Friday, October 24, 2008

Good News About Hips!

I found this lovely on a Lucille Clifton appreciation site. I hadn't read the poet in years. I remember why I love her now.

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

Ah yes, the healing continues...
mair francis

image by Shan Kelly

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Rising and Falling of Water

It's 38 degrees here in Michigan tonight. I don't like the cold, so I meet Him at the beach. The one in my imagination. It's 80 degrees there, sunny, and daytime for as long as I want it to be. It's 80 degrees for as long as I want it to be, and the sun doesn't burn us.

I'm watching the water because it calms me. I cannot even believe I left Florida this summer without standing by the ocean. I am thinking of regrets, but I don't want to think of them too long. And that's when He comes.

He sits beside me in the sand. He wears blue jeans and one of those poet shirts, and for some reason most of the time I see him He's dressed like that, though God knows I don't know anybody else who looks that way. He has dark brown hair that is curly and a little long, that brushes the nape of his neck. Skin like bright brass. Endless dark chocolate eyes, and long thick lashes. He is prettier than the Bible says He is, but He shows up like this for me because I like it. I know He doesn't really look like that.

We watch the undulating water together for awhile, until I say, "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

I don't have to tell Him that it's all this beauty I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for how personal it feels, like He made it all for me. And I know the idea of that, though it may sound arrogant, doesn't bother Him. He really does understand me.

We're quiet for awhile longer when He asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Being God He knows the answer. That I do, but I don't, but we'd have to do it eventually, wouldn't we?

"Maybe I'm just weak," I say.

He looks at me, neither agreeing, or denying it.

"Tell me."

I sigh. "I don't know if I ever loved my body."

"I've always loved it."

The words are a little breathtaking. And it's funny, I expected Him to say that, but it surprises me anyway. I want to argue with Him. Say, "Yeah, but you made it." But I'm afraid of what He'd say. Of course, He says it.

"It's lovely."

That's when I bury my hands in my face. I want to say something, but nothing is there but His words echoing in my head, drowning out the sounds of water, a breeze, the soft commotion of insects at play in the distance. He said it was lovely. Fat, and out of shape. Stretch marks, and surgery scars. Crooked teeth, and the stretched out belly from all those babies.

It's lovely.

Tears come, but I will them away.

"You always make me cry! I'm not ready to cry yet!"

He gives me that shy, but knowing smile of His. Embraces me in the warmth of His eyes. "You can talk about it."

I think it's a little cliche, but He's so compelling with all that love and no judgment. I lie back in the sand. It's as warm as a heating pad, but natural and wild, like I wish I could be again. Free. Just being sand. On a beach. Under the sun in a pocket of safety inside of me. A part I trust.

I sigh. "Okay," I say. "You already know this, but, I was seven."


"And my brother had all this pornography. Some magazines, and some novels."

"Tell Me."

"And I looked, and I read. And I guess I felt like Noah's kid who saw his nakedness. Cursed. But I didn't know I was cursed until a long time later."

"You are not cursed."

"But I felt that way."

He is quiet. I go on.

"I think it opened up something that was not meant to be opened when I was seven. I think it awakened something sleeping peacefully. Yeah, I know, that stuff about even children being sexual beings the psychologists tell you, and I'm not taking anything away from human sexuality. I'm not. I'm just sayin'. I learned things no child should know. And it hurt me."

And now I do cry, and He cries with me. But He wants me to tell Him more. So I do.

"And everything just went wrong from there. I didn't know what to do with all of that...
sex, or sexuality, whatever it is... and I did a lot of wrong things with it. And... I'm so sorry, Jesus. And you know what, I still don't know what the hell to do with it. Sometimes I wish you'd take it away. All of it."

He strokes my hair as I lie there. "You know I have washed your sins away. Look at that water my baby, my heart, look at that ocean. It's so much smaller than My love. It is a less than a drop compared to my love. Nothing, compared to my love. And your sins, in
all that love, cease to exist. My sweet, baby, it would make me so sad to take what I gave you away. It was a gift. It is still a gift, and I will not take it away."

Now I sit up, and I move my body, my heavy, punished, hated body next to His. As close as I can be, hip to hip. He circles one of His strong carpenter arms around me. He is so strong. So perfect, and He has His strong, perfect arm around me.

"Jesus, I can't wait until I lose weight to love myself. I have to do it now."

"Talk to Me."

