Category Archives: Learn it

Accepting Your Gifts

I work with teenagers. It’s kinda what I do. I used to think that it wasn’t who I am, but I’m not sure that’s true. I know that they say your job isn’t who you are, but I think if you are really lucky—or no, really blessed—your job IS who you are. After all. You spend about 60% (or in my case more like 80%) of your day at your job. Having it define you, in a good way, can (in fact) be a good thing.
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But I’ve struggled with that, because I don’t want it to be my only thing. Being a workaholic isn’t my goal, but being a dedicated member of God’s world is. And when you find your calling and you happen to be able to make it your job, we should rejoice over that—no matter how frustrating it can get.

Which is why I said I work with teenagers, not that I’m a teacher. I am a teacher, but I don’t believe my calling is really limited to teacher. Ask anyone who has ever taught for even five minutes and you’ll understand what I mean. There are memes and blogs and caricatures, and all sorts of other things that list the “job” of a teacher and most of them are true. I teach, yes, but that’s really not  my primary “job”.  If it was, I wouldn’t work with teenagers.

Whenever someone asks me what I do, I always get one of these reactions (or variations):

  • Wow, that’s awesome. I could never do that, but I’m glad someone does!
  • Teenagers huh? I think the only thing more challenging would be middle schoolers.
  • How do you do that?

I didn’t know how to answer that for a long time, because yeah, someone needs to work with them and sometimes people are working with teens who really shouldn’t be. And yes, middle school is challenging, but challenging in its own way. Just like if you put me in an elementary school I’d probably be kicked out because half the class would be crying in absolute frustration (I’m not meant to work with that age!). And how do I do that? Well, I just do. There isn’t some kind of magic formula. If there was, then we wouldn’t have a teacher shortage because we could train almost anyone to do it.
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Finally I came up with an answer I liked. And It seems to really resound with most of the people I talk to—and will bring me back to my original point.

I treat teenagers like people. Because that’s what they are, they’re just people. Yeah, they have a few more hormones bouncing around them, but seriously I know 30 year olds who have less control over their hormones than my students. What I think people fail to realize is that teenagers are people who have needs, wants, hopes, dreams, desires, loves, just like we do and when you tap into that and realize you are not just a teacher—you work with teenagers. Well, that’s when magic happens.

I may not always be a teacher. I never know what the future holds, but I do know that I will always work with teenagers because they are a part of me. I was never good at being a teenager, but who is really? It’s our job as the body of Christ to perform our function, and once we find that function we build it up—creating muscle, not fat.
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“So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” Because, really, that’s the only way any of us win.

The Pavement Ends

I was driving a couple of weeks ago, rushing from one place to another and not paying attention like I should. As a result, I missed the sign.

Pavement ends.

At 45 miles an hour this is an especially important sign to not miss, but just as I realized what was about to happen, it was too late–off I flew into a dirt and gravel road.

I won’t repeat all the words or thoughts that raced in my head or out of my mouth as the dust flew up around my car, but as I finally came to a grinding, horrifying halt–surrounded by a cloud of dust and miraculously unscathed–I ended with:

“Thank you God for protecting me even in my stupidity.”

What an appropriate expression of gratitude.

We live in a world of narcissism and self-promotion. A world that screams “Me! Me! ME!” and then “More! More! More!” and sometimes we get so wrapped up in that we forget to pay attention. Until the pavement ends.

Until something gets our attention.

Often there were warning signs, but we either ignore them or don’t see them in our ignorance. Those are moments of truth where we can either learn something or continue on a path of destruction. It’s time for us to stop allowing distractions keep us from the truth that is right in front of us…before the pavement ends.

After praying my thanksgiving, I turned my car around and got back on the pavement, but this time I slowed down, put away the distractions, and continually praised God as I drove out of my studpidity and into his arms.

Off Stage

At church we’ve started this great series about masks. Let’s be honest, it’s awful.

Not that the preaching is bad (it’s phenomenal, actually).

Not that the content is questionable (it’s spot on).

Quite the opposite.
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It’s great, but the series is awful because every word is powerfully convicting, maybe more for some than for others, but you show me a person without a mask and, well, you’ve either introduced me to Jesus or a corpse. I already know Jesus and quite frankly I don’t have that much interest in dead bodies—so my point is, we’re all wearing masks.

Believe me, I know.

I slip mine on and off with perfect ease. A practiced professional protecting herself from pain and heartache so well she’s begun to wonder if she can even feel certain emotions anymore.

And the funny thing is—I really don’t have any reason to wear these masks. Maybe I could go back and blame some psychological history, but I know that’s more an excuse than a cause. What is really at the heart of this preemptive strike against the world is fear.

Fear of rejection.

Fear of failure.

Fear of pain.

Fear of loneliness, heartache, unhappiness…you name it.

And the tighter I hold to my mask, the less comfortable I feel in the world.

And everything I’ve been trying to avoid, ironically, becomes a reality.

But the mask is comfortable. We’ve worn it for so long it feels like it’s a part of us, so much so that it morphs into our settings, even our accessories.

A cellphone in the middle of the crowd…I won’t feel so alone if I connect to something…even if that something is superficial.

Sunglasses to hide the eyes wide, panicked, maybe even tear-filled.

Empty phrases like “I’m doing great.” Or better still…”I’m fine.” Words just to fill the void and mask the true feelings bubbling just beneath the surface.

Anger.

Depression.

Embarrassment.

All that you dare not share if you want to be accepted.

But the masks are exhausting. A charade. A never-ending play.

I’m sorry, Shakespeare (and Madonna), but life is not meant to be a stage. And all the playacting eventually will just wear you down.

We are created to be authentic.

Raw.
Real.

A piece of fruit gave us a mask, but a cross stripped it away. It’s time we reaped htos rewards.

Building relationships.

Finding wholesome entertainment.

Accepting the rest that He offers.

A life in the world, but not of it.

A life off the stage.

Free.

How will you break free?

Adjusting to Change

“Just keep swimming!”

“To infinity and beyond!”

“Adventure is out there!”

“Keep moving forward!”

The words are different, but the message is the same. In order to be successful, you can’t be stagnate. You have to move, change, adapt, evolve. It’s a basic principle of life…so why are we so resistant to it?

Because change is scary. Unknown. Different.

It’s the same reason why things like discrimination and hate exist—humans, for some awful reason, are programmed to be terrified of anything that is different than what they are “used to”; what the “know”; what they think is “right”.

Personally I think it stems back to the Garden of Eden—instinct and reasoning, fear and hate, knowledge of good and evil—none of it was ever supposed to be a part of the equation. But once it was introduced—once it became a part of the equation, well, now we have to deal with it. Now we have to use it for good, and not evil.

Because change doesn’t have to be scary.

The unknown doesn’t have to euthanize common sense.

Differences can unite rather than divide us.

If we let them.

This is not a post crusading for a cause, it is simply a reflection—because recently I decided to move. To change everything I’ve known, uproot myself from one place and leave all my friends and most of my family and settle in another place. Granted, it’s not totally foreign—it’s closer to my sister and her family—but she’s all I have here. That’s different.

I thought I’d be more nervous about this change—but sometimes change is exactly what you need to move forward. And if you have stopped moving forward in your life…then what, exactly, are you doing?

That’s not to say that making changes is easy, (I’ve already Xena-ed a cockroach and sprinkled toxic holy water over a couple of ridiculous sized spiders for one thing) but as I continue down this path I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Living in fear of the unknown is not an option (In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be an option for anyone, but we’ve not achieve perfection, so I’ll just keep praying on that one). Living for a future where the possibilities are endless—well, that’s my kind of change.

So I guess I’ll keep swimming forward to infinity and adventure somewhere over that rainbow.

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Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow, a Christian Romance which can be purchased at www.secondwind.com or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.