Category Archives: Live it

What does your name mean?

I used to hate my name.


I spent most of my life hearing ‘names are important’, ‘names have meaning’, ‘names are valuable’. So I asked my parents why they named me Ashley.

I knew what my sister’s name meant: Katherine ‘pure and clear’.  Beautiful.

I knew what my brother’s name meant: Justin ‘just, upright, righteous’. Now that’s a meaning with a punch of purpose.

Mine? Sure I knew mine too: Ashley ‘from the Ash Tree’. Uh…what?

My sister worked as a missionary. A teacher of children. A spiritual guidepost for kids and teens.

My brother became a lawyer.

What was I supposed to be? I can’t grow a plant to save my life. I even killed Bamboo.

Okay, I know what your thinking. I don’t actually believe our names control our destiny, but I do see a correlation between names and purpose and I think God is pretty clear about that too.

So you know what my parents told me when I asked them? They told me Ashley was a pretty name and, at the time, unique.

I struggled to see purpose in that. Especially since the 1980s saw such an explosion of baby Ashley’s that I was always one of 3 Ashleys in my class.

Ashley C. 

Frustrated, I grew irritated every time the Bible recorded or mentioned purposeful naming because, to be honest, I felt left out.

I know that’s irrational.

I know my parents didn’t mean anything by it.

Over analytical, as always, my name and identity felt empty. Hollow. Meaningless.

Until I started to look at it differently. It’s probably why I love subtext as much as I do. When I started seeing myself as multidimensional, it opened up a new perspective and it helped me see my identity much more clearly.

People sometimes call me Ash.

What an image that puts in your mind. Useless grey dust. Gross.

Except, ash isn’t useless.

I’ve always had a fascination with the phoenix. Somewhere along the process of growing, maturing and finding my identity, I realized that ashes actually hold potential. power, beauty and subtext.

You see, a phoenix has a unique talent. It goes through trials, but what appears to be the biggest trial of all, death, never actually destroys a phoenix. Instead, when this mythical bird bursts into flames and collapses in what appears to be a useless pile of ash, it rebirths a new phoenix–it’s still the same bird, but it’s different. New. Not destroyed, revitalized.

And did you know that Ash tress are actually used as symbols in ancient mythology? Guess what they symbolize? Yep, rebirth and revitalization.

JRR Tolkein said, “from the ashes a fire shall be woke. A light from the shadows shall spring.”

From ugly to beauty. 

From dark to light. 

From the ashes. 

From the Ashley. 

What better destiny could a person ask for than to wake a fire where there was nothing seemingly worth saving?

I am a fire reviver.

I am a phoenix.

Now, I embrace to perspcetive shifts that help me see beauty where there was once only grey dust.

And I couldn’t do that if I weren’t



Wacked in the Head

I used to think I did not like change. To me, it was a 4 letter word not to be embraced, said or envisioned.

Then I realized I NEED change.

I need change because it gives me purpose and helps me set meaningful goals. What I don’t like is unexpected change. I need it, but I want it to be on my terms.

But life isn’t like that.

And God doesn’t work on my terms.

I do exactly what Lysa Terkeurst says in the book Uninvited:

“I’m forever making suggestions and predictions. It’s as if I’m saying to God, ‘Here’s the plan, and, trust me: it’s really good, God. So if you could just bless all this…don’t mess with all this…just bless it and we’ll be good.'” (53)

But the thing is, when I do that I’m putting a limit on God. I’m suggesting that I know better than he does how to run the world. Or at least my world.

And I don’t want to run the world. I’m not a supervillain. It reminds me of the 90s TV show, “Pinky and the Brain”. Every episode Pinky asks the same question: “What are we going to do today?” And Brain responds: “What we do everyday; try to take over the world.”

As if two tiny mice could actually accomplish this goal, let alone doe the job well.


But aren’t I doing the same? I think I’m the “Brain”. Every day I try to take control from God and run things my way as if I could be more successful than He!


The other day, Rachel and I took a day trip to the beach. We were really excited, but woefully unprepared. Despite our intentions and plans, we quickly realized if we didn’t have a little shade, we would both be fried by the time we went home.

