Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Sunday of Advent and the Jesse Tree

Hello lovies,

A blessed first Sunday of Advent to you!

This ragamuffin felt ambitious this year. For the first time ever, I decided to create a Jesse Tree! What is a Jesse Tree some of you may ask? A Jesse Tree is like a family tree, only it traces the lineage of Jesus. So, it's our faith family tree. And here's another beautiful thing. Not only does it trace the lineage of Christ, it's symbols tell the story of salvation.

So, after Mass I was excited about starting. Of course, my zeal did not include the winter storm we had, which means my husband trudged outside in the rain to get branches for me, bless his heart, and I really mean that. The branches reflect this passage from Isaiah 11:1, "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."

You don't have to literally have a stump, but some people make a representation of one. I put my branches in a vase to contain them. They're kinda coming out of a circle of styrofoam instead of a stump, but alas, God is not picky about theses things. So, here is our Advent altar in the kitchen, complete with Jesse tree.
Yeah, it's ragamuffin. What did you expect? You can see we love icons around here. In the front is my itty bitty Advent wreath. I didn't know it was tiny when I ordered it. It looked bigger on the net. But it will have to do, right? Behind it is the Jesse tree. I covered the vase with a purple t-shirt I had. Purple is the liturgical color for Advent season. We are on a non-existent (in a bad way) budget here. I had to use, um, "found objects." At the top is our Nativity Icon, and on the side is The Blessed Virgin and Christ child, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Gabriel, the Archangel of the Annunciation. It's a very simple altar, but it made me so happy to create it.

The first ornament begins the story of God and us. It represents creation. Here it is:
You can see we are still on our collage kick. I took the earth from an internet image. The hands you may recognize as being from Michaelangelo's masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The words are from St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun, "Praise for the earth, who makes life to grow." It is topped by a piece of acetate I found covering a report, and I used glitter glue to stick it on, and the ribbon left from Abbie's birthday balloon. Fun!

We gathered after dinner, and blessed the Advent wreath, remembering Immanuel, hope of all nations. We lit the "hope" candle, did a short devotional, and prayed the Jesse Tree Litany:

“God’s own breath gave life to our first ancestors, and God’s own breath fills us. We were loved into being, just as they were. We are called and chosen, just as they were. For thousands of years there has been a people who have been in covenant with God, and now we are those people. It is our covenant. We trust God to be with us always, and we promise God to be faithful. We wait, as our ancestors in faith waited, for the coming of the Lord. Together let us remember all of those people who went before us, witnessing to the one true God—a people who knew how to wait.”

Respond, “Come, Lord Jesus,” after each sentence.

“Adam and Eve waited outside the gates of Paradise, and we wait, too. Come, Lord Jesus.

“Noah waited and waited for the rains to stop, and we wait, too.

“Abraham and Sarah waited and waited for their promised baby, and we wait, too.

“Jacob waited seven long years for his promised bride, and we wait, too.

“Joseph waited and waited in a country far from home, and we wait, too.

“Moses waited for forty years in the desert, and we wait, too.

“Ruth waited faithfully at the side of her mother-in-law, and we wait, too.

“Jesse waited for one of his sons to be chosen, and we wait, too.

“David waited for just the right time to fling the stone, and we wait, too.

“Solomon waited and waited for the temple to be built, and we wait, too.

“Isaiah and Micah waited and waited for people to listen, and we wait, too.

“Jonah waited three days in the belly of a whale, and we wait, too.

“Joseph waited to find a comfortable place for Mary, and we wait, too.

“Mary waited nine long months for the birth of her baby, and we wait, too.”

Closing Prayer: The Our Father

That's it. It was very beautiful, though it probably meant a lot more to me than my kids. Still. You just go forward. What else can you do? Each night we'll do another ornament, say the Litany, and on Sunday's do another Advent devotional. Again, ambitious for me, but I'm so gonna try.

Since we're on the subject of Advent, please take a peek at my friend Kristine's Advent Art Exhibit here. She actually used one of my blog entries, Incarnation, in the exhibit. How's that for multimedia, and she's an amazing artist.

Keep watching for Christ, y'all!

Love ya,
mair-francis

Friday, November 28, 2008

Make Something Day at LaCasa Burney

Hello lovies,

Today, instead of pillaging the malls for deals, we stayed home for Black Friday, and celebrated Make Something Day. I found out about Make Something Day on Sojourners. I liked it more than Adbuster's Buy Nothing Day, because it's a little more active, and besides, I like being crafty.

