Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Broken Strand of Pearls, and My Love

It's funny how in the midst of so much crafting a new life, the old one lurches forward and slaps you in the face, forcing you to pay attention to the pain, small and keening in some dark corner of your consciousness. You've left it there to die, but it refuses, and despite your best efforts, and most positive thinking, despite your stoic and sometimes joyful forward movement, you still hear it over there, and the sound reminds you that you're broken hearted. You're angry. You're baffled.

I blame myself most days. He was thin and beautiful. I was fat--the classic "she let herself go" girl. He could get out of bed, depressed! I wallowed there for days, weeks, months. Years? I'm 46, but I walk with a cane a lot of days. I should have
made more money--I should be making more money. I should have been a better house keeper. I should have learned to play bid whist. I should have given more, been more, cooked and cared for him instead of writing books. I should have loved him almost as much as I loved that sweet, brown-eyes carpenter who won't stop wooing me, my Beloved. And in the end, I couldn't take it all back. In the end, he didn't choose me, he choose a life without me, and why should he have? I say.

But I loved him the best way I knew how, and lovies, I didn't really know how. I tried, and now it's over. I mean really over, and the way that slap in the face releases tears you thought were all dried up, it's me in that dark corner right now, not some distant knot of grief I can't quite get at. It's me, Claudia Mair, crying all over my iPad, and writing because I can't seem to get through life--through pain--without wrestling words from my heart.

Not too long ago, I used to think our love was like a strand of pearls, not a uniform and comely adornment, but a wild, crazy, unexpected funky piece. Each pearl unique, each one born of grit, mystery, and friction that our passion polished to a high gloss. And despite ourselves, we were a kind of strong and lovely, fine, fine thang. But now that strand is broken, and pearls are scattered all over the ground, and BE CAREFUL! because that's my freakin' marriage down there, and you can't just trample it. For what?

Don't make me answer for what. It is a most unsatisfying response.

Now all that's left are the pearls that are mine, the one's I brought to us. And on closer examination, they really are breathtaking. They're amazing, because the odds were always piled high against me. I shouldn't have been able to love as long and hard as I did with what I had to work with. My love was a bonified miracle.

I've mentioned before how much I loved Ntozake Shange's FOR COLORED GIRLS. Usually I quote the poem in which one of those gorgeous ladies says, "I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely." But in this wee small hour of the morning I'm thinking of each ladies declaration of the worth of their love, imperfect as it was/is. My love is too... and they filled in the blank with their bold and bodacius declaration that ended with the words: to have thrown back on my face.

Well lovies:

My love is too important, too resilient, too passionate, too dignified despite a remarkable ability to get down and dirty; my love is too joyous, too precious, too real, too alive, and did I say too important? to have thrown back on my face. My love is too offering-from-God-high-and-holy to have thrown back on my face. My love is just too inspired.

I needed to remember that this morning, when sorrow threatened to wash me away and it was easier to resort to useless self-pity, than to move forward with my head up and shoulders squared, knowing I would have done anything to win him back, except be the battered soil beneath the swine. No one who loved as much as I did deserves that. I needed to remember the power of my ragamuffin love, and it's glorious poverty that proved once and for all that I am, indeed, a diva. I have to carry that knowledge in the same exquisite soul sanctuary I now carry my once scattered pearls in. See, I may need to make another fine work of art with that love, another wild and beautiful treasure. Knowing its worth keeps the hope of new and better love alive in me, and trust me when I say I plan to sashay my wide and fine behind into my future with all the hope I can stand.

With fierce determination,
Claudia Mair

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creating a Life

So, I have been busy, dolls, creating a life. A big, juicy life. It is vastly different than the life I'm living now, as a humble, virus afflicted daycare center worker. In the life I'm creating I'm the Sunshine Abbess, and it's my job to play with you in prayer and worship. It's some serious fun we're having, and you know what, we love this shared journey.

