All posts by ashleymcarmichael

Laborare est orare; orare est laborare.

Laborare est orare; orare est laborare.


 I would wager to guess that many of us go to work each day and spend at least a small (though often it is large) percentage of time complaining about something.

There is no coffee in the pot.

 Someone ate the last donut.

 There is a weird smell.

 My boss…OMG, my boss…

 The children are wild.

 My subordinates are needy.

 I don’t get paid enough.

I could go on for days, because I’ve been there. Stress with a capital STRESS, can cause us to be cranky with a capital CRANK and IE just to add an extra letter in there for emphasis. But what if it’s not our jobs, or the people, or the place or even the money that leads to the feelings and emotions stacking up one on top of the other day after day? What if it’s about perspective?

Buy Linda Dillow’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Dillow/e/B001JS2DXO

While reading Satisfy My Thirsty Soul, by Linda Dillow I’ve been challenged in many ways. Dillow challenges readers to wake up to the many ways in which we worship—or should worship—each and every day of our lives. Often the term ‘worship’ is misused. It is not a synonym for music. Worship is any way we pay reverence or homage to God. Dillow expands this definition by exploring how we as individuals can worship with our lives, our words, our attitudes—and, as in the chapter I most recently read, our work.

 

I spend a lot of time at work. And now I have two jobs.

 

My first job is at school—I do a lot of complaining at this job. More than I wish I did, but less than most because while I do get frustrated I do honestly love what I do. Do I believe things could be better? Absolutely. Do I believe it is a demanding profession? You betcha. Am I often disheartened and disillusioned by the thanklessness of the teenagers who I spend hours of my time trying to help just to hear them say: ‘this is stupid’? Of course. But complaining really doesn’t do any good. In fact, all it does it stress me and the people around me out. And who wants that. So why do I do it?

 

I call it “venting”. That makes it sound better, right?

 

But what if I train myself to look at my work differently? What if instead of getting frustrated that the teenager still doesn’t have his homework—what if I turn my work into praise?


 

Laborare est orare; orare est laborare.


Dillow uses this phrase in her book, but it actually comes from the Rule of St. Benedict, a book of precepts written around 529 CE. This is not a new concept. Work is worship (or prayer); Worship is work. For centuries, Monks have used this concept to help keep balance in the monastery (when it wasn’t corrupted I suppose). The point is, everything you do is worship—and work should not be an exception. So if I can shift my perception and see my work as worship then perhaps I can help bring more joy to not only my life, but the people around me as well.

 

But how do I do this? On Friday one of my kids came racing down the hall as the final bell rang and into my classroom. He jumped over a couple of desks in a hurry to sit down. I was tired. And frankly not in the mood to deal with rambunctious teenagers. I frowned at him and scolded a little about his lack of propriety, but in retrospect all he was doing was what I had asked–showing energy and that he was trying to get to class on time. I could have fed off that energy and made the class, all of whom were a bit riled up by the act, more energetic and engaging as a result. Instead I was cranky. “Ms Carmichael you seem a bit cranky. You ok?” Another student asked. I responded as you might imagine a cranky teacher might respond. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t allow students to climb on the desks like monkeys or anything, but the attitude I have when I respond to it is what makes or breaks my class and quite frankly distinguishes me as a teacher, which leads me back to bowing my work, something I don’t do nearly as often as I need to. Especially the last 2 years. I’ve had these battles and I need to lay them at the cross each morning when I get up. I am a teacher.

 

But I can’t do it on my own. Nor should I try. As it happens, I was also reading Francis Chan’s book this week  Forgotten God. I don’t think it was a coincidence that much of what Chan writes applied directly to what I learned from Dillow. Chan points out that James 4:3 tells us that we can ask for wisdom, guidance, direction and the Holy Spirit all day long, but if we ask for the wrong reasons, God’s answer is going to be no. Our reasons have to be to bring him glory, not to bring our self glory or as the verse says to “spend it on our passions.” As a teacher I know that I have the opportunity to touch so many lives each and every day, but I have to understand that “our desire to live should be for the sake and glory of the God who put us on this earth in the first place” (Chan). And I think I too often forget that—which is where I fail most often.

Find out more about Francis Chan at www.Crazylove.org

 

And so I come to my second job, writing—which is where I really have to be careful not to want to spend all my askings on my own passions. Teaching gives me a daily reminder that there are others out there—writing is not as straight forward. Now that I have published Valerie’s Vow, I know I have readers; my publisher gave me the good news about my book this weekend. It’s selling at the top (tied with another book—A Ripple in the Water by Donna Small) of their books on the site and on Amazon. Even so, it’s not a constant reminder. Currently I working on novel that is not a sequel to Valerie’s Vow, but is written in a very similar style—the working title is Clara’s Chance. While I outlined the story and I know where I want it to go, it still has a life of its own. What I keep reminding myself is that my writing is not just for me. I write because I want to use the talent I have been blessed with to bring glory to God, and if I’m not then I have to stop. Vanity and pride are close beside me as I become a creator of something new. It’s beautiful, but ultimately I have to squash them. Because it can’t be about me.

