchy and my gut tells me it's not legit or it's a front for something illegal, so I'm not pursuing that, of course. 

I told my husband today that it makes me feel like I've wasted the past twelve years.  I worked my butt off in college, had a 4.0 (in two majors), and was valedictorian of my graduating class.  I worked 70 hrs a week, at times through the night, for two years to get my Master's degree.  I worked until I literally made myself too sick to go on in my doctoral program for 5 years.  I worked anywhere from 30-60 hrs a week this past academic year teaching in a position that was technically only a 20-hr-per-week job. I have forsaken relationships, outside activities, and a life in general for over 8 years.  [And yes, I understand that without all of that, I never would have met or married my husband. I'm grateful. I know I learned a lot, about life, God, and myself. It wasn't wasted in that sense.] 

But what do I have to show for it? My bills far outweigh the money I have left in the bank.  We barely had enough money to pay the mortgage today - if I hadn't found the leftover euros from when I left Spain early to take care of my mom, we would have had to scramble to transfer what little money I have into his account.  I went to a job fair and almost everyone told me that they had nothing that would fit my skills and education - I would have been better off with an associates degree from community college.  I'm begging for jobs that don't require 4-year degrees, because almost everything requires minimum experience levels, and only if I can convince them that I have the skills despite never working in their field can I qualify.  I'm over-educated, under-experienced, and honestly could have been farther along if I had simply gotten an industry job right out of college. 

It doesn't help that the unemployment rate here is above the national average, and the reality is we probably are closer to 12-13% unemployed in the region.  There are literally thousands begging for the same few jobs, and so it's getting increasingly hard to convince anyone to give me a chance when there are dozens or hundreds of candidates that have the exact qualifications they're looking for. I spent over an hour working on an application today that, in all likelihood, won't amount to anything.  I'm applying to things that I never wanted to do, and still don't want to do, because I'm so worried that we won't be able to pay our bills by the end of the month.  I've thought of going back to school to learn new skills for a different field, but that costs money that we just don't have.  I can't afford to spend even $10,000 (a very small number in terms of tuition costs) on more training and schooling right now.

So where does that leave me?  I'm exhausted mentally and physically from trying to find new ways to explain that my years teaching and as a graduate student have given me more than enough experience to be your administrative assistant or receptionist.  I'm sick of trying to figure out if my body could handle working retail or food services - even though I know I can't handle standing for 6-8 hours a day.  I'm exhausted from constantly being told that I just don't have the experience necessary.

I'm trying to trust that God will provide. I'm not doing very well on that front. I'm trying to believe that something will eventually "come along," before we have to sell a car or I have to stop sponsoring my Compassion child in Mexico.  If you would have told me 10 years ago that I wouldn't finish the Ph.D., that there would be nothing in my field that I qualify for because the competition would be so intense that no one has to give me a second look, and that I'd be begging for jobs that recent high school graduates could qualify for, I don't know what choice I'd make in terms of my career.  I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to be doing.  And, for a planner like me, that's quite scary.

And yes, I know that God will take care of us. Today is just a seriously down day for me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roller Coaster

So it's almost August, and soon I'm going to be able to start the whole process (about which I still feel a bit in the dark) of changing my name officially.  Since I still had bills up at my old apartment through August, it seemed to me a better idea to wait until I no longer had bills coming there (i.e., turn in keys at the apt, close out my utility bills, etc.) to start having to change my name with every single thing connected with me.

While I love the house and love not having to say good bye to my love, it's been hard in some ways.  I have to get used to how long it takes to drive out here, which is new for me.  We're technically in the capital, but it's so spread out and we're so far away in the corner that it takes forever to get anywhere. Just to get to the beltway, it takes at least 20 minutes, and then you have to actually go where you want to go. It's virtually impossible to get anywhere in less than 45 minutes, which is hard to get used to for me. 

This has been especially hard because as of yet, I am still unemployed.  I've had three interviews and have sent out probably 50 applications so far, but nothing has come through. It's hard to look for jobs because there is almost nothing in our part of town.  Most job listings start at least 10 miles away - but because of the way the city is laid out, that could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour.  It's really hard to know which jobs to apply for, because most things are in the center of town, but that would require me to be in the car anywhere from 2 hours to 5 hours a day. 

