Friday, March 21, 2014

Child-like Faith

Gift from former students
I am counting the months.  If you've been counting with me (which I have no idea why you would be; that's kind of weird), this week makes month three of unemployment for me.

I honestly had no idea what I was really getting myself into when I decided to pick up and leave a place I had inhabited for thirteen years, in a matter of four weeks.  I gave away tons of stuff to whomever would take it, packed up in a matter of days really, rented a U-haul, and my awesome brother and nephew drove my stuff 350 miles to its current storage place, my mother's basement. I spent a few weeks with family, a week on vacation, another week with my mother, and then I moved more stuff to my brother and sister-in-law's home in another state.  And here I am, still job searching and still trying to figure out where I'll land (see last month's post here).  I've had a few phone interviews, a few in-person interviews, and had a few really encouraging meetings with people who have authority to make hiring decisions, including one with a woman whom I have identified as a potential mentor. And yet, I find myself concerned with many things.

"Are my brother and his wife regretting their decision to allow me to stay in their home?"

"Am I not casting my net wide enough?  Should I actually be searching in other states?"

"How will I pay my bills next month, if I don't have a job by then?"

"How will I pay rent when I do get a job?  The cost of living is way higher here!"

Obviously, these are questions and concerns anyone who just decides to quit their job and move to another state would have.  There are nights when these concerns keep me up for hours.  I absolutely hate being dependent on others; I am one of the most independent people I know.  There are times when I feel like a burden, when I can't believe that I would impose myself on my family the way that I have.  And I have mentioned to some of my closest friends that I feel like I made a mistake giving up the security of a tenured job, one where I was hugged and told that I was loved on an almost daily basis.  While these feelings have been with me throughout most of this period of unemployment, I never really articulated my actions as a mistake until very recently.  But then I read a devotional email that brought me back to the reasons why I did what I did:

From Today's Word by Joel and Victoria Osteen, March 17, 2014:

"God is strategic. He has laid out an exact plan for our lives right down to the smallest details. He knows the people you need to meet in order to fulfill your destiny. He knows who is going to give you a good break and who is going to put in a good word for you. He knows when someone is going to need to be there to help you out of a difficult time. God has it all figured out. He is not vague or approximate. He is orchestrating your life right down to the very second, causing you to be at the right place at the right time so you can meet the right people that He has ordained before the foundation of the world."

As I stated earlier, I had a meeting a few weeks ago with a woman who works as an Assistant Dean at an institution I would love to work for.  Not only does this institution have a great reputation, it has a doctoral program with coursework that most closely matches the coursework I completed during the Ph.D. program I left without completing, credits that would most likely transfer. She was introduced to me by my brother's next door neighbor, who happens to be her boss.  While it was not a formal interview, we were both well aware that a position is opening up in her department, so I was prepared for an informal interview.  

While it was already amazing that my brother lives next door to her boss, what happened next could have only been divinely orchestrated.  (I learned later that she never looked at my resume, which was sent to her prior to our meeting.) When asked the requisite, "tell me about yourself" question, for some reason - I do not know why or how - one of the first things that came out of my mouth had to do with where I got my Master's degree.  I never start to answer that question in that way.  But this time I did, and she automatically responded with surprise and a certain professional level of glee: she attended the same exact Master's program! Then she asked if I had a graduate assistantship there, and when I told her I did, and where, she had the same assistantship! And she even knew someone who I'd worked with, and certainly demonstrated that she felt the same way about this person as I did.  (Long story, you had to be there.  But be glad you weren't!)

With our meeting off to a great start, we talked about my experiences, and she asked me what I wanted to know about her, her department, and the position.  I had done my research, so I was able to answer these questions (VERY IMPORTANT LESSON - you can't go into any meeting without doing your research about the person as well as the organization).  It became clear throughout this meeting - a 30 minute appointment that went well over an hour - that not only could I relate to this woman, but she was a great model for the type of professional I could grow to become.  She began to make statements that sounded as if she were trying to sell her institution to me.  

Finally, I asked her for advice on my job search, because I wanted to demonstrate that I believed her time was valuable and that I was grateful that she spent it with me.  She encouraged me to apply for the position, stating that she saw a good fit for her department. She asked if there was some temporary work I could do in the meantime, because the position doesn't start until late spring.  I told her that I was doing temporary work and explained what the work was, and in that instance, I seemed to be teaching her something about the higher education industry.  She told me to appreciate the opportunity that I have to take some time to explore other areas of higher education and to be grateful for this time of unemployment, because it isn't something many people can do without having real concerns (because my concerns, while real, are not as pressing as I know other unemployed people's concerns are).  She said this was a blessing for me.  

Within this conversation, although I never mentioned my spiritual beliefs, or the sense of connection I felt with this woman, I did share something with her that I haven't shared with anyone.  I told her that, when people at my former institution would ask what I wanted to do in my new state, I would tell them that I wanted to work at her institution.  I told her that I didn't have a clue as to how or when that would happen, but that I said it as a little child would say that they want something to happen.

That's the kind of faith it takes to do something so utterly brave (or crazy), like quitting a tenured position and moving to a state that you're not even sure you can financially afford to live in.  Child-like faith doesn't ask for all the details.  Child-like faith expects to win.  Child-like faith believes in what is good, in what is right and true in one's heart.  

I looked at my bank account dwindling this week, and thought about that meeting that happened a few weeks ago.  I thought about the nonexistent paycheck that I thought I would be getting from my last job, because I was confused about how pay periods work. I thought about that job that doesn't start until a few months from now at the institution I want to work for.  I thought about the job I just interviewed for that maybe isn't the best fit for me.  I thought about what my family might think if I turned down a potential offer because I don't want to settle.  All of the concerns came up again, mostly financial.  And then I read this earlier this morning:

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us by Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19

Now, I have read this Scripture many times, but reading it this morning brought me back to the last time it really came alive for me.  I had been recently separated from my husband, had started a Master's program far away from my family and everyone I knew, and had spent a semester as a graduate intern, having taken a $22,000 pay cut.  During the break after my first semester, I was thinking of quitting my Master's program and going back to teaching because I couldn't live on the very small amount of pay I was making.  I remember reading this Scripture, and soon after, I received a phone call from the director of my department saying that he wanted to promote me to a full-time position, and double my salary.  It was enough for me to finish my Master's degree and move forward in my life in a way that I was not able to while I was married.

Child-like faith understands that the answers may not be clear at first.  Child-like faith understands that you may not know everything, but you have a deep sense of knowing within you that you are taking the right step at the right time.  

Today, I went downstairs after my morning yoga, and I saw an envelope with my name on it.  I opened it, and it was a check for the work I had done last month.  A nice-sized check that I can use to pay the bills I was concerned about, for at least the next month.

Child-like faith believes that where God guides, He will provide.

I'm sharing this because, although we may not all share the same belief system, we have to know that the road map to our purpose lies within us.  We have to quiet ourselves from all of the concerns, the worries, the doubts, and the fears, so that we can hear that Inner Voice telling us what the next step is.  

Child-like faith believes that our journey to our life's purpose begins when we take a step, not knowing what the next step will be.

So I continue on this path, returning to the faith that little children have.  Because a child knows what we adults often forget: that if we believe, anything is possible.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” - Matthew 19:14

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