Tag Archives: loss

Vulnerabilities: My journey through Psalms (103)

I debated on writing this post because my intention is not for people to feel sorry for me or to feel bad. The whole reason I started this blog was to promote my writing, which, as it happens, tends to focus on the vulnerabilities real people struggle with every day. So, as I was reading Psalm 103 I realized a lot of what I have been feeling is exactly what others have felt for thousands of years. Because, after all, we are humans and we struggle with a vast array of emotions that are interconnected throughout our lives and our own histories as well as the world’s history.

Eve ate the fruit, not because she was hungry, but because she was curious and eager to prove herself.

Abraham slept with Hagar because his wife Sarah was impatient and convinced God needed her help.

Bathsheba had an affair with David because he was rich and powerful, but also because he was there when her husband wasn’t.

We all do dumb things when we are curious, eager to prove ourselves, impatient, “helping” God, and alone. And at some point, we have all felt each one of these incredibly human emotions.

I’ve always found the holidays to be particularly challenging in that respect.  A plethora of human emotions washes over me during this time of the year. Joy in celebration, sure, but also…

  • eagerness to prove
  • impatience
  • a need to “help” God
  • loneliness

Every year I want to prove I am giving and happier to give than receive. Have you ever felt this? An inexplicable desire to prove, to no one in particular, that you are the ‘best’ giver? Maybe I’m alone in that, but sometimes when I’m busy trying to prove that I forget what the point of the gift is in the first place. Interesting how our desire to prove ourselves often proves nothing but our own selfishness. Ouch. It’s a good thing God “redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies” (103:4), because I definitely don’t deserve such grace.

My impatience is probably award-winning too. When I want something, I often want it right then. Especially if it has been promised to me, or if I don’t understand the purpose of waiting. And this one doesn’t apply just to the holidays. I am impatient and often live for the next moment rather than the moment I’m in. The mantra “I’ll be satisfied when…” is not one I am particularly proud of.  Fortunately, even in my impatience, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (103:8).

And he doesn’t need my help. Even though I sometimes try to give it to him, he doesn’t need it. Ever. My impatience often leads to my own foolish decisions acting outside of God’s plan, but “He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever” (103:10). Which is good, because I probably deserve his wrath with the number of times I have tried to be in control (as you’re all probably aware given the number of times I’ve written about it).

What I struggle with the most this time of year is an echoing sense of loneliness. That’s stupid, right, since I have an amazing family who loves me and makes sure I know they love me. I have great friends who do the same! I’m not complaining in this post, just being honest. This year, it hit me particularly hard. As a 32-year-old single woman, I’m in a particularly weird life stage. Fitting into a ‘group’ just doesn’t happen, and that is never more evident than this time of year when people are throwing so many parties that couples have to turn down invitations because they’re overbooked. It’s not that people mean to leave out someone like me, but they think ‘oh it’s a couples party they won’t enjoy themselves,’ which is probably true because being the 3rd wheel sucks just as much. Or, in contrast, the single ladies are all a decade younger so the ‘party’ isn’t as enjoyable because our life experiences are just so vastly different. I’m not saying I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself or in a state of depression–that is far from true. These are just observations I made over the past few weeks, particularly when that echo bounces around in my head, especially this year since I lost my beautiful chicken nugget, Emma, who in all her canine glory always made me feel so much less alone in the world.

Again, please don’t read this wrong. I’m not writing this to whine and complain, to make people feel bad or sorry for me! I’m writing this because God knows these feelings, all of them are what make us human and “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (103:14) even when we are wrapped up in our own self-importance, indulgences, and even pity.

Ultimately God is good. He “gives righteousness and justice to all” (103:6) and his “unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the Earth” (103:11).

Because we all need that grace and mercy every once in a while.

After all, that’s why we celebrate Christmas, God’s grace and mercy made flesh. Accessible forever, for everyone. And that’s something worth celebrating. 

Turning Points: My Journey through Psalms (102)

There are pivotal moments in life where you stop and realize that the future could swing in multiple ways. Everyone experiences them, but everyone also reacts to these turning points in different ways–these voltas, or denouements, or whatever you want to call them represent significant “Ah-ha” moments where we, as protagonists in our own lives, get to choose our destiny.

I can think of a number of times when I have stood on the pivot point in my life.

I am twelve years old and a boy told me, in pretty blunt terms, I was too ugly to ‘go out with’ (not that I was dating at 12, but ‘go out’ at that age meant–go to a school dance, or tell everyone you were boyfriend and girlfriend, and hold hands at school. Maybe even talk a little on AOL instant messenger–yes, that’s a thing.).  I remember distinctly standing on that pivot point. Now, I know how important that moment was in shaping me into, well me, but it wasn’t what the boy said, but what I internalized and DID as a result. Because other people do not control our destiny. They affect it. They influence it. But they do not control it.

We do.

Well, we make our own choices, and God takes it from there.

In Psalm 102, the poet laments that “my bones burn like glowing embers.” I think that at these pivotal moments in our lives, we have all felt like our bones are melting from the pressure of that moment and what that moment can mean. It can feel as though your whole world is falling apart. 

For a 12-year-old, rejection can feel like that.

But that is mild compared to other pivotal life experiences. The loss of a loved one. The disappointment of a broken engagement. The new job opportunity that will tear you apart from family or friends. 

In each of these moments, there is a turning point. A divine but, if you will.

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.

The volta of this psalm is the pivot point. The Psalmist spends the first part of his poem lamenting his circumstances, crying out for a reprieve.

In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.

Feelings we can all relate to, I am sure. Imagery that captures the sense of isolation and despair that can completely engulf a person in these times.

But

The Lord is king, he does not abandon us in these moments, He takes control. He guides. He helps us pivot into the change we can’t see in the moment. Change not only in our lives but for our hearts.

I didn’t punch the boy in the face when I was 12 (maybe I did in my mind…). But I moved on. Foward. Away from the rejection, and into my Father’s arms, where I cried my little heart out and then let it change me. And he did. He shifted my feet and pivoted me into my destiny.

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

download

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.

photo

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.


 

download (2)

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.

download (1)

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