Only today I'm dragging. I left work after 8 pm tonight, and I still feel kinda sucky from another virus. Financial issues poke at me, telling me that my dreams are impossible. This, my friends, is the optimum time to have faith.

You can't see the outcome when you have faith, even with bright hope shining in your face. You only know the next month or few months will require walking on water, so you take off your Chuck Taylor All Stars--they'll be ruined!--and you put on some Wellies, or better yet go at it barefoot. I mean, when you walk on water probably the least of your concerns is getting your feet wet. Peter freaked out when he walked on water because the weather was bad, as if clear skies made it easier to walk those waves. How silly we humans are.

I've done an awful lot of stressing about things I have no control over right now--the hole in my bank account, the lack of funds for the trainings I want so badly to attend, the lack of tech knowledge to create the virtual monastery of my dreams. So I take a breath, stand back, and determine to simplify. God doesn't despise small beginnings, and I have to trust that if you, dear reader, come here, you'll stopover at the Abbey next week, even if it isn't high tech, and you'll continue to partake in the beautiful life with God with me. It doesn't have to be a flash wonder. And I have to trust that the Lord wouldn't lead me to the training, open the doors for me to attend, and not provide the means for me to go.

I do have a tiny miracle, maybe a first step in my ocean motion: I had a great meeting with a well-respected and much loved publisher. It went very, very well, and for a few hours-- longer that that, really, I was certain that all things are possible, especially what my heart desires most right now--that awesome expressive arts teacher training! Not to mention that God knows how much I want a new book contract. He knows it all.

Will you pray with me? I want you to be as big a part as my new life as you have been in the fullness of my Ragamuffin Divatude.

I love you so,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Me, the Child Jesus, and Birds

Yesterday I did a lot of dreaming. As you know, I'll be very busy for the next two weeks making the launch for my creative business, The Sunshine Abbey happen. The Virtual Monastery opens it's doors March 1, 2011, so save the date! Of course, I'm thinking of all the ways I can learn and grow, so I can share with you how you can have fun, artistic, and exquisitely meaningful experiences in prayer and worship using your innate creativity. Yes, YOU can be a creative monk! I spent one morning praying, praying, praying that God would lead me to training opportunities that would enhance this particular holy mission. And lovies, don'tcha know my Beloved did just that. I found the FABULOUS Chris Zydel, and I <3 her teacher training program. Friends, I am going. It's going to take several miracles, but there are plenty of those available.

So, now that I've been led to the program, I am praying (fervently) for the provision needed for me to attend. As I was praying yesterday, on the computer. I do that. LOL. A tweet came in and I looked at it. It was from a Catholic website that helped people connect to the saints. I checked it out. I'm always down with the saints getting on board and praying with me and for me. It's good to have friends in high places. As I scoured the lists of saints to read about, I came across some favs. There was my beloved Great Teresa, Teresa of Avila. Y'all know how cool we are. If I had a bff in heaven, besides Jesus, Teresa would be it. And Francis. And Dorothy, but that's another blog entry altogether. There was also St. Gerard, who mysteriously came to me a few years ago. When I say came to me, I don't mean I saw him in a vision or anything. I mean I had a burning desire to know who he was--I mean burning! I also saw Therese, the Little Flower, on the site. She's been very important to me ever since my trip to Africa. All three had something in common; they'd all had a intense love for the Child Jesus. In fact, Teresa of Avila made sure to give a statue of him to every house she founded.

For most of my spiritual life, I've been about the God/Man Jesus. He was Savior, friend, Advocate with the Father, and I know him very intimately now as my Beloved, my Good Spouse. A few Advent seasons back I really connected with him as the Holy Infant--oh, how I held that baby to my breast, and tried to nurture him. Adore him. But the Child Jesus, I didn't know much about him at all.

I love the story Teresa of Avila tells of the time she came across a child in her convent. This gorgeous tiny human was certain a mystery. She said to him, "I am Teresa of Jesus. Who are you?" And he said, "I am Jesus of Teresa." ::::SWOON:::: What a charmer, he.

