Thursday, July 14, 2016

stuff freshmen say...

Preplanning starts in one week, so I decided that I needed to go be in the space alone for a little while today.

I'm sitting in my classroom, trying to decide what needs to be done first. I came armed with iced coffee with a shot of espresso and extra cream, but I also have a head cold and a pounding headache, so I have the strongest feeling that not one chair or desk will be moved today.

Beside my desk is a huge corkboard that is about to be rotated to the back wall because it is pinned and glued and stuffed to overflowing-- it's one of my favorite things in the room. On this board are old football ribbons, tiny pictures doodled on sticky notes, prom pictures, birthday cards, snarky notes ("Advice to freshmen: If you wanna get cool with the upperclassmen, you def need to do illegal stuff and throw lots of parties. Fights are good, too. Like Mrs. Swaney says, 'Always run toward the fight!'"), a thank you note from a precious struggling freshman (who is now a sophomore in college) that simply says, in trembling script, "Thank you for teaching me." There's a keychain from Korea, a list of idioms from other countries on an index card (I have no idea what assignment that was attached to)-- "To live like a maggot in bacon! German for 'to live in luxury' :), and a newspaper clipping where I came in third after Peggy Hanahan and Mike Ryan for "biggest heart" on the teacher superlatives one year.

At the bottom of the board is an envelope with one of  my favorite things I've read from one of my freshmen. I can't remember what year it was written, but the name of the student is on the front and I will not soon forget him-- he was amazing. Here's what it says:

Dear upcoming freshman,

Now, I am writing this letter because I have to give you advice. Now I'm going to give you advice on what I was asking people older than me in high school or that were out of high school. Like, "how do you get girls?" or "how can I be popular?"

Popularity: Popularity is not all it's cracked up to be. There's more drama and more fake friends usually when you're popular. You let it all go to your head and you leave your real friends in the dark.

Popularity is not the same as middle school. If you were popular in middle school, there's a chance you won't be popular in high school. But on this note, the best thing to do is just be yourself because it's only high school and soon you will be out and no one will remember what you did four years ago.

Schoolwork and sports: School work will always be hard and boring, but that's only if you make it hard. If you have the mindset of "Let me get this done so I can pass and have no worries" then you will be fine.

Once you have your grades up then sports will become easier because you wouldn't have to worry about school work. Always take the chance to make up work, too, because you don't want to do it at the end of the year.

Drama: Every teenager's worst nightmare is to have drama. Try to stay away from drama because it will eat you up on the inside. You might understand how that feels and it's a word I can't write on this paper.

Gang Influences: NO! I'm telling you this is not the way to go. In high school they do not play and you can get hurt bad. It's not like middle school where kids think it's a game...It's not a game, okay?

Swag: Your own swag is your swag. Me, I'm more of a Bred 11s with some camo pants, a t-shirt and a snapback light skin curly headed kind of dude, but that's me. You might be different. But like I said, be yourself.

The rest you can learn on the way and tell that to the freshmen next year. Just remember this letter because trust me you can learn from it. I hope you have fun for the rest of your experience in high school.

Most sincerely...

You know, I quote my students all year long with a hashtag #fqotd or #stufffreshmensay -- freshmen are hilariously funny to me. But this reminds me again that one of my favorite things about freshmen is that they are old enough to have a fun conversation with, but young enough to still say almost everything they think. This transition time in their lives...their skin is freaking out, they haven't figured out their hair yet, and their voices are changing. They are hyper aware of all of their flaws in many cases, but just waking up to being aware that being different can be amazing, too. And if you can catch them juuuuust right....they'll blow your mind with their wisdom.

I think my headache is fading....

Thursday, April 14, 2016


normally, i have a thousand words.

i've used lots of them in the last few days so my brain might have turned into oatmeal in the last half hour.

here's the short  list:

a. Amazing police officers stopped by our house on Saturday morning and there is no doubt they were led here-- they were looking  for a crib for a family in need. A family whose baby needed a safe bed to sleep in. Suddenly, the crib I haven't been able to let go of or even talk about letting go of was set free from my heart. I'll write more about this later.

b. Their story, and the story about Ben's crib, kinda went viral. Because people want to hear stories with happy endings. Police officers with gigantic hearts, truly taking care of our community-- defending us, protecting the littlest ones of us. Yes, yes, yes.

c. A bunch of women I have never met sang out, "Me, too! Me, too!! My heart has loved a tiny one who outran me to the Father!!" There's so much comfort in the company of this sorority. We'll see them again! We will!! Rejoice!!

d. I've met a bunch of  journalists who want to report goodness!!! These guys want to proclaim HAPPY and HOPE. Channel 2, Fox 5 Atlanta, Channel 11. They're looking for JOY.

e. I'm reading Shawn Bolz's Translating God. Holy smokes, YES.

f. God has more for us than we could ever know.

g. He's good.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Let No Debt Remain

Don’t owe anything to anyone, except your outstanding debt to continually love one another, for the one who learns to love has fulfilled every requirement of the law.
Romans 13:8 TPT

I wonder, sometimes, if believers have begun to look down on love.

I hear believers talk about it-- not to be permissive, not to indulge or enable, not to be deceived. To avoid something we call "cheap grace" (can grace be cheap??).

And I think so much of it comes from feeling manipulated-- a world that has felt shamed and judged by us throws this in our collective face: "You're supposed to love me, not judge me!" and we say, "Yeah, well, you're not supposed to sin!"

I know-- that's kind of harsh and not every believer feels that way, but I've just been thinking a lot about how adorable we all are to the Father.

Because He is our Maker.

In my little studio space in the attic above the garage, I have a pile of what I like to call "artists proofs," but which are actually just cast off prints that didn't make the cut in my beloved printmaking classes in college.

I kept these prints for all kinds of reasons-- like, for a few of them I just loved the deep, deep burnt orange of the ink, even though I was a completely disobedient printmaker who didn't like the flat perfection that we were going for as much as I loved the grainy, almost spongy texture that came when the ink was too dry or too wet on the roller. The color, so rich, but in no design at all. Just vivid blocks on cheap newsprint.

A couple of the pages are unfinished first run-throughs of a jungle scene for a children's book I had (and still have) on my mind, and if you've ever done a linoleum cut then you'll understand why I couldn't bear the idea of throwing those away. If you've ever run copy after copy through a press at two in the morning on paper that cost $5 a sheet and you're too broke to even buy a cup of coffee, you'll understand why those papers are never getting thrown away.

Several of the pages are from the hours I spent experimenting on the old school letter press. I never knew until the first time I was alone at the letter press that one of my favorite ways to write poetry is while I'm setting letters and words with these little lead pieces of the alphabet, placing them backwards across the scene and tightening them with an old tool that so many girls before me had used in that same basement studio. Here's one:

singing sweet
lyrics, saying LOVE
holding wishes
against their chests
and hope
in their

Anyway, I can't throw any of it away.

All of  those scraps of paper are mine-- I love them. I would bring them all inside. They're safe, protected in portfolios. I'm keeping them for who knows what, but I made them. I could never throw them away.

Sometimes I realize that I am a scrap of paper in the hands of my maker. But I am exquisite paper-- quality stuff. He has mixed the most perfect colors in me. He put me together with intent, with purpose, and He never planned to throw me into the scrap heap, even at my lowest. Because I was always His.

Let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love. Every one of us is His perfectly crafted piece of art. A holy expression of His joy, His beauty, His faithfulness, His generosity and sweetness. What if we began to see ourselves as a beloved, cherished piece of original artwork? What if I saw you as His prize?

Right now, some friends of mine are waking up in the holy land-- yesterday, my dear friend Toni told me in a message that she was undone to be walking where He walked and my heart nearly explodes with the YES of what she is feeling-- to be where He physically chose to live on earth is like nothing...nothing is like it. It is holy. Sacred.

And to think, He physically knit me together. He has touched me-- His own hands formed me, and formed you. He's calling us back-- the artist is calling us back. It is holy. Sacred.

You are wholly loved. Sacred. His own.

Let no debt remain outstanding, save the debt to love who He loves. To treasure what He treasures. Who He treasures.