Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where is Mair???


Where is Mair is the question you may be asking. Well, the answer is: I'm here. Not on this blog so much. This is because my girlie had prom, and to be honest, for several weeks she has been Promzilla dragging me across the universe and back. But! Look at her!

Don't make me cry again. Don't make me.

I spent a lot of time with this kid to get her that look, and it cost a lot of money, too. But it's over, and now I'm two weeks away from deadline for my new and first non-fiction book, Let Nothing Upset You: A Playful Pilgrimage With Teresa of Avila.

The really cool thing is that I get to dive headfirst into Teresa's teachings. She's a hoot, y'all. Funny, and winsome, and wise. I'm having fun, but still, it's less than two weeks before deadline, the same day Abbie graduates. I must admit that along with being in pain I'm more than a little stressed.

So, if you don't see me, it isn't because I'm not thinking of you. It's just that life is a little crazy, but I suspect it's that way for you, too. So, let's pray for one another.

Much love,
mair-francis

Friday, May 15, 2009

Inner View: Marilynn Griffith, BFF, Writer, Amazing Soul

You're in for a treat, lovies. One of my seriously homey homegirls is visiting today, novelist extraordinaire, Marilynn Griffith. I met Mary write here on raga-d. She just appeared one day with a flurry of comments. I knew when I read the first one she was truly my soul sister. That was five years ago, and Mary has gone the distance with me. We've laughed, cried, and held each other up through some good times, and some rough times. I'd trust her with my life, and I can't say that about too many people.

Mary isn't just a friend to me. She's a mentor. I don't think I could have written a single book without her love, support, guidance, and teaching. She's between the lines in all my novels, lovies. Every one of them.

Mary has a new book out, Mom's the Word. If you haven't read her books yet, you owe it to yourself to run out and get one right now. Start with Mom's the Word. Then go back to Pink and work your way up to pre-ordering Songs of Deliverance, the sequel to her ridiculously amazing and incredible book, Rhythms of Grace.

Tell me about Mom's the Word.

Mom's the word is a book about marriage, motherhood and discovering
God's best surprises in the places we least expect. It's about
rediscovery, friendship and the poetic rhythm of God's love.

You write so beautifully about women's friendships, and they're often very complex relationships. Why do you think this theme comes up so often in your work?

Perhaps because it's something I struggle with in my own life. As a child, I was friendly with everyone but only allowed to have a few friends. My cousins were my friends. Books were my friends. My
grandmother was my friend. I knew a lot of people and liked them, but
I know that being my friend isn't always easy. You know that better
than anybody! My family takes a lot of my time and my books and work
seem to take the rest.

I've had seasons, especially when my children were young, or during my
worst depressions, when I felt like the lone wolf. I wasn't a good friend to
anybody, and I felt impoverished and friendless, which may or may not have
been true. In other seasons I was so nourished by my "girls". And of course,
there were also those relationships I had that went through rough patches.
They were, and are, complicated. Have friendships been challenging in your
own life?

Definitely. I am amazed as I observe some women in their
relationships. They just seem to know how to be friends. It's easy to
be misunderstood or be misunderstood in today's flurry of emails,
tweets and dings. It's always nice to have some women who just get
you--warts and all.

Your warts are fabulous. And they're funny, sometimes hysterically. You're at your best when you're writing about the warts. That, and when you're penning those big, epic, juicy love stories of yours. What were you like before you were a wife and mother?

Wow. What a question. That's hard to remember. I was very ambitious, I
remember that. Smart. Driven. Broken. A lot like most young women. Oh,
and I wasn't getting married or having more than one kid.

What were your goals and dreams?

They changed so often that I don't remember them all but they were all
lofty: doctor, engineer, stuff like that. Nothing that I really wanted
to do, but things that I was capable of. I didn't have a good grasp of
purpose. I didn't want to be poor or alone. I remember that. And I
didn't want to be at work when my kid (only one, remember?) got home
from school. I remember that.