Money is ridiculously tight for us as long as I'm out of work, and I get pretty stressed about it. I love my husband, and think it's criminal that he gets paid so little when he works so hard.  He's the lead teacher for the middle school this year, and he's already spent 7 hours at the school and countless hours prepping at home this week. He doesn't get any real respect, almost no real support, and his salary has been cut every year despite the fact that he's obviously an excellent teacher and a good leader. So as hard as he works - on average, at least 60 hours a week - his salary really doesn't reflect that.

So I'm praying for leads. I check probably 6 different places, 2 of them pretty much every day.  It's been a lot harder than I thought it would be.  The disappointment isn't so much in the market - I knew it was awful, and I knew it would be an uphill battle convincing anyone to hire me when I've done nothing but teach college students for the past 8 years.  The disappointment is with how depressing and confusing it is for me.

In college, I knew I was being called to teach. It wasn't just a job, it really was a calling. I dedicated myself to it from then on, and have taught something like 1,000 students while in grad school and this past year at That Other State U.  As frustrating as academia could be, and as hard as it was at times, I always had that purpose.  The decision to leave academia, at least for now, is one that leaves me feeling both totally free and uncontrollably free-falling. Yes, I have options. Yes, I am not stuck begging for grants every 6 months. Yes, I might actually have the time *and* energy to give my all to my husband and our life together. And yet, I also have no purpose professionally.  I have no direction yet.  I've applied to so many things, mostly administrative/clerical - primarily because my body is a bit screwed up and I don't think I can handle standing all day.  But I don't have a passion.  I don't know if I'd even enjoy these jobs.

I never realized until now how much I defined myself as a teacher.  It wasn't just my job; it was my definition. And so now, when many of my former colleagues are writing syllabi and working on their dissertation, and my husband is trying to gear up for being at school with his pesky 8th graders starting next week, I'm drifting. 

I know that God has a plan for me. I know that there are many things I could do well.  But this in-between time is quite hard. I know I'm not alone.  I've been reading some blogs from others who have left academia recently.  Two that stand out so far are Leaving Academia and Another Academic Bites the Dust.  Dustbiter's post on the Roller Coaster was completely relatable.

It's just hard.  I'm looking forward to the day when it's less so.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Way too much to say

There is so much I should say on here, so much I want to say, and yet so much I want to treasure just for me. I keep thinking of that verse in Luke that says, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." ~Luke 2:19 There is much that I want to treasure and ponder in my heart.

But here's what I can share.

At the end of May, once my then-fiancee's school ended and we cleaned his classroom for the summer, we packed up our stuff, two cats, and my wedding dress and headed to his family's house in the mid-west.  We were there for a week and a half, then went to my parents' for a week and a half.

June 11, 2011, was the best day and most perfect of my life. I was up until about 2:45 a.m. catching up with a friend who flew in from the desert to be there. Then in the morning, my groom, his cousin (and best man), my maid-of-honor, two of my friends - my best friend from high school and my best friend from grad school who flew in - and I carpooled and went to brunch. It was so much fun, and the only food I got to eat until dinner at 6:30 that night! It was great to just spend time together and relax and make the morning stress-free. We went to my folks' home and picked up the men's tuxedos and I printed out our vows and we headed to the church. I spent about an hour in the kindergarten room with my mom, future mother-in-law, grandmother, and my female friends who came. Then it was the ceremony.

I hope I never forget. Seeing such loving friends, old family, new family all sitting in the church smiling and crying. Laughing when I saw a friend who drove over 600 miles at 7 months pregnant. Staring straight ahead and smiling at my groom who was trying not to cry. Dear friends singing a song that brought me almost to sobs. Another dear friend as our minister. Vows that made everyone laugh and made me choke up to where I had to take a minute to finish. Watching my mom walk up to help light the unity candle without needing a wheelchair or walker. Finally kissing my HUSBAND. My secret surprise that made the entire crowd howl with laughter as we came down the aisle as man and wife. So many pictures with our entire family - his, mine, now forever OURS. The reception - tables with flowers and, most importantly, pictures of our families especially chosen for the occasion. Laughter - oh, so much laughter. Our best man's speech, accidentally saying that he and the groom had "started our life together"... when he meant that they had started their lives away from home at the same time. Mom wearing my veil for most of the reception. :-)

It was the perfect day. My mom was alive, feeling good, and able to take part in every part of the day, laughing and enjoying herself. I got married to the love of my life and my best friend. Our families are forever united through us and Christ. It was a day of true celebration. We celebrated Christ's love for us. Our families' love for the two of us. Our love for each other. It was the perfect day. The day my life as a wife began.

