Category Archives: Learn it

Prophets & Promises

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t spent a lot of my life studying the prophets of the Old Testament. I love God’s word and I spend a lot of time reading my Bible, but the prophets always felt kind of…depressing. Sure, there are a lot of good nuggets in there that look great on a coffee mug or wall art deco, but most of what you read is a lot of doom and gloom—or at least it feels that way. So I always kind of just glossed over them in my reading. Hello, Malachi, how are you? A cursory ‘fine’ in response was all I was looking for before I skipped on to Ruth or Esther, or James.

So when I ran across a study on minor prophets, I kind of dragged my feet on starting it, but it just kept haunting me (thanks Holy Spirit) and I gave in. Eventually.

I don’t regret it.

Over the past few months I have come to appreciate all that I’ve uncovered in these hard to pronounce, but kind of amazing little books. The history alone is mindboggling, but when you really dig in, these books really speak to my current struggles, and, I’d hazard to guess, yours too.

So in this new series I’m starting (finally; I know it’s been like a year since I’ve posted anything. Life. You dig?), I’m going to dig into some of the prophets and promises of God, what I’m learning, and how it might teach you a little something too.

Investing in Prophets

This word can be a bit scary. Prophets. It feels kind of funny on the tongue, foreign and funky. Most people hear it and think it’s synonymous with ‘fortune teller’ or ‘psychic’. Prophets do sometimes talk about the future. I won’t deny that, but they do so in a much different way than what mainstream media tells us. They don’t gaze into crystal balls or look to anything human or mystical. No, a prophet is inspired by one thing and one thing alone: God. Whether it’s through His word or through constant meditation and prayer, prophets speak revelations. The sovereign will of God, which (as it happens) can apply to the future, but interestingly just as often focuses on the present and past. They rely on spiritual discipline, not on whims of unknown spirits.

I’ve been learning a lot about that concept of discipline lately, too. I used to think I was pretty good on that front, that I had a lot of discipline. And in some ways that is correct, but in other ways I have a long way to go and a whole lot to learn. Building spiritual discipline is arduous and often heartbreaking, but in a way that allows the Lord to move in and redesign your motivation and focus.

And sometimes it hurts.

The OT prophets would be the first to tell you that discipline is hard and painful, yet they’d also be the first (most of them) to tell you that it is 100% worth it to walk that closely with the Lord and to rely on His word and will for your every move.

Building Spiritual discipline is arduous and often heartbreaking, but in a way that allows the Lord to move in and redesign your motivation and focus.

Spiritual Discipline for the 21st Century

If we are honest with ourselves, we’d admit that our society lacks any kind of discipline, spiritual or otherwise. We rely on instant gratification to fulfill our needs and get angry and impatient when we have to wait in line or our computer runs slower than we’d like. So how do we build spiritual discipline in a world that thrives on a me-first mentality? Believe it or not, we build these disciplines in the same manner as the prophets. Sure, it looks a little different for us (we’re unlikely to clothe ourselves in sackcloth when we are grieving over our troubles), but the problems and trials we face have no different roots than what we see in the Bible and so the examples and words of wisdom and warning still apply to us today. Humans are humans, sinful and ugly in all their me-first glory.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote a fantastic book on this very subject called Discipline: the Glad Surrender. The book gets to the heart of spiritual discipline in the 21st century starting with the title itself: glad surrender. We don’t like to surrender and we certainly aren’t happy about it by nature. Especially in the US. It connotes weakness and humility that our society puffed up on pride and self-sufficiency can hardly stomach let alone pursue. But we’d be wise to at least try, especially if we are wanting community with God, which inevitably will lead to amazing growth opportunities we would never find otherwise.

Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God.

Elisabeth Elliot Discipline

So what are these disciplines we are to surrender to? This is not an all inclusive list by any means, but in this series these are the ones I’ll comment on most frequently:

  • Solitude & Silence
  • Fasting
  • Sabbath & Rest
  • Submission
  • Humility
  • Reading the Word
  • Worship
  • Prayer & Vision
  • Faith
  • Community: Family, Friends, & Neighbors
  • Service
  • Reflection & Discernment
  • Evangelism
  • Contentment

Promises of God

The whole point of becoming more disciplined really comes down to the promises of God. When we start living by the promises of God rather than explanations (or lack thereof), we see true transformation in our minds, hearts and souls, but we can’t live by His promises if we don’t even know what His promises are. And that begins by spending time with Him in his Word, in solitude and community, to build and strengthen our spiritual muscles that focuses on something far greater than ourselves.

We can’t live by His promises if we don’t even know what his promises are.

The prophets managed to do this without indoor plumbing, sliced bread, or penicillin, so I figure we can too if we are willing to surrender a bit of ourselves for a lot more of Jesus.

Photo by Julia Weihe on Unsplash

5 Things I learned when I started my new job

So many of you may not know (because quite frankly I’m about as bad at updating people on my life as I am at keeping this blog current. Go figure.) BUT I started a new job in August. I’m still working in the same school district, but I have a new title–and it is a doozy. I’m out of the classroom and in the district office as one of the Technology Integration and Implementation Specialists. Try saying that 10 times fast, I dare you. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Yeah, I thought so.

Anyway, I realized within about the first 10 minutes of starting the job that I was going to learn a whole heck of a lot in this new position. You know that saying, you don’t know what you don’t know? Well, I do know now. I know that I know very little and it’s very humbling when you’ve been the girl with all the answers for the vast majority of your life.

Not that I’m all that smart, but I tend to give off a kind of “she knows what she’s doing” vibe and that has taken a lot of time and effort to cultivate. Now, that doesn’t mean I really do know what I’m doing. And that certainly doesn’t mean I actually have all the answers (because trust me, I don’t) BUT I usually can fake it till I make it. And I don’t really fail. Does that sound arrogant? I don’t mean for it to, but it is one of the primary reasons why I struggle so much with pride.

So, here’s just five important things I learned when I took on this job.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Number One: Broaden your thinking

I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded individual. I like to learn. I love hearing others’ ideas. I even like a healthy debate–as long as there is no shouting. I don’t like shouting. As an English teacher though I had a pretty narrow focus: make sure you are meeting the standards and doing what is best for your students. The other stuff was just..well it was just stuff. Hoops to jump through if you will so that I could do my job the way I believed it should be done. That was fine and all, but about fifteen minutes into my new job I could see that sometimes what I thought was just a hoop actually had a purpose. Something that felt, as a teacher, to be a roadblock was actually a guardrail. I couldn’t see the cliff on the other side because I didn’t have the right view. Sometimes it was by choice and sometimes it was just because those that did have the view knew something I didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that all the bureaucracy is good or purposeful because it’s not. BUT I am saying that there are a lot of moving pieces in an organism as complex as a school system and sometimes you get to see the bigger picture and its pretty eye-opening.


Something that felt, as a teacher, to be a roadblock was actually a guardrail. I couldn’t see the cliff on the other side because I didn’t have the right view.


Number Two: Don’t let your first impressions of people blind you.

One of my favorite books is a pretty well-known classic called Pride and Prejudice. Depending on how much of a geek you are, you may not know that the working title for this novel was actually First Impressions, so believe me when I say that Lizzy Bennet would totally back me up on this. First impressions are rarely correct, and even when they are people can and do surprise you. I’m really quite introverted, despite years teaching in the public schools. In the past few weeks, I have met an innumerable amount of people. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, publishers, vendors, pretty much everyone who has an interest in how schools work has somehow been a part of my working life in the past few months. Some have made a great first impression, and others not as much. Either way, I’ve learned that when you make a first impression into a box in which you place a person, you can miss out.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Number Three: The best people don’t seek attention and their humility is often misunderstood.