At first, we were just going to do our individual thing. Ken was going to work on his mural in his studio, but I wanted to make Artist Trading Cards. The kids were busy doing a whole lotta nuthin'. I seduced Ken into making an ATC by sliding one of the 3 1/2 x 2 1/2 cards his way. He was just going to do one, or so he said, and for a moment, I believed him. But then we got going, the kids joined in, and we caught an art fire. Mind you, we aren't ATC experts. I made one for my friend Erin a long time ago, but I don't think I did one for anyone else. So, it was with a little fear and trepidation that I began, my inner critics ready to pounce. But I didn't pay attention. I remember when I wanted to write. I did it for love, without the expectation of publication, and so it is with making art. I just want to be creative. I believe God put the desire in me, and a sistah has to begin somewhere. Of course my stuff won't look professional. But if I can enjoy the journey and grow, it's all good. Right?

I had all kinds of ephemera in my "art stuff" so we really had fun.

Anyway, I know they're whack, but they made me feel good. And it was a great time with my family. We spent hours at it, making about 31 cards in all. And I also made a magnet, and some serious Sacred Heart of Jesus kitsch on a rusted metal heart. I look forward to sending my 6 or 7 ATCs out in the world with a blank card for friends to decorate and send back to me.

Any takers? You have to make one and mail it back to me! No fair just keeping them, trading is the whole point of Artist Trading Cards!

And here's my whole output from the session. Thanks to Ken for scanning them for me:


The small, round glass magnet next to the heart is a little black girl's face and the word pretty.

And here are some of the ATCs by Ken, Nia Grace, Aziza, Abbie, and Kamau:

And a collage by Abbie:

Okay now, go and be artsy and crafty!

Love y'all much.
mair-francis

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waiting to Wait


Hello lovies,

It's two days before Thanksgiving, and I can hardly wait to get past it. Don't get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving. For me, it's the beginning of the Christmas season. It's the day I usually watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and sometimes, I even put up the Christmas tree, but this year, I'm tired. It could very well be the usual suspects for this time of year: seasonal depression. Fibro. I have enough energy to cook and enjoy the fam, but really, I am ready for Advent season to commence.

I had this idea of making a Jesse Tree and ornaments to commemorate the salvation story with Nia Grace and Aziza, but that may not happen. Even if it doesn't, I'd like to approach the season with a little more quiet and reflection, not just for me, but for all of us. So much is happening in the world. People are afraid, more than I've seen in a long time. There isn't much money, not that there ever is, but this year things are tighter for many, many Americans. I told my kids they were going to get love for Christmas. Abbie did not want love, but that's Abbie. The other kids were okay with it, mostly. I do think there's something to that idea. Love for Christmas. It's actually quite nice! This may be the last Christmas we have before we join an intentional community and begin, in earnest, to do the works of Jesus. But even if we don't make it to Lexington next year, I'd like for us to be more intentional and missional, and yes, mindful of the people in this world who have so little. And also, for how much people suffer for our sakes.

Last year, I thought I was innocently shopping at Walmart for affordable Christmas tree ornaments. I bought a tub of plastic baubles for about thirteen bucks, only to find out, a week later, that those very same ornaments, were created in horrible conditions. I mean, the local news did an expose! People suffered in a third world country for me to get those cheapo ornaments. Awful!

This year, I've got a few ornaments I bought in Swaziland created by gogos who did the beautiful work to support orphans. The proceeds go toward keeping a wonderful care point in business. I don't know what other kinds of ornaments we'll use. Maybe we'll make some. Maybe buy something from a thrift store. Once I bought the most lovely ornaments at a Value Village. It was like a little treasure box. Each one I pulled out of the bag a surprise. In any case, I think this season will be perfect for looking past what I want, want, want, or what the kids want, want, want. It's a good time to open the heart wide, and see how we can give, even if we've got a widows mite.

It's also a good time to listen. To watch for the light in the distance. To wait for Christ who came in poverty. A babe. God in a diaper. It's amazing really. I'm hoping you will watch and listen with me, and that we hear Jesus in a new way together. He really is drawing near. Come, Let us adore Him.

May God grant you peace.
mair-francis

Monday, November 17, 2008

Childhood Memories Meme

My bff Elysa Mac tagged me for a meme she made up, and since I'm waiting on the Nyquil to kick in, and am miserable and need to have my thoughts directed away from wondering whether my throat is closing and I'll need to be intubated, I thought I'd play along.

