Category Archives: Learn it

God is a Romantic

I’ve always been a realist. I like things to be tangible, logical, accountable. If I can see, taste and touch it then I can account for how and why something happened, make good decisions, and accurately assess the consequences—both good and bad. This is how I live my life. Boring? Perhaps. Predictable? I suppose. To me, it’s safe, understandable, stable…

It’s not that bad things don’t happen to me, that is not what I mean, but that I usually understand why both good and bad happen because I can analyze the reality of the situation…usually.

Unfortunately I was convicted this week by my safe, stable environment. The fact that my world is so secure, is not necessarily good. Because God is not a realist.

God is a Romantic, probably the ultimate Romantic. And the stories he writes for each of us is more beautiful and full of inexplicable, delightful acts of love full of as much passion as we will allow. And that’s just the thing. My nature is limiting to God. Not that I control him, but I continually try to control what he is and what he does in my life to keep everything in order. Safe. Secure. Real.

How depressing.

Instead of experiencing the awesome power and passion that God has in store for me, I try to tell God when and where I need it, like I know better than he does.

But I don’t.

Intellectually, I recognize this, but intellectually is really the problem so I am working on a heart transplant. Becoming more open, freeing myself from this mind trap of realism and shifting my attitude toward the possibilities. As I told my students when we studied American Romanticism: Romantics see what could be, realists see what is.

Expecting more from God invites him to work his incredible and awesome power into our lives, and that passion shakes things up and shows us what it means to truly be alive. After all, we should live, not just be.

So this is my prayer: Lord, free me from my own limitations. I want to see your power and presence at work in my life even if it rocks my world…especially if it rocks my world. Amen.

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Turn Worry into Worthy

Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money, not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build his kingdom in heaven. RANDY ALCORN

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Sometimes, oftentimes, I worry about money. I am pretty good at budgeting. I don’t buy things frivolously (in fact I spend days, months and sometimes years debating the pros and cons of a purchase). I conserve and save when I cam. Yet, constantly I am thinking about, looking at, analyzing and, yes, worrying about money.

Recently I found myself frustrated because I had to budget so carefully. I’m 30 years old, shouldn’t it have gotten easier by now? Don’t I deserve abundance, having enough so I don’t have to watch every penny I spend?

And then I wince.

I don’t actually deserve anything. Sure, I work hard, but not any harder than the single mother down the street who has to work and conserve money. Or the people working halfway around the world to make and produce all the crap I fill my house with. What gives me the right to say I deserve anything?

The fact is I don’t and building any kind of kingdom here on earth really does nothing but make me want more. Materialism and money focused lifestyles breed insatiable appetites for more, more, more.

So I have to shift my perspective.

Rather than worrying about money, thinking I deserve anything I have to remember the point of our existence. To take all our energy and focus it on others.

After all, when our minds are focused on Jesus, we have little time to worry about anything.

Continue reading Turn Worry into Worthy

Stop Making Resolutions

 

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Going into the New Year most people take the time to reflect and review. “R”s that gain almost as much respect as Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic (ironic, since upon reflection those famous ‘R’s aren’t actually ‘R’s at all…what do they teach in schools these days?). As a highly paid educator, I’ve found this time of year becomes quite valuable—if it is used wisely. Once upon a time, I spent the majority of the holiday rushing around, trying to do a lot which, quite frankly held very little value. I even wound up (gasp!) working over the holiday. So instead of returning to the second half of the school year refreshed—I returned more like pack animal, just piling on ‘one more thing’ so that by the time the end of the year rolled around in June I was ready to call it quits.

That’s not how I approach this time of year any more. It became too exhausting. My new approach—one of self-reflection and re-orientation, is liberating.