People think that humility is putting yourself down, but really that’s not true humility. Humility is accepting responsibility for something that’s not your fault, but you do it because it’s the better choice than wasting time playing the blame game. Humility is shrugging off an insult to yourself, but getting so angry you can’t stop the tears when someone insults or threatens your people. Humility is not taking credit for decisions that make life easier for people, even though you totally deserve a little praise. Humility is hard, which is why there are few truly humble people in the world. I’ve met a lot of them recently and other than highlighting my massive pride problem, it is changing the way I see the world.


Humility is hard, which is why there are few truly humble people in the world.


Number 4: Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is.

Over the past few months, I’ve had to eat a lot of crow. Some things I hardcore believed to be true about people and ideas were shattered as I realized how scope and context can be manipulated to serve others’ agendas. Uncovering those agendas is a tough reality that I’ve had to come to terms with as I move forward. Not only that, I’m having to sort out what I believe vs. what I’ve been told to believe or what I thought I believed or what I believed that turned out to be false. Sound confusing, it is. Most days my brain is spinning. Just a quick example: the job I do now, I honestly didn’t understand as a teacher. I wondered what they did at an office all day. I wondered why we needed so many (I think we had 4 at the time) and what they could possibly be contributing. I wondered what I would do in the same position. Turns out I still can’t explain this job to people in a way that makes sense, but I will say that I am nonstop. Ever listened to Hamilton? That whole “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” question is for real when it comes to my job, but you can substitute ‘write’ for ‘research, type, talk, respond, create, reply, collaborate, design, record, request, etc.’ . My job varies from day to day–actually hour to hour really–and I have to be flexible and willing to move at a moment’s notice. Yeah, I spend a lot of time on the phone and in front of a computer, but I’m also out at schools and in classrooms. I’m collaborating with my team and brainstorming new ideas. I’m learning new programs and solving problems…and sometimes failing to solve problems (which I hate. I start to growl when I can’t solve something. It’s not pretty).

Photo by noor Younis on Unsplash

Number five: People just want to be heard

I know there are a lot of problems in the educational world and when you add technology to that, the fact is we may never solve all the problems that exist. And for every problem we solve six more pop up. Programs work great in some capacity but there isn’t a panacea program. Trust me, I’ve looked. Even so, the vast majority of people, even the ones who complain the most, simply want to feel seen and heard and understood. And this is true in life as well. I’m learning that I’m not very good at concentrating on what people are saying to me for more than a few minutes and I am learning to focus and not just listen but actually hear what people have to say. And those voices are beautiful (and sometimes angry). Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of power to change the world. I wish I did (well, sometimes I do. Other times that feels like way too much work and responsibility). What I do have the power to do is hear people and work to help them find a solution–even if it’s not perfect, I can still show them that I care. And that’s how you change the world. One listening ear at a time.


The vast majority of people, even the ones who complain the most, simply want to feel seen and heard and understood.


Crisis Moment in the Quest

I stared at my computer screen for 30 minutes yesterday willing some kind of creativity to flow out of me and into my novel.

Instead I got up and did the laundry.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I sat back down and stared for another 20 minutes–on and off while scrolling through social media. I prayed for the words to come…

And then I got up and dusted the furniture in the front room, rearranging to fit my new cabinet.

I sat back down and stared for another 10 minutes or so, then got up and broke in the yoga mat for a workout (something I really don’t enjoy) hoping that the endorphins would spark something.

You would think that school being closed, stay at home orders enacted and social isolation (thank you COVID-19) would give me the time I needed to work on my writing so I could actually get something done.

Instead, it has dried up a well that had just started flowing. It feels a little like life has been paused, which makes it difficult to find the motivation for things I *should* be doing. However, during this time I have learned a lot about myself and my writing that I didn’t quite understand before, but feel like I’m getting a handle on now (2 weeks down).

This is nothing new–going back to Campbell and the quest I started last month–all journeys must reach a crisis moment where the quester (anyone notice that quester is a part of sequestered? Is there a connection there? Not sure…think there should be…) feels defeated. That feels like an appropriate description for my creative juices during this time of uncertainty. And probably why until yesterday I hadn’t written a word on my novel (or blog, or even morning pages) even though I’ve had gobs and gobs of time.

