Posts from the ‘Faith’ Category

Some other beginning’s end

After a two-and-a-half hour march across Paris from the Latin Quarter to Pont de Grenelle, just south of the Eiffel Tower, I was absolutely exhausted. It was our last night in Paris, and DH wanted to see the replica of the Statue of Liberty that stands on the tip of a small island in the Seine. But after six days of walking around the City of Lights, my back and feet were relieved to plop down on a rail by the quay as he took some nice dusky pictures of the stature.

I idly pulled my smartphone out of my purse; we weren’t paying for cell or data coverage here, so I was relying on wireless internet during our trip to connect with the world back home. Our apartment rental came with free access to a city-wide wifi network, but it was a long shot that there would be a wifi hotspot here. However, I was in luck. I connected and proceeded to download something like twenty emails, mostly junk mail and advertisements. However, one message caught my eye.

It was an email automatically generated from the same automated online system I had used nearly two months before to apply to one of the jobs for which I had interviewed in August. Evidently it was news of some kind about my application. I opened it and quickly scrolled through; after many uninformative and irrelevant words I saw the ones that mattered: “You were not selected for this position.”

Halfway through our European trip was not the time to fret about life-altering decisions and revelations. After a few minutes of absorbing the news, I stood up, dusted myself off, and walked to the nearest metro stop. I thought about jobs I might apply for when we got home; we pondered the possibility of living on one income for the foreseeable future. We settled the matter in our minds and proceeded to enjoy the second half of our European trip.

One week later, after 11 hours on a trans-Atlantic flight from Rome to Charlotte, NC, I eagerly turned my phone on to access domestic cellular and data for the first time since we left. I knew my parents would want to know we were back in the states, especially since they were picking us up at the airport when we made it back to Denver. However, what download to my phone was not a voice mail from a friend or family member, but one from the very same job that, one week earlier, I was told I did not get.

All I can figure is that there was some strange goof in the automated system. The voice mail, from that very same morning while I was in the air over the Atlantic, was from a real, honest-to-goodness human being offering me the job. So, with American soil under our feet for a mere two minutes, all of our resolutions and Plan B’s were completely erased and all of a sudden I was faced with a monumental life decision.

It was too late to respond that day, which was just fine. I still had customs and immigration, another flight, and the drive home to process what was even going on. When I called back the next morning–exhausted, jet-lagged, fighting a cold–she reiterated what she stated in the voice mail and gave me until the end of the following day to make my decision.

It may seem like a short turn-around, but in reality there wasn’t that much more to think about. All the time I was applying for the job, talking to them over the phone, going there in person to interview, I was formulating the answer to the question “what if.” All the time I was waiting for their decision I was determining what I would say if they offered. I knew what my answer was going to be. I didn’t need the time to decide, only to find the courage to accept the truth of my decision in my heart.

I know it sounds ridiculous that I could know I made the right choice, know that I had peace about the choice, yet still sob into DH’s shoulder for a long time after I returned her call to let her know my decision. I knew it was the right choice, but the repercussions of it were so significant. I knew I was grieving for what I’d be leaving behind; I was terrified for the new that was to come; I was unsure of all we’d now have to do to get there.

But I knew that I was taking the job and that we were moving to Washington, DC.

After the end of the fiber, a journey I started eight years ago was now complete and another beginning.

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

Closing time…every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Four weddings and two funerals….and a baby shower

Well hello there. I guess it’s been a few days since my last post. Evidently being unemployed keeps me incredibly busy. :p

It’s been just over two weeks since I started my time off. Since then I have, among other things, done some projects around the house, taken the dog on some walks, planned a tentative vacation itinerary, gone out of town for a job interview, prepared a talk for said interview, made travel arrangements for another out-of-town interview, done some running/exercising, made a trip into the city to donate some stuff to a school for a friend, and made two apple pies. Among other things. I have had absolutely no trouble filling my days with activities. But some of the biggest events that I have been involved with these last few weeks were weddings, funerals, and a baby shower.

Earlier in my twenties, I entered a time of life that I called the “Wedding Bell Curve.” At first I knew a few people getting married early in college; this quickly escalated into a number of years of peak wedding activity, including my own, but has tapered off as I’ve entered my thirties. Now I have entered a new time of life that is the “Baby Bell Curve.” This is what one might call an occupational hazard of the first activity. Needless to say, this logically follows the previous statistical curve, and I am currently in the baby peak and in the far tail of weddings.