We'll have plenty of challenges - we already have found some of them - but we can face them together and with Christ's help.

Friday, May 20, 2011


It's 10 p.m on May 20th. In a little under 11 hours, we should be on the road with my fiance, me, both cats, and my wedding dress (and a whole lot of other "stuff") heading for his parents' house in the midwest. We'll be there around a week and a half until we head to my parents' house for another week and a half, at the end of which... we'll be married!!!

If I had a little more energy, I would literally be jumping up and down. Earlier, I was. :-) My fiance, S, laughs at me a lot because I get so excited. I can't believe it's finally (almost) here. We've been engaged since October, and I gotta say, it feels like we've been waiting forever! When I said that earlier this evening, S said that we have been - but he's been waiting longer. He's been waiting 30 years, 9 months, and 9 days while I've *only* been waiting for 29 years, 7 months, and 15 days. :-)

In other news, I've decided to try to walk more. I'm going to be living in this awesome neighborhood, and since biking isn't that safe around here, I figure I'll start walking more. Hopefully, it'll get me in better shape and maybe I'll lose the weight I've gained this year. And maybe I'll meet some neighbors... So this morning after S went to his final day cleaning out his classroom and doing paperwork, I got in some comfy clothes, loaded up my mp3 player, and walked around the neighborhood. It was a glorious 70 degrees, so it wasn't hot at all. I walked 1.3 miles in a little under 30 minutes. I have an audio bible on my mp3 player, so I listened to Psalms 8-19 on the walk. It was so wonderful to silently repeat the Psalms as I listened, praising God for His holiness and glory while also listening to birds chirping and life blowing around me.

I should try to get some sleep. I usually have so much nervous energy that I can't sleep more than 4 or 5 hours before a trip, but I promised S that since I am insisting we leave in the morning - not, like last year, at 1 p.m.!!! - that I'll drive the first leg. [I'm not making him get up when I'd like to, around 5 a.m., but I will go nuts if we don't leave until noon, so we're compromising and planning to try to leave around 8:30.] That way he can rest for a while, rest his back and knee and wait for his medicine to kick in before having to drive the four of us on the interstate. I'm guessing I'll probably make it 3 hours before I'll need a break. That all said, I probably need more than my usual 5 hours.

So night, all. I might not be on here for a while, cause I'm getting married!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Scripture Memory #10

So I've been trying to memorize two verses a month, but I have to confess that I have not been doing well at working on them lately. I could blame work, fatigue, illness, and bad choices, but the honest answer is that I've been selfish and have chosen all the things I think I want rather than choosing God. Thankfully, I know that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

So here are my verses - some I know by heart, others I still need to look up. I need to choose to work on these every day, even with the wedding coming up in a month and the honeymoon and such. I choose Christ!

1. "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?" ~Numbers 23:19

2. "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us and will deliver us from your hand, o king. But even if He does not, we want you know, o king, that we will not worship your gods nor serve the image of gold you have set up." ~Daniel 3:17-18

3. "See, I am doing a new thing! Even now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." ~Isaiah 43:19

4. "In your anger, do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." ~Psalm 4:4

5. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." ~John 10:27-29

6. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." ~Philippians 4:6

7. "May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 15:13

8. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." ~1 Peter 5:6-7

9. "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you remain and me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." ~John 15:5

10. "Everyone should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." ~1 Peter 4:10

I choose to learn these. Oh Lord, help me to be self-disciplined and to choose you. Run these verses through my heart and head constantly, Father. Help me to not just memorize them for the sake of memorizing them, but let them work in me to do your good will.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Running in circles

I've been going non-stop this week, and I don't actually mean that I have been productive. [Though, I did write and give four lectures - two on the Crusades for my World History class, one on the Crusading Era and another on the development of anti-Semitism in Europe for my Western Civ class.  I suppose that's not insignificant...] Rather, I mean that my brain will not turn off. I cannot get it to stop thinking through different scenarios about my employment and our future after our wedding.
If nothing else, no one could say that I haven't been making plans for different possibilities.  This week I have:

1. Written up a non-academic resume and posted it on a job-hunt site to help get the ball rolling;

2. Submitted an academic C.V., application, and cover letter to the community colleges' adjunct pool. The CCs in this city are all interconnected, and so the individual departments don't usually accept the applications (at least, that's what they said...);

3. Wrote a completely different resume focusing on my music experience and submitted an application for an institute for performing arts that is seeking piano teachers;

4. Have an application in the works for a tutoring company downtown that has a philosophy for teaching that resonated with me and, perhaps as important for me, does tutoring in the office complex, and not in students' homes. There are a number of companies in town that I could apply to work for as a tutor, but they all require the tutor to meet at the student's home, and I'm a bit too distrustful for that to be comfortable.

5. Finally, of course, there's getting info for the CMA training (for which I have info for three different programs, and have read through a book at B&N about the training and national accreditation exam).

As I said, you can't say I'm not exploring my options. I have spent countless hours browsing through job listings for the area with all sorts of key words: education, teaching, history, tutoring, Spanish, bilingual, administrative, piano, adjunct, part-time... etc.

But I'm frustrated. I finally realized on my drive home from a second wedding dress fitting that the frustration was because I'm scared and feel so much uncertainty about what to do.  For most of my adult life, there was always a degree of certainty. College was a given, and when God pushed me into what would become my alma mater, I knew within three days that I'd apply and go there... and I did. While it took me about 3 years to figure out God was pushing me into teaching, once I realized it, there wasn't any real uncertainty as to what to do. While I was utterly miserable in my MA program (not with the work, just the rest of life there), it wasn't a hard decision to apply to doctoral programs. It was a little hard to decide to abandon the PhD this past fall, but my heart had changed so much it wasn't as difficult a decision to make as I thought it would be. It's been harder dealing with the post-grad school guilt. Taking my current job was problematic, and is the only real time I can point to that relates to this. But my current situation isn't just about which job to take; it is about the fundamental position God has for me in this world.

I really have gotten excited about the CMA idea, but I also realized tonight that I feel guilty wanting to do it. My fiance and I talked a lot tonight about it all, and I realized that I feel guilty because I know we will be really struggling to pay all the bills.  Is it fair to ask him to struggle while I go back to school for more training? He did point out, as I had yesterday, that it's about delayed gratification - we might struggle for a little while in exchange for the possibility of stability in a year.

So here we are. I'm literally running in 5 or 6 different circles simultaneously. Picture me at the center of all of these concentric circles. That's how my brain feels. That's how my life feels. All I really know is this:

God has a plan for me. God has a plan for us, for me and my fiance. He will not let us flounder without revealing Himself to us. I have a loving and supportive fiance and we get to marry each other before God, our families, and the state in 49 days, 12 hours, and 7 minutes (according to my computer's clock). We'll figure something out. Whatever that will be, we have each other and we have Christ, the RISEN LORD.

Blessed Easter weekend to all....

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I had someone ask what I was looking at, and the field is health care. I don't know exactly what in that field, though right now I've gotten information for the training needed to be a CMA - certified medical assistant. The job market outlook for that position is projected to grow at least 18% between now and 2018 - even with the economic collapse.

I came down this evening since my TA (who doesn't do much) is taking care of the students tomorrow. We spent about an hour and a half talking about this. I have estimates on time/money required for two different programs. One of them is around $5000, but we don't know what that actually covers (if anything) other than tuition.  One is $13,000, all fees included - we're talking texts, labs, uniforms, etc. At this point, we don't know why there is such disparity between them. I'm not sure if one is that much better (or worse), or if it's because one is a community college and the other isn't... I'd have to figure that out.

But I have a dilemma. If we decide together that this is the best thing for us as a couple and for me as an individual, I would have to be in class 4-5 days a week, 4-6 hours per day - longer when you get to the clinical externship. This would take about 9 months.  If we did this, I'm not at all sure what kind of part time job I could get that would allow me to still do the classes and study. The one school is a bit closer - maybe a 25 minute drive from the house; the other is the center of town, and would probably take an hour to 90 minutes in morning traffic. That means probably leaving the house by 6:30 a.m., 5 days a week, and not getting home until 1 or 1:30 p.m., then trying to study and earn money? I don't know... There's another program that I found as well, but it is literally about as far away as you can get from the house and still be in the valley.  It would take me a good 90 minutes, perhaps up to 2.5 hours to get there each day.  I don't know if that's even in the realm of possibility. I love my fiance and his house, but it is as far away from the actual city as you can get. My country boy...