I lay back in bed where I prayed and meditated that morning, and thought of the Child Jesus, in all his stunning beauty. I didn't think about what he would have looked like to St. Teresa. I didn't ponder long this child who appeared to St. Gerard, and played with him. They played together, friends. I wondered how he would look to me, and how he would pray/pray with me.

And that's all it takes most times, a little holy imagination. Sometimes I think, and this is purely experiential, that Jesus can hardly resist holy imagination. He enters into it, engages us, plays with us. There he was, a child--not my Good Spouse, not my kind Boyfriend--and he has been all that! He was a child, and he wanted to play with my glitter crayons! This sweet child had paint splatters on his clothing, and tiny dots of color dappling his face and curly brown hair. He smiles easily. This was the kind of kid who could get you in trouble with grown ups. I instantly loved him fiercely.

All week I've had a vision of myself, praying with a paintbrush in my hand. Yellow paint dripped from the tip. That was all I could see, however, until the Child Jesus burst into my heart and mind, tracking all kinds of color on his little bare feet.

Have you ever heard the story about Jesus and the clay birds? According to the non-canonical-but-still-a-great-collection-of-stories Infancy Gospel of Thomas, when Jesus was five years old he made a dozen sparrows out of clay, clapped his hands, and they came alive! I told you he could get you in trouble! And lovies, I'm in trouble.

Jesus and I have been crafting birds, almost the way I crafted them in the collage above. One little birdie is The Sunshine Abbey, another is the teacher training, another still is taking what I learn at the training and bringing it to women who need to recover their creative, authentic, most holy voices. Battered women. Raped women. Homeless women. Affluent women who have more money than they know what to do with, but no idea who they are or what they love, down deep, any more. Ordinary artist souls who forgot how divine creating is, and thought themselves out of their birthright: self-expression. Mercy, I had no idea when I had my throat blessed how much God would want to do with that freedom.

The Bird by Bird collage I made in 2009, a gift to Alison Strobel, has a quote by Anne Lamott from her fabulous book by the same title. The quotes was said by her father to her brother, who was battered by overwhelm regarding a school project about birds. "Look, honey," he said, "We are just going to take this bird by bird." And bird by bird I'm counting on the paint splattered, glitter crayon lovin', Child Jesus, who awakens all of our inner children, to clap his hands, or kiss those birdies we've fashioned and numbered together, and bring them to life.

Birdie number one is flapping its tail feathers, but it's still mostly clay as I blunder through creating a new blog and domain. But it will be fully alive and ready to take flight March 1st! The first session of the training starts a mere 21 days later. It's hard to see that bird as anything more than a fanciful notion trapped in my heart, but we believe in wings here, the kind that get you airborne. I believe! And once again, I'd like you to join me on the journey of flight. But more about that later. For now, your prayers and dreams and play with the Child Jesus yourself, are enough.

Thanking you for sharing life with me.

Much love,
PS, read a wonderful parable about Jesus and the Clay Birds here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grow Love, and Share It

I was having a good day. I was having a magnificent day. (Most) of the house is clean. I was at work, and everyone wore something St. Valentine's Dayish, and my class had a pajama party. I got to wear pajamas to work. Someone gave me a heart shaped doughnut. I had an issue I had to appear in court about. The case was dismissed. I returned to work with an hour left before I was off. I was going to have a party. In a few hours, my friends would fill my house, we would have vegetarian and not vegetarian food. We would drink champagne. I felt happy.

And then I got home. I checked my email, and there it was, a message from Ken. I am certain it was offered in kindness. I am sure it meant well, but I started bawling when I read it, and I hadn't bawled--straight up boo hoo snotted and cried like a baby, in a while.

It felt good not to cry. It felt amazing not to be consumed with anger and fear, especially the fear. I have been uber productive. Lovies, The Sunshine Abbey is officially launching on March 1st. In two weeks it will be up and running to meet your creative monk needs. I'm wildly excited. I've been busy.

