Category Archives: Learn it

It’s Tough Being a Woman…

This is the title of one of my favorite Bible studies by Beth Moore (Living Proof Ministries). If you have the opportunity to participate in this study at any time, I highly recommend it. This week I started studying Esther, the book of the Bible the study focuses on, and I realized how much Biblical hope the book gives us—even though, ironically, God is not mentioned in the book—ever.

So why is it tough being a woman?

If we were honest, we’d probably say it’s tough being a human, but I know more about being a woman, so I’m going to focus on that.

  • It’s tough being a woman when you feel like the whole world rests on your shoulders alone.

The struggle of modern womanhood is feeling as though you have to do it all—24/7. The feminist movement had a lot of positive outcomes, but one of the negative effects was this belief that to show weakness and dependence on a man—or even other women—is a bad thing.

But to be weak is human.

We all have weakness. Men do, and so do women. Neither is “better” or “worse” kind of weakness—it is dependent on the individual—but the fact of the matter is we are all weak. And we might as well start admitting it to ourselves, because as much as we want to believe that we are all Wonder Women, eventually those gold bracelets and white boots get tarnished and dirty. Some of us do a great job of proving that we are…for a while. And then we get tangled in our own lasso of truth. We can’t DO IT ALL. Humans are dependent on one another and we might as well admit it.

Now, I’m the pot, and I’m calling the kettle black right now. I know this to be true because this week alone I was trying to be about 6 people: I was a teacher teaching and grading research papers (4-5 a night baby), I was a “synchronized swimming participant” (we had practice this week for the talent show next week!), I was a program volunteer for Winston Salem Writers (organized and executed a program; 20 attendees, thank you very much), I was a Sunday School teacher (Found a great new lesson book, but I have to modify it, because it’s just not 100% right for my kids), I was a granddaughter/daughter/niece (had a family dinner before my grandfather’s surgery), I was a devoted granddaughter (visited my grandfather in the hospital), I was a Key Club Sponsor and UNICEF fundraiser ($930 dollars raised so far toward our $2000 goal), and I was a writer (not a very good one; I only wrote about 1000 words this week blech).

Okay, 7 people. And now I’m tired. Because it’s tough being a woman.

  • It’s tough being a woman when your destiny seems out of your hands.

As I was reading Esther 1 this week, I looked specifically at Xerxes and his party hardy attitude. SO he holds this party that lasts for 180 days (that’s a school year btw) which is totally insane and he invites not only the nobles, but all the military leaders, and I think anyone involved in the military would agree with me that there are some really fine military officers out there, but there are also some notoriously crude military officers out there. Not to mention the spoiled brats that would have been the princes and leaders. So when I put it into this context and the fact that “as much wine as he wished” is mentioned 3x I wonder if Vashti’s refusal is  more than just being tired of her trophy status–I wonder if she isn’t terrified. Do I really believe that all the men would be polite in this kind of setting–especially the King? After all, this is the man who takes all the beautiful virgins of the kingdom into his harem later.

But that’s not really what they’re worried about. They’re upset that she refused, but they’re more upset that other wives—their wives may follow her example and refuse them as well. OMG! What if MY wife refuses MY demands?! They think. And I see that this isn’t a story just about power, it’s a story of finding our own feminine power (not in a let’s stop shaving our legs way–but in the sense that we have a purpose in God’s kingdom as well). Because what they are really afraid of is a feminine rebellion and that is typical for the ruler Xerxes who was having a hard enough time keeping control of his military holdings, the last thing he needed was domestic uprising. That would just add to his fear, thus, I suppose his irrational decisions.

Vashti and the other women are dependent on the men and their decisions and when they make their own decisions, the men start acting like spoiled children. And that, my friends, is tough.

And sometimes I’ve felt that other people are in control of my destiny. Obviously I have a lot more freedom than Vashti and the other women of Susa, but I’m still dependent on a lot of things in my society. I teach in a public school and I have to depend on the elected officials in the NC House and Senate who are fairly clueless as to what it is like in the school system to make decisions that affect my entire fate—and I’m not just talking about pay. They also determine class sizes and resources and curriculum. And that is tough. I get emotional, upset and angry and yes I can vote against the people who are doing things I don’t like, but then usually they are for something else I don’t like and so I’m caught it this perpetual state of inner conflict about what the right choice is for the greater good. And that is tough too.

At any rate, I don’t know why Vashti refused. Maybe she was just being a spoiled brat. Maybe she was scared. Maybe she was tired of being shown off. Regardless, what it shows us is that men and women—humans–need to communicate and they need to do it with clear heads and minds. If they don’t things become muddied very quickly.

  • It’s tough being a woman when society’s expectations are too high for you to live up to.

I’m not really going to expand on this one much, because I think it speaks for itself. Society expects a lot from women and it’s why we have a multi-billion dollar beauty industry. It’s exhausting.

So, my point: It’s tough being a woman—it’s tough being a human, but we just keep trucking and every once in a while we find those beautiful moments that make it all worth it.

Why aren’t you married yet?

