Wednesday, October 31, 2012

30 Day Challenge - Day 33

For an explanation of the challenge, please read Day 1.

For an explanation of why I'm on Day 33 of a 30 Day Challenge, please read Day 11

I know, it seems as if I slacked off on the challenge and blogging.  However, I have been faithful with my scripture reading and I have abstained from coffee and alcohol for 24 days!  

I thought of writing frequently, but it would have been too much of a distraction.  I was busy studying.  Let's take moment to catch you up on all the craziness of this year, month, and week.

In May, I changed jobs.  It was a difficult transition to me and quite honestly, I felt like a failure.  I felt like I let myself, my co-worker, my company, and even my customer down.  The reason why I took the blame was because I didn't have a certification that would have kept my job.  I knew I would attempt to get it eventually, but I also heard all the horror stories about the difficulty of the test.  I knew some very intelligent people who failed.  I couldn't handle another loss.  Not this year at least.  So I had every intention of studying hard and passing it the first time.

The exam I need to take is a certification test to become an (ISC)2 Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP).  I took a bootcamp in May and it opened my eyes to the level of effort needed to pass. So, I vowed to study.  Someone said that the knowledge needed to pass the exam is a mile wide and an inch deep.  You need to know a little bit about a LOT of topics.  250 multiple-choice questions in 6 hours.  It's like running a marathon.  Food and bathroom breaks are included in those 6 hours.  From what I've heard about running a marathon, mile 20 is the toughest.  You've been pushing yourself for so long and you know you are closer to the finish line than you are the starting line, but your energy is gone and you can't muster up the strength to go faster than a fast walk.

So, I studied and took a paper-based exam in June.  Back then, paper was preferred because there was a rumor that you couldn't go back and review your answers on the computer-based test.  The disadvantage on the paper exams was that they were scan-tron and it could take up to 6 weeks to receive your score.  I gleefully and ignorantly waited for the day that email would arrive.  When it did, I was devastated to realize that I did not make the cut.  I missed it by 69 points.  I failed again.  This time, I let myself down and the few people I told.

I knew I would have to take it again, but I procrastinated.  I didn't want to subject myself to it again.  I didn't want to sit for 6 grueling hours answering very difficult questions that didn't seem to be in any material I studied.  Also, the only option left was to take it computer-based.  Paper exams were no longer offered.  The advantage, instant exam results, with the exception of a few poor souls that are audited for testing integrity's sake. 

In September, I finally scheduled it for October 15th.  It was a Monday, so I would have to take off work for it, but at least it backed up to a weekend so I could study and be ready to go!  Then, remember what I wrote about throughout the challenge?  I injured my back on September 30 and ended up in the ER.  I spent the first week of October on pain meds and there was no way I could study.  So, I postponed it until October 31.  I just wanted to get it done.  No more procrastination.

As you can tell, that is today.  Halloween.  I'm not superstitious and I don't celebrate Halloween.  (In fact, it just occurred to me that I am home and have NO candy if any children were to knock on my door. Yikes.)

God put so many things in my path to help me prepare!  It was as if He was telling me that He's got this.  I just need to do my part, but He has my back.  I would pray over the verses from the challenge every day and ask that I be filled to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19) and that God would fill me where I was lacking (Ephesians 1:23).  My friend, who happens to be in the same line of work I am, invited me to a women's study group that are preparing for this exam too!  While I realized I study better alone, it was encouraging to meet women that are going through the same thing I am and meeting new friends along the way.  I was getting excited about my profession once again!  Then, a conference came up at work that was totally applicable to my job AND included a CISSP review as part of the fee.  My company paid for me to go and I received invaluable work training and very helpful CISSP study time!  On top of that, I had so many friends and family praying for me.  I felt overwhelmed with all the people that were covering me and lifting me up to God.

Plus, God was showing me daily how He was providing for me and answering prayers.  Some big, some small.  All were answered in very clear ways to the point that I couldn't help but be thankful.  I felt like God was showing me repeatedly that He had this under control.

Even to the point that I was praying earnestly several days ago and I asked God to restore what the locusts have eaten.  I knew it was a Bible verse in Joel and it seemed applicable to what I was in turmoil over.  That morning, I saw a car with a license plate "JOEL2 25".  I knew without looking it up - that was my verse!  God blessed me within hours of praying that prayer.  He is so good!

I read all the exam tips and tricks and every last one said to relax and do not study the day before the exam.  That way I show up refreshed and ready to tackle it.  I wanted to watch a movie and I have a few romantic comedies that I thought would be light and fun.  When I saw the movie, "Facing the Giants", I knew I had to pick that one.

The whole movie was uplifting and about how with God, ALL things are possible (Matthew 19:26).  God did amazing things in the lives of the coach and high school football team.  He showed them that when we give everything over to Him, He will take it and make it beautiful.  We praise Him when we win, and we praise Him when we lose.

So now we get to today.  Exam day.  I was up at 5 a.m., on the road by 6:20 a.m. and at the testing center by 7:09 a.m.  I wasn't dare late, otherwise, I would forfeit my exam fee.  I was receiving texts from friends and family that early in the morning, encouraging me and praying for me.  It was such an uplifting experience!

As I mentioned with the marathon analogy, the 2nd time around wasn't pleasant either.  Since it was on a computer screen, the words would blur, I would find myself reading things so many times that I would have to look away, then refocus and try again.  My back was in serious pain from sitting that long.  I took one break and somehow it was 9 minutes.  All the verses people gave me were written on my white board that was supposed to be for notes.  I used it to focus my attention on Jesus because I knew I wasn't going to do it without Him.  I finished the exam with 2 minutes to spare.

All that, yet I didn't pass.  I will say it again because most people didn't believe me the first time.  I did not pass.

My score increased by 50 points, so I only missed the mark by 19 points.  My mind immediately rushed to all those people praying for me.  I would have to tell them.  I would have to let them down.  Open myself up to criticism.  Feel the pain repeatedly as I saw people who were praying for me and either didn't get my text or email and needed a verbal rendition of what happened.

Then I realized what I forgot to do.  Thank God.  Praise Him when we win, praise Him when we lose (from "Facing the Giants").  That is truly a sacrifice of praise.  When I'm down and out, I still owe Him my thanks.  I still owe Him my gratitude and love.  I still owe Him everything I have.  I would be nothing without Him.

My dear friend called me about this time and said the most profound thing.  What if this test is about opening yourself up to what God thinks of you and not what others think of you?

How did she know?  How could she have possibly known what my first thought was?  I was so worried about telling other people.  Being a failure.  Again.

Here is the truth in this whole, long, drawn-out story (thank you for bearing with me):

  • I am not a failure.  Romans 8:37 (NIV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 
  • I am being renewed.  2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV) Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.   
  • I am God's child.  John 1:12-13 (NIV) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
  • I am a new creation.  2 Corinthians 5:17  (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
  • I am loved.  Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

My past does not define me.  God is continuing to refine me and to create something new in me.  Praise God, I am not who I once was.
James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect [mature] and complete, needing nothing. 
Passing the exam or... not passing.  New job or old job.  Healed or in pain.  I am choosing to praise God.  Yes, Lord, even if I don't get whatever it is I'm praying for, I choose You.  I trust You, I believe in You, and I give my time and talents to You to use as you see fit.  Please give me direction in the next few weeks to guide me on my next steps.

Big Daddy Weave "Redeemed"

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