Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Introverts: People-haters

I love cartoons. In fact, my family had an unspoken competition each Sunday after church to see who could change their clothes the fastest and consequently read the Sunday comics first. In a family of 9, if you didn't change quickly, it could be late in the afternoon before you actually got to read them. So, it was a cartoon I turned to when trying to describe my introversion.

Rest assured, I am neither shy nor do I hate people, but I must admit that today I am feeling a bit anti-social. This afternoon has been my only chunk of alone time in weeks, and I have loved every moment of it. I used to think that being an introvert was a bad thing, that it did mean you were shy and hated people and just wanted to hole up and be boring all day long, but then I realized that it's just where you get your energy, and I find mine from time by myself. Without a little alone time each day, I find myself feeling deflated, on edge, tense...and pretty much hating people (okay, not really, but you get the idea) until I can refuel.

So, here's to introversion, a time alone to think and be quiet, to read, to be outside, to leave the agenda behind, to be renewed. As my husband will attest, I'm a much nicer person once I've had some "Cara time." This is no new concept; even Jesus needed alone time and went off by himself. Interestingly, almost every time he went off by himself, he prayed to the Father. Perhaps my alone time needs to be less self-serving and more Christ-focused...

So, the moral of the story is: if I seem exhausted, overwhelmed, easily frustrated, or anxious, odds are that it's not that time of the month; I just hate people at the moment.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heart Gallery

I am not a crier. Probably thanks to my four brothers, I rarely cry in books or movies and, while I feel deeply about experiences, I am rarely moved to tears. For several years now, Phil and I have been praying that God would break our hearts over a specific group of people--whether it's a nation or just a group of people with the same need. This year, God has made our passion clear: orphans.

I had read about the Heart Gallery a few years ago in an article, but finally had the chance to see it this past week when it was on display at our church. The Heart Gallery is a series of professional photographs of kids who are currently in the foster care system in any given state. They range in age from 2nd grade to 11th grade, and are often overlooked because they are older, sometimes have emotional or physical problems, and often have siblings with whom they want to be adopted. These are the orphans who fall through the cracks in society and are left at age 18 without any support or family...unless they are adopted or are taken in by a loving foster home. As we looked at the pictures of those precious faces--children who had dreams of becoming chefs or actors or football stars--we both had to fight back tears. And it dawned on us again: this is where our heart breaks--the orphan.

And the truth is, that is where the heart of Jesus breaks as well. His desire is that we belong to His family, receiving full rights as His children, through His grace alone. The idea of adoption is not only appealing to us because it's a chance to intervene in an otherwise hopeless situation, but it's also a constant reminder of our own hopelessness outside of Christ.

So, while Phil and I still don't know if we want to adopt an infant or an older child, or even when that will happen, we are thrilled to be a part of something outside ourselves and so privileged to bear the holy burden of caring for the orphan. If you get a chance, check out the Heart Gallery at Oak Mtn. Presbyterian Church or just look on the Heart Gallery website. Just make sure you have some Kleenex nearby.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Is there something on my face?

When I go for a jog, I wouldn't describe myself as someone who would stand out. I don't run in a sports bra, I don't have on spandex of any kind, I don't wear shoes that are neon orange...and yet, today, I had the distinct feeling that everyone was looking at me. Did I have something on my face? Had all the gnats I had run through stuck to my sweaty face? Then I remembered the t-shirt I was wearing.

It wasn't just any t-shirt; It was my favorite t-shirt of all time. My brother, Ben, bought it at a thrift store years ago and, realizing that his 6'2'' body really couldn't fit into an adult small t-shirt, he gave it to me. It has that soft, thin, you-hardly-know-it's-there feeling. What's so unusual about this shirt, however, isn't where it came from or the fact that it's lemon yellow; it's what it says on the front in big letters: REAL MEN DRIVE MOPARS.

Forced to learn what a mopar was after being asked every time I wore the shirt, I am proud to share that the word "mopar" actually stands for Motor Parts and is associated with Chrysler cars. I'm not sure how I lived most of my life with that word outside of my vocabulary. While I have no interest in either Chrysler or motor parts or men who drive them, the phrase is entirely unique, which is part of why I love the shirt so much. Not only am I not a man; I'm not a "real man"--a phrase that seemed to baffle Birmingham runners today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Day past and present

I wrote detention slips for my entire 3rd period today, citing them for such appalling behaviors as "inappropriate language," "disruptive behavior in class," "excessive talking," and "skipping class." The best part was having them say, "Thanks for the d-hall slip, Mrs. Johnson!" The act was so convincing that I even had a call this afternoon from a hoodwinked mom, and had to tell her how wonderful her son was and to have a happy April Fool's Day.

My family doesn't typically prank each other, but growing up, we always knew to expect something on April Fool's Day. My mom consistently put a square of wax paper in our turkey sandwiches (and we consistently forgot about it until we took the first bite), and my brother once dyed the milk green. I'm sure we had our fair share of saran wrapped toilet seats too. But it's been a while since I fooled anyone on April Fool's Day, and I realized that life's a lot more fun when you mess with people once in a while.