If I had a dollar…or a quarter…or a nickel…well, let’s just say I get asked this question a lot by teenagers who have the tact of the Jolly Green Giant in a China shop.

To be fair the conversation usually starts with the pictures of my darling nieces on my walls, who, do in fact look an awful lot like me (genetics are very powerful). It goes something like this:

Me: I know.

Student: Do you have any kids?

Me: No.

Student: Do you want kids?

Me: Maybe someday. Depends on whether all you jokers drive me stark raving mad first or not.

Student: Are you married? [Bingo the million dollar question]

Me: Nope.  [And this is where it goes one of two directions]

Student A: Why aren’t you married yet?              Student B: Don’t you ever want to get married?

Neither of these conversations, of course, have anything to do with English, but you’re kidding yourself if you think my job is just about literature, grammar, and writing. And I’d be bored out of my skull if it was. My job description of course is “English Teacher” but that’s only about a third of what I actually do. My job is really relational, which is exactly why conversations like this will always happen. My students want to know more about me (of course, there is the kid who thinks I live at school…literally…but that’s a story for another day) and why I want to know more about them.

As a result I’m forced to confront my perpetual state of “singledom” (regardless of whether or not I am or am not currently dating someone) or a regular basis. And that is trying.

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The door to nowhere at the Winchester Mystery House (Where I would like to send that question :-))

Because the answer is not simple.


Yes, I want to be married, someday, I think. Most days I want to be, I think. And yet…

No, maybe I don’t want to be married—I like my space—I like my independence—I like my life the way it is and change is…ah….ah…

But I do want to be married. I write Christian romances. Of course I am looking for that for myself so…

Yes, I do.

Of course, it’s not just my students who ask this, but they are the ones who ask most often.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve always pictured myself married by now. I’m not, but I’m not unhappy about it the way my 16 year old self thought I would be, so that is perplexing as well.

What I don’t want is to get married because it is what people expect. If I am simply trying to find a life mate because my society believes that I am somehow incomplete without a partner, then I’m not okay with that. I’m an individual person and I have an identity on my own without a partner.

Of course, the opposite is true too. I hate the idea embodying the extreme opinion where women are all about not getting married because marriage strips them of their independence. With the right person, marriage can add to your identity rather than strip it from you.

So, why am I not married?

I shrug or throw it back at them: Why aren’t you? I ask. Because they answer is all the same no matter what age you are (Maybe I’M still too young to be married…don’t call me old, children ;-)).

Do I want to be married?

Sure, under the right circumstances, I think we all do (even those adamantly against marriage would probably cave…haven’t you seen HIMYM?)

I love NOT Knowing…Do you?

I love not knowing.

Tonight at Bible study we talked about Sarah and Hagar and realized we had way more questions than we did answers and by the end we had come to realize that each statement ended with “but we just don’t know.” We can speculate, we can make educated guesses, we can provide evidence as support, but what we can’t do is know. And I love that. I thrive off it. I use it as an invitation to “suck the marrow out of life” (thanks for that tidbit Thoreau).

Because not knowing is a springboard to discovery and learning.

Nerd alert?

Well, maybe, but “I am what I am and that’s all that I am” (Props to Popeye for that one) and I won’t apologize for it. People are so afraid of not knowing things, but I think it’s beautiful and humbling. So why are people afraid of not knowing?

  • Not Knowing is Scary: when you don’t know the outcome to something, it can be terrifying. How did I do on that test? Will I have enough credits to graduate? Will my boyfriend’s parents like me? All of these unknowns can be terrifying, but there is a certain kind of beauty in them as well. Don’t get me wrong, I want to know the answers, which is exactly why I LIKE not knowing, because then I have a PURPOSE, something for which to search, to KNOW to experience.
  • Not Knowing is Intimidating: “What do you mean you don’t know?” Not knowing connotes stupidity, ignorance…but that’s not what it really means. Not knowing isn’t the same as ignorance; not knowing is in a perpetual state of ‘yet’. It’s an invitation to knowledge, not a label of ignorance that we should embrace.
  • Not Knowing is ineffable: We can’t describe the sensations that not knowing gives us—it’s upsetting, it’s frustrating, it’s freeing, but ultimately it’s what makes us human.

So I like not knowing, because it means I still have something left to know. As the Doctor himself says, “I don’t know…But that’s good, the day I know everything I might as well stop.”

And I’m certainly not ready to stop yet. Because who am I—who are we all? Might as well quote the Doctor here too…”The stuff of legend.”

Everything IS Awesome

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Kicking things off Thursday with a murder mystery dinner at Winmock where the guest of honor is none other than Kathy Reichs. Too much fun! Especially since I got to enjoy it with my Mom!
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Friday pops out a great story in the Zephyr, our school newspaper, about my book. Sometimes being a high school teacher has its perks and I’m so proud of the kids for the article they wrote.
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Saturday I volunteered at the BikeMs Tour to Tanglewood. I had a great time helping out for a good cause. I also donated a copy of my book to the silent auction. The best part of the donation–It was bid on!
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Mini Reunion with great friends on Sunday night at Foothills. Couldn’t ask for a better end (except if a few others had been able to join us)

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