Monday, October 30, 2006

LOVE IN ALL CAPS

Sometimes we're so tentative in love. So impoverished. We don't expect love. Have come to get on without it. Since there's a love shaped hole in our souls because God made us to give and receive a constant and steady supply of love we miss it. Even if we never say we do.

I've been working so hard to finish the book TODAY! I've neglected myself. My curly hair is in a tremendous Afno. That, for the uniformed, is an afro gone tragically wrong. I think those twitches that I told y'all about are seizures. I don't even want to begin on what seizures added to my plate makes me think. I woke up a little bit salty with God, and ready to wrestle with Him even though He's the biggest, and strongest and is God. He actually likes a challenge now and then.

But I felt too tired to wrestle. Besides, I'm given to unexpected convulsions, so He has a unfair advantage. When I'd finally convulsed myself to sleep THIS MORNING I had buck wild dreams, one in which I'd gone to a hotel with him! No, not that one, the good looking one. And then he turned on me and said he didn't really want me because I'm not beautiful and I have bad breath. Then later I was in the same hotel trying to steal copies of my own books! And then it was a flood!

I really want to insert a cuss word here, but I'm actually trying to place nice.

I woke up and wrestled with the afno instead. I could hardly get a shockingly wide toothed comb through it. Finally I just got mad.

"God! You said that you would be my Father. You said you cared more for me than my natural father, who's love, let's face it, is suspect. I want to get my hair done. I want to look pretty. Can you just help me with this, please?"

It's one of those days I feel forsaken.

I go to the computer to open my email and I see I have a blog comment from Katy. Everybody says wonderful, healing things to me, and I appreciate you all. I'm not singling Katy out because she said something better than the rest of my lovely exhorters. No, she said something I didn't recall hearing before.

"Thou are graven on His hands..."

I've read Isaiah so many times. It's one of my favorite books. But maybe my mind had been dulled to this passage. Maybe I needed it today so it just seems like I never heard it before. So I go to Isaiah 49:16, but I read verse 14 first.

"But Zion said, "The Lord haas forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me."

Have you ever felt like God forgot about you? I mean--I told God that even if He didn't respond and help me get my hair done, I'd still love Him. But I thought He loved me. And I can't shake the thought that He will do kind things for me, and that He wants to. Even though there's pain everyday. Even though I'm not getting better. Even though seizures or something weird has been added. Even with a four inch afno I can't change right now.

So I shrug my shoulders, man up--even though I'm so a girl, and get ready to do what I have to do.

Sometimes we approach love so tentatively, like we really don't expect it, and it surprised us when it's there.

A scripture left on my blog from a friend. "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands."

Sometimes we take baby steps toward love, afraid that when we get to it, it won't be there.

I cried when I read that scripture Katy gave me.

I have a twelve year old son, Kamau. He is as close to a perfect child as one can have. Kind, sensitive, strong, funny. The woman who lands him for a husband one day will be truly blessed. He talks with me everyday. He get's in bed with me and makes me laugh. I have nerver lacked a hug from Kamau, or a smile, or a joke, or silly voice. He's a natural actor. Always trying to please his mama.

But he's twelve.

Sometimes we creep up on love with fear and trembling because we haven't gotten enough and think the supply is always about to run out. Like the person who didn't have enough food as a child. And they horde food as an adult. Sometimes we think there won't be any love if we don't stuff our cabinets or bodies full of it.

Kamau needed me to email him a paper he'd written so he could print it out at school. I sent the attachment to him, and wanted to write a personal note to my sweet boy. I let him know the file was attached. I said, "Have a wonderful day." I wanted to say, "I love you." But he's twelve. A boy. At school. When Abby was twelve we had to drop her off at school down the street so nobody would see the car she got out of! I know the whole adolescent my parents embarrass me thing. I wanted to tell my boy I love him, but fretted that his friends would see. He wouldn't want his mom declaring her love. That stuff was for at home. So I typed. XXOO.

We walks so tentatively to love sometimes, tired to the bone.

I keep checking my email and realize Kamau has gotten his email and responded. Now mind you, I'd emailed Abby something to school days before in which she received and promptly did not acknowledge I existed. I didn't expect a response from Kamau.

I open the email. He'd written:

THX LOVE YA =) XXOO

MAUI

Sometimes when you least expect it, when your own dreams tell you how unpretty you are (not to mention you have bad dental hygiene)... Sometimes when your hair is standing on your head and you want to look like a prima donna but you only look like Don King... Sometimes when you are too tired, and sad, and sick and you know He hasn't, but you feel like God has forgotten you, and doesn't hear your dumb prayer about getting your hair done because for Heaven's sakes, people are dying of AIDS wholesale in Africa, and of what value in this world is feeling pretty...