So I bought an umbrella thinking this would solve all our problems.

We had plans. First we tried with our own strength to get the pole down in the sand.


So we dug a hole.


Then we piled sand around the pole.


Then…nothing we planned worked and we were at a loss. What a waste!

Until a kind stranger came to the rescue. He had the tools to drill a hole for us. And the kindness to help show us the error of our ways and point us in a more successful direction.

If only we’d asked for this direction first, then we might have saved ourselves a konk or two on the head.

When the stranger drilled a hole, it worked. Despite all our plans and tries, we wouldn’t know the outcome but someone who knows more than us did.

God’s a little like that.

When we try to work things out all on our own and in our own way we get wacked in the head with an umbrella and strangely we often don’t realize that our efforts are, well, ridiculous.

The definition of insanity is trying to do the same thing over and expecting a different result.

So maybe it is time to stop the insanity and give up the “Pinky and the Brian” mentality. Maybe it’s time to let God drill the hole for us and well…

Be God.


What God Taught Me in Slovakia

Shut up and dance with me.

While this is a lyric to a rather popular pop song by Walk the Moon, it is also the most valuable lesson God taught me while I was in Slovakia this summer. Actually, to make things more interesting, He continues to teach me this lesson at home, which is why I haven’t actually been able to write about Slovakia until now.

Now I realize that the pop song is more about teenage hormones than spiritual enlightenment, but God is pretty cool and can speak through, well, anything, including this.

I have a serious problem. I am nearly thirty-one years old and in my heart I think I can out plan God. I have a plan A, a plan B, a contingency plan for both plan A and plan B and just in case those don’t work out I have a backup for those.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that’s pretty much how I’ve lived my life. Risk managed and assessed carefully.

That’s the way I started out the summer. I planned carefully for every English lesson for my class. I talked it over with the right people. I printed out the materials. I had it all packed perfectly. I knew what the plan was. My plan.

And then God told me to Shut up.

Cassie and Karolina at KECY site

Did you know that God says shut up? He does. I mean, I think people put God inside this box and think that he is super polite all the time with like fluttering eyelashes as He says ‘Be still, my child.’ And sure. He says that. But how many children do you know always listen to that tone?

Sometimes God has to get real. And he DID. He told me straight up to SHUT UP.

Now, when God tells you to shut up, my advice is…shut up. Because I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t. At first. I kept trying to plan and arrange and ignore…

But He said it again.

Shut up.

I had run out of plans. At a loss, I did what I was told (finally). And that’s when I heard the rest of God’s command.

Shut up and dance with ME.

That was kind of a shock. Because I am NOT a dancer. I move my head a little to a beat. And every once in a while when I have maybe a drink or two I’ll shake my white girl hips a little, and look absolutely ridiculous. But I have the rhythm of a three legged sloth so I DON’T DANCE.

Shutting up was bad enough, but dancing?

But here’s the thing. God wasn’t asking me to shake my white girl  hips. He wanted me to dance with HIM. If you know anything about dancing, you know that it can be beautifully sexist (oxymoron?) and all a woman truly needs a strong male lead.

Laura Troutman, Sarah Troutman and Ashley (me!) Carmichael in Bratislava (Picture credit to Sarah and Will Troutman)


Shut up and dance with me had nothing to do with MY abilities or MY plans or even MY wants. God simply wanted me to shut up and let Him lead.

And when you let God lead—You shut up and let Him just move, you realize just how awesome He really is. God’s going to move when He wants to. I saw evidence of that in Slovakia in the Slovak leaders, in the students, in the changes, in the conversations—both English and Slovak—, in our American team, in traveling God moves. The thing is when I shut up, HE gets the glory HE deserves and I actually get to dance with Him, not around Him.

And then He taught me about myself, about what it means to communicate and be godly. He showed me my heart. He showed me others’ hearts. More importantly I listened as He spoke.

And a funny thing about dancing with God…once you start, you just don’t want to stop. Now that’s a destiny worth pursuing.

