Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reasons That I Might Be Getting Old. . . . .

1. I hate that song "You're Beautiful"

2. I also hate that song "You Had A Bad Day"

3. Last week, I went to a movie. The car in front of mine in the parking lot left me no room. A college-age guy stopped me to tell me that I should move my car. He referred to me as "Mam." Yikes.

4. Getting to spend an evening at home is the best news that I can imagine.

5. Bath & Body Works makes this great self-tanner, and my BFF called to tell me all about it. We are using it all summer, then we plan on putting on SPF 45 when we go to the beach.

6. I got home from the salon last week and noticed that I didn't get what I asked for. Guess what I did? I cut my own hair.

My Brain Is Swirling

I've just returned from our monthly emergent cohort here in the Atl, and my brain is swirling. They left a question with me that I can't seem to shake.

How can we re-imagine a world that creates space to welcome the "sojourners in our land"?

Any ideas?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dahh, Da, Da, Da, Dahhh, Dahh

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is made for.”

This quote was my opening line from my Baccalaureate speech given in 1994. Since then, I have forgotten who originally spoke that wise phrase and those ghastly white shoes I wore have been lost. Still, the memory of that day stuck with me somehow.

Carey Overby, a dear friend and fellow graduate, picked me up from my house for graduation and we rode over in her little red Honda. She let me read my speech during that car ride. For some reason, I refused to go over that speech with anyone else. Carey laughed at the right moments and guaranteed me that someone in the room would cry before it was over. In my 18-year-old mind, that was all I was really hoping for.

Stepping up to the podium that day led me to realize something about my life. After this, it would utterly change completely. All of the faces that I looked into would never line up in front of me again. We would never all sit together, side by side, after graduation. This time in my life was unequivocally over.

Which part of graduation is most important—considering what you finished or chasing the heels of your future.

Even though we might not wear goofy robes and square hats again, informal graduations happen in our lives all the time. College students graduate from dependence on their parents to make relational decisions for them. Young adults graduate from needing their friends to determine their happiness. We keep moving forward.

My mom is graduating too. On Friday, she packed up her van, lovingly known as “Vantastic,” and drove away from Heritage High School for the very time. She has spent her career teaching and changing countless lives in Rockdale County.

No other teacher leads like mom, known as “Mrs. Ingle” to the rest of the world. When a student seems tired or disinterested in her class, she always buys them M & M’s. They must be sick, and M & M’s make everyone feel better. Her classroom assignments, notebooks, and projects become both life-changing tools and relationship builders for all of her students. She can talk teenagers into anything from wearing a cow suit and walking down the hall to sharing the deepest parts of who they are with each other. In the midst of all of it, they make positive decisions that change the course of their lives.

Now, she is graduating to a teacher ranked “retired.” Don’t let her fool you; her retirement is a fake-out. She will be teaching for the rest of her life. However, her graduation or retirement from Heritage High School is very significant.

When great teachers graduate, it creates a vacuum of need. Now, who will touch lives, give generously, and love with an overwhelming grace? The responsibility moves to all of us who have ever sat in her classroom. Wake up, dear students, young and old, and start teaching those around you.

Mom graduates in her life to the next place God plans on taking her. Let’s give her the one gift she has always wanted the most. To all of Mrs. Ingle’s students out there: give away the love of Jesus to everyone you see. She left her mark on all of us, whether it was an invisible cross drawn on our backs or words that you now teach your own children. Your graduation has come; you are a teacher who will change lives. No matter where you find yourself, God will use your life to touch those people around you.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Seeing the Beauty

If an artist wants to create great art, then he or she must learn how to see. Training our hands is a secondary factor. The most important sense for art is vision. Seeing clearly allows an artist to take life and re-create it elsewhere.

As I learn more about painting, it has become clear in my own art that the best work happens when I concentrate on what I see. My focus should open up on everything that my eyes capture. Noticing depth and contrast among the trees in my yard determined the colors I chose t on a painting given to my dad of his front porch in the mountains. Seeing the light reflect and break on Lake Oconee as a little girl shaped the waves I painted of the ocean. Seeing the colors shift through the water in my kitchen sink led to the painting of autumn leaves floating in water.

