Flying Broken

September 22, 2015
Nancy Carroll, Co-Director, InSpero
Nancy Carroll, Co-Director, InSpero

I'm speaking on "Does Beauty Matter?"  at Q Commons Thursday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at the Avon Theater in Birmingham. Please come hear how InSpero and other local groups are impacting the city. Below are some thoughts on why I joined Gina in this "unexpected" journey to bring beauty and hope to Birmingham through creative community.

I used to wear a perfume called Realities until a friend challenged me with “Who wants to smell like reality?”

It made me think. How do I deal with the reality of brokenness and pain around me and in me?

There was a time I perfumed over it. I closed my eyes and breathed in my own reality.

But it’s hard to keep my eyes closed. When a refugee baby lies on a beach in Turkey. When injustice and inequities exist just “over the mountain.” When the sex trafficking trade thrives on our Alabama highways. When a friend commits suicide. When the battle against cancer, addictions, and abuse seems futile.

I spiritualized that we live in a fallen world and the best thing I could do was pray and wait to get to the Promised Land. Wait it out in my comfortable suburban home and comfortable suburban church. Avoid the pain, protect my kids, and prettify my immediate surroundings. It took a surprising amount of energy and left me numb.

C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I began to fear my comfortable "coffin" more than my broken heart.

Embracing Beauty and Brokenness

I can best illustrate how I’m now dealing with reality through two butterflies and an Old Testament prophet.

The first butterfly my husband and I found a few weeks ago while hiking in North Carolina. A beautiful black swallowtail, perfect and still in the middle of the worn dirt path. I wanted to take it home to display it. As I touched it, its antennae waved weakly. It was still alive, though barely. We left it on the path.

That butterfly’s unbroken beauty haunted me. Why didn’t he fly?

Contrast that to the feisty yellow tiger swallowtail that floated onto my deck and flitted by my face as if daring me to take its photo. I grabbed my cell phone and snapped away. Then I really looked at it. It was the most ragged butterfly I’d seen. A third of one wing and tail were gone. The other wing had a bite out of its side.  And yet it simply went about its business, dipping in and out of my late-summer zinnias, spreading life.

That battle-weary butterfly gave me hope.

Beauty and brokenness are a package deal. If I live only in beauty, I live in denial. If I live only in brokenness, I live in despair. Beauty in the midst of brokenness is the cup of cold water, the hint of hope that there is more to come.

Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet, spoke to the Israelites exiled in Babylon. They too were just waiting to go home. He told them to get a life and become an integral part of the city God had sent them to. He said, Seek the shalom of the city for in its shalom you will find your shalom.

Shalom is the Hebrew word for wholeness, peace, well being, a sense that all will be made right. It's the battlecry against brokenness.

InSpero is a shalom seeker for Birmingham, born out of a vision of founder Gina Hurry. It comes from “spero” which means hope in Latin and also means unexpected. I crawled out of my comfort zone and joined Gina in this unexpected journey as we saw the reality of a world right in front of us that is not as it should be.

  • A city with a broken past.
  • Artists and artisans who were disillusioned and marginalized and wondered if their work mattered.
  • Churches that didn’t know how to use the power of beauty to help reach and restore the city.

And we asked: What would Birmingham look like if every creative soul in this city stepped out in courage—knowing their heart and their gift mattered—and had life-giving, hope-stirring impact? The kind of impact that could rename our city? That Birmingham, in spite of her scars, could transform from the city broken to the ‪#‎thecitybeautiful.

Love the Ham by Abby Little
Love the Ham by Abby Little

We're trying to live out Jeremiah's message by inspiring Birmingham’s artists and makers, dreamers and risk takers to invest in our city, because we believe when the creative community flourishes, Birmingham will flourish.

Be Part of the InSpero Dream for #thecitybeautiful

Be part of the community.
Go to our website, Facebook and Instagram to follow us and find out about our events. We need volunteers, advocates, ambassadors, artists, networkers, promoters and participants. Fill out our survey to find out where you want to serve. We need financial donors because beauty that matters, costs. Donations to InSpero, Inc., a 501(c)(3) are tax deductible. Go to our website or make checks payable to InSpero, Inc and mail to 246 Marwood Drive, Birmingham, AL 35244.

Be part of our conversation and collaborations.
Share your space, your ideas, your creativity, your dreams for Birmingham. Invite your church or group to be involved.

Come to our next event, The Steel City Makers 5 Man Show on October 23 at the Cranmer House in Homewood.


I'm learning if we're going to fly, we're going to fly broken.

All shalom seekers, those with a vision for the world as it should be, will have their hearts broken. That's why we need community and beauty as reminders of what's to come.

Why am I part of InSpero?


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