Okay...

1. My first words were "Batman." Really!

2. I had a doll who was bigger than me named Tammy. I drug her around by her hair, like I was a little Neaderthal, until poor Tammy had female doll pattern baldness. I loved her, even though she had gold eyes that spooked everybody, until one day she appeared to walk on her own. After that I became convinced she was possessed. It's true. Apparently, not only did I watch Batman as a toddler, but Night Gallery and The Twilight Zone, too! I took her apart and got rid of her. Now that I am remembering these things, I'm wondering if I wasn't a little bit psycho as a young child.

3. I met one of my best friends, Reggie, when he found me crying on the front porch because I didn't have anyone to play with. He was a sweet kid. I still miss him.

4. My Godmother lived next door. Her name was Mrs. Johnson. I spent many hours with her, and when I was four, she bought me a doll in a yellow raincoat for my birthday. I got stung by a bee when I playing with the doll that day. I remember it so vividly, probably because it was the first time I got stung by a bee, and it was my birthday for heaven's sake! I blamed the raincoat. It was yellow. I mean, how could that bee resist?

5. Mrs. Johnson was the first person to let me taste anchovies. I thought it was a sardine, and for years I tasted sardines, remembering and longing for the salty taste of that first anchovy. I still love them today.

6. I also tasted sauteed mushrooms in butter for the first time at her house. Isn't it amazing how taste memories evokes such detail memories?

7. I lived in a housing project when I was a wee one that was supposed to be a model for low income housing around the country. It became a hellish crack haven by the time I was in high school, but what can you do, right? For some reason, they had underground trash cans, and once I fell inside one. I mean, I've dropped a few things in the trash by mistake, but dropping "me" into the trash was a little extreme, even by my standards.

8. In preschool I fell deeply in love with a little boy named Leroy. I couldn't tell you his last name now to save my life, which is fine, because he paid absolutely no attention to me.

9. I was so shy as a young child I wouldn't look up at people. My shoulders were rounded by the time I was three.

10. We moved from the projects when I was six, and the first day I had to come home from school by myself I got lost for what felt like forever. I finally recognized our curtains, with the help of a kind safety patrol person. I've been getting lost, even in my own neighborhood, ever since.

11. I loved the holidays. I got to watch all the Rankin Bass specials, Charlie Brown, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Frosty the Snowman. I never got bored with them.

12. I may have said "Batman" first, but when I was older Robin was my true love. Burt Ward! Remember him? Or was that his name? Ha! That Nyquil's a kickin' in now!

13. Because I was the baby where I was raised, my daddy often took me to Buy-Lo, a grocery store, and Atlantic Mills, the department store next to it, with him (nobody else could go). He would buy me a toy and let me go to the bubble gum machine. I never felt so loved, protected, and pampered.

14. I grew up with three brothers. Despite being tiny and asthmatic, they knew how to make a sistah tough. I still need those skills today!

15. One of my favorite toys was a doll named "Saucy". It actually talked smack to you. Cracks me up to think of that now. And she was not possessed!

16. Despite it all, I was loved. I was the baby. Sometimes, even most of the time, I knew life was good, and God was with us.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Welcome Leonie Allan, Goddess!

Hello lovies! Sorry I've been quiet, but many of you know this is not my season. I've been battling the usual suspects, but I've wanted to tell you my progress, and share a lovely new lovie with you.

Okay, progress is non-existent. I've never felt less fabulous, but I will forgive myself and move on. It's a new day, right? I've been in so much pain, and have had very little to say. I'm still in pain, but tonight I needed a burst of joy and color. Hence, I'm presenting the innerview I had with Leonie Allan, Goddess. Last month. She is a very patient woman!

And yeah, I know. This is my first Goddess innerview. Usually we stick to divas, but you have to meet this woman. I just love her already.

The Goddess:

Okay, how cute is she? Seriously.

The Innerview:

Thank you so much for visiting with us here at ragamuffin diva. I asked you to come because I was so inspired by your art. Saw it on facebook, just as I was really getting down and dirty with God (and myself), so you were a gift, and a timely one at that. I loved the way when you friended me you called me gorgeous, and looked at my pictures. And the funny thing is, except for my facebook profile picture, I didn’t post any of those. I thought I looked sooooo fat and awful, and there you were, enjoying me in a way I couldn’t enjoy myself. It really moved me. And your work! It’s so joy-full. So, whimsical and lovely, much like you. After I enjoyed looking at your artwork, I browsed several photos of you. You look so much like one of my lovies, Paula Moldenhauer, so I was crazy about you right away, but I think I was even more drawn to you because for so long I’ve struggled with a horrid body image, and you seem to celebrate Leonie. You also seemed to be a love sponge, and that’s wonderful. So, I wanted to share you with my friends here, get an innerview of Leonie. I know I’m not the only one dealing with body issues. Again, thanks for coming. Tell me some things about your spiritual journey, and about the soul work that you’ve done that has informed your art.