One the one hand, if I could get through the training and pass the certification exam, I would have a much greater possibility of finding a job, and the certification is good for 5 years before you have to renew. On the other hand, doing this means giving up the possibility of my earning a decent wage, which means we might not be able to pay all the bills this first year of marriage without loans, credit card debt, or some other means of help.

There are days that I really wish God would just set up a huge flashing billboard saying, "This is my plan - now do it!" I just want to know what it is I'm supposed to do. Right now, from what I've seen of the job market here, there is almost no chance I'll end up with a job teaching history at the college level. There just aren't any openings. The community college system is losing 50% of their budget (thanks to our ridiculous legislators), the state university is still under a hiring freeze (thanks, also, to our legislators).  I'm not credentialed to teach high school - and any history jobs that we've seen require you to be a coach, because it's really to get a good coach, not a good teacher. I've seen some tutoring jobs, but they require you to meet at the person's home, and I'm seriously distrustful that everyone requesting a tutor is safe to enter their homes, alone, as a woman. (That's what happens when you grow up watching the news from Philly every day.)

But can we really afford for me to spend 9 months of our first year of marriage not earning a decent salary? If I could find a part time job, it would have to be either for the afternoon, evenings, or weekends - the only times my husband would actually be home. So what do we do? He keeps saying that he's sure I'd be great at it, and he just wants me to be happy. I keep saying that we are no longer making decisions based on "I," but we need to make decisions based on "we."  What do we think is best? What is a good situation for both of us?

My mom is supportive, and didn't seem to think the tuition would be that difficult to handle. His mom is signing me up for job alerts for "teaching," despite the fact that 100% of the job postings are in things I'm not qualified for at all. For most jobs that I do find, I am seriously over-educated and seriously under-experienced. 

So what do we do? I have NO. IDEA. AT. ALL. Other than to pray for wisdom. And, since I'm me, think about things constantly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I can't sleep. I'm not in pain, though I did have a migraine earlier today (but it was the first in a week, so that's good for me!).  No, it's not my body, it's my brain. It won't shut off.

It all started yesterday. My fiance sent me a text message saying that the superintendent of the school district he teaches in came to talk to the faculty and announced yet another pay cut to the teachers.  Since he began working in this state, he's suffered a 30% reduction in pay - no part of which was due to poor evaluations, but all consequences of the state legislature brutally slashing primary and secondary education funding. So this wasn't exactly unexpected, but it is disheartening.  They're trying to pretend like it's not a pay cut by saying their salaries are remaining the same, but the district is refusing to pay part of the retirement contributions, and the state is essentially stealing its 3% contribution to use to cover the enormous debt the legislature is in.  [The state promises it'll pay the teachers back what they owe them, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.]  This all essentially means that my fiance will be losing an extra $4500 for the year. It doesn't sound like much, but when they've already reduced his salary down below $30,000, that's a huge cut.

So we had a hard conversation about our finances. We worked out what our monthly required bills are - mortgage, water, electric, gas, HOA fee, car insurance, medical insurance, home owners' insurance, etc. We figured out that his reduced salary - assuming they don't cut even more before August - will maybe just barely cover those mandatory bills. It won't be enough to put anything in savings, and it might not even be enough to cover weekly gas and food bills. It certainly wouldn't be possible to start a family with just his salary - something we both are hoping we can do fairly soon, since we're both starting on our 30s.

All this means that I have to work. Unless something dramatic changes for his position, we cannot live on his salary alone. And that leads to what is keeping me awake and unable to shut down the brain. I've worked in education for 8 years now.  Longer, if you count all the tutoring and grading I did as an undergrad for the Spanish and History departments. I've taught close to 1,000 students at three state universities. I love teaching, and I love my students. I have my MA, I attained ABD status in my PhD program.  I've been in Spain three times doing dissertation research.

And I might walk away from academia altogether. I wrote out a non-academic resume and posted it on an employment site in the hopes it would help me get started on looking for a job for after our wedding. But searching there, along with a few things my fiance said, have pushed me down a totally different path.