You had me beat. I don't think I had much real ambition except to be a wife and mom and writer. Little did I know how difficult all of the above would be. And what are you like now, you incredible wifey and mommy?

Not so incredible. Silly, serious and everything in between. A bit
crazy most days, but who isn't?

I know, right? Some of us are more than a little bit. What are your current goals and dreams?

Ha! To make it through the next 30 days alive. How's that?

I'll take it. In fact, I'll take making it through the next 2 weeks, or even today. It's Prom day here at LaCasa Burney. Pray for us! That child wore me out, but is she ever bright and shiny today.

What's it like to be a writing mom, Mary?

Beautiful. Crazy. Hard. It's a great privilege and I thank each of my
readers for giving me the opportunity to experience it.

We should be thanking you. I've had moments reading your books in which a turn of a phrase took my breath away. You're amazing. Seriously. So, which is harder? Wife and mom, or writer?

I think you've got the order right. Being a wife isn't hard, but being
a good one is and I often miss the mark. Same with parenting. The real
books I'm leaving behind are written on the hearts of my family.
Scary.

Terrifying. I used to tell my folks here that I hoped to do well as a writer so I could pay for their therapy. And they're all so different. If what we leave behind is written on their hearts, those are going to be some very diverse books. I guess we'll have to see, eh?

Brave soul, you put so much put so much poetry into this novel. Are these
really Karol's poems? How much Mary is in those amazing verses?

Oh, there's a lot of Mary in there, I suppose. I just cut the vein and
bled on this one. I had no plan for the poems at all. They just sort
of went in. Once there, they seemed to fit. I love poetry.

Again, you're at your best writing like that. I remember your 2004 blog. Smokin'!

Is it easier for you to write poetry than fiction? I feel totally exposed
when I write poetry. Not to mention I'm so not good at it. You inspired me
in this one.

Sometimes there is no room for thought, just the words, raw and
straining for the sun. They open up and I write them down, glad for
the distraction. I once spent three years revising a poem.

Now, that's how to write! God save me from speedy manuscripts. But sometimes we do what we have to. You know all about that.

Is the process of writing poetry different than writing fiction for you?

Hmmm... The poems just come. I'm always glad to see them. The fiction?
Well, sometimes it must be coaxed off the ledge and back into the
book.

I know what you mean. Sometimes, I have to be coaxed off the ledge when I'm writing.

What else are you working on? In case you didn't get the hint, I've
opened the door for you to shamelessly plug SistahFaith.

SistahFaith, which you helped birth and have been a part of from the
beginning. The network (http://sistahfaith.ning.com) is growing and
I'm looking forward to having you as a keynote for the Garments of
Praise Conference along with Stanice Anderson and Sharon Ewell Foster.
The book comes out in February and I'm looking forward to that too.
Your testimony in there is powerful and healing, just like your
friendship.

Please don't miss this one, folks. It's beyond powerful, and so moving. If you can make it to the conference next month BE THERE! God is gonna meet us in that place.

I'm also part of the Million Blessings Anthology (Kensington, 2010)
with Angela Benson and Tia McCollors. That was my first time writing a
novella. It was fun.

That's excellent company girl. Angela and Tia are first rate, and I love those women.

Songs of Deliverance, the sequel to Rhythms of Grace will drop
December 1, 2009 as well.

Please, please, please don't miss that one, lovies. But read Rhythms of Grace first. Prepare to be up all night. You will not want to put it down.

Where can readers find you on the web, and where is your book available?

I'm easiest to find on Facebook
(http://www.facebook.com/marilynngriffith) and SistahFaith
(http://sistahfaith.ning.com) but I'm around Twitter, my website
(http://www.marilynngriffith.com) and wherever I can check without
getting too behind.

How 'bout an excerpt.

Anyone can sneak an excerpt at the First Fiction Blog Tour
page(http://snipurl.com/i222l) . They're going to do some reviews this
weekend.

Love you girl, thanks for being on raga-d.