Sometimes you tiptoe to love with rounded shoulders and your heart in a gazillion pieces in the palm of your hand, and you hand over your wrecked heart to God, and before the pieces fall in to His grasp, you peek at the image--the eikon--of your own smiling face in God's palm, and it's the only face you see there.

Sometimes you send your sweet boy an email, and put XXOO where you want to just say I love you, and he surprises you by sending you his love back, in all caps.

Mair

Friday, October 27, 2006

Made. Loved. Taken Care Of.

Friday night.

I'm working on the book. I'm in the home stretch, and it's always hard to plow toward the ending--for me the hardest part to write. I've been sick lately. More pain. Muscle weakness, and some new, troubling thing. My muscles twitch uncontrollably, especially at night right before I go to sleep. My shoulders, arms, fingers, legs, feet take turns jerking until I sleep.

I'm exhausted. I don't know how I keep writing pages because I have NOTHING right now. Sleep. Hurt. Write. That's the cycle of my life. When was the last time I combed my hair? Did I mention I'm exhausted? Beyond tired.

The kids have taken to sitting on the bed with me. ZZ is on my left side playing with my Coloring Your Prayers book. Abby is on the foot of the bed watching 20/20. I'm desperately trying to concentrate, but I keep taking peeks at the television. A pretty, biracial woman is on my 13 inch screen. Alternately they show this woman talking with Barbara Walters, poised and brave. Then they show a horrifying home video of her husband assaulting her in front of their children. Her oldest son is forced to video tape the whole thing. I see a flurry of blows to her head, face. He's kicking her. He's saying things. . .

I've heard before.

Something small and tight unfurls inside of me. It starts it soft, bleating wail. I shut my eyes and try not to see it's me on the floor, and he has the broom hitting me over and over with the broomstick. The he picks up an arm exerciser, one of those things you bend and the resistance builds your muscles. He hits me in the knees with it again, and again. It would be a week before I could stand. Years before my knees healed completely. He takes an extension cord. I think he's having fun finding new things to hit me with. It's about as creative as he gets.

"Turn it off, Abby." I say. She says, "Aw Mom. It's almost off." I say it again. "Turn it off. It's disturbing me." She was too young to remember that day, when she sat in the corner, huddled with Lumumba. She hadn't even turned two. Mumba hadn't turned four. Even now she can't know anything about the day I was the naked, pregnant woman in the yard, when my womb covered her, and a strange man ran into his apartment and got his bathroom and covered me.

It was thirteen years ago. I always think I'm better. Healed. I think about the weakness in my body now. How it becomes more and more debilitating, and I don't think about those bad days when I didn't remember that I was someone who God made, and loved, and would take care of. I didn't think I could walk away from him because he told me if he couldn't find me he'd kill my mother, or my best friend. And he knew just where to find them.

Barbara Walters is asking the woman why didn't she just leave, but I know why. You have to have been that particular kind of crazy to understand. Experts can pontificate, but I've been that woman. You don't turn into the girl who can't leave over night. Your whole life prepares you for it--a thousand little things. For me it began when I was cognitive enough to ask myself why both my parents gave me away, and kept the other eight children. You start to doubt yourself. You wonder if it's because you had asthma so bad and they just didn't want the burden of you. You play mind games with yourself when you are six, and eight, and twelve. Every year you wonder until you finaly ask your mother when you're twenty-seven and with that man who takes a lot from you every day, and gives you back just a little. And it goes on and on. All your bad theology--he knows it. He manipulates everything that means anything to you. Were you abandoned? He knows it. And always makes you feel like NOBODY will want you. He seems to be all knowing and all powerful and it will be years before you find out what a weiner he is, and you shake your head, amazed that you were ever scared of him at all.

And then there will be that Friday night, thirteen years later. Your daughter is at the foot of the bed watching 20/20. You are writing the novel you never dreamed you'd write. You are sick. You are exhausted, but in better shape than you were back then, when you didn't remember that God made you, and loved you, and would take care of you.

It helps to have friends in your new life, who write and say the Holy Spirit has brought you to mind a lot. You tell them you don't feel good. And they send prayers to God and God's word to you:

"You who have been borne by Me from birth, and have been carried from the womb; even to your old age, I shall be the same, and even to your graying years, I shall bear you! I have done it, and I shall carry you; and I shall bear you and I shall deliver you." Is 46:3b,4

I'm grateful for this Word. It makes a strong case for memorizing scripture! I take great comfort in knowing that I began in God's womb, and He carried and bore me. And He carried me in those dark, hard years, never forgetting that He made me, He loved me, and He kept taking care of me.