 

Laborare est orare; orare est laborare.

Buy my book here: http://www.amazon.com/Valeries-Vow-Ashley-M-Carmichael-ebook/dp/B00MV36X32/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410133771&sr=8-1&keywords=valerie%27s+vow or at www.secondwindpublishing.com

Why I used a couple curse words in my Christian Fiction novel

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Last week I released my first book, and there are many reasons why this is exciting for me, but it also makes me nervous. I’m anxious about how it will be received, and even more so, how I will be judged for some of the choices I made about the content of the novel.

 But that’s okay.

As a writer, well, as a human, I have to make hard choices every day about what I think, feel and believe and when that is put into the context of writing I make those choices for my characters as well.  

By going with a small publisher I was able to maintain a lot of control over the content of my novel. As a result, though, I know there will be a lot of questions. Not the least of which will be: but this this is a CHRISTIAN novel—why are there curse words? Let me set the record straight first—the novel isn’t filled with profanity. In fact, I think there may be 5 curse words in the whole novel, but people—especially the target audience—will notice and I want to make sure I go on record with my reasons why.

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1) I want to make the characters and situations real.


 

Many of the situations and people that the main character, Valerie, meets are not Christian. She is put into the ‘real world’ in some pretty amazing ways. For example, at one point she is in a biker bar. To make that setting seem realistic, the dialogue has to match that which she might encounter. Just because a Christian character goes into an un-Christian place, that doesn’t immediately corrupt the character nor does it ‘cleanse’ the place. For a Christian novel to be real, some of that has to be exposed. God told us to be in the world (not of it). I wanted my characters to reflect that. As Christians, we can’t deny being in the world and these are places that we are a part of every day.


 

2) I want people to empathize with the character’s grief and pain.


 

Valerie is processing the death of a close friend—someone who had been a soul sister to her. She experiences deep, soul crushing grief and pain. The anger manifests in her dialogue and interactions with other people. I would love to say that as a Christian I have never used foul language in my grief and pain, but that would be a lie. Again, to connect to the character I added to her humanity. She makes mistakes—including some of her language.


 

3) I want people to understand that just because something is “Christian” doesn’t mean that it is “perfect”—that goes for people, setting, situations, and language.


 

The themes and lessons in the novel are distinctly Christian, which is what makes this “Christian Fiction”, an interesting phenomenal genre that has really only developed in the last fifty years or so (I mean think about it. Charles Dickens had many Christian themes—yet he is not a “Christian Fiction” writer…). I don’t want to alienate the Christian reader by using curse words, but I also don’t want to lie to them either. My story called for them, so I used them.


 

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The funny thing about it is, I worry—not about using them, but about being judged for that decision. Hopefully, my readers will understand and accept the choices that I made, but if not I hope they can at least present some counterarguments to me that are logical and well-thought out enough so that as I continue to write I can keep them in mind for my future endeavors.

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Buy my novel at any of these locations: 

Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/Valeries-Vow-Ashley-M-Carmichael-ebook/dp/B00MV36X32/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409596752&sr=8-1&keywords=valerie%27s+vow

http://www.amazon.com/Valeries-Vows-Ashley-M-Carmichael/dp/163066040X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409596752&sr=8-2&keywords=valerie%27s+vow

Barnes and Noble: 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/valeries-vow?store=allproducts&keyword=valeries+vow

Second Wind Publishing:

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468297

Valerie’s Vow Debut: Book Launched

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For those of you who were unaware or unable to attend the book launch for my debut novel, Valerie’s Vow, yesterday I have decided to post my short speech and the page numbers of the readings I did. We sold over half of the books we had ordered and had around 60 guests at the event. For a debut novel, I call that a success.

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Here is the transcript of my speech:


Speech for Book Signing


 

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As most of you know, school is getting ready to start for me, so like all teachers I am getting ready for school this week. In preparation for class, I pulled up a PowerPoint that I use to teach my seniors. In this presentation, I have my students participate in a reflective exercise in which they state what their number one goal is. As any good teacher knows, you need to give your students a good example of a goal—for the past 4 or 5 years since I’ve been teaching seniors I’ve used the same goal: publish a book. And that’s when it hit me. OMG! I have to change my PowerPoint and find a new number one goal, because though it may have taken a while, I have realized that goal at last. And I want to thank all of you for your support and for being here. It means more to me than you know, whether you read the book or not, that you’re here today celebrating this achievement with me.

The novel itself does have story behind it, so I’ll give you a quick rundown for those who don’t know it.