Love YOU. Can't wait to see you in June. :)

Omigosh! Could I be any more excited about that? Click on the link for the Garments of Praise conference for more info y'all. And thank you again, Mary. You are a gift to this ragamuffin, and proof that my Father is very, very fond of me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let Me Not Be Disappointed

It was Friday morning. The first week in Lent. I'd gone to Lexington to be with Lisa. I was discouraged, full of self-pity, and more than a little self-loathing. I just wanted to rest, to do what I'd gone there to do, be loved on. I didn't think I could handle much more.

Lisa does some volunteer work at her church, and since I'd joined myself to her hip, that Friday morning I went along. I knew I'd want to spend some time in Adoration, and when she started her day, I headed to the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

I entered and peace enveloped me. Prayer books were placed at kneelers all around the tiny chapel, and I loved that. For Lent I was trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, so this was right on time, literally. It was the Third Hour, nine am. I bent at a kneeler, opened the prayer book and began to pour my heart out to God. These were the words I read:

Psalm 25
Prayer for God's Favor and Protection

And isn't it always a good idea to have that kind of prayer.

Under the heading was a scripture:

Our hope will never be disappointed (Romans 5:5)

Even after reading these words I still didn't get it. But I began to pray:

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
I trust You, let me not be disappointed;
do not let my enemies triumph.
Those who hope in you shall not be disappointed,
but only those who wantonly break faith.

The italics in that passage are my own emphasis. It appears that God wanted me to tell me something, because the words leapt out at me from the pages.

Let me not be disappointed.

I don't know about you, but I've had my share of disappointments. Maybe I've had more than my share. I've learned to be brave, shrug my shoulders and go on. But the soul gets tired, and my good God was leading me to pray this for a reason.

After I prayed those first few verses, I strayed from the text and began to pour my heart out in my own words. I asked God to be with me, and help me do His will. I asked, if He were kind enough to permit it, if He'd allow me join Lisa in Lexington to do His merciful works. My whole heart, and everything in me was in that prayer.

Let me not be disappointed.

And right there, in that little, lovely chapel, oh so tenderly, God began to speak to me.

He changed my life in those moments.

That night, before I went to sleep, I reflected on the revelations He gave me. I went back to my prayer book to experience the words that shook my soul so, anew. And lovies, I couldn't find them. They weren't the Friday daytime prayers I was supposed to be praying that morning. I'd turned the pages to the wrong day, and never realized it,To but I believe I had a divine appointment with, "Let me not be disappointed."

Today, I needed those words again. I feel as if every devil in hell is bent on distracting and discouraging me. I'm slapping their evil offerings away like I would a mosquito buzzing in my ear. But they've annoyed me. In fact, I'm nearly worn out from the effort. I needed to revisit Psalm 25 today.

Let me not be disappointed.

God, hear this ragamuffin, and make my dreams come true.

I need a miracle to move to Lexington, lovies, but I believe in those. I'm blessed to be able to say that I've experienced more than a few "God made a way out of no way" moments in my life. I'm using radical, ruthless trust that the Lord loves me enough to provide for me, even in these rough times.

I have hope. Today, it is hope against hope, but that too, is hope.

Our hope will never be disappointed.

I'm standing on that.

mair-francis


Friday, May 08, 2009

Little By Little

What an interesting few days I've had. I've been being crafty. See, I'd decided to join Ken in the body art business. I'm not quite ready to start tattooing, so I thought I'd began gently. I wanted to get an airbrush tattoo kit. Airbrush tattoos are pretty fun, and my kids loved getting them at the Ann Arbor Art fair, but the cost for supplies is prohibitive, especially with a pending move. I also thought about doing henna tats and promptly bought an inexpensive kit. And in the process of researching I stumbled upon glitter tattoos. Every girls needs a little sparkle sometime, don't you think? For the last two days I've been busy trying these things out.

First, the henna. It's harder than it seems, lovies, but I managed to get a few good designs done. Abbie has a tiny flower and vine on her tummy. It turned out pretty light, and I thought it'd be dark on her because she's so fair skinned. Next was Nia. A paisley design on her leg turned out pretty terrific. ZZ got a vine on her hand that was so so, and I put this design on my own hand.
This one stained best of all. I wish I'd have used a pattern instead of doing this one freestyle, but I'm acquiring a taste for it. Still, I won't quit my... um... day job. Or 3 am job, depending on where my brain is stalled.

This evening's experiment with the glitter tattoos was pretty bad. You'd think I could handle a little glitter and glue, but I couldn't find the right type of glue. Not for glitter tattoos. It has to have a little staying power while not being toxic. Initially the designs looked amazing. But not many moments later they were gone.

This is the star on ZZ's back, after she took a nap.
Sigh. It really was beautiful, at first. And this is with a more heavy duty adhesive. The gel glue I tried initially was a total wipe out, no pun intended.

I suck at these things. At least I do right now.

I can't say I wasn't discouraged. Then reflective. I asked myself why I was doing any of this at all. And then I started thinking of money. See, my boyfriend had been giving me little tokens. And I'd been giving myself little treats. Just as few things I hustled for, taking pop cans back, for example, and taking my mother-in-law ALL OVER THE EARTH! At least it felt that way for a few days. I wanted a means to be able to treat myself! Who wants to be a kept girlfriend? Or full time cabbie. And since I still appear to be unemployable, I thought a little body art on the side would be the ticket.

Money has never been a big motivator for me. I've always been attracted to jobs that pay NOTHING but have glorious spiritual rewards. I lose steam midway as a sales person, and it's all I can do to write a proposal and market my books. I'd rather write them! Dream them! But sell them? I'd just as soon let someone else do that.

When I was in the chrysalis I told you about I read one of my favorite spiritual writer's newest release, Robert Benson's, The Echo Within. It's all about vocation and calling. He said there is a Word God's speaks when He makes us. It's our Word alone. We often hear the echo of it. It points the way to who we are. I mean who we really, really are. This book was so important to me. It clarified so many things. It confirmed, so beautifully, that I've been on the right track all along, though I have my doubts some days. I am a writer, loves. That's who God made me to be. I've prayed so many prayers asking for a job, and the only one that has opened is the one God gave me. I sold a book this year. I'm working on it now. My publisher has expressed interest in another book. I've nearly earned out my advance on Wounded and Zora and Nicky, and while I won't be on the New York Times Bestseller list for those titles, people are still buying them. I'm still in the game.

I'm also an artist. No, I don't think I'll be having any exhibits, as you can see by my crappy henna design. But some of my most fulfilling moments have been making art for my friends in the last year (even the art I haven't mailed yet). Sorry Mich and Ali. And Ali, I'll give you yours in person!

I didn't get paid to do those things, but God, in that funny way of His, kept providing for me. People sent me checks to buy art supplies. People prayed for me. The two icons I painted for friends made them cry. There is great value in their tears, lovies. They are priceless to me.

I also am made to welcome the stranger. If you've read Zora and Nicky you know my definition of "stranger" is the person who is cut off from love. I've talked endlessly about houses of hospitality, and written about them in Zora and Nicky and The Exorsistah 2. I even wrote a house a few months ago and asked how I could begin the process of starting my own. Turns out I've been offering hospitality for at least 13 years. One after another "stranger" who was a sister, nephew, cousin, neighbor, and wayward teen has dwelled in La Casa Burney. It was so effortless, I didn't see it for what it was. It took a few people doing community to say to me, "This is what it looks like. You're there."

With all this in mind, I knew I needed to release my worries, greed, and stress. I settled myself. I breathed in and out. I asked myself if I would trust my Good God. And I will. How can I help myself? He just doesn't fail me. I don't live large in possessions (new blign from Target, notwithstanding) but I do live large in love, or try to. And God rewards me again and again. Besides, what was I thinking? Like I'd really make big money doing henna and glitter tats.