I'm assured by the tender presence of the Holy Spirit that in joy and pain it's the same. I lie in this sick bed and He carries me. When I remember the things that make me feel small and sad, He carries me. When I have to walk on water to tell stories when I don't have anything and even the words seem to be slipping away, He carries me.

I use up a lot of tissues writing this blog. I keep telling the kids that I'm okay, even though I'm crying. I remember God's faithfulness when I myself wasn't faithful.

I wipe my eyes again.
I blow my nose.

I take a deep breath in God's strong hands.

Then go write the last chapters of the novel.

Mair

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ragamuffin Movie Star

I'm going to be in a movie. Kurt Engfehr, of Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11 fame, is producing the documentary.

How, you may ask, did I find myself on the radar of such an acclaimed film editor/producer's radar? Ha! I know him. Yes. I had another incarnation when I was just plain old Claudia Hawthorne, 20 year old student. We went to Henry Ford Community College. I was there because I'd dropped out of high school and my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Wilson, found out and begged me to go back. He said he'd give me a scholarship to college if I did, only I had a "D" grade point average--1 point something or another and nobody would let me enroll except for the community college, and only on academic probabtion. I had to maintain at least a "C" average or they'd kick me out. I'm happy to report I got a 4.0 grade point average that semester, and most of the others.

Kurt was there because he didn't have a college fund. He had to work to pay for classes, and he could only take two at a time. Both of us were a little older than the average beginning student, but at that time, lots of people went to community college of all ages. We even had a few seniors in the mix.

I'd decided to study film and television production because I've always loved story, and film and television are great storytelling vehicles. So we met as starry-eyed film folks. Oh, we were so innocent back then.

Then reality hit. I went to live with you know who--the abuser--and started having the first two of many babies. I went on to marry Ken and be depressed for many years. Kurt went to Chicago and then to California where he eventually discovered (to his horror) that he was the lowest rung on the ladder to Hollywood fame. He worked at the worst job, at the worst hours, at the worst television network and made almost no money. He was depressed for many years.

Welcome to LIFE!

I found out Kurt was co-producer of Farenheit 9/11 when I watched the movie and noticed his name on the credits. Can't be too many Kurt Engfehrs in the world. I found him earlier this year on Myspace. It was quite an ordeal finding him, but I wanted to congratulate him. I told him about my books. He told me about Eat the Poor. I laughed and said, "I am the poor." And the rest is history.

Kurt came by last Thursday and we filmed. Just he and I in a car, going to the 'hood where I spent my first six years of life. You should see that place now. It was once hailed as a model for low income homes, and now it's a mostly boarded up, cracked out, nightmare. It was a little sad going back. It made me see very clearly how I never really had a chance. And how by God's grace I've beaten every odd that determined I'd fail at everything.

I think the best thing about our ride and time together, beside the lunch we had at Big Fish, was when he asked me how so many Christians (he is NOT feeling right-wing, Republican Christians) hate the poor. And I got to tell him about the lowly Jesus, who came to earth with nothing, had no place to lay his head, and loved the poor enough to say that when we remembered, "the least of these, my brethren", we've remembered Him. Kurt doesn't have faith. I've found faith in the midst of all my suffering. It's not third world poverty, and many third world people, with the basics of life, are very happy. No, I've had good ol' American poverty. But I've also had Christ. He didn't deliver me from the food stamp card that I both bless and feel is the bane of my existence. Or He hasn't delivered me yet, but He's been with me.

At the ACFW conference, during Lisa Samson's Published, not Popular workshop, she said such powerful words of exhortation that tears streamed down my cheeks and I did some real business with God. I told God that I'd write no matter if I never got out of poverty, as long as He took care of me. Though He knows I want to rid myself of that blasted food stamp card.

God told me that it is not the Food Stamps that feed me, but it is He. That's kind of mind blowing to all you welfare reform advocates. Now, keep in mind, I do work. I make money as an author, but the symptoms of both my "disorders" are so servere that I can't work a "job" outside of my home right now. I've felt so guilty about this. My mother raised 8 kids on welfare. I'm second generation welfare--although I don't get money, I do get medical and food stamp benefits. It hurts me to work so hard and still be eligable. But even when I worked a good job (the best I'd ever had)with my family size I still qualified for foodstamps. This is as good as it's gotten for me.

So God says it's He that provides, food stamps or no. It is always He, and will always be He, and to let it be His business where the provision comes from. So I can rest assured that God is with me. And that's what life here is about, meeting God with what ever you have or have not. I don't understand why some suffer. I don't understand why some have and some have not. It's complicated. Far more than some work and some don't. Kurt is exploring these things in his own, razor sharp witty way. But I got to bring a moment of grace and witness to his life.

And God will bring the increase.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Matt. 5:3

Mair