However, this summer there has been a statistically significant perturbation of the wedding curve. There have been four weddings this summer in our church, and I’ve been to three of them, plus three wedding showers. Two of these weddings have been since I have finished my job, and I’ve been a little bit involved in both of them. I was asked to play violin during one service, and DH did the AV for the second one this last weekend, which lead to me helping with some sound and video setup before the service. While this was minimal involvement, getting ready for a wedding and partying afterward was still tiring work!

However, this was quite a juxtaposition to the other two events that I have helped with recently. Early last week, we had a funeral at church for my friend’s mom, who was still quite young but passed away due to some health problems. Her memorial service was at our church, and I was able to actually come help with food for the reception afterwards, something I was never able to do previously. Then another gentleman, one of the founding members of our church, passed away Sunday. He would have been 92 next month, and he certainly left an amazing legacy of service to society and to the Lord. I just came home from his service a few minutes ago. After these experiences, I really appreciate the hard work of the men and women who normally do this; it’s quite a task to serve that many people after a funeral, but it’s incredibly appreciated by the friends and families. While I’m glad I got to help alleviate some of that burden this month, I’m quite tired now! It’s also emotionally taxing, even if you aren’t that close to the person, maybe a couple of degrees removed. I remember that you can’t take life for granted and I appreciate the time I do have with people now. I also empathize with the families going through this time of grief.

However, I can’t sit on my laurels and blog the rest of the day. While weddings have abounded this summer and life on this earth has run its natural course for a couple of individuals recently, new life still begins every day. So tonight we’re getting together again to celebrate a new baby due in a couple of months for a girl in our church. Finally, another baby shower! I am helping with the set-up, so I’ll need to leave again before too long. But it’s been such an interesting summer–particularly an interesting two weeks–celebrating life and death and new life together that I knew I wanted to formally formulate a few thoughts about them and share them here.

I’m certain God has let me experience all these things at this particular time in my life for some reason or reasons, and hopefully I’ll be able to appreciate what He’s taught me now or later or both. I am, after all, at a critical point in my life story as well. Maybe He’s giving me some precious perspective about life in general and how the choices I make now will influence the course of my days from now on. It’s not just about what job I’m doing or where I am living but how I live in my life situation, what legacy I might leave behind when my days are done. My time in school has prepared me to begin a “real” career now; likewise, I may one day soon enter my own “baby bell curve” and start a family. Plus, the time I have invested in my relationship with God and learning about serving Him in this previous era of my life will equip me to go forward to advance His kingdom in ways only He could conceive. Whatever the next step, it will be a big change, but hopefully one I am prepared to take…one step at a time.

Starting to sink in

We are, inexplicably, 2/3 of the way through June now. Yikes. I have something like five weeks left here at my job. While I’ve known when my appointment would be over for a long time now, every day the reality that I won’t be here anymore is starting to sink in.

I’ve been working here for seven years now; in fact, my anniversary was just a couple of weeks ago. I’ve met a lot of people, made friends, gotten very familiar with the building and where everything is and how things work. I’m very comfortable. But it seems like life is very good at disrupting us whenever we do get comfortable with something. That’s just the way things work.

I am just beginning to process how different my life is really going to be now, when I don’t come here every day and go to the same lab and talk to the same people. Wow, change is really tough. We naturally tend to resist it, but I do find that regardless of how uncomfortable it is, I adapt to it pretty well. It’s just a matter of accepting it and rolling with it.

So, in the next five or so weeks I need to get my affairs in order. I’ll probably go through my emails to see if there’s anything I might still need, trash/recycle/shred old papers and keep the ones that are still useful, start bringing some of my reference books home, organize my data files on the computer. I guess I’ll also have to say my goodbyes, too. We’ve had a number of group members leave since I’ve been here, and quite a few recently, so we’ve had good-bye lunches and farewells before. I guess in a few weeks it will be mine.

I still haven’t found my next job yet. I had a sort-of interview last week with a professor for a post doc, but I don’t really expect it to go anywhere. I’m not sure I’d even be happy there, either. I guess one never knows, though. I actually found a handful of jobs yesterday that I might be interested in applying for as well as a couple of possible research groups I might be interested in approaching for a post doc. It’s just that even when I come up with an idea for something to pursue, I usually talk myself out of it for one reason or another–well, maybe I wouldn’t actually like working there. Do I really want to move there? Do I have much of a future doing that? What would people think if I decided to do that?

None of that really matters, though. It’s really just about sowing the seeds and doing due diligence and then just waiting to see what will ultimately bear fruit. While the next step is indeed an important one that will play into what I do for the rest of my career, in reality it’s highly unlikely that it will be my whole career, either. So while that means more change will come, it also means that I shouldn’t feel that I’m being  “sentenced” to life in prison with no chance of parole, either. As I’ve said often to DH, even if what I do next isn’t what I really love, it’s probably just going to be for a year or two, something that will prepare me better for what’s next, and anybody can stick with something for a year or two, right?

At the end of the day, there’s only one thing I am confident about–God has something for me to do, and He will make it happen just as soon as His timing is right (unfortunately for us, His timing is almost always different than ours!). All I have to do is put legs on following through with the official bits, but there’s nothing really that I will do to force it to happen. And it will be the right thing, the job that prepares me for the next step, or maybe it will be the perfect job that I will have forever. And if I have to be unemployed for a while, He’s going to provide for our needs, too, and maybe I can use that time to do something else productive and meaningful that I wouldn’t get to have the chance to do when employed nine to five. Either way, it’s ultimately for my good. Therefore I don’t worry about it (or try not to).

Reboot

Life feels stale, stagnant, circling, waiting, stalled, suspended. Despite the fact that I’ve defended my thesis, earned my PhD, graduated, and even had other personal accomplishments (like running the 10k) in the past month or so, I feel totally and completely stuck in my life right now. I’m looking for a job, but I haven’t found one. I’m still working at my old job, but I’m rehashing all the old stuff that was the bane of my existence previously. I have some free time again, yet I can’t muster the motivation or energy to do much at home. I’m waiting for something to change each passing day, but so far what I’m waiting for hasn’t come.

I don’t even think it’s just about waiting for a job opportunity, either. I think I’m just mentally and emotionally stuck, just exhausted in spirit. I desperately need a vacation, or at least I think I do, but I feel like I’m stuck waiting on I-dunno-what before I can even think about making some sort of real plan. It feels like everyone around me is taking time off and going fun places, both local and exotic, while I, despite working hard for two semesters to get done and feeling like I’ve earned some sort of special trip to celebrate my success, am still sitting on my couch petting the dog day after day. All the while, it at least seems like getting away would energize me and strengthen me as I am waiting for whatever-it-is. It’s a catch-22, evidently.

Some days I feel more optimistic than others, and even on those days I just feel generally dull. Some days are not so good, but if I feel down I try to just let it out and then move on with a slightly improved disposition. I guess I’m feeling a little more down today, just trying to trudge along, keep taking steps forward, hoping for a better day tomorrow despite feeling trapped. I wish I could find some way to reboot myself so I can finally restart afresh with a little more of the joy I expected to have after being done.

It’s really dumb to feel sorry for myself, since there’s not really anything wrong and I’ve had so much blessing recently. It shames me to confess that I find myself wallowing a bit from time to time. I really, honestly believe that God has something worked out for me, something that’s good for me, something fun and enjoyable, something to be passionate about. I just wish I felt more energized about the future and didn’t struggle with doubt sometimes.

Mark 9:24: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”

No idea

I try very hard to not use my blog as an outlet to just whine about my life, but I have to say that, while there have been a few bright spots, I feel like I have been repeatedly kicked in the gut by life  in the last week. >sigh< People keep telling me how wonderful it must feel to be done and free and relaxed and not stressed after graduating. They  have no idea. I had no idea it would be this way.

Well, the only thing getting me through this time is the faith I have that God will provide exactly what I need in precisely His timing. Of course, He never promises that what I need is exactly what I want, and He doesn’t promise that life will be comfortable, either. But sometimes you have to go through some pressure to get a diamond out on the other end, right?

Anyways, it’s Friday, so that’s something I suppose. There are a few interesting things happening over the weekend, so I should look forward to them.

I haven’t done very well at my goal of the week, probably because I didn’t anticipate getting sick with allergies and not feeling like doing anything but sit around and mindlessly surf the web or play games on my phone. However, while I did allow myself some leeway, I did manage to make myself do other things a few times. And thankfully I am feeling better…less miserable congestion and sinus pressure though still some lingering sniffles and sneezes.

Here’s to less emotional baggage next week.

Lessons learned: carry it to completion

It’s been about twenty-four hours since my defense, and I’ve finally had some time to rest and process through everything. I also took the day off today, which is an outstanding event, I must say. I’ve spent some time thinking about everything and reflecting on my time as a graduate student. I thought it would be nice to share some of the lessons learned during this time in my life.

Probably the most significant lesson I’ve learned (and still have much to learn about, too) is that if God calls us to do something, He will see us through to the end. I can’t tell you how many times I was discouraged, hated what I was doing, or wanted to quit. However, it seemed clear that God put me on this path, and His plan didn’t include giving up before I got to the end (much to my chagrin at those many times of discouragement). He also didn’t leave me here to languish all alone while I did it all myself. Sure, I had to put a lot of time and effort and mental and emotional fortitude into seeing this thing to the end, but I committed to doing my part in good faith, and God upheld His end of the deal.

He provided just what I needed at the right times. After a few years in my research tenure, it became clear that I would be hard pressed to derive a thesis-level project in my initial research position. At least two times I tried to “improve” my research situation on my own, seeking out other groups or projects to take me in. It seemed downright reasonable for me to move on to something else. However, those instances never worked out, because it wasn’t the plan. I finally surrendered and was patient, knowing that God would do whatever it was He planned whenever He had planned for it. Sure enough, three years ago I was able to take what I learned those years in my previous position and work on a joint project in another group that yielded a high-level research project, for which I just earned my PhD. Yes, it ended up taking eight school years to complete, but who cares….because I did complete it. It’s not always easy or comfortable, nor does it always seem reasonable, but you won’t go wrong trusting the one who sees the big picture instead of relying on your own limited view.

He also provided a vast group of people bathing me in prayer and encouragement, especially in this last semester of straining for the finish line. I can’t tell you how many people were praying over me yesterday, because I am honestly not even sure. And while I am by no means an expert on prayer, it’s something I’ve really begun to mature in this semester, gaining some new perspectives and beginning to overcome some issues I’ve struggled with for a very long time (if God knows everything that’s going to happen, what’s the point in praying at all?, etc.). I’m still no expert, but it’s the beginning of a lifetime of new perspective on what it means to pray.

Finally, I now have to trust Him for the next steps, too. I’ve really only just come to appreciate that the rest of my life is really just beginning now. My sister has always hated the phrase “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” so I think about her when I say this. 😉 But getting a doctorate isn’t the end; it’s the beginning of something you do once you have it. I still don’t know what that is yet, and it probably won’t be just one thing for the rest of my life. Likely life will take us many places over the years, but I can trust that there’s a plan and a reason for the steps we’ll take.

I’ve learned many other things looking back on my time here, and hopefully I’ll get to share those with you. I feel like I’m now trained not just with knowledge or information in a particular subject of science, but with life skills that are now tools in my belt that will help me tackle the new challenges in life.

“…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” Philippians 1:6

Two days

It’s Tuesday, two days until my defense.

I had a very nice Easter weekend, even though I did spend Sunday afternoon and evening working on my presentation. My sacrifice paid off, however. I had another practice talk on Monday, and that went oh so much better than my previous one. I even nailed it in under 45 minutes, which is my goal. A little more refining over the next two days, and I should be able to do it under 45 and not talking 90 mph like an auctioneer. :p

At this point, my greatest concern  will be making sure I am fluent in all aspects of my work, being able to confidently field questions from the committee. I don’t necessarily have to know all the answers, but I need to think well on my feet and be able to speak to at least some aspect of a question. This is the most terrifying part of this entire thesis process; some questions can come way out of left field and you have no way to prepare for it. However, if I sell myself and my work solidly in my presentation and answer most other questions intelligently, then hopefully they have no reason to say that I am not qualified to be deemed a PhD. I just have to be confident, feel confident, and believe that I’m confident.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I intended to apply for a job. I managed to get my application and paperwork to them last week, though they are still missing one reference letter; I’m working on that today. Without going into too much detail, I will say that I am getting a favorable impression from them. It’s certainly not done and we’re still in the initial stages, but we’ll just have to see how serious it gets. I still have one specific job I want to apply for as soon as I get time to work on my paperwork for it, and then I haven’t even really begun to look in earnest either; I only intended to begin that after I defended. So there are still lots of options and nothing narrowed down yet. I have to admit I can let myself be almost as nervous about the next step as I am about my defense, but that’s just silly. Something will work out in the right time, and there’s no reason to be fearful about stepping out in faith into the real, professional world. Change may be uncomfortable, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that it isn’t at all about comfort.