I might be considering a radical change in my career - one that would require me to go back to school at the lower level, perhaps for an academic year, to obtain the requisite training.  I even went so far as to research programs and request information from a few of them that are close to my fiance's house. It's crazy, right? I was a student from age 5 to age 29 non-stop, with the exception of the months I was taking care of Mom that first winter that she was fighting cancer. Do I really want to go back to school, at this point?

The cons are:
1. the money it would require - not a ton (at least not compared with being a grad student with no funding),
2. the time - from what I've seen, I'd probably have to be in training/class for about 9 months, so I'd have to figure out a plan to earn money and go to school without going nuts, and
3. the uncertainty about whether this is really the best option for me, and whether I'd be happy doing it.

There are a number of "pros" to consider, as well. 
1. job availability - it's in a field that is growing by leaps and bounds, and, at least compared to teaching history, offers a far greater possibility that I could be earning decent money within the next year,

2. flexibility - because of the field and the need, I would be far more likely to have a job no matter where we lived; if this state continues to treat the secondary teachers so badly, we might not have a choice but to move in a few years. It would be awfully nice if I had a career that was easily movable.  While I always thought teaching was that, the market for history profs (especially ones without PhD in hand) is shrinking every year, and there's no guarantee that I can even find a job here, say nothing of somewhere else.

3. the pay - it wouldn't actually be a lot, at least not compared to many fields, but as long as my fiance's salary could cover our major expenses, anything that I earn could be used for daily living (i.e., car fuel, food, occasional expenses) and the rest could be put into savings. Both of us have had to live paycheck to paycheck - me for the last 8 years, him for the last 2.  It would be so incredibly nice to have money saved away - for kids, for retirement, for medical bills, etc.

4. I also realized that this potential career change wouldn't necessarily prevent me from teaching in the future, if a job was available. I applied again for the adjunct pool at the community college system, and it is possible that I could teach a class in the future even if I change my primary focus. I also realized that, if I really loved it, I could potentially teach the new skills later on down the line.

This is crazy, right?

The problem is... maybe it isn't. Maybe it really is the best move for me, for my career potential, and for our family life.  I can't imagine how much less stress my fiance would live with if we knew we could provide for ourselves and any little ones that come along. I'm praying about it. I can't stop thinking about it. Last night I was up until 2 a.m. researching it. It's after 12:30 tonight and I still can't get my brain to shut off. My parents were actually highly amenable to the idea, which shocked me a bit. I need to pray. I need to ponder. I need to really talk with someone who could tell me what I could expect. But this feels like a really serious, potentially great possibility.

And I'm just a little scared.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Late night ponderings

It's late. It's after midnight, in fact. My body has been going back and forth between sleeping for hours on end and not being able to fall asleep. Tonight appears to be one of the "hard to fall asleep" nights.

Today was a hard day. A bad day, even. It's a little rare for me to have a day that has little to redeem itself, but today was one. And I need to describe it, just so I can get out the frustration and let it go. It did not start out badly, but I started working on financial issues around 9 a.m. (since I already had my class prepped for today), and things went down hill from there. I had to pay some pretty hefty bills, and so had to do some calculations to see if I could pay off my entire credit card bill or if I'd have to leave a balance of some amount (which I normally don't do).

The financial work led to calculating my remaining bills between now and the first of August, when I'll finally, formally be out of this apartment and living in my fiance's house. That was pretty scary. I have about 3 times as much money owed in bills as I'll have coming in. That got me thinking about health and car insurance payments, and trying to figure out what to do about my health insurance since my benefits end June 1st and I can't get on my fiance's insurance policy until July 1st. (We were told we have to wait until we're married to apply to add me.  They can add me to his policy the day after our wedding, but won't start coverage until the first day of the following month, so I'm uninsured for June unless I find another option.) That was a very unpleasant task. No good options, and the only one that would still cover my pre-existing conditions would cost upwards of $700. So that got me frustrated and emotional.

Then I went to class. My graduate TA skipped class, without informing me or asking me for permission to skip. He already had asked for permission to miss two of three classes next week due to family coming into town, and I had said yes. But I had a number of things I needed to discuss with him regarding the end of next week, and he bailed. He didn't have the courtesy to email me, so I emailed him. I know that it's got to be a little hard for these TAs since I'm younger than them and I don't have a PhD in hand. But you'd think they'd give me even a little respect. My students weren't much better. It was quite apparent by their body language, posture, and an above average amount of disrespectful behavior - despite my asking and then telling them it was inappropriate and to stop - that they were neither interested nor willing to pay attention.