Thanks gorgeous goddess Mair :)

Okay, I totally love Goddess Mair. How 'bout ragamuffin goddess, y'all? I'm kinda feeling it. Same paradox. More incarnational. Don't worry, my fundamentalist friends. I'm all about Christ working in me. I wouldn't get it mixed up. I mean that. Go ahead and exhale.

Sorry. Please continue, Leonie.

I feel dot point-ish today, so here's Leonie's Spiritual Journey in Ten Easy Steps 1.) Was born. 2.) Raised on a cattle farm by a loving & kooky family. 3.) My Mum told me I could believe in anything I wanted. 4.) Early spiritual awakenings: That the Earth is heaven. That miracles happen when you are outside. That animals are filled with grace and spirit. Early spiritual awakenings = deep love of the earth and everything on it. 5.) Instead of doing normal teen rebellion stuff, me and my sister and our friends explored astral travel, clairvoyance & psychic gifts. In between eating far too much hot bread, laughing bucketloads and cruising in my sister's car, of course. 6.) Met a couple of spiritual mentors when I was 16, and was introduced to energy, crystals and "The Celestine Prophecy." It awakened something in me that had been waiting to bloom. 7.) Met my beautiful partner when I was 18, and our mutual passion for ancient wisdom, self help & spirituality bloomed our soul~flowers into a whole garden. 8.) Was invited to my first sacred women's circle when I was 21. The moment I walked into the room to see a circle of women - brave, succulent, shining and wise within themselves, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of the rest of my life. The puzzle of who and how to be in this world was full. 9.) Following the call of my spirit, I began running my own circles and retreats when I was 24. 10.) Today, I have created my own religion - one that I will add to for the rest of my life. It's the Religion of Leonie - the spiritual wisdom and soul understandings that make sense to me, and make my life profound. There are six billion paths to God/Great Spirit. My personal path includes elements of Goddess, Native American, Buddhist, Australian Aboriginal, Shamanic and New Age traditions. Anything that says that the Earth is our temple, and I am a part of that divinity, makes sense to me.

That's really interesting, lovie. It's quite a big path! My early spiritual life mirrors your own. I used to want to be a shaman, back in the day, but I fell in love with a Jewish Carpenter, and after that, even when I tried another path, I'd end up right back to the fastest route to Jesus' arms I could find. Now I'm ridiculously happy being Roman Catholic, but I think all those other paths things taught me something about our good God. God is so much bigger, so much more than we think, and as an Evangelical/Catholic/Orthodox Christian, it's hard to say that, though I know it's totally true. I like to think I have this God thing down, but if I've got God pinned down, He (a very inadequate personal pronoun) isn't God. I have a feeling in the end, most of us are going to be surprised at exactly what the kingdom of God is all about, and where His temple is. And I think He's generous enough to give us all a chance. Thanks for sharing your path with us.

Why did you decide to create art that affirms the dignity of women?


When I was younger I created some artwork that was all artist/teen torment. And it was really dull, and I didn't feel awesome when I looked at it.

Feeling awesome is important. And that tells me something about what I'm writing. Hmmm...

So I decided to create art that made me feel amazing and shining when I created it, and amazing and shining when I looked at it. There is SO much beauty in this world and in each of us, and I want to tell the world that.

Amen, sister! Too bad we miss that beauty. I'm trying to embrace it. Thanks for your example, O Shining One. Were you always confident about your body?

Not at all. But you know what? That just didn't feel good or right. If something doesn't feel good or right, then it's a lie.

My friend Bethany says that's her main way of discerning spirits. Bad spirt = bad feeling. No peace or joy. Holy Spirit = what you'd call amazing and shining. I think you're both on to something. Why do you think that's so?

Because what is always true is beauty, love, light. What is always true is that we are Gods and Goddesses.

Strong words. I mean, most days, I have trouble being fully human!

What is always true is that we are precious, amazing souls.


I concur, though I wished I acted like I believed that, especially when the darkness hits me. Working on that.

