Saturday, July 29, 2006

Poor me???

This week I found myself smack dab between two disparate worlds: the me that I was, and the me that I’m going to be. Apparently the me that I’m going to be has more money. This is disturbing to the me I was.

It’s not that old me doesn’t like money. It’s just that she never had it. She doesn’t know what to do with it. So middle me sat in my spiritual direction appointment this week, crying my eyes out because I had some money. Not as much as the future me will probably have, but certainly more than the past me had. I’d read Shane Clairborn “Irresistable Revolution” and I wanted to give it all away. I wanted to go live in an “intentional community” that Ken called a “cult.” He asked me if I would leave him.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to say.

I asked myself some hard questions. Was I ever “meant” to be a wife and mother? The fact that I suck at both makes this question compelling. Did my lack of trust when I believed God didn’t want to share me, and wouldn’t allow me to have a husband and kids drive me to the sexual sin that I found myself entangled in? Did I miss what God had for me? The freedom to live as an ascetic, in whatever kind of community I chose? Or was this a mind game of a spoiled brat who didn’t want to deal with reality? I had a husband and kids, who are not like me. They don’t want what I want spiritually. They don’t want to sell all they have and give it to the poor. They like a single family home, even though we rent. They like that they finally have nice clothes, and an X Box 360.

Ken brought up Bono. Not fair, because he knows I love Bono and want to have his children. He said, “Bono is rich. He hasn’t left his family, and he helps the poor. Maybe God wants you to open the house for prostitutes you want to help with the resources you’ll get from being a successful writer. Why don’t you see what God will do with you having something for a change?”

It occurred to me that God probably wouldn’t want me to leave my husband. The kids would hate “intentional community” and I’d make a big ol’ stinking mess of things if I went running after Shane Clairborn. But I was struck by how strong my desire was, and so my director and I examined it. She asked me a simple question: “Have you talked to God about this.”

No. Not really. I’d thrown a few thoughts in God’s general direction, but we hadn’t had a real pow-wow about it. So I finally said, “Jesus, will you please help me? Because I don’t know what to do with money. And I’m scared. I don’t want to be anything but what you want me to be.”

And then I cried some more. Amy said, “What did He say?” I heard Jesus as clear as an audible voice say His simple, one word answer.

“He said, ‘Yes,’” I told Amy. “Just one word.”

She cried, too. “I know,” she said. “I heard Him.”

Wasn’t that cool? We both really heard Jesus.

That night when I got home my sister asked me about my new big screen television. I don’t have a big screen television! Or an entire house full of new furniture that she heard I had. The family gossip had gone wild! I got very defensive. I had just purchased a sofa and a “Bedroom in a Box” from Walmart because my bedroom furniture has fallen apart, and there is a homicidal spring on my mattress intent on killing me and ripping all of my sleepwear to shreds. The Bedroom in a Box has a dresser, night table, headboard and mirror, all in one fun-filled box, but I felt guilty because I bought $200 bucks worth of furniture AND a sofa. I felt like I’d let the world and the poor down. Carlean told me that God wouldn’t begrudge me a bed when I’d spent years going without so much, but it was hard for me to accept that kind of grace.

I had to look at these feelings. It felt like my future was a bright shiny light, and my past a black hand from hell, holding onto my ankle. And there I was in the middle trying to decide what to do. I’ve given money away. I’ve helped people less fortunate. I’ve gotten my family clothes, and a few things they want. I’ve paid all my bills. Why is it so hard for me to be okay with that?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus said. That’s my life’s scripture. But what does it mean? Just when I think I know it seems to elude me, and I chase it’s truth again. I want to be blessed. I really do.

Meanwhile, I watch the joy a little money has brought us. The blessing of having the bills paid, and something in the savings account. The blessing of having paint for the walls. I’ve never been able to paint, but I’ve got a really cool landlord who is letting me fly my freak flag. Okay, so Ken vetoed the fuchsia, but he did let me go with real color! The hall is going to be “fragrant cloves”. It’s as pretty as it sounds. For the bathroom we got a serene pale green. Very Martha Steward. The kitchen will be a vibrant mustard color, and my bedroom a rich rosy, cinnamon. These warm, earthy hues will go so well with my African accents. And my icons! I’m guess I’m nesting—building a home for my soul to stave off the dark death in winter I experience every year. I’m grateful for the gift of color, and God’s grace that I earned the money to buy the paint.