What was I thinking? Did I really believe I wouldn't cry on my 15th anniversary, on the first anniversary in fifteen years I wasn't with Ken? And then I wiped my tears. I cried again, wiped them again, and shortly thereafter gratefully welcomed my guests. It was a simple affair, a room with people who have decided to love me, people who I have given myself to love. And isn't that like so much of life? There you are, quite simply, with the people who love you. They may not be who you thought they would be. Sometimes they're a ragtag group of ragamuffins who have little in common except a desire to live a life of love. Sometimes the people who love you are so common, so in your face, and in your life, that you almost forget how vital they are. They are the source that keeps you getting up. And when you can't get up, they are the ones who sit by the bed, or sometimes climb right in there with you.

I have a lovie I've known for many years. When she was sad about some boyfriend or another, I would tell her, "All the love in the world didn't go with him. There are so many ways to love." Tonight, I chose love in no small measure, but there were still unexpected tears.

St. John of the Cross said, "Where there is no love put love, and there you will find love." But I'm not a person with no love. I'm fortunate. I say, "Where there is love, grow it, and share it. And there will be enough love for us all." But love is tricky. You hold and release, and fill and watch it flow out of holes, there is the ebb of the tide, and then it comes back again, and far more scenarios than I can recount tonight.

Being here with you is growing love. I wanted you to know that. Love is here, in this strange and wonderful bit of cyberspace, and that's one reason I'm creating the abbey, to grow it, and share it with even more people. Let the Sun/Son shine!

I hope you will stay with me, and take this new, sacred creative journey. And my dear friends, have a happy Valentine's Day, even if you shed a few tears. There is so much love to be found, to be shared, and to be experienced.

Don't give up.

Much love,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Year of Unknowing Stuff

Okay, so I'm way sorry about the craptastic image here, but turns out my scanner is broken. Dude... Doooooooood! This the the WORST time ever for my scanner to tank, but maybe God is in this. It wasn't a great scanner in the first place.

Anyway, and I hope the picture shows up. Elaborate blog maneuvers get tricky on the iPad. I am busy! I work the day job. Two year olds are still killing me, bless their hearts, and I'm still living in community, trying to be faithful, and starting a new life as a separated, soon to be divorce mother who homeschools. Hey, is this me I'm talking about? WTHeck???

Anyway, if that doesn't sound like unknowing, I don't know what does. From January my life has changed so dramatically I'm reeling! But I did do my annual self-portrait vision board. That's it, lovies, and may I say, boy was I surprised. Last year's was chock full of images. This year, totally stripped down. Mind you, I'm not done with the collage. I'll probably add some paint elements, and finish coating it with mat medium, but what I want to share here is how informative this vision board is.

I began with the understanding that this is the year of unknowing. The word "unknowing" kinda spooked me. I thought I'd experience all this gloomy, dark, what the heck is going on here, and despite any effort I made to reassure myself with the idea that that is NOT what unknowing is about, my creeped-outness persisted.

I am not even a third way done with the book, The Cloud of Unknowing. Mostly because I wanted to go slowly enough to savor the journey, but also because the stress in my life has effectively made every ADD tendency in me, and there are many, run amok. I can only do itty-bitty things, read short bursts of info, take baby steps, and boy am I ever dreamy. See what I mean? I'm supposed to be telling you about my vision board revelations.

So, just before the new year my daughter Abbie dreamed I had TWO babies. They were miracle babies, and we were all thrilled that not one, but two miracles came into my life. When I was praying over the magazine images, the one of the naked black woman and baby jumped out at me. When I pray through collage, that's what I look for, that gut feeling that THIS is the image I need to pay attention to. I snipped it out, and put it aside. Not much came to me that session. Roses, and a carnation. Red, and white. Roses always signify redemptive suffering to me. Heavy on the redemptive. Honeys, I'm awesome at suffering. Redemptive suffering, not so much, that's why I wrestled with the issue in my novel Wounded, and why I still struggle with getting to the essence of such a mystical concept. Carnations--and this is just me y'all--make me think of death. All those funeral carnations I've seen in my day. I didn't want that on my freakin' vision board, but there it was. You have to pay attention to your instincts when you do the pray, paper, scissors thing. Somethings, many many things, will die this year, but that ain't all bad. Somethings really needed to go, and rest in peace!