How does our own understanding of beauty in our lives change when we really start looking around?

My sister-in-law, Kelly, makes great music. She is a natural musician who can sing perfectly and play the piano as if it were second nature. I try to listen to Kelly’s voice when she sings. She selects notes and hears rhythms that I would never find. Kelly’s voice is her art. She finds beauty in the sound and the words. She loves a musician named Sara Groves, who also talks about beauty. In her song, “Add to the Beauty,” Groves says, “And this is grace and invitation to be beautiful.”

Grace, a gift from God that we never deserved, is an invitation to be beautiful. If we could find a way to keep our eyes open to grace, the beauty would float to the top. Lately, it seems that so many people are breaking. Lives, hearts, bodies, and relationships have so many cracks. Looking into grace filters in the beautiful.

Sitting with a broken heart, I had no idea how to get out of bed that day. My phone rang. An old friend knew just what to say. “Caroline, get up. I have an idea. No one can be sad at Disney.” I got up, grabbed my purse, and headed to the airport. My plane ticket was covered, and we found ourselves laughing through the Magic Kingdom just a few days later. Beauty is a friend who cannot fix a broken heart but can make me laugh.

A student of mine in Los Angeles was in the sixth grade and her mother was terribly sick. We drove down to the welfare hospital in Long Beach and found her mom lying in a bed, waiting to see her little girl. I watched that girl climb up into the bed with her mom and sing old Diana Ross songs. Her mom died two days later. Beauty is a mother and daughter who got a chance to sing the same song.

Jesus saw beauty constantly. An adulterous woman would tell her entire village of the living water that He gave her. Another woman would wastefully pour out a perfume worth a year’s wages as a gift to Jesus. He saw her sacrifice as a beautiful act of love and worship. A dozen rogue men decided to give up their lives, careers, and commitments to follow Him. Jesus knew they were the leaders that would continue to tell His story.

Suffering seen through the scope of grace somehow transforms into beauty. How can we open our eyes and see the beauty growing out of the sorrow in our own lives? Please, Lord, help us to see.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Where I Come From

The book of Proverbs ends by describing an ideal woman. She intimidated me most of my life. Rising before the sun, never being spiteful, knitting and sewing, and always speaking kind words are phrases used to describe her. One line always jumped out at me and assured me that my heritage still fits. "She can laugh at the days to come. . . .” (Proverbs 31:25).

What happens to a child who hears laughter throughout her childhood?

Grandma was a beautician. A shampoo basin, huge mirror, pump chair, and a dryer, known as a Steel Magnolia, all sit on her back porch. Her beauty shop rendered the most happening styles in Conyers when she was in business. Grandma spent hours passing on her wisdom to me, her only granddaughter.

When I was 8 years old, she began teaching me the secret art of good hair. We spent our Saturday nights on the back porch while Granddad listened to the Braves. She would recline back in the shampoo basin and give me systematic shampoo instructions. Standing on a milk carton, I jumped at the chance to wash her hair. Controlling the shampoo hose was a bit advanced for me, so Grandma solved the problem.

“Caroline, stop! I have an idea!” she exclaimed. She said that we were changing our clothes. We sat wearing bathing suits (and sometimes swim goggles) and laughed as I learned how to shampoo hair.

Orly, my name for my grandmother on my mother’s side, also passed down her wisdom to me as well. She taught me to devour books. Orly taught school her entire life, and books fueled her. We would go to the Nancy Guinn library once a week to gather our books. She read everything, and then read it again.

We would sit in her little farmhouse in North Rockdale reading. Not only did I love spending time with Orly, I also loved getting out of work. Her books brought peace into my life, and I still read to find that sort of comfort. Orly demonstrated that reading is a world that no one can invade, and I have the freedom to enter it whenever I choose. Now, I am the one who reads constantly. Even though I lost her when I was 14, she still seems closer to me than almost anyone. She taught me to seek peace in my life. I think of her when I find it.