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I never realized how much inspiration and motivation I pulled into my writing just by being around humans–forget interacting with them, just being around them is often enough. I will go to Starbucks, or Panera and just sit for hours with my earbuds in–sometimes listening to music, but often listening to the life going on around me and it feeds my soul.

Two days ago I went with my roommate to pick up dinner we’d ordered and we drove past Panera–it was all closed up and the tables pushed to the side and completely deserted…and that hit me harder than a lot of other things during this time. It felt like a representation of my mind. Closed and cluttered with no real production happening.

Photo by Evan Wise on Unsplash

Avoiding the purpose I know is mine.

What a depressing image. And it definitely felt a little like defeat.

However, as we all know for the quest to be successful, though, the quester (sequestered?) must rise above this crisis moment if they want to obtain the treasure they seek–in my case, a finished novel.

So I took a shower, put on some music, and just started typing. It wasn’t good, but I can go back and polish it later. The point is, I pushed through that defeated feeling–which is what it was, a feeling, not a reality–and got to 40,000 words yesterday.

Sometimes all we need is a little perspective shift to rise above the crises in our lives. That doesn’t mean everything will magically be better or OK, but it can lead to a more positive attitude when facing difficult and unforeseen circumstances, be it a widely spreading virus or kool-aid spilled on the hard drive that housed the only copy of your burgeoning novel (yes, that happened to me in 6th grade–still can’t talk about it…it’s just too raw!).

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but by lack of purpose and direction.

Viktor Frankl–Holocaust survivor

It’s not easy to choose positivity over the uncertainties, isolations, and hopelessness that life throws at us, but when we do, bad situations become temporary, and the end of the world becomes an inspiration to push forward–no matter what.


Want to read a little of what I wrote? Keep scrolling and then leave some feedback in the comments or on the FACEBOOK 🙂 Please note this is very RAW so I would love help in making it SHINE


EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 20

“This is one of those times where I understand why people carried handkerchiefs, but quite frankly I’ve always found the practice a little disgusting, so if you want a tissue we can—“

“Don’t worry about it,” Andi let out a nervous laugh as she reached across the passenger’s seat to the glove box and pulled out a travel pack of tissue. “I think handkerchiefs are pretty gross too, but I keep prepared. It’s been a pretty emotional couple of years.”

“I’ll say,” Garrick sighed again, wishing he could rewind time and make the last year and half less stressful. Hell, if he could do that he would rewind it so that Andi and Greg never ended up together—though, that’s what Bryce had tried to do and it hadn’t turned out that well for their friendship. “This is a perfect Romans 8:28 kind of situation,” he said more to himself than to Andi.

“What?” She wrinkled her nose and studied him. Over the past year she’d done a lot of Bible reading, but her knowledge was severely limited in comparison to Garrick’s. She hadn’t grown up in church and Bible verses weren’t as imprinted for her as they were for him.

“Romans 8:28,” he said patiently. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” He pushed back a lock of her hair, smoothing out the worry lines on her forehead. “Everything you’ve been through sucks, Andi. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it hurts me that I couldn’t protect you from all of it. I was just thinking about how if we could turn back time we could just change all of it, but that’s not how life works—and that’s kind of questioning God’s role in all of it, isn’t it?” 

Andi pulled back. “You think God let all this happen to me on purpose?” 

Garrick clicked his tongue, and turned those words over in his mind before responding. “Not exactly. God is in control over everything, right?” 

She nodded slowly, but the frown deepened. 

“But, because he gave us humans free will, our actions still have consequences, both good and bad. Our choices don’t limit his control or power or authority, which I think is why the verse reads the way it does—all things for together for good—not that everything is good, or perfect, because we live in a world filled with sin and bad things are going to happen. Even to beautiful souls,” he rubbed his thumb along her cheek again, never breaking eye contact. “So it’s not that I think God ‘let’ this happen to you, but He will take it and work it out for good and for His purpose, since you accepted Him as your savior. Do I think life will suddenly be filled with nothing but sunshine and rainbows? Of course not, but I do think the more we seek Him in this, the more evident His hand will become.” 