Some people make resolutions: pie-crust promises to themselves for improvement over the upcoming year. But before the end of January they’re typically off the treadmill and first in line at the Cinnabun stand just like they were the previous January. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good Cinnabun, and I have nothing against weight-loss goals. But a pie-crust promise, easily made is easily broken. So I don’t tie myself down with useless resolutions, but rather I set achievable, measurable goals for the upcoming year, that measure ways that I want to grow for the next five or ten years. I learned a very important lesson about myself in the past few years: I need to change. We all do. It’s part of the evolutionary process of life. Not Darwinism, but the adaptation necessary to survive. Species survive when they adapt and change. Humans are the same way. We don’t like change, but we need it. It’s the only way that we can become who we are created to be—living breathing CHANGING organisms. Making resolutions is admirable, but turning them into a goal-oriented, driven lifestyle full of ambition. That is productive.

During this process of change I’ve learned to do two things.

  • Write down my goals.
  • Find accountability.

Writing down your goals:

Writing down your goals may seem stupid, but there is something binding about having a written plan. Legal documents are written, witnessed, even notarized. Shouldn’t you take your future just as seriously? Don’t just say you want to lose weight, write this goal down and make it measurable and achievable.

Goal # 1: Over the course of the next three months I will lose 10 pounds by eating healthier and going to the gym at least three times a week.

Then you can map out your plan (If you need help, may I suggest Ruth Soukup’s blog, Living Well and Spending Less. She has some fabulous resources, including a free ebooklet about setting measurable goals.)

Finding Accountability

I’m single, so being held accountable for anything can get, well, difficult. But even if you are married, asking your spouse to keep you accountable for your goals can put a strain on your relationship (honey, does it look like my diet plan is working? Seems like a loaded question and a great way to set yourself up for a dishonest response or a fight). Accountability doesn’t have to be with someone you live with. In fact it is a great way to help build relationships, and there are many ways to be held accountable for your goals, but if you don’t have someone to hold you accountable—chances are you’ll begin to make excuses little by little until the goal seems less and less important.

If you’re a writer, try a critique group or a writing group in your area. If you’re looking to meet spiritual goals, find a small group to join (church is a great place to start, but small groups are where real relationships are built and where accountability happens).

Zig Ziglar said it best: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the real problem. We all have 24-hour days. “

Creating a plan, sticking to the plan and having accountability for that plan is how people accomplish great things. And how I plan out my new year.

Imagine what we could accomplish this year if we Taylor Swift the negatives and the bad attitudes and “Shake it Off”. What if we ALL pull a Frozen  on the bad habits and “Let it Go”. If each and every one of us determine to use the next 366 days (yes, it’s a leap year!) to accomplish something great, well we might just change the world.


Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.

 

Contentment is not as far as you think.

Contentment, like most things in our lives, is a choice.

We are humans, so we don’t like to believe that our happiness is in our own hands, but it is. It’s not in our circumstances. And it certainly isn’t wrapped up in others or even in that gift under the tree (no, not even THAT one). It is a choice we make Every. Single. Day.

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We say I’ll be happy when I have a better job…

When I make more money…

When I have nicer clothes…

When I’m no longer single…

When…fill in the blank…

But the fact of the matter is each moment we live wishing for “when I have” we waste the moment to enjoy or appreciate what we do have.

Sometimes I look at my sister’s life and I envy her. I think how unfair it is that she got the fairy tale ending at 24 with everything including the white picket fence (ok so it is a brow privacy fence but the concept is solid), a mortgage, doting daughters, even stretch marks.

And it hurts.

Then I remember who I am and what I have become because I didn’t get my fairytale at 24.

With the grace of God I have helped first generation students graduate high school and become productive members of society.

I’ve written novels, published stories, met writers, poets, and politicians.

I’ve gotten grants to travel and study in places I’ve always dreamed of cultivating life-long relationships with amazing people.

I’ve taught teenagers about loving Jesus and themselves even when it seems like no one else does.

I’ve loved and been loved.

And sure I still get jealous sometimes(they have a nicer house, car, clothes etc.) but Contentment IS a CHOICE.

When I wake up, I get out of a bed, in a house, with clean water. I drive to work where I teach English freely to both young men and women. All of which are genuine privileges I often take for granted. This is a broken world, but that doesn’t mean that we have to walk around in around permanent state of surly discontentment. God is good. And thank God I have the opportunity everyday to remember that, to thank Him, and to choose contentment over resentment.

Merry Christmas!