I also used the small image of Our Lady as envisioned by St. Catherine Laboure. You can GOOGLE her. This was the image my raised me mama gave me when I was about seven or eight. We were ridiculously not Catholic. Nothing in my life was Catholic, but receive a necklace of the Virgin Mary I did, and this was it. I think she was drawing me to her Son, and mother love even then. And here she is again, arms outstretched. I may really need a mom this year (so say my instincts). Jesus is good to give me his.

And here I am, too, trying to process all, being courageous, and not afraid. The Year of Unknowing is wild with change, but it isn't necessarily (always) terrifying. Today, I am full of dreams and plans for my sacred, creative business. If you like me friends, you are going to get the best, most authentic, and generous version of me soon, when I finally launch The Sunshine Abbey. I hope you stick around. I feel as if I am in a warm, safe, womb. It is dark, I cannot see what will happen, but I feel so connected to God. And loved. If love makes you real, I am feeling oh so very, very REAL. And not afraid of the dark.

The text is called The Prayer of Privy Counsel I found it in the introduction to the audio version of The Cloud of Unknowing I purchased on Audible, that also has The Book of Privy Counsel by the same anonymous English monk. I modified it a teensy bit. It says:

That which I am and the way that I am,
with all my gifts of nature and grace,
you have given me, O Lord, and you are
all this. I offer it to you, principally
to praise you and help my fellow human beings (anonymonk wrote fellow Christians)
and myself.

I pray this year that I will be able to serve, share and love, here, through any new books I may have traditioanally published, and the SuperFantabulicious ebooks and e-courses you find on the soon to be born Sunshine Abbey.

I think the year of Unknowing will be full of surprises. What say ye?

mair, who has not forgotten you are still waiting for chapter 2 of the NPWitY. Soon! Keep coming back!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Blessing of the Throat

So, I drag myself to church Sunday morning. I haven't been to church since God only knows--well, it's been awhile. Some Sundays I was working. Some I was sleeping after working all night the night before on third shift--yes, the daycare is open 24 hours. And sometimes, I was just plain old sick. A lot of it was sickness of the soon-to-be-divorced-and-dear-God-I'm-depressed kind. But I was determined go. I made sure to get some sleep. Let me tell you, we don't know sleeping at night in this house, but I did, and slept the night through (except for Lumumba waking me up at 4 to ask a question. At 4 am!) Of course, usually I'm wide awake at that hour. But I digress.

I wore the purple dress for the first time. It's a size smaller than most of the dresses in my wardrobe, and it's got this cool "tribal" kind of pattern that makes me think of Africa. I thought I'd feel a little divalicious in it, and I've needed to feel that recently. I put on make up. Not much. Just enough to sprinkle my steps with pep, and I headed out and, will wonders cease? I actually made it on time and got a seat instead of having to stand.

I didn't know until recently that pending divorce is capable of wiping away trillions of brain cells. I knew it was February, but I couldn't tell you the exact date. I knew it wasn't Lent yet, and I'd passed Epiphany and was in ordinary time. Everything else was fuzzy. Turns out, whether it was today proper or not, we were celebrating the memorial of St. Blaise, and anyone who wanted to could come forward to receive the blessing of the throat.

I have to admit, in my convert zeal I have tended to stick to the usual suspects among the saints--St. Mary of Egypt being the exception, and she is far more well known in the Eastern Church than the Western one, of which I am happily at home in. I am most fond of Jesus' Mom, the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin, and that first conversion year I sniffed, snotted and cried my way through many a rosary with the soothing sound of Fr. Benedict Groeschel crooning the prayers through the headphones on my iPod. But Our Lady is easy. Most Catholics, in some way, love her!