“So,” she swallowed. “You think instead of wishing none of this ever happened we should ask God to show us how he’s going to work it for good?” 

Garrick’s mouth twisted into a half smile and he nodded. “Something like that. I came to terms with that recently myself.” 

“Lorelai?” Andi nodded even as she asked. 

“Yeah,” Garrick picked up Andi’s hand from here it rested in her lap. He turned it over so her palm faced upward and traced the lines with his index finger. “You may think the Lord has forgotten you, that He is far from you, but remember Andrea Cartier, he has engraved you on the palms of his hands. Nothing this world can throw at you will thwart the plans he has for you.” 

A shiver ran down his spine as the words he spoke raced across his own circumstance, and he nodded his understanding to the Lord speaking to him in this moment with the woman he desperately loved. 

“Thank you,” Andi whispered. “I don’t know how you do it, but sometimes you know exactly what to say—“ 

“Wasn’t me,” Garrick shook his head. “I needed to hear it as much as you did, Andi. He knew,” he nodded to the sky above, looking up. 

Andi followed his gaze. 

“Thank you,” she whispered, and this time, Garrick knew she wasn’t speaking to him.

Following the path

Pro tip: Don’t ask God to confirm something if you are not prepared for an answer you may not like

That may sound like an ominous way to start a blog post, but I have to admit it’s been a whirlwind few weeks–which tends to happen when you start out on a quest to resuscitate something you feel you have lost. You poke at things you thought were pretty sturdy only to watch them tumble like a Jenga tower. The falling is bad enough, but the noise is enough to startle you into confusion.

That’s pretty much my headspace at the moment.

Or, as Beth Moore puts it in her new book Chasing Vines:

“Nothing can get more confusing than feeling planted somewhere you’re sure is home and then getting uprooted and transplanted somewhere else. Without warning you face the prospect of having to start all over again. You had […] your sense of place, you thought you knew how this thing was going to go, your future seemed clear, your people were near and now you feel like a stranger …”

There is nothing more disconcerting than feeling like a stranger where you once felt like you belonged. An overwhelming sense of discontentment can be disorienting and, quite frankly, painful as you fumble your way through.

It’s the prayers in those moments that you send heavenward, hoping that that feeling will maybe just go away, or at least settle into some kind of contentment that your purpose only floundered for a hot second…until you realize that the seeds of discontentment might actually be God’s prompting to a new purpose.

And that all the hurt feelings and alienation were actually little ways in which God was answering your heaven-sent pleas.

Whether you like it or not.

Photo by Blake Weyland on Unsplash

Because let’s be honest. Change can be hard, especially if there is not a readily evident reason for making the change. Trying to explain it to other people is, well, tough. So you begin the arduous task of laying it all out on the table–these little pieces of evidence that God has confirmed to you so that others can rally behind you in this new quest.

I haven’t gotten to that last bit yet; I’m still gathering my evidences and working through it with the Lord on my own before I start bringing others in. But I can certainly feel it inching closer and the choice will have to be made: do what is comfortable, or do what God is saying to you.

And I pray I have the courage to follow through and obey the simple words of Genesis 31:16b:

“Now then, whatever God is saying to you, do.”

Because we should not, as Beth Moore says,

“Confuse fruitfulness with felicity.”

Walking in God’s will doesn’t mean we will live “happily ever after.” Life is not a fairy tale, and happiness shouldn’t be our number one goal regardless of what popular culture will have us believe. No, if we want to live purposeful lives, we must live in obedience to what the Lord commands and listen to his commands, whatever they are. As Deuteronomy 5:33 confirms:

“You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you…”

Sometimes we may feel like strangers.

Sometimes we may have to change our lifestyle.

Sometimes we may experience pain and rejection.

But always we will LIVE and LIVE WELL if we are following God’s path–even if we can’t see exactly where it might lead.

Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

Trials of the quest

Okay, so I’m channeling Joseph Campbell this week, but it is called the monomyth for a reason. Let’s face it, Campbell was one smart dude and so as my quest to renew creativity begins, I should have expected resistance–which on one level I did, I guess I just didn’t expect so much of the resistance to come from me. After all, I’m the one who decided to start the quest, why would I resist it?

Physical Trials

We all experience some physical trials on this earth. After all, our bodies are essentially dying the moment we are born (cheery, I know). One of my physical struggles has always been seasonal allergies and sinus migraines. I know that sounds super lame given that there are a lot of people battling much, much more. I’m not diminishing that in any way and can only pray I have half the strength of these individuals if I ever face that kind of physical trial.

My allergies have always been a pain–they come every year so you’d think I’d be prepared, but living in South Carolina–well seasons are incredibly fluid sometimes. Like last week, for example, we experienced temperatures upwards of 70 degrees so the trees started to bloom, and yes there was pollen everywhere…and it is February. By the end of the week, we were back in the 30s, so my body just completely rebelled. I haven’t really been able to breathe out of my nose for a week, and all that has settled in my chest and it’s just uncomfortable, which turns into exhausting so the things I can normally do become more of a chore and sometimes I just don’t–which in turn makes me feel like a slacker.

Photo by Sorin Gheorghita on Unsplash

Despite this, I pushed myself to go on a walk earlier in the week when the weather was nice enough to do so. I LOVED IT. I actually really enjoy walking whenever I push myself to get out and do it, and it is as Cameron says in The Vein of Gold a walk in our souls is really for our souls. I did not meet her challenge to walk 20 minutes every day though. That is going to be for this coming week–even more challenging since I have meetings/social gatherings/obligations every night this week. It’s good, but it is definitely stretching me.

Mental Trials

I get into my own head way too often. Sure, social anxiety has become a norm for me. Once I drove all the way to a social gathering where I didn’t know anyone and I was determined to go make new friends. I walked up to the door and my heart raced so bad I found it hard to breathe. I turned around and left. Ridiculous, I know. I’m not sure what it is about my make up that makes me do stupid things like that, but I literally have to battle with myself to go to social events.

I know, I’ve heard it before, but Ashley, you are a teacher. Isn’t that a constant social event. Quite frankly, no it isn’t. But that might be part of the problem. I’m by nature an introvert and I spend all day with people and it’s great. I love my students and most days I love my job. I work with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met and I love them! But when I go home, going back out in the world is hard. Some people call it recharge time, but I really shouldn’t need that much recharge time.

Sometimes I will lose this battle and stay home when I should go hang out with people–people I know and love. As a result, it makes them think I don’t want to hang out with them, which isn’t true–I just need a push. Someone to tell me I’m wanted there and that they will help me, make me feel comfortable, and like it is less of a chore. Only people really close to me know that they need to push a little harder to get me out–most people just shrug and assume that I’m happy.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

This is my mental trial, and I’m working through that this week too–especially as I’m trying to revive my creativity. Writing conversation and situation requires experience.

Pushing myself is hard.

Emotional Trials

With the physical and mental trials, there are always emotional ones too–for me it typically results in bottled up feelings that explode in situations where an explosion really doesn’t make sense. I’ve been doing a pretty good job at keeping the mood journal up and that really helps me to process through, but this week pushed me a lot.

I’m going to my first writer’s group meeting in several years this week. I’m excited and nervous (talk about emotional trials). While I know this is just a trial meeting for me to observe and decide if it is a good fit, it still makes me feel a little nervous–so say a little prayer for me on Tuesday!

End Results

The GOOD news about all these trials and internal battles, I was able to channel it into a lot of good writing this weekend. I wrote at least 6,000 words yesterday and the result is 34,000 words written and mostly polished on my novel that has just been gathering dust for going on 2 years now. My new push is bringing some of that drive and passion back, but it hasn’t been easy. But really, when is anything worth doing easy?