"I just want to celebrate. Love the way You do, including myself. I mean, look at this place! It's so beautiful here. There's beauty all around me. All the time. I see it in the faces of my children. In my husband. I see it in the color pink, and purple, and outrageous "I just want to be seen" yellow." In my incredible friends. You made it all so beautiful. You didn't make me to hate anything about me, and I just want to be
there with You. I want to see what You see, and love what You love."

"That's good, baby."

"Help me."

"I already am."

Again we're quiet, and I feel peace wrap around me like His arm did. I think I can do it now. I think I can.

So, He asks. "Will you give it to me?"

I want to. Mostly, but I feel oddly attached to it. I laugh, nervous and a little appalled at myself.

"I can't believe I didn't practically knock you over because I threw it so hard at you. I mean, I totally wanna let it go."

"Will you give it to me?"

"Yeah. I'm gonna. In a minute."

"Will you give it me?"

Each time he asks in a way that is slightly different than before. Never irritated. Simply asking, again, and again, each time with more love, or so it seems, because something happens to me. My heart began to sing a song, that only He and I know the words to. His questions stir me to song. Yes, I'll give it to Him.

I hold the ball of fear in my hand, the ball tangled with shame, guilt, hurt, and more than a little hate. Extended it toward Him until His hand touches mine, and covers the ball. My hand on the bottom. My distorted, twisted view of myself in the center. His hand covering it, grazing mine.

"So this is it," I say.


"I love it when You say 'yes,' to me."

"I love it when You trust Me."

"What's going to keep me safe?"

"Not what, Who. I will keep you safe. This didn't keep you safe. It kept you hidden, or
over-exposed and exploited. I don't make Beauty to hide. I didn't make you to hide you, my beautiful baby."

A pause, and I still hold that ball of awfulness.

"You can trust Me," He says, but He doesn't insist I release it, and we stay there, for a long time, both of us equally holding the ball. I wonder if He will give up before me. I wonder if He will walk away, saddened by my inability to do what is so basic. But He doesn't move. Just sits there, quiet, holding it, His kind gaze holding me. Not pushing me. Not rushing me. Loving me. He doesn't even ask me for it again.

Finally, I release it. And my hand feels cool now that it's gone. Light. Empty. When was the last time I felt like that? Free? It's so strange.

"That unsettled feeling goes away," He says. He smiles at me, wide, and open, and happy. I made Jesus happy! So much so that He laughs, and tosses the ball into the ocean, where it sinks to where
I don't know. I don't care! For as far as I can tell, loved swallowed it up.

Jesus slings His arm around me again, still laughing, and that goofy laugh is so contagious I laugh with Him, and nestle closer in His embrace.

For a long time we watch the water, and I wonder what I will do now. I've had that damned ball for so long...
what will I do now?

He doesn't offer any solutions. No answers. I didn't expect Him to.

"Guess, I'll have to see," I say, "We'll take it a day at a time, huh, my Love?"

"A moment at a time. We'll take it slow. I'm not going anywhere."

"Me, either," I say. I believe it.

We spend the rest of our day--a very long, amazing day--talking quietly, intimately, together. We feel the sun kiss our skin. The breeze whispers it's sweet nothings over our bodies. We gaze for many hours, at each other, and at the beauty all around us.

And for a long, long time, at the rising and falling of the water.

mair francis

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mair Francis' Fabulous New Life!

Okay, so, I've been living not-so-fabulously. As I finished the Exorsistah 2: X Returns, I fell into atrocious habits that trumped even my normal atrocious habits. I may as well had a cola IV for one. It was that bad. For two, I hunch over when I type, which does bad things to vital organs, and my back! And my tummy is so enormous now that it may need it's own bed. I got a rash in a "fat" place which appalled me so much I begin to research plastic surgery I cannot begin to afford.

I am tired. All the time. I think I may be in the beginning stages of diabetes.


As I did research this week I found out that in Dante's Divine Comedy the third circle of hell, for gluttons! Mercy, you don't hear that word much, do you? Was a place where the people who love food waaaaay too much dwell. They have to lie in a wretched sludge made of black snow, freezing rain and hail. Dear God! That sounds like hell to me! Give me the fiery damnation any day. At least I won't be cold. Actually, the 3rd hell sounds a good deal like Michigan in the winter, where I've spent most of my winters, whether or not I was abusing food.

But honestly, I have abused food. There. The first step is admitting it, not that if you've ever seen me it isn't obvious. Gluttony is a sin you wear on your body. Or I do mine. I'm not going to suggest every overweight person is a glutton, but we really do need to call our own sins by their proper name.