I fell hard for St. Francis of Assisi, and doubt if I'd be Catholic today without his unrelenting wooing. May I say, centuries later, God's troubadour is still a charmer. Dorothy Day, who at this stage is still a Servant of God in the canonization process, informs me day by day, no pun intended. How can I forget the three T's, Blessed Mother Theresa, who stole my heart when I was very much a Protestant, and Therese, the little flower, who haunted me in Africa, urging me to think small, and do little things with great love. Our intentional community here in Lexington is called the Little Way in her honor. Certainly the Great Teresa, my dear friend, Teresa of Avila, drew very close to me, especially as I was writing God Alone Is Enough. St. Blaise, however? Insert blank stare here. Dude was a totally mystery.

Fr. Norman told us that St. Blaise was a Bishop and martyr, who is well known as a patron of those with throat problems because he is known for having saved the life of a child who was choking on a fishbone. Traditionally, the blessing of the throat takes uses two candles, crossed together and tied by red ribbon (ours were white ribbons, who know why.). With the crossed candles the priest or deacon says a blessing. I needed a blessing, and I didn't care if I had to swing a chicken around my head. Mama has work to do! Fortunately, no chickens were harmed on my way back to into God's pure, and wondrous hands.

I trotted down the aisle, full of hope. I may have sucked at church attendance and service recently, but darn it, God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. I happen to believe he's rich in mercy and willing to share. So there I was, Deacon James before me, with the crossed candle stick. My dear friend and Parish Priest Fr. Norman beside him, busy blessing those in his line. I felt surrounded by love. These were the words deacon prayed over me:

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, May god deliver you from ever disease of the throat.

Deacon James paused there, his eyes alight with compassion when he looked at me. And from every other illness, he added. He knew how much I've wriggler, and at that moment I felt the warmth of healing grace spread through me.

So why is this blessing so important to me? Is it because I've had strep throat twice since, September, and numerous viruses and infections? No. Well those matters were important, and I am happy to find a prayer/blessing respite, but more than that it was high time to bless my voice because I've been too quiet.

When I was with Raphael, I lost my voice. Not my physical voice, but my soul/spirit voice. I wrote a little, sprinkles of poetry here, a smattering of shiny prose there, but when your personhood is attacked regularly, it becomes harder to trust yourself. When you keep yourself deeply connected to one who lacks respect for your basic, most essential being, the most authentic you, and all your instincts and clearest impulses are blunted. My voice, when I met Raphael, was faltering at best. I was just growing into being a woman. In speaking like a woman. Post Raphael I was a mess. All the beautiful songs I used to sing were stuck in my throat.

When I say songs, I don't mean literal songs, though they too, ceased. I mean the music the breath of life makes as it soars out of you. I mean letting light and life pour out of you. I mean using your gifts, every gift, to serve.

At the end of the week, when I thought I'd be writing the next NPWitY chapter, I was busy dreaming. I visited downtown galleries on my lunch break Friday. I pored over artful blogs. I asked myself a lot of questions that needed to be clarified. I schemed and dreamed, and signed up for every free e-course that would help me with my holy mission.

Months ago I read a book by Rachelle Mee Chapman recommended to her lovely, winsome Flock. It's called Style Statement. I am a Sacred Creative. I believe and long for artful soul work, and it's time to use that voice, right here in cyberspace.

All week I felt afraid, mostly that I wouldn't be able to take care of my family. Now, I'm certain that God loves me more than the sparrows he takes care of, and his abundance is available. It's a love thing. God, in his love, cares for his children. Part of his care was the blessing of the throat, a blast of much needed healing. I am ready. To. SING!