KECY camp 2016 in Prozina, Slovakia

Plans with Vision

Everywhere I turn people are talking about vision.

We must have a vision for this and that. Or our church, our youth, our school, our class, our lives…

Vision, it seems, has become the theme of my life.

It is not a bad theme to have, really, when you have a clear an purposeful vision. But when your vision is a little fuzzier than you like, or your vision doesn’t quite match with God’s vision for you, it can be downright frustrating.

Or, let’s be real for a minute, it can even be annoying.

I’ve always been a planner. I like having detailed instructions and I’m one of the only people I know who reads instruction manuals (Yes, I read them—I don’t just skim them or use them for door stops). But my vision for my life has not turned out quite the way I thought it would. And yes, I planned it all out when I was about 12. I still have a pretty decent list of goals I wrote that I have been systematically checking off and, of course, adjusting as life changes, because let’s face it, I’m not the same person I was when I was 12. The point is, I’ve always had plans.

Recently though, I’ve realized that plans and vision are not quite the same thing and despite the fact that my plans were and are pretty good, God’s plan—well, if I stop being so arrogant and just listen to it—has real vision and actual purpose in it that my plans well, just lack.

And that terrifies me.

It also thrills me.

Mostly it confuses me and my plans.

By natural inclination leans toward existentialism, but the world isn’t irrational. With God at the center of it, the bigger picture becomes clear and relatable even to someone who is as confused as I can be. Or as stubborn as I can be. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” but the perfect plans of God almighty will always, always guide (Robert Burns/ “To a Mouse”),. And true vision really can change the world.


Slovakia Fundraising Update

As many of you know and have heard I have an amazing opportunity this summer to travel to Slovakia to work with the youth at an English camp. And let me just say, God must be as excited as I am that I said yes to this opportunity because I am overwhelmed by the amount of support and grace shown to me by my family and friends. Your support in this means more to me than I can even begin to express, and as the trip comes ever closer I ask again for your prayers. Please be praying now for what will happen this summer. God is going to do amazing things, and I just know that whatever it is–it’ll be BIG and I want ALL of you to be a part of that!


One of the bests parts of this adventure is being a part of a team. Honestly, I think we have the best team possible of this trip. Why? Great question.

Let’s start with Laura, our leader who has been to Slovakia many times and who has organized this trip down to the last detail. We couldn’t ask for a better, God-fearing woman to lead this group. She is a fierce and beautiful reflection of God’s love and grace. As a youth leader, she and I have worked together over the past few months at Grace Life and I honestly couldn’t imagine doing life without her now.

Will and Sarah are Laura’s family, and it shows. They are also Slovakia veterans, which adds a depth to the trip, knowing that with some of us amateurs there are also some experienced mission-oriented individuals to help guide our steps. Will and Sarah are an amazing team. They complement each other well, and their hearts are on fire for God. Together they bring just enough level-headedness and jocularity to round out the group nicely.

Sam is our other Slovakia veteran. Having also worked with the Grace Life youth, he is a young man who has a heart for the Lord. What I appreciate about Sam is how he seeks out mentors and answers. Not everyone his age is that wise.

Then there is Ben. Grace Life’s own Youth leader in the flesh. I’m super excited that Ben will be joining us on this trip. I’ve never had the kind of energy Ben has. I’ve wished for it, admired it, been in awe of it, and disbelieved it (that’s a terrible sentence, but it’s all true). I told Ben once I was going to write a book and entitle it I Don’t Believe You, Ben because the story of his life is unbelievable. Jesus has his hand on Ben’s life and it’s amazing!

Finally we have two youth ladies going with us on this trip: Kaylee and Tyler. These two ladies are wonderful and I’ve had the great honor and privilege of getting to know them better this year. I’ve watched them grow this year in ways they never thought possible. God is doing amazing things through them–changing lives and futures! They have been working hard to raise the support for this trip, which leads me to the ultimate purpose of this post. They could really use some more financial support. If you feel compelled to give to these ladies, please click on the link: and help out these amazing strong young women. God wants them on this trip. I know this. Would you consider being a part of how they become a part of what we will do in Slovakia this summer?