And here's another thing. I've failed to do some fundamental things to care for my body. They say many people who have suffered, especially sexual abuse, cover their vulnerable souls in bodies of fat. I think there is some truth to that, though I'd certainly never say it's a hard and fast rule. I think I hid because I've been essentially scared of my sexuality. But like most things you deny, or hide, or just plain have trouble managing, it tends to come out in other ways. Many people won't read my books because they say they're too sexy. I guess we all have our way of compensating for our losses. I write sexy, because I have a decidedly unsexy way of seeing myself. I supposed. I'd have to ponder that a little more.

I began to gain lots of weight when I left the person I have uncharitably refered to as "demon lover" on this blog. I will no longer call him that, because it is unkind, and not quite accurate, as demon lovers are incubi, and fortunately, I have had no encounters with those! Nonetheless, I left him shattered, a hull that could blown away in the wind. I weighed 89 pounds. And I was HUNGRY! I ate everything I could get my hands on because he denied me food and weighed me every day. It took all of my thirties to begin to feel better about myself, or even to begin to be myself. Forty was a bumper crop year as far a grace goes. And then there was a decline, and here I am at 44, a little sad, and a whopping 196 pounds on my small, short frame.




JESUS!!!! HELP ME!!!!!!!!

Okay, I'm better now. I'll just pretend I didn't do that at all, and we can get right back to me being fabulous.

So, I'm thinking about all these things. After leaving the unkind man, who believed people were essentially motiviated by being tortured, I decided that guilt, shame, and hurt was not the way I was motivated. I am a firm believer in love, and when I feel less than loving toward myself, I know I am deep into enemy territory. This is the time of year that is hard for me and most people with seasonal depression, though it gets worse! I've been beating back depression with a short stick, but yesterday, depression grabbed me, and beat me with the same stick using my own hand! I did not enjoy it.

I woke up this morning thinking, I want to be the woman God created me to be. Not vain, but not slovenly, not by far! I want to believe I am as beautiful as Christ, my True Love, believes I am. See, He is not Dante. He understands what drives me, even to sin, and He's made provisions for me, so that I don't have to sin. Hell is not one of His provisions, not even the one for gluttons. I decided to run, as I have so many times, for so many things, right into the arms of Jesus. And in His arms, feeling the warmth of his breath as He whispers His love in my ear, is where I will change. It will be love that drives, not my depression, not my ambition, not shame. Just love.

So, I have declared today the beginning of my new life. It's even different from my Tobit journey. It's my NEW LIFE IN JESUS' EMBRACE, and I know it! I'm not guessing! I'm there because that's where I've placed myself, and where I'm staying. It is about one thing, loving Christ and giving Him pleasure, and being loved by Him, and letting Him wooo me, as He is so fond of doing.

Now, I know, announcing something is my almost sure fire way to make sure I'll fail, but I'm going to do it anyway, with the hopes that some of you will join me and share in being loved in this way. I think of few of you who meet me here need it. Not most of you! Y'all are amazing, but a few of you are wounded in this area. It's time for us to be healed, and if not completely healed, loved, just as we are.
This is me, at number I said, today. We'll chart the progress as we go. Not necessarily numbers, oh, no lovies, we'll talk about the other changes Jesus works in me with His sweet talk.

I think I'd like to stop wearing so much black. I want to know what it is to be more conscious about what I put on, where it comes from, and what the person who made it had to pay. I don't want to have the comfort of something, that hurt someone to produce. So, we're going fair trade, thrifty, and other good stuff that does no harm.

I also want to share with you how this changes my spiritual life. We'll see if paying attention to the corporeal will help the spiritual. And I want to share my struggles. It's always been hard to drink water! How will I manage eight glasses a day?

I also want to share my hopes and fears with you. I want to make it through the winter someplace other than my bed. I guess we'll see what happens. Today, I am feeling mighty fine. And that's a good thing.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Left Hand of God

Whoever falls from God’s right hand
Is caught in his left.

- Edwin Markham

Years ago I was in a store, Family Dollar, or Tuesday Morning, some such place. They had this wood-framed, crappy print, the kind with an inspirational saying on it. Beneath the quote was square, die cut into the mat board. In the square was a cheap cross. Under any other circumstances I would have passed on it, though God knows, I have some awful art in my heart. But the quote spoke me. I bought it, and I've never forgotten the wise words written on it.

It said, "Whoever falls from God's right hand, is caught in his left." What a grace it was to me in that dry season of free-floating shame I'd lived with so long I didn't even remember exactly what I was ashamed of.