After work, I had to go shopping. Blech. I hate shopping. Especially for clothes. But our choir director announced only a few days ago that we have to match this weekend for our performances, so I had to go find clothes. I got home to find my router messing up badly. I spent almost 90 minutes troubleshooting, resetting, and even completely re-establishing my network before it finally began to work decently.

All of this, combined with very unhelpful comments from my parents, and the fact that my fiance might not get to come up at all tomorrow because his car is having some problems, led to a very emotional day and evening. I began to cheer up a little after some tacos for dinner (Mexican food makes me happy. I know, I'm weird.), and then I decided to ignore all the stresses of being an adult with huge decisions ahead (like a new career), too many responsibilities, and not enough funds to take care of them all by watching some old Disney movies.

Thanks to Netflix, I got to watch "Sleeping Beauty" for the first time in probably 25 years. I had a book that told the story when I was little, and I always loved the illustrations, so it was lovely to watch again. And now, since I can't sleep, I'm watching the '90s Disney version of the "Three Musketeers." It's goofy, reminds me of watching it with one of my good friends in the theatre when we were maybe 12 years old, and the soundtrack absolutely makes the movie.

I know this post is not at all uplifting, contains no deep thoughts on anything important, and is primarily me describing a crappy day. But I needed to write it out. Maybe now I can get my brain to turn off, stop thinking about it all, and go to sleep.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Casting Cares

So my sixth verse for SSMT was Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God."

I don't seem to be learning this one very well. You see, it's 3:30 a.m., and I haven't slept yet. In fact, I've been struggling with severe insomnia for the last few months.  I've never had insomnia before, so it's been very difficult on me physically and emotionally.

I would really like to avoid taking medicine every night. So this is my beginning of presenting my requests to God so He can deal with them and help me figure out how to handle the stress and anxiety that comes with all of these things.

Father, here are some of the things that are weighing so heavily on my mind. Please help me to learn how to really give these over to you. Remind me that I don't have to be in control. You, o Lord, are enough.. You are strong enough to hold me up. You are powerful enough to control all of these things. You are intelligent enough to design perfect plans to deal with these things. You are loving enough to never leave me alone in these things. You are merciful enough to provide a way to deal with these issues or to completely end them.

1. Finances - paycheck ends after May 31st, and I currently have about $2500 in bills and not that much money in my account. I also worry that the state will reduce my fiancee's teaching salary again and that we won't have enough income to pay our bills each month. I confess that you are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Provider, and I ask you to help me trust that You will provide for these bills.

2. Mom's health - you know how much I worry about losing Mom. I'm so grateful that you've given us the last two years, but despite that gratefulness, I fear that I'll lose her soon. I don't know how to get through the week without talking with her. She's my best friend. Help me to remember that You are the one who numbers our days. You. Not cancer. Not doctors. You. You know exactly when each of us will come home. Help me to remember that you hold us in your hands, and that when you bring Mom home to your arms, you won't leave me alone. Help me to trust that you will provide all of us with what we need for what's to come.

3. My health and my fiancee's health - I worry about our collective health issues. I worry that we might not be able to have children. I worry about whether our bodies will allow us to take care of children. I worry that we will never know days without pain. Lord, help me to trust you in this. Help me to trust that you have a perfect plan, whether that includes biological children or adopted children or something else entirely. Help me to trust that you would give us the strength we need if your plan includes children.

4. My career - I think this one has been harder than I ever expected. I have a lot of peace about quitting the PhD program. I really do. But the uncertainty of the future is crushing a bit. I don't know what to do. I don't know if I'll even be able to stay in teaching. I don't know where to look. I am so lost when it comes to this. O Jesus, you tell me not to worry about tomorrow. You tell me that you hold me in your hand, and that your will is perfect. I know that you led me to this place. Help me to hold on to all that I know about you.  Help me to resist the self-doubt and all the insecurities and lies satan tries to tell me to get me off track.

There are more. Many, many more. But these are the most important ones right now. O Jesus, take these burdens and give me the strength to stand. And the peace to sleep again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

God-driven encounter

Before I get to the good part, I have to lament for just a minute. I think I strained my left pectoral muscle. This morning I suddenly woke up to a great deal of pain stretching from my sternum and left breast up to my collar bone and stretching over to my left arm is SO sore. I've been using my heating pad, and that has helped. But wow. I'm guessing it's from being sick all weekend and the strain it took on my muscles. I just pray it relaxes soon. It's disconcerting to have pain that feels like it's inside your breast when it's really from your muscles and tendons. So it's more rest for me now that teaching is done for the day.

But anyway, on to what I wanted to write about. I had a God-driven encounter today. I finished teaching and was driving home afterward when I suddenly turned in to a parking lot and decided to try a restaurant that I've passed every work day for the last 7 months but had never tried. I thought it was a fast food-ish pita place, based on the name. It turned out to be a sit-down restaurant.

Now, I normally don't eat in sit-down restaurants by myself. I feel awkward and out of place and I'd rather eat at home. But I was so hungry and the food on the menu (pitas, Mediterranean platters, chicken schwarma, gyros, etc.) all sounded delicious. So I went in, sat and ordered, and eventually ate an absolutely delicious chicken pita sandwich with garlic potatoes on the side.

I noticed that a particular woman was staring at me as she left the place, but didn't think much of it. About 10 minutes later, though, when I was getting ready to leave, I noticed one of my former TAs sitting on the other side of the room with his young daughter. So I went over to talk to him.

While our conversation wasn't spiritual in nature, I'm still convinced that God led me there so I could talk with him. Things have been changing rapidly in the department here, with the university choosing to "disestablish" the PhD program - in which he is a first-year student. I had been quite worried about him and his family since I heard the news. God gave me the opportunity to talk to him about what the faculty have been saying, what some of his options are within the state at the other state universities, and about resources that I have at my former university that might be helpful for him.

We ended up talking for something like an hour, and when it was time for me to go, he said that he was so thankful because his own advisor hasn't really sat down with him and talked with him in that way.

Again, I know this wasn't about spiritual things, but I feel strongly that God had me go to a place I've ignored for 7 months so I could be of some help to him and his family. It turns out that the woman who stared at me is his wife - she had wanted to meet me, but was at risk of being late for a meeting at work, so she didn't introduce herself.

I just hope that things work out for them. Things are so uncertain these days. But I'm glad that God led me even when I wasn't expecting it. :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


So God hit me upside the head a few minutes ago. I was considering what to do for the Living Proof Ministries Siesta Scripture Memory Team #6.  As I've said, I've pledged to commit 24 verses to memory this year. I realized that one of the reasons I've had such a hard time with the last one was that it wasn't speaking to me about something right now- I chose it because I love the message, but I didn't follow God's leading. And yes, we're having a conversation about that one...

But I was browsing some of the other ladies' verses and one had chosen Philippians 4:6, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God


Did you hear that? That was God hitting me on the back of the head (gently, at least, but firmly). He said quite clearly, "My child, you need to learn this one. Not just to memorize, but you need to start living it. You worry FAR too much, and you need not."

You see, I am a worrier. I got it from my mother and my grandmother. They are legendary worriers. But I'm at least a princess-level, if not the queen worrier in the family. It's worse when my migraines flare up, due to the way migraine attacks affect mood and rational thinking.  It also can be worse at night. Earlier this week, I had a major worry attack, and it threw my fiancee for a loop. He loves me, but really didn't know how to comfort me at all.

My worrying brain told me I have tons to worry about. My mom's cancer fight. My aunt's cancer fight. His mom's thyroid surgery next month. His grandmother's declining health. My 3 grandparents' health concerns. My unemployment after May. Finances. My health. His health. The cats' ability to coexist. And more.

But this morning, God said clearly: Your problem isn't anxiety. It's pride. You continue to think that it's all up to you to "think ahead," as you call it. You don't really trust that I'm taking care of it. You keep thinking that you are in charge. (Ha haha! Sorry, but that is pretty funny.) You need to admit this area of pride and start really committing your worries to me. Let me take care of them. I am bigger than all of your problems.

To support this, here are some other things God has said in His word to confirm it:

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you!

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever, Amen!

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 2:18 Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jude 1:24-25 To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore, Amen!

These are just a *very small* selection of the verses that emphasize God's desire and ability to take care of us. So, if you're like me, take heart and ask God to help you trust that He really means what He says. Our God is ABLE. Praise Him!