Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Come, Lord Jesus!

The Jesse tree is heavy with ornaments that tell the story of God and us. We've lit advent candles for faith, hope, love, and rejoicing. The presents are modest this year, but we're so grateful, because almost all came from the generosity of others. Times are hard, but God is good. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is playing on my iPod.

I am waiting to receive the Lord. I am waiting for His salvation. I need Him to save me, once again, from several disasters. I need Him to save me because of love. I just plain need Him to come.

Come Lord, Jesus!

Son of God, You will come again as the true messenger of the covenant. Help the world to recognize and accept You.

Born in Your Father's heart, You became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Free us from the tyranny of change and decay. In Your life on earth, You came to die as a man. Save us from everlasting death.

When you come to judge, show us Your loving mercy, and forgive us our weaknesses.

Lord Jesus, by Your death You have given hope to those who have died. Be merciful to those for whom we now pray.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What I Did in the Bed

Hey lovies,

I am still sick. For a few days I felt better, and now I'm wracked with pain. I mean, I may go to the ER pain. I have more ornaments I haven't scanned. Bear with me. Meanwhile, I wrote something on Facebook a few days ago I thought a few of you might enjoy.

Be back soon! Much love,

I was a sickly little girl. I had asthma, really bad. But it never occurred to me, as often as I was sick as a child, that I would grow up and have eight, count 'em, eight, problem pregnancies that would, essentially, make me very sick. I would not have imagined depression or bipolar disorder. I would not have dreamed of fibromyalgia syndrome. Fibro is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But even the worst things that happen have blessings. You hurt and find your life diminished. You wonder if you will be completely disabled. You pray for healing. You give up on the idea of being healed. Your prayers become as basic as, "Let me live to see the kids grow up" and "Don't let me ruin life for them." You wish you could be like other moms. You grieve that you are not. You are certain that few people understand how much you really hurt. Body and soul.

My friend was praying for me during the thick of this. Jesus told her, "I have her in my hands." Jesus did not take away my pain. Instead, he showed me how to share in His own suffering. I wrote about some of it in Wounded.

Still, there are days the shame of such a diminished life stings my soul. There are times I'm truly embarrassed. And times I am deeply afraid. And then there are times that I am urged by all that is love in the world to remember that God loved me in this bed. And despite myself, I accomplished something.

In no particular order, this is what I did in the bed:

I stayed alive.
I continued to hope.
I refused to let go of God.
I met people. Thank God for the net!
I flirted.
I got flirted with.
I gave some smack downs.
I received some smack downs.
I reached out to people who didn't have a lot of love, and gave them some.
I inspired writers.
I became a Godmama.
I wrote several novels. Most of those novels were about people who needed love, and somehow, through a rag-tag bunch of misfits, found it.
I cried with people.
I laughed with people.
I made people laugh.
I laughed at their jokes.
I went shopping.
I talked a LOT to my sister Carly.
I talked to my kids when they crawled in bed with me.
I was humbled by their unconditional love.
I felt sad.
I wished I were a better, stronger, more wonderful person.
I watched television with them, and even helped with homework.
I learned way too much about forensic science.
I sat in companionable silence with my family.
I made love with my husband.
I dreamed big dreams with him.
I ate many meals, some of them were good.
I took a lot of pain pills. Many of them did not help.
I went crazy.
I came to my senses again.
I gave in to the necessity of sleep.
I was gentle with myself.
I was hard on myself.
I made an honest living.
I read books.
I made my first zine.
I did endless studies about the Catholic Church. Thank you EWTN!
I told people who didn't think they could that they could.
I learned how to use that ridiculously complicated Christian Prayer Book, and found untold treasures there.
I fell in love with Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and St. Francis of Assisi, and Mother Theresa.
I fell in love with St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Therese the little flower.
I experienced the flowering of many friendships, more than I believed was possible.
I came to understand what St. Therese and Mother Theresa meant by doing small things with great love.
I gave up on writing.
I kept writing.
I took business calls.
I did interviews.
I forgave people their faults.
I asked to be forgiven of mine. They are many.
I kept breathing in and out, until I no longer thought about the fact that I was breathing in and out.
I got up out of the bed when I could. And crawled back in it soon after.
I learned what was important.
I discovered the secret of life. It's very simple:
Live and love, with a liberal portion of forgiveness to those who misunderstand you, and for those who outright hurt you, or despise your weakness. When you have so much taken away from you. You have to learn that what those people believe about you just doesn't matter.
I learned to accept my limitations. And do what I do with joy and enthusiasm.

That's what I did in the bed.

tree bed by from

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Advent Image From a friend

Hey lovies,

Too sick today to blog, and I haven't finished the ornament, but I wanted to leave you with a wonderful image of me my friend Jen Lemen made. It appeared in her and her sister Patience's 2004 zine, The Soul Sister's Guide to a Merry Christmas. I'm holding a copy of Phyllis Tickle's wonderful prayer book The Divine Hours. I really do love "praying" Advent prayers from a prayer book.

Praying for you all tonight. Pray I get over this virus, if you'd be so kind.

Thanks, Erin, for sending this to me.

(claudia) mair-francis

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Jesse Tree: Noah and the Flood

Tonight the theme was Noah and the Ark, but I'll be honest with you. I didn't do this one so meditatively. My teenaged daughter needed me, and we sat and talked while I worked, and it was pretty important to be a mom and give her my attention. I believe that's God's work too, to love the people around you, and be there when they need you most.


You know, I never liked the whole ark thing as a kid's story, animals notwithstanding. I mean, there are many redemptive elements in this tale. That's for sure! But, didn't like, almost everybody in the world die! I know they were wicked. I'm just sayin'. Thank God that rainbow tells us that He's not going to that anymore. Whew.

This story is very deep, really. I mean, so not for kids.

Genesis 6:5:

"The the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart."

It's hard to imagine.

Okay, so maybe, deep down inside, I didn't want to think on this. On judgment. My good God being sorry. Grieved in His heart. And it's possible that perhaps I've wondered if He was sorry He made me some dark days. I mean, I don't certainly don't think anything like that now. I think He loves me very much, but I do have my dark days.

I took a class once, and the teacher--a Christian! A good one!-- said this story wasn't literal, and I certainly wouldn't be mad if it weren't. Then again, maybe I'm looking at this at the wrong way. Maybe the story has more hope than I'm giving it credit for, beyond the saving of Noah and those animal doubles. Even the flood part. Maybe the world in this symbol really is me sometimes, the thoughts of my heart evil continually. And lovies, sometimes my thoughts are truly wicked, Lord, have mercy on me. Maybe it grieves the God who made me for love, and to love. And how much does that suck?

But maybe, just maybe, this flood that killed the wickedness, well, maybe it's what my spiritual papa Brennan Manning refers to in his newest book (more on that later!) maybe it's The Furious Longing of God (do pre-order). Maybe that storm is a love storm that's fierce enough to cleanse us from evil. Maybe that's the point. That love is like water. And water can come in a raging storm. But that water can ultimately bring healing, and isn't that just like the Holy Spirit, often symbolized as water? Honestly, I never thought about it with such love. Reading Brennan's new book (and yeah, I know. Nice work if you can get it. And I got it!)... Reading it did something to me. It caused a shift in my soul in the best way. It healed and changed me, and I'm just beginning to feel it. What a wonderful beginning.

And how does this story end? The storm subsides, the vessel lands, a dove is sent (another Holy Spirit type) and comes bearing news of peace. And isn't peace a good thing? One of the best of things.

And we begin again.

Grace to you.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jesse Tree: Mother of All Living

I'll have to admit, this one put it to me. Today's ornament represents "The Mother of Living. " The symbol is Mary. Ha! Didn't have her with the Reformed Church patterns I used yesterday for a short cut. But that's okay.

I had a lot of time to reflect on my journey as I worked since I couldn't seem to get her right. I wanted to do well by her. She means a lot to me. I didn't always love her. I was horrified by her, and considered her, "just a vessel." Though I'd probably have a hissy fit if one of my own kids referred to me as such. I had a long way to go. Then I went "high church". Orthodox! I remember I used to watch how my Godmother vernerated the Theotokos icon and in prayer. So beautiful. So tender. I didn't understand it, but for some reason, deep in my soul I wanted it. I think I've missed having a mother for many years now. A woman needs a mother.