The frame is broken now. I've repaired it so many times it won't even hold together anymore. You can see the dried mounds of hot glue on the pieces. The glass is chipped. It will probably never grace my wall again--which some people in my house may be grateful for--but I can't bring myself to throw it away. Maybe in pieces, it's even more apropos. Reminds me of my frailty. My own brokeness and seemingly useless pieces.

We may not like ourselves when we takes those dives out of God's favored hand, but He loves us enough to make sure we don't crash to the ground, head first, and kill ourselves, quite unwittingly. And that left hand, that wonderful catching hand of God, just may be the hand that propels us back into the world to soar on our own delicate, beautiful wings again.

Markham also wrote:

Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.

Don'tcha just love it. Sometime the heaviness of our sins, when forgiven, gives way to much peace and joy. We are all like the woman who poured perfume in Jesus' hair, and washed his feet with her tears, whether we admit it or not. We sin much. We are forgiven much. We are thankful for grace, very, very much.

We sin, that is a sad fact of life in a fallen world, but we have an advocate with the Father. Those words might sound forensic and maybe a little social workey, but they mean, essentially, that we have forgiveness. If the whole advocate with the Father thing doesn't float your boat, how about this for simplicity:

Jesus loves you.

Love forgives, even the most vexing of our sins.
Let that heal your soul. Then, listen to this and chill.

Now, more from Markham:

No soul can be forever banned
Eternally bereft
Whoever falls from God’s right hand
Is caught into his left.

At the heart of the cyclone tearing the sky
And flinging the clouds and the towers by
Is a place of central calm

So here in the roar of mortal things
I have a place where my spirit sings
In the hollow of God’s Palm

With many thanks to Jen Lemen for turning me on to zefrank's kooky song.

Happy Feast of St. Therese the Little Flower Day

Nothing is small in the eyes of God.

Do all that you do with love.

~St. Therese of Lisieux~

Today is the feast of St. Therese, the Little Flower. I've loved St. Therese for a few years now. And I feel so fortunate, so happy that God has given me these friends to draw strength and inspiration from. They pray for me. You gotta love that.

When I was in Africa, the Little Flower whispered, "Do small things with great love," constantly in my soul. Her words were a balm to the raw, aching places Swaziland broke open in me. And even now, sick, having spent days languishing in bed, I draw from those words. Do what is mine to do, no matter how small. Accept the graces that are uniquely mine, because God loves me, even when I can't get out of bed.

After I returned from Africa, broke, sad, and bumbling about in a dark night of the soul, I went to a bookstore one day and saw a book about her. It said, and I knew this, that she believed she'd spend her heaven showering down roses on souls. I asked to to send me roses. I needed roses. The next day, completely by surprised, a gorgeous, antique framed picture of St. Terese arrived, a precious bundle in the mail. In the picture she held a spray of roses in her hand. She's on my bedroom wall right now, with a sly smile, knowing she continues to pray sweet smelling flowers into my life.

After the picture arrived, God gave me grace after grace, meeting my needs, banishing worries, giving me gentle love. St. Therese said, "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." You can't know how those words speak to me on so many levels.

Here's more from this lovely:

Yes, my Beloved, it is thus that my life's brief day shall be spent before Thee. No other means have I of proving my love than to strew flowers; that is, to let no little sacrifice escape me, not a look, not a word, to avail of the very least actions and do them for Love. I wish to suffer for Love's sake and for Love's sake even to rejoice; thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without shedding its petals for Thee...and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns - and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song.

Story of A Soul, Chapter XI

The good God does not need years to accomplish His work of love in a soul; one ray from His Heart can, in an instant, make His flower bloom for eternity...

VI letter to her sister Celine

Seeing the eternal recompense so disproportionate to the trifling sacrifices of this life, I longed to love Jesus, to love Him ardently, to give him a thousand proofs of tenderness while yet I could do so...

Story of A Soul, Chapter V

In times of aridity when I am incapable of praying, of practicing virtue, I seek little opportunities, mere trifles, to give pleasure to Jesus; for instance a smile, a pleasant word when inclined to be silent and to show weariness. If I find no opportunities, I at least tell Him again and again that I love Him; that is not difficult and it keeps alive the fire in my heart. Even though this fire of love might seem extinct I would still throw little straws upon the embers and I am certain it would rekindle.

XVI letter to her sister Celine

Amen. St. Therese, the Little Flower, pray for us.

p.s. Thanks, Bernadette for the quote and picture of Therese as a child. Other quotes taken from the Society of the Little Flower: