Monday, December 29, 2008

Back to Life

It's the Monday after Christmas, and I'm trying to organize things. Get back on schedule. Get back to life beneath Cloud 9, as we had a supremely happy Christmas. Oh, it was entirely lovely. I think the day was nothing short of perfect, which was most welcomed, considering Christmas Eve found me short, impatient with the boys, stressed, overworked and underslept. It was a trying and challenging day. Then Christmas Day came and everything changed.

The Christmas holiday (zany, family and fun-filled days) found me dressed modestly (always), but (sad for me) uncovered most of the time. Hubby had days off from work and was at home a lot, which was wonderful. Consequently, I went uncovered, so as to honor him, as he prefers me uncovered, as some of you know. We had delicious and cherished time together as a family making wonderful memories. I did, though, need to get used to the fact that my head was uncovered. It felt strange to be uncovered for so many consecutive days. Today was my first full day covered. Ashunoah works long hours, so I can remain covered all day, then take my covering off sometime in the evening.

Dare I say I felt some connection between being uncovered and feeling slightly 'off center' spiritually? It's not that I failed to pray, or read Scripture daily, or act kindly toward others. I served tirelessly throughout the holiday, and you would probably not notice any (unpleasant) change in my behavior at all. Still, the holiday found me very busy, and I missed connecting with my blogging, covering sisters. This is the only concrete support I really get, and I certainly missed it!

I am such an oddball. At times I feel like I'm living a divided life: now with the covering, but since it's 7:00 at night, it's time to take it off. Saturday? Lose the covering. Sunday? Great, knock yourself out (hubby is fine with me covering for Sunday worship. I love it!).

There is, I'm sure, some crazy balance to this thing. Sure, if Ashunoah were in support of it, I'd probably cover all the time. But as it is, I cover whenever I can get away with it, for the most part. For some reason, this is the way it is right now, and for some reason, it works. I am thankful that hubby allows me to cover at all. What grace! And on the days we are out together as a couple, or as a family, and my head is uncovered, there is a reason for that, too. Perhaps I might meet someone and share Christ with them. Maybe my cover might "throw them" or make them feel "akward". Maybe without the cover I am a little more 'normal'. At least on the outside. Maybe a little more approachable? Who knows, but I trust God that there is goodness in this deal being the way it is for now. Amen.

Practice Your Peculiarity

Did I mention I am an oddball? The Christmas holiday, was terribly busy, and I had little time to "practice" my cover for Sunday worship. News: I try to 'practice' how I will wear my covering for Sunday worship. It's the same as laying out my clothes for Sunday, or taking my shower on Saturday night. The hope is that it will save time on Sunday morning, when things are hectic and sometimes scattered, trying to get two toddlers fed, dressed, into their coats and into their respective car seats. I am getting more in the habit of 'fooling' around with my covering: practicing styles, draping, wrapping, trying this here, fiddling with that there, trying this pin, yada, yada, yada. I like to be creative. It's becoming a bit of a problem (more on that later), but it's hard for me to just tie a bandana on my head and walk out the door. Maybe it's how I was raised. In my mind, I just KNOW folks at church are wondering: "what on earth is going on with that child's hair?! Is she in chemo? I can't remember the last time I saw that girl's hair." So, I keep them guessing with creative covering.

Anyway, Saturday was busy, and hubby's mom is in town. She is a great gift to me, as nobody helps me with the boys the way she does. When she is in town, we exchange our routined schedule for a more laid back approach to life. Ashunoah and I joke and say that his mom lives "heavy on the land." She never comes empty-handed --- she brings bags of clothes, books, games for the boys and always food, food, food! The house is usually in disarray and clutter during her visits, but I try not to complain, as she is a Godsend to me. When she leaves town and goes back to her own home, I can clean and organize. When she's here? Fa'getta bout it.

So Saturday was crazy. Next thing I know it's Sunday morning, the clock is ticking, everyone is dressed (I get the boys dressed before I get dressed), and here I am fooling around with this gorgeous fabric! It was new (to me), and I was excited to wear it, but I was just not rehearsed! Finally, I didn't have the time to fool with it any longer, and ended up at church in something akin to a draped hijab. The material was beautiful, the length and width, exceptional --- so, how could I not take a picture of it, right? My apologies, beloved. Somehow it was just enough for me to get to and from church in one piece. I felt absolutely ridiculous and was totally unsure of how I looked at church. I interracted with quite a few folks, too...no telling what they thought!

