Sunday, April 29, 2007


Awfulizing: the act of making something considerably worse than it can possibly be in real life in your mind.

Okay, so from the moment I found out about the photo shoot I made it a complete disaster in my mind. I spent way too much time, energy, effort, money, and anxiety on how I'd look because...

I'm a girl.

And I wanted to look purty.

I've already gone through the whole "there aren't a whole lot of people who resemble me" thing anxiety issues, and I've told you about how vulnerable I felt about the themes in Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White. Then there was that whole thing about being a real live "author" again after painful things that happened with that other publishing company which shall not be named. I got to Calarada feeling defensive! And that generally makes me more than a little snarky.

But everything was okay. It was more than okay. In fact, the trip was wonderful. I had a great time. It was a time of butterflying.

One of my favorite sayings is from St. Francis De Sales. "Be who you are, and be that perfectly well." I think that's a big job in and of itself. And I don't mind it. I don't mind coming here with my vanity, and my fear, and my unkindness and placing it all at the foot of the cross. If I can tell you honestly about my vanity, then maybe before I leave this world, I can find some real authenticity. And if I can tell you about my unkindness, then maybe I can lay it down and take up love. Love is harder than kindness, but it's possible. You have to be honest about your crap though. You just gotta do that. It's an important step on the way to the big, juicy love.

I found in Colorado Springs a publishing home--and yes, I said home, that made me feel understood and wanted. Nobody has to tell me things change in this business. They change pretty fast. But it's good to feel wanted no matter how short the season.

As I get closer to the time that Zora and Nicky will release, we'll talk more about the race thing, but mostly we'll talk about the love thing. But just for right now, here are some things I'm thinking as the sun streams through the blinds in my bedroom window:

I'm ready to love. I'm ready for Thy Kingdom Come. God's Kingdom is a multitude of people of every nation, tribe, people, language. Men and women. Short, tall, beautiful, plain, fat, skinny, and everything in between. We will look like the usual suspects, and no doubt there will be surprises in the Kingdom of God of who made it there, and who didn't! I'm laying all the racism and bias and bigotry that I've inherited, and all of the unkindness and cruelty that emerges inside of me every single day at the cross right now. I am saying "God teach me to love." Lord, have mercy. That is one terrifying prayer. It is a prayer that you know God will answer. It is a prayer/lesson you just know is going to hurt to learn.

But come anyway love lessons with all your exquisite pain, because I want to be a part of a church that looks like heaven. I want to love in a way that looks like heaven. It will take courage. It will take not being afraid to move past my own comfort zone and going into the deep of being in relationships with people who are not like me.

Two years ago I went to my first Ancient Christianity and African American Conference and had to repent and confess because most of the amazing African American men who were leaders of this conference had white wives! I was mad at them for that! I'm not proud of it. But it's true. And the next year I was a little less racist and even enjoyed at least one of those white wives and I did some business with God and realized that those feelings were coming from a lot of internalized pain and feeling rejected that has very deep roots in me. Now mind you, I have very good white friends, and have for years. But this was different! But then, I thought to myself how fortunate anyone is to find love, no matter what color the person doing the loving them back is.

Last year, completely inexplicably, one of the priests at the conference, my beloved godfather, and the man I made my confession about my anger about the white wives to, gave me a quilt full of butterflies. It was made many years ago by his own grandmother. He said, "I had to keep it in the family." This year I will go spend time with him and his wife, and we are going to work on a book together. A very important book to me. In some ways I think his gift to me last year was a beginning of a butterfly time. I had no idea that a few months later I would enter a chrysalis of darkness, mystery and pain that I could not have anticipated. I believe that chrysalis was the soul night that enabled me to reach the places I'd needed to go to write Zora and Nicky, and it will take me through The Exorsistah, Malaika's Wings, and Ragamuffin Diva.

Two days before I left to go to Colorado Springs a package came to me. In it was an exquisitely wrought silver butterfly ring. It came from a lovely friend who has loved me, laughed with me, cried with me, and journeyed with me through this chrysalis, often when I didn't even know she was there.

While I was in Colorado Springs, two other friends met me. We shared a meal, and then when to Springz Ink where Heather and I finally sealed our sistahood in blood (and no, we didn't mingle our blood. That ain't safe.) We both got tattoos. And you probably guessed, I got a butterfly, and just above it, my name, Mair. The butterfly is red and orange. It looks like fire. :O)

On Friday evening, Terry, Melanie and I had gone for ice cream, and as we were walking into the ice cream parlor, and toddler came tearing away from her parents running right toward me. It looked like she was running right to me, but then she ran past laughing. She was so free and happy and wild. Just on her way to nowhere really, just happy to be on the journey. I looked at that little angel, and noticed she had butterflies all over her shirt. Isn't it funny how God just knocks you all over the head with hints?

I guess it's time to come out of the crysalis. Ready or not world, here I come. Right now, I'm fresh out of the mystery. My wings are still covered in crysalis "blood." I'm mostly staying in place, flapping, flapping, flapping wings, just testing them out, but not going anywhere. But pretty soon God is going to release me, at least that's what He seems to be saying. And I'm saying, "Yes, Lord. I want to fly wherever you want me to go."

I love Him for that.



Shanna said...

I think your butterfly is wonderful, Mair. Precious and perfectly appropriate.

Just like your Calarada adventure.

lisa said...

Welcome to the butterfly club! Got one myself three years ago!

Rachelle said...

What a beautiful post. And I ain't just butterflyin' here. SOOOOO glad you found a new publishing home. Love you!!

Joni said...

Thank you for always being so honest and open, baring your soul.

I was taught this race lesson from the reverse perspective. I grew up in a very white Midwestern farm community. Over the years, though, God has brought people of all different colors into my life to bless me with their wonderful "butterfly-ness".

One of those was my pastor in college: a black man married to a white woman. That threw my white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant world into quite a spin. But I still consider Pastor Frank one of the best people I know. He taught me so much about God's love for EVERYONE.

As did my good friend Mindy, a black friend who married a white musician-friend of ours in Detroit. They are an amazing couple, reaching out to their neighbors in Inkster as well as preparing to go to India, to minister to "the least of these".

And the men and women of Detroit Teen Challenge, who taught me that sin knows no color. It wraps itself around every little butterfly it can...but God's love can split every chrysalis in two (just like that temple veil!).

And then there's this Ragamuffin Diva, who has opened my eyes in new ways to the realities of growing up a black girl and making her way as a wonderful writer in this world full of white Christian writers. And is doing an incredible job of it.

Wow. I guess I'm getting long-winded here.

The beautiful thing about the chrysalis...most of us won't know the color of the butterfly until it is freed from its bonds.

God's ways are mysterious, aren't they?

I can't wait to read your new book, and let God teach me even more.

Heather Diane Tipton said...

I had a blast that night, getting our tattoos. dinner with you and Paula, the tats, staying up late. thank you

Chantay said...

My mom has a butterfly tattoo that honors the memory of my late grandmother. It's a different style than yours, but I think they're both pretty groovy!

Bek said...

i want to love like heaven. me too, mair.

and i love your butterfly analogies...did u know that butterflies can see in other realms? the uv realm, they can sort of "see" heat and stuff....that may be prophetic for ya...

Tom Davis said...

Claudia, I just love the way you write! Listen, I was dead serious when I told Lisa how much I admired you already. I'm really looking forward knowing you better. See you at CBA with Cook, right?

bobbie said...

woo hoo!

i think butterflyzing is the actual polar opposite of awfulizing! fly sister fly!

Candy said...

My heart is fluttering just reading this, Mair. Butterflies mean a lot to me. My grandmother made each grandchild a quilt before she died and mine she covered in butterflies. I love that quilt. I am anxious to travel this road with you into the conversation of "the race thing." It is desperately needed. I desperately need it. I think I've been in a time of butterflying myself. Still coccooned. Wondering when He's going to break me out. Authenticity. Huge scary concept whose time has come.

Paula said...

Great post. Can't wait to see the butterfly--especially after how hard it was to drive away from that tat parlor and leave two of my best girls there with all those people I didn't know--and with you and Heather doing really cool stuff together and me mostly observing . . . glad you got the orange and red . . . miss you.

You know, I get that whole just flapping your wings thing, but it seems to me you've already started those first tiny flying lessons. You've done too much and been to brave to still be in one place flapping wings that don't take you anywhere. Sure, they're getting stronger and you might not be fully engaged in free flight . . . but you aren't sitting there, either.

Kristine said...

I can't wait to read your book! :)

Gina Holmes said...

It's beautiful.

Danica/Dream said...

It's beautiful! I had to check it out since I'm so thankful it was you in that chair with Heather and not me. :)