About a year ago I was coming to the conclusion that my job wasn’t all that I wanted to do with my life – but I didn’t know what was. I was talking to a friend about this, and she said, “I think now is the time to be brave”. (Incidentally, I recently reviewed LifeLine Church Doulos teaching on accountability, which says that part of accountability is enabling the other person to see potential in you and release you to fulfil it, which really fits.)
I decided that what ‘being brave’ looked like was reducing my work to four days a week so I could spend the other day exploring options (and thankfully my husband Dave was ok with that!) My friend suggested some different people I could talk to.
Through those conversations I began to think about doing a PhD, and came up – again through one of those conversations – with a perfect topic to research. It really felt like it just suggested itself. I took some time to write my application over the next few months, feeling really excited about it. It was scary too, and I had to do quite a lot of actively fighting off thoughts of self-doubt, but I also had peace that trying this was the right next step, and the outcome would be in God’s hands. As I was finishing off the research proposal I had a real sense of God helping me with the writing, just to focus and get it done.
I submitted the application for the university place in January, along with a preliminary application for funding from a research council. This would pay the university fees and give me a grant to live on – so it’s a really good deal, and therefore there’s a lot of competition. With the promotion that my husband got a few months ago, if I got the funding, it meant we would be on the same amount of money as we were last year – so his promotion would make up for what I would be losing by stopping work.
At the end of January, I heard I was successful in that first round of the funding application, so I had to submit a full application by the beginning of March. During this time, I had a meeting with the academics who would be my main PhD supervisor and second supervisor (because they both had to write some sections of the application). I came out of that meeting so excited and happy – it was like getting a shot of adrenaline. I had that feeling I hadn’t had for a very long time: ‘This is what I’m meant to be doing!’
The application went in and the result was due in ‘early May’. I waited and waited – because I also hadn’t heard back about the university place. But I still had peace. A couple of people said to me “I think you’re going to get it” and I felt faith too, which is strange because you don’t want necessarily to go round saying you’ve predicted the future and it’s all sewn up. So I tried to focus on thanking God that whatever happened, he had it covered; that I had felt that to apply was the right next step and I’d done that, and whatever the step after that was, he would show me.
I tried looking for some alternative sources of funding in case I didn’t get the one I had applied for. But for everything I found, either the closing date had already passed, or you needed to have the university place confirmed first to be able to apply. It kind of felt like I had no Plan B – because without the funding I didn’t think I would be able to do the PhD (it’s pretty expensive, so the alternative would be to do it part time and work part time, which would take about eight years and really didn’t appeal!) So I kept asking God to make the way.
I chased the university and eventually one afternoon heard that they had given me a place. And then the next morning… I also heard that I had got the funding. I was over the moon!
Incidentally, that same morning I had a hospital appointment and got some not great news about my health, which any other day might have got me down a bit. But as it was, I just have the perspective of: God has given me this thing to do, so that’s what I’m going to focus on. It felt like God was even blessing me in the timing of that news.
Sooo, it was a long old process – pretty much a year. But I felt God was with me in it. There are some situations where it’s as though you really have to fight, but with this, although there was a lot of time and effort involved, I never had to battle for peace about it – I just always had it, and felt excited about the whole thing.
I want to thank God for:
– my friend who prompted me to take a step to change things
– the way He helped through the process with things like giving me a good project to research, the money and the health news
– His amazing peace and the sense of excitement all the way through