So, there I was creating my heart out tonight, sick, and wracked with pain. Praying. Hard work, but I'd have a beautiful design, finally! And then at the very end, something would go wrong. I had the perfect image for the scripture in Genesis (3:14a) "The Lord God said to the serpent, 'I will put emnity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." There was this wonderful image of the Mother of God with her head on the serpents head. I thought it was kinda sassy! I got it all fixed up, and at the last minute, smeared it. Then I had to find another "perfect" image, and ended up losing the snake from the first one. I had to pause. I'm not a seasoned artist. I'm clumsy with materials. I have no idea what I'm doing. How did this relate to the spiritual life?

Mary really is amazing. She may even be sassy, but she is not arrogant. She is humble, humble enough to have God's baby. But I wasn't getting that. I needed to pause. Remember how I really see her in my heart.

I say this prayer now, before I get started with my ragamuffin art. It's similar to the prayer I say when I wake up, before I pray the first office of the day, "Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise." Before I create I pray, "Lord, open my heart. And the works of my hands shall praise you." Amen.

More reflection now. I consider my trying to make good, do a really beautiful image for the Blessed Mother, and I kept failing. I considered the first mother of all living, Eve. She too failed. But Mary, the second Eve, did not fail. Eve sinned. Mary obeyed. I believe both mothers take pity on this ragamuffin diva, trying so hard to bring beauty and meaning into my life. One mother, the first, knows my frailty and sinfulness. She relates to my inability to do what should be so simple. Another, the second Eve, Mary, now mother of all living, was very much human. She knows the strength it takes to persever and be good. To do good. I drew strength from both of them.

A woman needs a mother. More than one, sometimes.

Finally, I pulled out some fabric swatches and put a touch of lace into the work, which softened it. I used a tiny catalog image of an icon. She is not standing on the serpent's head here. No, she is being a mom, gazing into the face of her son. She always, in her gentle way, calls us to look at, adore, consider Him. And He appears to stand upon her, His hand raised in blessing. And maybe in His own way, He is asking us motherless children to consider her. "Behold your mother." Just as He said to John.

I added a jewel, for I believe she is the jewel of heaven. And I gilded the nimbus of mother and Christ child with a gold gel pen. And there she was. Looking at Jesus. Soft and lovely. Simply being. The pink paper has real rose petals, so she's surrounded by roses. That is my Mama. She's the one I know, and who I needed to represent.

Still sick tonight. Nia Grace just vomited. I am so tired I don't even want to move, but I need to be a mother myself now. But I go with a little more joy for the journey. A little more peace. Mama came through, once again, in her quiet way, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. My soul is resting.

I'm grateful.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jesse Tree: The Fall

Hello lovies,

A very short post today. I am achy, and tired, but very grateful to our good God. Lot's to tell, but I'll have to wait till some things are finalized before I can share. Suffice it to say that several dreams are coming true. I am in awe and wonder of God's goodness.

And I am in love, with God's Love. In fact, God is love. More on that them later.

Today, I crafted the second ornament. The kids don't seem much interested, so it's up to Mama to keep it going. I didn't want to push them. Nia Grace was tired after school, and Aziza was busy on the computer, but I kept asking for her input, and she was content to throw me a bone, now and then.

But I found myself reflective as I crafted this ornament. Art really can be a meditation method. I had to turn off inner critics, which is always a challenge, and allow myself to make ragamuffin art. You also can't help but think about the Bible story your representing. I thought of our earthly fore-parents, a garden paradise, no shame of nakedness, and full communion with God. And then a change. The serpents temptation succumbed to. A fall, and a sacrifice. I used a copy of the Genesis story, with a pattern--to fried today for even an attempt at brilliance. Still, it was an acceptable try. I jazzed it up by using beautiful paper, and a copy of the Genesis story as background. I have so many questions floating in my soul now. God banished Adam and Eve from the garden to prevent them from partaking in the Tree of Life. I'm asking myself, among other things, "What will I do with the tree of life I have been given. How will I partake of it? How will I delight in it's flavor?"

I'm beginning to feel as if I've found a great treasure with this Jesse Tree adventure. The Bible, and sharing it with the children is coming alive in new ways. I'm even going to take it to religious ed tomorrow to share with the catechumenantes. What a pleasure.

More soon.