I highly recommend the work of Byron Katie to assist you in finding the truth of just how magnificent you are.

I'll check him out, but only if he's a colorful as you.

I know so many women who were sexually abused, and in turn, hid behind their weight. I also know of many highly spiritual and sensitive women who do the same. It’s as if the weight grounds them on the earth. Can you speak of those two things?

I hear you! I've always been a curvaceous Goddess, and know it is partly due to shielding my energy, partly because I'm so focused on the spiritual I can forget about the physical.
What works for me is to totally love, accept and adore myself just as I am. I'm not going to pick apart my body because that's like putting on the ugly glasses instead of seeing what really is: Beauty. Perfection. Divinity. Just as it is, right now. It's all good, it really is.

You know, the Bible says we're made in the image and likeness of God. That's why I call myself diva. It's really about the divinity that God placed in me by actually fashioning me in His image. That's so mind blowing! But I still resist the idea. More of us need to deal with it, too. Maybe I'll write a juicy, fabulous book about it, that's colorful. Wow. The thought of that feels awesome!

What would you say to a young girl struggling with her body image?

Darling, I love you. You are such a Goddess! Forget about how everyone else looks, that's how Great Spirit made them. Remember Great Spirit made you, and you are an incredible blessing in this world. And stop reading scrag mags {gossip mags}. They suck. Only read stuff that reminds you just what a Goddess you are.

Oh no! How will we find out what Brit and LiLo are up to?

Sigh. I suppose you're right. Okay, but since we're on starlets and scrags/rags,
what would you say to an aging woman, with sagging breast, and wrinkles, extra weight, and all the things Hollywood tells us is bad?

Darling, I love you. I honour you. You are so radiant. Look at you, with your wide life, and deep stories, and incredible experience. You, as an elder of our tribe, hold wisdom, grace, love and truth within you. And stop reading scrag mags, hee hee hee. Only read stuff that reminds you just what a Goddess you are.

You drive a hard bargain on the scrag/rags, Leonie. Okay, you got me. I'm done. Only shiny stuff that makes me feel awesome now. And since I've brought up stuff that makes me feel shiny and awesome, your work is a marriage of words and images. The message seems to be as important as the visual. Do you consider yourself a writer, as well as an artist?

Both. I'm also a photographer. But perhaps most importantly, I'm a Goddess. I'm a woman. I'm a soul.

That is important! You inspire me. I've got to pull out my Sharpies. I saw the coolest ornaments on my friend's blog. Made me feel all crafty. I'm about to make a Jesse tree with my babies, but I want to do some Leonie style Goddess art, too! And by some when I can afford to!

I mean, look at this:

And this:

I'll bet Melly felt all kinds of fine when she got this! Talk about shiny and awesome!

And I want to share my truth and vision with you all, and I'll do it in rainbow ways... art, words, photographs, retreats, workshops.

Excellent!

How important is creativity to the soul and the spiritual journey?


It depends on how important you'd like to make it. I so deeply believe that creativity can be a path to remembering ourselves as Goddesses, finding peace within & connecting with the Divine.

What do you think of clothing, and adorning our bodies? How do we find a style that is uniquely ours?

I balance between wearing as little as possible at home & wearing vibrant, hippy clothes outside that make me feel great.
My style suggestion? Only wear stuff that makes you feel gorgeous and HAPPY.

Give us some things we can do, simple things, to celebrate ourselves. And you can shamelessly plug your work.

What fabulous, delicious thing can you do to celebrate how much you rock today?
Have a celebration picnic? Go for a bike ride & laugh at the sunset? Lie down on Mama Earth?
Know that you are a Goddess. A Goddess of being you.

Here's two things I think you'll really be interested in:
1.) I'm running a Creative Goddess e-course! Join me & a worldwide gathering of other amazing souls just like you for six magical, inspiring, creative & soulful weeks!
http://www.goddessleonie.com/creative-goddess-course.html
2.) Do you want me to paint you as a Goddess, and remind you of what a beautiful soul you are? Go here: http://www.goddessleonie.com/soul-story-commissions.html

Thank you so much. God bless you, honey. Let my readers know where they can find you.

Thank you Goddess Mair. You are MAGNIFICENT. :)
My online homes are www.GoddessLeonie.com and www.LeoniePhotography.com

Love is...





Love is...

Your husband making you a Superheroine after a major comics publisher's writer/recruiter takes an interest in you.

Thanks, papi.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

God Bless America

Lift every voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.


Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast'ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
'Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.


God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.