Enough for now. Ken just pulled out the paintbrushes and we have to paint the hallway! I will be praising God with every stroke. Despite my confusion, His grace abounds. His love, like fragrant cloves paint, covers a multitude of sins.

Much love,

Mair

Monday, July 24, 2006

What's New

Hello Lovies,

I'm doing a home makeover and just purchased the funkiest, baaaaadest, black leather sofa EVER! And trust me, I have had a lot of black leather in my day. Anyway, I think I'm getting in touch with my inner biker chick, only I worked in a hospital E.R. and you will NOT find me breaking my neck on a motorcycle. So there.

Anyway, soon I will be writing to you about my new blogs, one being yet another attempt at doing an author blog, and then there is my Lithe Season blog coming soon. I'll be writing about losing "weight"--all the weights that keep us from the abundant life Jesus has for us. My pal and fellow insomniac, Heather Diane Tipton will be doing blog makeovers for the raga-d and the author blog. She is amazing. Check her out at http://heatherdianetipton.blogspot.com.

Also, I got a "My Loving Jesus Doll" at ICRS, and that he is the funniest thing I've ever seen. I'll tell you all about him when I return from home beautification rituals. I'll show you pictures, too, because you gotta see My Loving Jesus doll. You won't believe it.

Finally, my good girlfriend Paula has an interview with me on her magnificent GraceReign blog http://gracereign.blogspot.com. I remember when she started her blog in 2004. Blogs were so exciting then. Let's just say, like B.B. King, "the thrill is gone" for some of us. But Paula has a great blog, and the interview deals with book stuff, angst filled childhood stuff, and race stuff. Don't miss it.

Much love, and I'll have pictures and a new look soon. Hey, do you think Ken will let me paint the livingroom fuschia???

Mair

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tuesday, in the wee wee hours of the morning...

4:45 am. I should be asleep, but I'm almost never asleep at the right time. I've been working very hard on novel two, which was due Friday, but my editor, the kind soul, gave me a few days to recover from Denver, Calarada! I slept for two days upon returning home.

I had a great time. When I look back at the anxiety I felt, I wonder what all that fuss was about. A few months ago, my pumpkin, Bethany sent me the Diaries of Nicole Gausseron. I devoured those books, finding a kindred spirit in Nicole--only she's a better version of me. In one of the diaries, she had an upcoming visit to meet the Pope--a monumental experience for any Catholic. Jesus asked her to take Him with her. I thought that was so beautiful, God Himself, asking this humble woman to take Him with her. Jesus is quite the romantic at times, isn't He? Quite the gentleman.

Like Nicole, I could hear sweet Jesus asking me to take Him with me. So, I asked Him to come along. And He did. His kindness was everywhere I went. His love shone in more pairs of eyes than I can count. It was extraordinary.

Upon arrival I had breakfast with my agent, and he has new glasses that are quite fetching on him. He is growing in grace, and it was nice to just be with him. We shared a weird, upside down muffin thing that tasted of honey and bran. It's always nice to share food. I mean really to share it. I think some of the best moments of my life have been over shared meals. My time with Don was a "best moment", and it wouldn't be the last of that trip.

Paula was next. She's so cute. She had on a mini skirt! Not too mini, but if I had her long legs, mine would have probably been minier. We had a good time at the park as her son got awarded for his exemplary baseball skills. What a wonderful family she has. And she has the homiest home. I could have settled there forever.

I met Eugene Peterson next. I got to kiss him! I told him what the message meant to me. Don't you think that's important? To tell the people you love what an impact they've made on you. Don't miss that opportunity. Send a letter, and email, or make a call. I have to do more of that. I've gotta reach that Brennan Manning.

The next gift I got was to meet Eugene and Brennan's editor at NavPress, Don Simpson. He is a precious man, and we got to share some time later that I will always treasure. I can't get over all the tender moments I had. It's amazing.

What else? God gave me Kate E., a sweet meloncholic that I saw so much of myself in. He gave me funny Melanie and fiery, beautiful Nicci, and amazing Kate B. who wore the BEST CLOTHES, but had an even more lovely spirit. He gave me Kim and Jen, two terrific, hysterically funny women. He gave me gentle Jeff, and Austin, and Mary, and Beth. Lots of hugs from Siri, and laughs from her husband Tony. He gave me T.L. and Dave, and even Dave's beautiful wife Sarah. He gave me a big Hug in Donna (and a lot of a sense of home) at the Christy Awards. He gave me Terry again, who truly knows how to share a meal! She makes it an art. Thanks to Terry I had one of the best nights of my life in the company of women who astounded me with their elan! Sneaky Terry kept drawing stories out of me. She wouldn't let me fade into the background, and I found myself loud, and crazy, talking trash and happier than I've felt in a long time.

The signing went great. Wow! It went on for nearly two hours, but it seemed to go fast. We all signed close to 200 books. What a launch! I got waaaaay to many free books! And I scored the amazing "Good Monsters" CD from Jars of Clay that's due out in September. I wanted that CD so badly. I know all about being a good monster. And being a not-so-good one, too.

So, now you know I had a great time. I'm still feeling pretty mellow over here, even though I'm sleepless in Ann Arbor.

I have to finish the second book. And then start the next one. Publication has changed my life a lot. But I'm grateful. I really am. Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man is being well received by people I respect a great deal. God is good. Hey, if you like it, can you post a review on Amazon? If you hate it. Don't say anything. Just pray about it. ;o)

I saw Murder, Mayhem and a Fine Man in our local Border's store on the day it released. It was amazing, standing there staring at it among the other books in one of my favorite bookstores. It was a very surreal moment. I said, "Oh, my God!" I looked around because I wanted to tell someone, but no one was close, and the people not so close didn't look interested. So, I stood there in the Christian fiction aisle alone, thinking of how far I've come.

If you just happen to be hanging around Ann Arbor on August 12th, why don't you stop in to Barnes and Noble on Washtenaw and say hi. I'll be there signing at 2:00. That's a Saturday. I sure would like to meet you.

I just wanted to tell you about all these things, but I should really get to bed now, even though I'm so not sleepy.

Hey, thanks for hanging around with this insomniac. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without you.

Much love,
Mair

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Being Who You Are

If the first day of the Ancient Christianity and African Americans conference was coming home, the second day was taking off my shoes(literally) and getting comfortable. Friday was an incredibly long day, with activities until 10:00 pm with no breaks. The organizers had Saturday similarly packed, but after Friday, they relaxed the schedule and allowed some down time to participants. God knows we all need down time.

It surprises me how deeply my Godmother, Mother Nicole and I love each other. Last year, we were not able to spend much time together at all. All my interactions with her were a bit shy and tentative. We shared many emails, and even a phone call, but I remained a little distant. It's my way, mostly. I love and I give a lot of myself, but face to face I often pull back. Sometimes I give so much writing that I feel a bit naked when I'm with people. It's then that I want to cover. I'm an extroverted introvert, if you can imagine that.

Saturday, the sessions were great. Fr. Perdomo, a Latino priest gave us wonderful revelations of the work of God in the Orthodox church in his growing cultural community. It's so encouraging, this old, ancient church, yawning, stretching, and waking to catch afire a new generation. There was so much good that weekend. Iconography workshops, revisiting the understanding that each human being is an icon, made in the image of God. We really are the most holy and sacred of icons, but we don't treat each other like that do we? Lord, have mercy.

I got to share a wonderful meal with my daughter Abbie, her new pal Veronica, Cecilia, Mother Nicole and my mother-in-law. Later, Mother Nicole and I walked and I realized like me she doesn't like shoes. I would find she and I are alike in many ways--a gift from God.

I told you that as the conference closed that Saturday I shared some very painful things about my life. Not only was that bothering me, but all that day I felt a pervasive sense that everyone there was better than I. More holy. More spiritual. Had fewer dead monkey babies to haul around. The woman especially. They were all so simple and modest. I felt, in my shape empasizing tunic and palazzo pants that I was dressed like the whore of Babylon by comparison. No one made me feel that way, but I couldn't seem to shake the feeling that I was "other" than them. I wanted to get pink and platinum blonde dreadlock extensions. I wore all seven of my earrings. I had my nose stud in.

Most of the time, I think it's best to be exactly who I am, but then I get around such good people, and feel like a red, blinking, screaming siren going off. I felt very conflicted, and as the vendors were breaking down, and the people were saying goodbye, I sat for a last, lingering talk with my beloved Godmother.