More soon.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Blogland Security

Hello Lovies,

I've had a strange few days. This weekend I discovered Raphael was reading my blog. He felt compelled to write me about it, too. If you checked out the blog then you may have seen I put up one of his messages. I was very angry at the time--it's officially one of the stages of grief, but I never enjoy being unkind. I think I wanted to expose him, unvarnished to the world, for his continued attempts to manipulate me. I've since taken his message down--one of the several he sent. He requested that I do so, but really I did it for myself. I have enough going on. I don't need to renew the unpleasantness of dealing with him.

That leaves me with an interesting challenge. He's probably still reading. Raga-d has always been a safe place for me. You may not have seen me physically naked here--God forbid!--but you've certainly seen my soul stripped down. Facing the prospect of continuing to tell my story with him reading along with you is daunting. I sure didn't picture him as being in my audience. I like to write unfettered, courageously, and with great love. The thought of him being here made me intensely comfortable. I felt I needed blogland security to keep me safe.

There really is little security in cyberspace. You can write,but you cannot control what happens to your words. I don't want to make this a private blog. Too many people stumble here by grace, and leave with unanticpated blessings. I can't seem to delete this blog. God always reminds me that these are not just my struggles, but his, and every cross I've borne here, he has been my Simon the Cyrene, helping me carry them. My security is God's love and providence, and his awesome protection.

It really does take courage to write, especially when you tell the truth. And the truth is tricky. You interpret it, and it takes a great deal of humility. Raphael thinks I'm deceiving myself. To that I say, I'm speaking the truth in love, though like all of us, I see through a glass darkly. But I pray every day for the light of truth. Every time I sit here to write, it is an act to breaking myself open so that light can pour through the brokeness. It's all about the light, and love. Any of my books will reveal that. They are not perfect. I did what I could. God used all the books, and that is a mercy. He uses Raga-d, too.

I love Raphael. You cannot turn of love that burned so brightly once upon a time. I do not like him. I refuse to hate him. He would be surprised to know that he rarely crosses my mind, and I place the blame for my raggedy life solely at my own feet, but those feet of mine are firmly planted at the foot of the cross. Every day I ask Christ for mercy.

All that to say, I made a decision. I'm going to continue to write The Naked Pregnant Woman and share it here. I will likely stop at some point, since I'm trying to sell the memoir, or I will finish and delete it if I get the editor wants to move forward on this. In any case, I know for sure that this book isn't a demonization of Raphael, or even my own attempt to cry victim. This memoir is good news for battered women, a testimony of the grace and resources necessary to find freedom. When I was standing outdoors, vulnerable, pregnant, and naked because the man who was supposed to protect me cast me out instead, the wonder was not that anyone could be so cruel, or that i could be so stupid as to let such a thing happen to me, the real treasure is that each time it happened I found extraordinary kindness to cover my shame. I was not left out there, with no help--no love, even from strangers. God used those strangers, and I hope to be a stranger and friend to cover another woman like me.

There is life after abuse, and joy, creativity, and great love, of God and self and remarkable friends like you all. No one can take the dignity you refuse to relinqush. I was, and am very fortunate, and even though it has taken many years, God has made a beautiful mosaic out of my life. I will not give away my dignity now, to Raphael or anyone else. The scriptures say we overcome by the blood of Jesus, and by our testimony. The Naked Pregnant Woman in the Yard is My victory dance. My song of praise to God, and my siren song of freedom to anyone who has been so violated.

My friend Joe May taught me the welcoming prayer. So, with open arms I welcome even Raphael here to read. I simply will not allow his presence to deter me from completing a holy task. Mind you, just because he is reading does not mean I welcome his commentary. I am required to love him, not to be a dumping ground for his opinions and philosophies. If you continue to write me, Raphael, be assured I will not read. If you comment here I will remove your posts. You will not subject my readers to your views. Get your own blog for that. If I find in anyway you have crossed a line, and my patience for some things is quite generous, know that I will not hesitate to get a restraining order barring you from contact with me. And that is that.

I'm going to work on chapter two during my lunch break tommorow and Friday. Hopefully by Saturday I'll have a new chapter up.

I love you all, and thanks for hanging in there with me.