A lot of you have asked me what I am doing now that I have finally finished my doctorate. This was actually the most asked question when I asked you want LWTH readers wanted to know a couple of months ago for a vlog. Well I have known for a long time actually, but I have not been able to say for a variety of reasons. All of the stars have aligned and it's time for me to share with you :-)
I guess you could say this journey really started 10 years ago. I was enrolled as an undergraduate at RMC with a major in Religious Studies and a minor in Education. Within my first semester there (and first 75 page paper), I discovered my passion for neuroscience. I am so enthusiastic about the mind-brain dichotomy; I love learning and teaching about functional neuroanatomy. During my undergraduate years I quickly changed my major to Biopsychology, and upon completion I started graduate school in Neuroscience at UofH. I finished my Masters in Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience in 2009, and knew that I only had a few years left of school. I got busy with publications, job searching and other preparations.
This time last year, I began the long haul. I had no idea how in the world I was going to accomplish everything. I prayed deeply about it, and ask God for divine strength, patience, and the ability to work well under extreme exhaustion (not to mention to still provide a warm and loving home for our family). So what did I do last year? Well I conducted an entire study (which in my field generally takes 3 years), published a manuscript, wrote 2 courses and taught them both (twice), conducted a study on pediatric brain cancer rehabilitation, wrote a dissertation, defended my dissertation, and went on various job interviews (national and international). I truly beat the odds and completed everything in 9 months. No one thought I could tackle this year successfully, but I did….He did it! God is SOOO good! Now all of that seems pretty good right?! I mean I set out to conquer just a dissertation in a year, and ended up doing way more in less time. What is the "struggle" in that?!
Well you see friends, my struggle was with the next chapter. While I was going through this past hectic year, I had to make some serious decisions (with Phil's input and guidance of course) about where our family would go next. There were only 18 positions available (in the USA) that I fit the bill for. These were the only positions available for everyone graduating this year (and I promise you there were more than 18 doctoral graduates in the USA this year). How in the world would I get one of those dream positions?! Most likely we will have to move IF I get one of those positions, so where will we live? Where will Phil work? Will he still be able to take classes? Do we really have to leave Houston, because I'm finally (after 5 years) starting to like it? If we have to move across the country again, how will we be able to afford it?! What if I don't get a job, what will I do instead? Will this time, money, and effort have all been for nothing!? So you can easily see how these worries consumed my thoughts. With everything I was trying to do with work and school, plus these added anxieties were truly taking a toll on me. With all of the craziness, going on, I fixated on something small that was bothering me, because it was all I thought I could handle at the time. I was focused on my hair falling out. I know that’s weird and gross (sorry about that but I’m just being honest), but folks, it was bad. Clumps of hair would just fall out. My research emphasis is in stress and the toxic effects it has on both the brain and body, so I knew where the source of the hair loss was coming from, but that still didn't change it. I mean this was just what years of only 3-4 hours of sleep a night and lots of worry will do to one's health. This was normal for my job. Isn’t that sad?!
So last November arrived and I had my first international interview, for the sake of anonymity will call this Job A. The interview wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. I just knew that it wasn't a good fit. Then in December I was interviewed and offered a faculty position (Job B) that I thought would be perfect, but they wanted me to start in January. I knew that I could not start at Job B on top of everything else I was juggling. If they really wanted me then they would wait for me to finish my degree. So I declined (though I was kicking myself the entire time). Then in January I had a phone interview with a school out of state (Job C). It went VERY well, and I immediately fell in love with the school. After that, things started to move very quickly. I had a second phone interview and then was brought to their campus in March for a week of intense interviews (a WEEK of interviews people!). There I met with so many wonderful people, gave a job talk, and truly learned the school and town. I even met with an architect to start designing my laboratory. I was convinced Job C was where God wanted us to move. Yes there would be plenty of trials in this new town (that was composed mostly of cornfields), but we could make it work. It seemed like the dream job I had always thought awaited me. I was offered one of the 18 jobs!!! I could not believe it! Negotiations commenced and the day the contract arrived for Job C, we signed it. A couple hours later I got a call from the Job B (the one from back in December) that they would like to interview me again. I immediately thought "Ok what are you doing God? I just put the contract for Job C in the mailbox and now you're pulling me back? What's going on?! What do I do?!". So now picture me digging through the mail slot with a stick, trying to get my signed contract for Job C out of the mail slot. This actually happened!