Oh, if I only had words to describe the love for me that shines in her sparkling green eyes. I sat, heavy and worn in my chair, and told her how I felt, and she told me of how when she became Orthodox she had orange hair chopped off on one side. She said she wore leather mini's and fishnets, while the women around here wore, and she cringed a bit, "these blue jumpers." I cringed, too. Honest to God I'd die a slow and painful death in a jean jumper dress. Not that they're not lovely on the women who love them. They'd simply kill me, and Mother Nicole apparently.

I started to cry, because I told her I didn't want to wear jumpers I want earrings and color and matching is optional. I want to live a big, juicy life, and I'd missed being beautiful when I was young, and dear God, I want to be beautiful now, because this may be as good as it gets. She cried too, and she spoke the words God had so tenderly been ministering to me: "The only thing required of you is to be yourself."

Isn't that liberating?

We ended the evening with laughter, and embraces, and blessings, and honest to God, I wish I didn't have to leave her. She understands me so well. She knows me so well. I marvel that me, the "black revolutionary", who went to the conference last year looking for a "black woman" Godmother, was given the short, white nun with that bit of wildness about her, who'd empathize with my journey because she shared it. I am not worthy of such a gift. God gave her to me anyway.

I'm learning each day to be this me that God created. And it's a challenge. There are many false Claudia's falling away as I grow into the new Claudia Mair. It is an adventure in God. I thought turning forty was the bomb! This is grace on a whole new level for me.

This week the prospect of going to the CBA IRCS convention has truly traumatized me. I kept thinking, Oh no, I'm going to land on planet Jesus people, only they won't be the hippie Jesus People I'd blend right in with. They are going to be the nice people who will read "wonderbra" on the first page of my novel and ban me from their stores forever. I could see the judgement and disdain before I even arrived. Wednesday night I yelled in agony, "I'm not going!"

But Jesus was so kind. He led me to the right stores, to the sales racks were I found clothing that was "me" that I'd feel good, and lovely in, and not some imitation of me I could scarcely recognize. Most of the items I found for 5 or 6 dollars. Jesus knew my money wasn't quite available. And he was good to me and adorned me well.

Tonight, I am dressed in my hot pink shell with black matching pants. I have a studded belt around what use to be my waist when I was a tinier lass. I have all seven earrings in, and a tiny, silver heart nose stud. I wear the rings of my earthly beloved on my left hand, and the ring of my Heavenly Beloved that says, "I am my beloved's, my beloved is mine," on my right. The first person I will embrace when I arrive in Denver is my agent, who teased, "Can we get any more earrings???" I will meet my sweet sissy, Paula, and we will spend the day giggling like girls and talking about Jesus like He's our sweet crush. I will meet and sit at the table at the Christy Awards with some of my favorite people in the whole world. People who love me for me. People who believed in my writing when I never thought I had a chance in CBA, and I will bask in their love and give them my own without reservation. And when Donna announces me as a new author, I will stand in my little black dress, with the pearls with the scull and crossbones at the bottom (Ha! I couldn't resist. I'm a mystery writer) and I'll just be Claudia Mair. Simply that. And Jesus loves Him some Claudia Mair. And Jesus loves you, too, just as you are. You don't have to clean up to come to Him.

I believe it was St. Francis De Sales who said, "Be who you are, and be that perfectly well." Now that I can do by His grace. Isn't that what Jesus wants for all of us? Imagine the gifts that would flood the world if we all chucked our masks, said the Jesus prayer,"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner," and lived for Him as best we could, fearlessly.

Say a prayer for me as I face the public for the first time. I'm taking Jesus with me. I'll be living in Him while I'm away.

Much love, and thanks for hanging in there for this long post.
Mair.

P.S. Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man is shipping from Amazon! Yay!!!!!!! I'm an author! Thank you, Jesus!

Thanks, everybody for your support, and hey, if you're at CBA, stop and see me at the NavPress booth Monday, July 10 from 3:00-4:30 pm. And if you're in Ann Arbor August 12, I'll be signing at Barnes and Noble on Wasthenaw.

Yay!!!!!!

I can't believe it!

Okay, I can, and it's so awesome. I'm so grateful.

Okay, I gotta go catch my plane. I love ya! See y'all when I get back. Pray for me, okay?