Oh, well. You win some, you lose some. If I have to look ridiculous for the sake of obedience, then so be it. Next time, though, I'll try to be a bit more prepared.

Grace, beloved....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Epiphany

I discovered, just this year, that celebration is a discipline. Which means we don't ditch Christmas because so much of the world has commercialized it. Which means we don't treat it with contempt or grow lazy in the face of it. Drag out the tree or go cut it down. Decorate it. Bake some cookies. Talk to your kids about Jesus. Create new traditions. Try new recipes. Shovel your neighbor's walk. Make some gifts, like you did when you were a kid.

I used to think my happiest Christmases were the ones behind me, the Christmases of my childhood. But my happiest Christmases are really the ones that I've had in the past 20 years or so --- the Christmases after my dedication to Christ Jesus. My Christmases these days are pretty special, too, because I have two toddlers, but they are not why I find true value in this season.

And many Christians will say, "forget Christmas; Easter is the Christian's holiday." I've heard it said and perhaps in the past I've agreed with them --- at least in theory, if not in practice. But I think so many times we Christians let the world steal from us what should be ours, what we should own, what we should hold stubbornly to. I want to take it back. I want Christmas back. And there are God-loving Christians who say, "Christmas and other holidays are just another excuse for people to indulge in gluttony." I've heard it said, and I probably agreed. Once. But no more. As a praying, fasting, head-covering Christian woman, I know there are times to fast and there are times to feast. When it is time to fast, we should do it with all humility, focus and commitment. When it is time to feast we should do it with all joy and gladness of heart. Okay, sure...I've packed on a few pounds this season between baking cookies and 'testing' (I just gotta taste everything I cook to make sure it's good!), but it's okay, because this is simply one of many seasons of my life. The time will come to fast again. Then the time will come to feast and be merry again. Wise is the Christian who knows how to do both --- who holds these things in equal tension.

Enjoy your Christmas, dear ones. May your hearts be merry and your joy wide. Let's also remember to pray for and serve those who are hurting this season, as well. Our Lord was born (and died) for such as these.

Merry Christmas,
Muhala

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recovering Joy

I'd been pressed, beloved, to get a post up before now. The boys keep me busy, and there is Christmas baking! Most of the baking now done (cookies, that is; candies have been made and most of them consumed...pies to bake next week), I find a few moments to sit and write.

I'd been sad during recent days, thinking of my father. Missing him. I'd made a cd for my siblings and my stepmother...a sort of pictorial history (set to music) of my father's life. Watching it all the way through at its completion found me broken down in tears. My sibs and Ellen should get it this week. I hope it doesn't put a damper on their holiday. I know they are grieving as I am. I was in a toy store today, with the boys, and there was a Cars character named Ramone (we were looking at a couple of race cars), and my eyes brimmed with tears. I wanted to buy a race car each for my boys (but didn't), but very nearly did just because my father's name was Ramon. My heart is heavy even at this writing.

But I am trying to recover my joy. I remember how very much I have to be thankful for, and what a celebratory season this is. Christ Jesus is born! What a joy. What a joy to serve such a loving Savior. And to have been given sons (two!) when we remained childless for so long (12 years) is a joy and tremendous grace beyond words. I feel like Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother. And Hannah. I am sad that my father is gone, but my Heavenly Father is more than enough. I feel like I need to cry and grieve the fact that my mother and I may never have the relationship I would like for us to. More on that, perhaps, on my regular blog, Testimony and Truth.

Thrifty Finds

On a brighter note, I am slowly reassembling my wardrobe: kicking out immodest items and replacing them with more modest pieces. I recently told Ashunoah that you've got to be creative when it comes to modesty. Today's fashion doesn't lend itself to so noble a virtue. Take sweaters and shirts, for example. Many are made 'short', so as to reveal belly skin when you bend or stretch. Today's jeans are made to rise low, so that you can show off more skin in the back when you crouch down (many tattoos are worn here), and when you reach upward.

