Monday, June 26, 2006

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant."--from The Magnificat.

Last night I was at a conference, and at the end of the night, we all sat in a circle, passed the microphone like the talking stick, and told stories. I had to leave at some point earlier, to take my daughter and mother-in-law home, but I made my way, weary after a jam-packed weekend of conference activity. I didn't want to make the 45 minute drive back to Detroit and then come home again. It was already nearly 9:00 pm when I left Ann Arbor. At one point I turned around to go back home, and then, I turned around again and headed East, again.

I got there, and it was almost over, but I really wanted to read a poem. There was talk about how to serve the poor, and I thought about so much of my life. Still getting food stamps, even after I reported my income! Like I've told you before, I'm not Third-World poor, just good old American poor. I wanted to tell what it was like to get help from the Christian people who have helped my family. But somehow, when I begin my story, I ended up sharing what it was like when I lived in Takoma Park, and the man I loved was going to kill me.

I don't like that story. And there I was, being ragamuffin diva again, telling the worst of my life. It was hard. I told them I am bipolar. Have awful, chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia syndrome, and other stuff that makes it hard for me to have a "job", and how God helped us through my brothers and sisters in Christ until book money came in and I had some form of livelihood. Still, it was hard, both the living and the telling.

I felt ashamed afterward. I thought, "Again, I've told too much. I talked too long. And now the people who's respect I want are going to either pity me, or think I'm a psychotic who can hurt them. Some bipolar people are extremely sick. It doesn't garner positive public opinion. Anyway, I actually apologized to the priest, but he stopped me. God did something with that testimony. One brother thanked me for my witness. I hadn't thought of that. How it is a witness to the Love of God.

But the sorrow had already settled about me that comes from that memory, and I was mostly okay until I got home and was talking to Mary on the phone tonight. We were talking about how we'd always wanted to write, and about the hard things we'd been through, and then it occured to me that I was going to get my copy of Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man in my hands. My friends at NavPress Fed Exed me a copy last week. And then I cried like a baby right there on the phone because tomorrow I'll hold my book in my hand.

I remember, as I talked to my dear friend, how the man I lived with wouldn't let me say the name of Jesus. It was forbidden in "his house." We were strict vegans. I weighed 93lbs. I have pictures of me from that time. I look like a concetration camp survivor. He made me wear dresses three sizes too big so I wouldn't look attractive. Lord, have mercy. I don't want to say much more. Because we were vegan, and we lived in the Seventh Day Adventist capitol, and down the street from us was their college, they had a market and bookstore I used to shop at for food. But they had Bibles, and Christian books.

When I could go by myself, I'd sneak into the bookstore. I would go in there and it was like a magical land of safety. And oh, the longing for Jesus. I would touch the books, and finger the spines, and reverently hold the Bible. I'd read some passages, aching to be free. Once when the man I lived with was strangling me, and I thought, "this is it, I'm about to die," I just prayed to Jesus to forgive me for all my sins and remember me in his kingdom. I hoped he would. I hoped I could at least get to be with Him in death. He knew that. But I didn't die that day. I slumped onto the floor and the man let me go. He even tried to give me CPR. I felt sad, because I thought I'd be better off dead.

Yeah, y'all. I'd go to the bookstore back the day. I'd take my snatches of Jesus, and I go back home where I couldn't say His sweet, and life-giving name without being beaten or nearly killed. A near martyr in my own home. That was 13 years ago. It doesn't seem that long.

Tomorrow, my Christian novel is going to be in my hands for the first time. And I wanted to take a moment to tell you that "my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant." That was the Blessed Virgin's response to God's incredible gift to her. It is my response to my incredible gift. He gave her our Lord (really through her He gave all of us our Lord.) But He gave me a story to birth, and to the emaciated me at the Seventh Adventist market to buy vegan food, the thought of me publishing a Christian book years later would have been as miraculous as Virgin Birth.

When I stood in that bookstore, I didn't think I'd even survive, much less serve Jesus freely, without having to be beat up or strangled for it. And look what Jesus has done. He really shows off, doesn't He? My friends have seen my book, and they say how beautiful it is, and how much they love it, and even if they didn't love it, and it wasn't beautiful, it was my dream and God did it. How blessed am I? Even if I wasn't under contract for seven books, if it were just that one my joy would be full. And I can't even keep typing for crying right now. I cried with Mary. I cried writing Paula, and I'm weeping now. Because He heard me! He understood each ache and longing for him. He felt every touch on His face when I touched the Bibles and didn't even dare pray because I just knew my life was over. And then He turned the table and it is going to be my book in the Christian bookstore some hungry soul will walk into wondering if they will ever find Jesus again. And if they read it, I will tell them YES!!!!! Jesus is with you, no matter what.

So will y'all just say, "Thank you, God," with me? This lowly one, just trying to write for Jesus, despite myself, has her dream.

"The Mighty One has done great things for me, and Holy is His name."



Kristine said...

You are beautiful. I am wiping away tears because I am hopeful that the Lord will turn my table too. You inspire me because I see God in you. You are a testament to His faithfulness and I simply love you.
Rejoicing really does come in the morning...
Open the curtains and let the sun in Mair.

bobbie said...

oh claudia i am so thrilled for you - congratulations! i pray it is all you dreamed and hoped it would be!

renee said...

beautiful. and congratulations. Not only for the book (which is enough), but for so much more.
much love,

grammarwitch said...

You made me all teary, dumping. I want to hear the rejoicing all the way down here when that book arrives!

Heather Diane Tipton said...

You are so beautiful, you know that Mair?

shanna said...

Some stories just gotta be told.

Now let the blessings, blessings, blessings roll down your precious head, like holy oil...


Chris said...

I've never commented here, just read along - but I say "Thank you, God!" with you - and for you and your writing!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Phil 4:13....I can do all things thru Christ Jesus who strengthens me!

Katy said...

Man, I'd like to be there when the Fed ex guy rings the doorbell! Yes, I would.... :)
Katy Raymond

radioreb said...

"thank you God!"

Rags, um...Mair, It's been too long, but I am soooooo filled with joy hearing (?) all that is happening in your heart and all that is spilling out of that heart into the world. Still love ya. Still have hopes and dreams of a day when I can sit in front of you and listen, but until then thanks for giving us a book. Were is the most helpful place to buy my copies?

Amy A. said...

I'll say it, too! Thank you, God!

Bek said...

wow. what a story. of the awesome redeemer. and who knows how many women your book will touch, who walk into bookstores for refuge like you did. who may secretly read your book in the aisle and never be able to buy it. God bless you and your ministry.

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

Tears here, too! I'm so overjoyed for you, my sister. Soak it up and savor every minute of your newfound career. I'm proud to be on the shelves with you!

Jaime H. said...

Oh, Claudia, I am SO happy for you!!!

Please post links where we can get your book! I look forward to reading it!!

Candy said...

I absolutely cannot wait to hold my own copy in my hands and when I do, I'll be thinking of you and thanking God you lived to tell your story that has touched my heart and inspired me.

Anonymous said...

what can i say, but that you can never share your testimony enough!? sometimes we have to deal with where He brought us from...just one more that He can touch at least one more soul...and ALWAYS so He can receive the glory.

my dear sister, God is so good! thank you for sharing!