But this is what I can do: little by little I can decorate my lovies with attention and compassion. Little by little I can work through the minutiae that is uniquely, authentically mine to do. It's a small thing to put a little something pretty on someone, but the love I give with that service will mean a lot, both to me, and the person I adorn. It's a small thing to open my door to a homeless young man who can' t find a break anywhere else, but to watch the rough edges of his past soften, and see him less angry and more hopeful. That's pretty amazing. I don't get paid big money to do these things, but I always get back for my little kindnesses. God takes care of lovers. Don't you forget that.

So, I'll just keep practicing, keep writing, and keep welcoming the stranger. Most of all, I will keep trusting that if I ask God for bread He will not give me a stone.

That's just His way.

mair-francis

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I'm Back!

That was some long break, eh? And I didn't even give you any warning that I'd be gone. Frankly, I had no idea I'd go MIA, and truth be told, I didn't go anywhere, though my beloved MacBook had a brief hospitalization at the Apple Store, but she came back good as new.

No, I think I've just been in a chrysalis of sorts. Yes, butterflies again, a recurring theme in my life. I've read they are a symbol for the soul. They sure are of this ragamuffin's soul. My chrysalis has been a thin place, that weird waiting room in the spirit, between who you are now, and who you are becoming. Between where you are now, and where you are going. And finally, the woman I'm becoming seems strong enough to show her face. The fresh air feels good, but I'm not flying just yet.

Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge out of a chrysalis? Of course, they go in looking rather wormy. And then it gets really quiet, and you have no idea what's happening. I had no idea what was happening. That was something for God's eyes only to see. I can tell you this though, on the other side of that experience, I don't feel like a worm so much, but I'm not quite sure how to be a magnificent butterfly. Let's just say I'm a work in progress.

But back to my really convoluted metaphor. So, this reformed creature finally pushes its way out of it's containment sporting a brand new pair of wings. Yes, wings! But they're covered with something that looks suspiciously like blood. That image always makes me think of new birth. Birth is a bloody affair. I know this. I've given birth a (large) number of times.

The dazzling just-born butterfly is sorta hanging out, flapping those fresh wings, and going a whole lot of nowhere. Or so it seems. I think when we come out of our chrysalis' we need a little time before we cleave the air. So we just flap, flap, flap, practicing, building our flying muscles, because when we fly, we're gone, baby!

A lot has happened between my trip to Lexington, Lent, and this stormy morning in Motown. It appears when I fly, like the birdies, I'll go South. To Lexington, Kentucky. To stay! How this is all happening is so steeped in mystery and grace I can't even begin to tell you. But I will! Or at least some of it. Soon! Suffice it to say right now I have no idea how we'll accomplish moving across country in three months, but God is with us. It's He Who will keep my little family of butterflies once we take flight. I'm grateful for ridiculously amazing grace that my friend Gail says seems to fall out of the sky and land on me. And lovies, it's true. My Father is very, very fond of me.


Yeah, I feel a little sassier by the minute.

I changed my look a bit. Got this spiky 'do. I told the stylist I wanted to look like a rock star, and he did not disappoint me! See my bling? Okay, it's kinda bohemian and not really blingalicious at all, but I love it. I've been spending more time with my boyfriend. For all of you who almost had a heart attack, Ken, that guy I married, is my boyfriend. As my boyfriend he seems to buy me more jewelry. He really likes that Mair to look fresh! I'm not knocking it. The benefits of having a boyfriend are delightful. So, I've been looking like a butterfly, too. And my friend Mary and I have started Dr. Ian Smith's Fat Smash Diet. I need to smash my fat! Badly!

Around the first of the year I said this would be the year of my Tobit journey. Apparently I missed the point at the time. I thought I would journey to riches I didn't even realize I had, but instead, I found myself like Tobit, poor and blind, but given a remarkable healing and deliverance, by God's grace.

And just like Tobit, Angels are surely walking with me, as if they were my kinsmen for sure.

Much love,
mair-francis