I buy almost all of my clothes and shoes from a local thrift store and I make great finds. Everything in the photo to the left I bought at a thrift store (including my hat ---100% Alpaca --- which I bought for 90 cents). I try to work with what I already have in my closet, and I happen to have a few pair of jeans that I really like. The jean "jacket" you see here over my red shirt is actually nothing more than a simple denim mini dress. I also bought another one like this that is long-sleeved. I'd never wear this as mini dress (even in my less conservative clothing wearing days!), but it makes a great jacket. It covers the skin in the back that low-riding jeans often expose, which allows me the freedom to kneel while talking to
or dealing my boys. Hubby was impressed! I'm all about covering
my behind. Without a jacket, I sometimes opt for a longer scarf tied around my waist or some such thing. I'm really hot and bothered by the skin exposed in the lower part of my back when I kneel (and having toddlers, I kneel quite a bit!).

I also found this. Another nice 'bottom coverer'. It's a sweater, but neither hubby or I knew whether or not it was made to be worn alone. Never mind that! I wear it over a shorter sweater that doesn't cover quite as well and voila! a really comfortable outfit.

Moreover, I'm feeling drawn more and more to flowy, less restrictive clothing (those items are harder to find in the thrift store I shop at, though. I wish there were Islamic clothing stores around here). Snugger clothing makes me think of my weight more and I don't need to spend another minute thinking about it. A friend from church said once, some years back, that most women wear the wrong clothing size. She said most of us should be in something bigger than what we're currently wearing. I have this inner conversation with myself about how this pair of jeans, or that pair of slacks "holds me hostage". What I mean by that phrase is that I feel enslaved to get into them, and if I can't get into them, I feel even more enslaved! Wearing looser clothing, a size or two bigger, or wearing clothing that is more 'flowy' is freeing and doesn't hold me hostage! My hope and goal is to build a wardrobe with clothes that don't hold me hostage. That may mean I might end up making my own clothes, at some point, but for now, I will work with the thrift store, as it is most assuredly less expensive than making my clothes, given the price of fabric. We shall see.
All grace and love to you, beloved, during this blessed and holy season! Enjoy your Christmas if I don't connect with you till after the holiday.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fix it and Forget It

As I'm able, I hope to continue to post photos of various styles of headcoverings, tips, etc. Experimenting is fun, when I find a few spare moments, and I sometimes stumble upon something I really like. The photo to the left is the headcovering I wore today. I was actually going for just the two long pieces hanging down in the back (the front I pulled back and gathered in a knot). But, as I was trying to pull one piece of cloth through the hole which was supposed to make the knot, I stumbled upon something new --- cloth gathered at the nape of my neck, with two interconnected "poofs" hanging below the gathered section. I kept the "poof" up with a couple of T-pins that I stuck through a decorative bead (I make jewelry, and I sometimes use a bead along with the T-pin to dress a headcovering up a bit. It also helps keep two pieces of cloth together. I've also used a post earring for a similar effect, and it's great to use on thinner fabric which is too delicate for a T-pin). It happened quite by accident, but I do think I will try it again. The look seemed to work with this length of cloth and the design. I used a similar photo taken today of the same headcovering I have on in this photo, dibbled and dabbled and experimented to come up with the blog photo you see behind my blog title. Just can't seem to figure out how to make the photo "stretch" so that it's the same width as the margins of my blog. If you've any idea how I could do this, please let me know!

Yesterday, I went to church wearing the "not-quite-hijab" headcovering you saw in my last blog post. Hubby told me I looked good, so I'm hoping that means he liked it! But what was I doing in church, but sitting there thinking about my headcovering? Wondering what people thought of me. Wondering if someone might say something to me. Wondering if people think I'm converting to Islam. Then yesterday, someone joined our church who had on hijab!! I was thinking, "Lord, if she is converting over to Christianity, please let her keep her headcovering!"

I know. That's bad.

The truth is, I just gotta relax. I plan to wear a headcovering indefinitely...that could be for the rest of my life. How much of my time will I waste thinking about what's on my head? And what other folks think about what's on my head? I'd really much rather just live faithfully, obediently and abundantly. I'd really much rather be too much about the business of living, giving, serving and loving to give much thought to what's on my head. But I do want what's on my head to be a sign...a symbol of remembrance for me. How I behave, the words that I speak, the things that I think and meditate on --- all of these should be in keeping with what my headcovering represents and what it says about my devotion to God.

I know I'm fairly new to this journey, but I really just want to fix it on my head, and go on living. We'll see how things go next Sunday at church.

Enjoy your night, beloved...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Playing on the Edges...

I have to admit, I've been pining a bit for hijab. The thing is, I blend in pretty naturally at my predominantly black church wearing a headwrap (think Erykah Badu in the early days). Probably no one thinks much except that maybe I didn't feel like doing my hair. At the most, they may think I'm trying to express personal style. Admittedly, this feels "safe", and was basically what I was shooting for in the beginning.