Now what do I do?! Job C thinks I'm moving to their school, but Job B was the original one that I wanted. So now I have to stall on Job C, while I go through the lengthy interview process at Job B. (Are you confused yet?) I didn't know if it was possible that I could get offered 2 faculty positions, considering how many people were looking for jobs. So while Job C was moving forward (I was still working on lab renovations, writing a new curriculum, and starting with plans to move our family across the country again), I was also interviewing at Job B again. The guilt I felt towards Job C was unbearable, but I had to keep going. Phil reminded me, that ultimately I was blessed to have choices and that we have to be content with our decisions. He was right . The idea of going through with Job C made us nauseous; deep down we knew moving to the Midwest was not the best option for our family, but we had to keep waiting. We had to wait on the Lord’s perfect timing. Through prayer, and lots of discussions about careers, leadership, trust, and sacrifice, we had made a decision for which position we wanted. In May I finally finished all of my interviews & negotiating at Job B and had an official offer! I received offers from 2 of 18 possible positions in the US! What an honor! Now came the uncomfortable call to be released from an offer I had already accepted from Job C. This is not something I wish on anyone; it was so awkward and I felt sooooo bad but I had to be honest and true to my family. Job C was shocked but was also very understanding of my position. I know this may same petty, but this entire experience was a HUGE deal for us. From November to May we were forced to keep a lot of the details quiet and that’s really hard to do if you’re making a big decision. Since we couldn’t talk about it, we simply asked for others to pray for us, that our decisions would be easy.
Ok so with all that being said, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE HAWLEYS?! I have accepted the position in Houston (Job B). This was the position I was originally offered in December and was kicking myself about for initially turning down. I am a new faculty member in behavioral sciences department at a university in Houston (not the school I graduated from though). When Phil and I moved to Houston 5 years ago, we always had the idea that we would be moving back home as soon as I was done with school. The thought of us staying in Houston NEVER crossed our minds. I never felt like Houston was home, but now that I have shifted my thinking with this new position, it is finally starting to feel like home. Is that weird? I do not officially start my new position until August 14th, but unofficially I have started already. Friends let me tell you, I am loving my new position. Grad school truly slaughtered all passions that I had for science, and for the first time in a long time I glow when I think about work. I wake up early in the morning because I am just so excited. The new work environment is nothing like I have ever experienced in the science field; it’s so encouraging and welcoming. I love it!
So were the struggles of the past 5 years worth it?! YES! Everything has come full circle! With all of the frustrating back and forth, God wanted me to trust in Him and let Him have control. God had a better plan for our lives than what I could have ever planned despite being a control freak. I have been amazed how God’s plan for our lives has been constant from Him, but evolving from our perspective. I am so blessed to have had Phil walk through this chapter with me, as we prayed for God to slam shut doors to make our decision obvious. God’s faithfulness has been so great and we expected great things from Him; He didn’t disappoint. If you are going through a chapter in your life where you have a lot of waiting on the next step, keep pressing into God for the answers. He does hear your prayers and He does answer. It took the Mr and I 5 years to learn about our new calling, but His timing was beyond perfect!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11The Mr. and I are truly praising the Lord for this new phase right now and looking forward to the future chapters in our lives. Tomorrow I am going to share a little bit more about my personal career path, but as for now we are staying in Houston and praising the Lord for the struggles he has brought us through the past few years. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!
If you stayed around for the end of this post, I’m very impressed and I hope you find encouragement from our story! Tomorrow I will share more about my career path so be sure to come back and hear the rest (I promise it will be shorter than today LOL)
Does this story sound similar to something that you have experienced? What have you learned about prayer and waiting on the Lord?