This is the product of NaNo—which is National Novel Writing month. Now that being said, yes I did write a lot of it during the month of November, but that’s kind of an understatement because the idea had been bouncing in my brain for a couple of months before and in October I outlined the novel—but in order to have it ‘count’ as my NaNo book 50,000 words of the novel were written during the month of November alone, which, as it turns out, was exactly when I needed to be writing this novel. As many of you are aware, a good friend of mine, of many of us, passed away in November. It is to her that I dedicated this novel and in a lot of ways the novel is an homage to her amazing legacy as seen through the friendship of Valerie, the main character, and Beth, her friend who has passed away.

That being said, I want to stress that I am not Valerie and Sarah is not Beth. Both Valerie and Beth are fictional characters but as with all fiction there are echoes of reality as an honor to her memory and my friendship with her and others in my life.

The first passage I want to read is a flashback. Valerie is thinking about the first time she ever met Beth and what/why that friendship is so valuable to her [read page 2-4].

The second passage is very emotional for me and the main character, Valerie. She’s had a pretty rough holiday—the first without her friend, and it didn’t go well, so she’s a bet unstable when one of the love interests pops in for an unexpected visit and the result is a bit explosive. [read page 105-108]

The final passage is the vow and what drives Valerie psychologically through the story. It’s told as a flashback and I’ll only read part of it for you [read page 154-155]

So now you’ve had a little taste. Do you have any questions?


 

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A brief Q & A period followed with many great questions and many thanks to those who have supported me throughout this process. As I continue to move forward with writing, and hopefully publishing and selling more books, I would just like to say just how blessed I feel to be a part of a community of people who are so excited to see a co-worker, friend, sister, daughter, nice, grandaughter, and ultimately, a writer succeed.

If you haven’t purchased a copy of Valerie’s Vow, you can do so at…

www.secondwindpublishing.com or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/valeries-vows-ashley-m-carmichael/1120162687?ean=9781630660406

Or you can purchase the ebook at…

http://www.amazon.com/Valeries-Vow-Ashley-M-Carmichael-ebook/dp/B00MV36X32/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408915939&sr=8-1&keywords=Valerie%27s+vow or http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468297?ref=BudgetMadridGuide

 

Counting Blessings

Sometimes I worry that I’m a little too realistic.

Things don’t really work out that well in the end, I tell myself. Expect disappointment in the long run, because, after all, we are living in a sick and fallen world. If I don’t hold expectations that are too high, then I don’t run as high a risk of getting hurt, or let down. It’s okay when I’m disappointed, I tell myself, because I expected it.

I don’t call it pessimism because I’m not seeing the world as half empty, but for what it is—sick.

Unfortunately because I tend to think this way, I miss out on a lot of things as well: giddiness, excitement, passion, intensity, mystery and maybe even joy and thankfulness because I am constantly holding everyone and everything at arm’s length. Don’t let anything too close—you’ll see the imperfections and it will disappoint you in the end.

I don’t know when I started thinking like this. I haven’t always. I used to be the most open and inviting child in the world. I can’t pinpoint a trauma, or a life event that occurred making me close up and change. I imagine it has something to do with my depression and anxiety struggle, but that’s not really the point. It doesn’t matter why I started thinking this way—the point is, somewhere along the line…I did!

BUT…

The funny thing about it is, usually when I open up to people and I let people in, I’m NOT disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been disappointed by a lot of people in life, but especially in the past couple of months, I realized just how blessed I am and just when I start to get jaded again about the world—God will send me a little reminder of my blessings.

Today I was shopping for school supplies like I do every August. I was in Walmart and Was putting all these things on the counter and I’m at the age where everyone just assumes I’m married with children so all these crayons and notebooks are, of course, for my 2.5 kids in the burbs I have. The man behind me smiled and said, “Boy am I glad to have aged out of that stage!”  Instead of just smiling and nodding, I decided to go a different route this morning and offer a bit of myself—I smiled and said, “Well, I teach so I guess I’ll never age out of buying these things since they’re for my classroom.”

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The man looked sufficiently impressed. I wasn’t buying out the store or anything, but I had a decent amount of supplies—hand sanitizer, folders, glue sticks, colored pencils and the like. “That’s what the dollar tree is good for,” he nodded and rocked back and forth on his heels. I laughed, “Actually I shop around for the best deals; that pack of crayons is only twenty-five cents here. I just want to make sure all my students have what I need for them to be successful.” I pulled out my debit card to pay and the man slipped a five dollar bill into my wallet. “I know it’s not much,” he said softly, “but I just want to contribute a little something for the fine job you’re doing for kids who don’t have the supplies. They don’t pay ya’ll enough for that.” I protested, but he held up his hand. “It’s my good deed for the day,” he said with a wink.

I may not get paid a lot, but that man paid me a compliment that was worth more than most of the money in my wallet and he reminded me today that there are people in the world who not only listen but do actually want to care.

I have a lot to be thankful for. A lot to be excited about. A lot to be passionate about, and a lot to look forward to. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be less realistic—I can’t be a whole new person—but I’m working on the attitude thing. One day at a time.