My mother comes over every few days to shop in my closet. We wear the same size from head to toe. How can that be? I assemble the outfits, select the best shoes and jewelry, and she fashionably graces through her week. We never know what she might wear.

A few weeks ago, my two-year-old niece, Sarah Grace, could not stop crying. After two hours of screaming, she heard the doorbell ring. When they opened the door, they found that the guest was a life-size chicken, standing in the doorway, flapping her wings. Sarah Grace instantly stopped crying and shouted, “Dolly is a chicken! Dolly is a chicken!” How did she recognize my mother who she calls Dolly in the suit? She already knows that Dolly is the only person who would pull a stunt like that. I am not planning to borrow the chicken suit from her closet, but it is there if I need it.

My mom and grandmothers might not check off the entire list of the Proverbs 31 woman, and they never counted on me to get it all right. However, we get it right sometimes. We know how to find peace, and we know how to laugh.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Saturday, the Mother/ Daughter Event

This Saturday, May 14, my mother and I will be the speakers at a local church's Mother Daughter Tea. We just learned yesterday that the event is completely sold-out, and I was totally shocked by that. Who are these women that are coming?

Anyway, we need your help. We will be opening with great, funny, terrible, etc. advice that we have received from our mothers. Will you share some with me?

Thanks!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Global Night Commute

Last Saturday, April 19, 2006, Atlanta decided to sleep on it.

The process started for me around 5 p.m. that afternoon. A small group of us met together to travel into the city for the Global Night Commute, an event geared to raise awareness for the night commuters in Uganda. Some time during the prior weeks, each of us saw the documentary, "Invisible Children." My friend, Matt, simply ordered it off www.invisiblechildren.com.

The film tells of three college guys in San Diego who decided in 2003 to respond to Colin Powell's grave announcement about genocide in Sudan. With no prior travel or film experience, Jason, Bobby, and Laren purchased a camera on E-bay and flew over to Africa. Due to rebel forces shooting the truck just in front of them, they took a detour into Uganda. It was there that they found their story.

They stumbled upon the invisible children. Each night in Uganda, thousands and thousands of children migrate into the cities, seeking refuge from abduction. The children sleep in bus parks, in hospital basements, or anywhere they can find safety from rebel forces. In Uganda, the rebels target children and force them to become child soldiers or make them victims of rape and murder. Each night the children pile together with no food or adult supervision, becoming a community of sorts. They desperately want nothing more than safety.

Their footage of the night walkers, the invisible children, broke our hearts. Unlike most documentaries of mass political violence, this film tells the story of devastation that is happening now. Even tonight, the children will walk in Uganda seeking to save their own lives.

What worldwide ripples will stir when we finally decide to respond to global needs?

And so began our trek. The Global Night Commute, the GNC, was our way, my chance, to get in the game of changing the world. The organization behind "The Invisible Children" organized the GNC to raise awareness and connect the concerned. In cities all over the world, people commuted into their cities to sleep. We paid homage to the children of Uganda by walking into the GNC sites and sleeping outside.

With a sleeping bag, art supplies, and pink Nikes in tow, I walked with people I am proud to call my friends onto MARTA, moving towards the Midtown station. From there, we walked to the meeting point at Piedmont Park. They sent us on the commute to Georgia Tech, the site of the GNC, in groups of 100. We walked the streets of Atlanta in mass.

Rounding the corner at Yellow Jacket Park and seeing a hill covered with sleeping bags was amazing. We joined the crowd of about 1,000 to unpack our bags, to write letters to the President and to Congress, and to make art that tells the story of the children in Uganda.

Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic Los Angeles said, "You are a resource placed on this planet by God Himself to serve and to heal and to help a hurting and broken and desperate world." Each one of us on Saturday night joined as resources stepping out to help.

My friends in Los Angeles say that 2,000 came out in Santa Monica on behalf of the children. In Lexington, KY, friends sat through a downpour of rain, with hearts breaking thinking of the kids in Uganda who sleep in the rain at least 3 days a week.

As I read about Jesus and the way He lived, I realize that no one was ever invisible to him. He saw everyone, even those who seemed the most insignificant to their world. He tells us in Mark 10:14-16 (The Message), "The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: 'Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in.' Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them."

He wasnt just talking about American children.

I Couldn't NOT Post This

SOMETHING HE'S BEEN MEANING TO SAY FOR YEARS
By Garrison Keillor
Tribune Media Services

Okay, let me say this once and get it off my chest and never mention it again. I have had it with writers who talk about how painful and harrowing and exhausting and ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE it is for them to put words on paper and how they pace a hole in the carpet, anguish writ large on their marshmallow faces, and feel lucky to have written an entire sentence or two by the end of the day.

It's the purest form of arrogance: Lest you don't notice what a brilliant artist I am, let me tell you how I agonize over my work. To which I say: Get a job. Try teaching eighth-grade English, five classes a day, 35 kids in a class, from September to June, and then tell us about suffering.

The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.

The biggest whiners are the writers who get prizes and fellowships for writing stuff that's painful to read, and so they accumulate long resumes and few readers and wind up teaching in universities where they inflict their gloomy pretensions on the young. Writers who write for a living don't complain about the difficulty of it. It does nothing for the reader to know you went through 14 drafts of a book, so why mention it?

The truth, young people, is that writing is no more difficult than building a house, and the only good reason to complain is to discourage younger and more talented writers from climbing on the gravy train and pushing you off.

Young people are pessimistic enough these days without their elders complaining about things. Shut up. Life is pretty good when you grow up. You own your own car, you go where you like, and you sing along with the radio or talk to yourself or chat on your cell phone. You pull into the drive-up window and order the Oreo Blizzard. What's not to like?

One day you get lucky and find someone who's willing to pay you to do something you do well or can fake, and on this you can build a life. You marry someone loving and sensible who makes you laugh, and you beget children, and go through the poop and puke and snot years, and somewhere around the age of 5 or 6, your kids start to fascinate you. There is nobody like them, except perhaps you. You would run into a burning building for them, and at the same time they're the cause of exquisite worry and consternation. At the age of 12, they look at you as if to say (START ITALICS) Your replacement has arrived. (END ITALICS)

Meanwhile, you march forward and sample the pleasures of life. You read history and learn to grill fish in beer batter and find comfortable shoes. You go to Rome. You go to Montana.

You come to love baseball and old jazz and the art of conversation. You admit to yourself that you don't care for Walt Whitman or Proust or Henry James, and you forgive yourself for that and pick up Elmore Leonard and J.F. Powers. You discover the pleasure of discarding stuff. You find a hairstyle that suits you. You go back to Montana.

Eventually you cross the line into your forties, the mortgage years. And the fifties, when you stand weeping at graduations and weddings, and then, in the blink of an eye, come your sixties, and now you're on Easy Street. People who used to ignore you now treat you with reverence. There is great silence when you natter and pontificate, and people ask the secret of your success. You have become eminent. Inside you feel mischievous and jokey, but other people see you as a laureate, so you learn to harrumph.

Clarity is hard. Honesty can be hard. Comedy is always chancy, but then so is profundity. Sometimes one winds up as the other. Illness is, of course, to be avoided, and also megamalls and meetings involving vice presidents. But writing is not painful, no more so than a round of golf. Nobody was harmed in the course of writing this column. That is all I have to say at this time. Thank you.

(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.) (c) 2006 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.

Monday, May 01, 2006

GLOBAL NIGHT COMMUTE: ATLANTA

The Global Night Commute absolutely amazed me. I promise to write more later.

You are invited!

On May 13th, my mother and I will be the guests speakers at the Mother/Daughter Garden Tea at First Baptist Church Conyers. We rarely get an opportunity like this to speak together, so we are super-excited about it. Pleas come out and join us.

Tickets are $15. Reservations can by made by calling (770) 483-8700.

We would love to have you and any women dear to you join us on that day.