Now, I find myself wanting to become a little more distinct. I want some people to question whether or not something is "up" with me. There are times when I feel like I don't want to be pegged so easily, and that may mean transitioning into something a tad more questionable, if that makes any sense. There are still times, though, that I'm really thankful that I can "hide" behind a Badu headwrap --- no one has to know! Yet there are other times that I want folks to know I'm on a journey, and that I am, in fact, doing the headcovering thing. What if other women were to say, "Hmmm..." and later try it out themselves? What if it makes a big difference in their lives like it's made in mine? Who's to say whether or not we would shake something up??

Anyway, this is me today. I was, of course, fooling around on YouTube and found other tutorials on headcovering. This one is playing on the edges of hijab, but it's such a pretty and feminine style, I couldn't resist.

Here's the right side.












And the left.












And the back.
It was so easy, too! I folded a generous edge around the front, put it on my head and then tied it in the back, with one side longer than the other. One side I wrapped around my neck and pinned it high so that the tassels come down decoratively in the back. The other side hangs down front. I was pretty pleased.












The Beautiful Rescue of the Cloth

Of course, Ashunoah isn't crazy about the headwrap, but doesn't mind that I wear it sometimes when he's around...providing that it sort of "goes with" the outfit I'm wearing, if that makes sense. Mostly, I don't wear it when he's around, but sometimes I do if I'm having a particularly "bad hair" day, and he doesn't seem to mind. I'm thankful for his flexibility.

Since I am quite the "part time" head coverer, there is the issue of hair that I must deal with. I recently returned to a "perm" (makes black women's hair straight, not curly) earlier this year, but then this summer, decided to go back to natural/naptural (that is, not continuing to perm, but letting my hair return to its natural/kinky state). This can be quite the process and I am less than patient. As my hair grows, I continue snipping the ends until all the perm is out. My hair grows pretty fast, and last night I was found snipping, snipping, snipping. I still have a little bit of perm left on the ends, but the blonde highlights are gone and my hair is now all dark again, save the gray hairs that are popping through more and more!

Right now, I am sporting a small afro, which just works for practical reasons. For one, hubby likes the afro on me...he likes the softness of it and likes to touch it often. Secondly, it's simple for me. I wash, I go. Why should I take a ton of time twisting, flattening, setting, rolling, taking out twists (for a crimped afro) when most of the time my hair is covered most of the day (till hubby gets home)?! It's just simpler. I can think of a ton of other things I could do with my day as opposed to spending hours working on my hair. For me, it's just one less thing to think about. I like covering, hubby likes the afro. Both work and are pretty simple. I've had longer hair for a good part of my life, but I think I'm okay with having short hair for a while. One of the most attractive aspects of headcovering is that it frees me from much concern about my hair.

Frees me from vanity, too. When my hair was newly permed (earlier in the year), I'd had blonde highlights and people would often stop me to tell me how beautiful my hair was. When I turned, it moved. It was bouncy and full of body and got a lot of attention. Probably too much for my own good. I'd actually thought about cutting it all off while it was still in it's "glorious" state just to remove myself from all those compliments and all that rave "attention". I am not my hair. But I do want to live faithfully, with humility and quiet grace and submission to the Lord.

I was thinking earlier today about the figurative and literal significance of covering. I have not been a perfect Christian, and I've certainly not been a perfect wife. Even as a Christian wife, I've done things that I am ashamed of. Things I don't want to talk about. Though I have repented with sorrow and have turned from these things, covering is, for me, a new beginning. Now I can be the wife I should have been long ago. I can wear a symbol of my faith on my head and body. I can walk away from former temptations and say, "That was before the cloth". Both figuratively and literally covering has rescued me. I am covered literally and now belong only to my God and to my family; I don't subscribe to the things I once did...I am no longer led astray by them (let this be a proclamation). And I am covered figuratively from my sin and the things I have been ashamed of. I am hidden with God, through Christ Jesus. Of course, this was true long before the cloth...this was true at my salvation experience. But now, it is though I experience these things anew, and experience them as never before. Even well-meaning Christians need a new beginning sometimes. I don't think I knew how much I needed one, until now.

But there are still things I battle with...more to come later on that. Right now, the boys need breakfast.

Enjoy your day, dear ones...

God's grace...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just Keep Walking

I had one of my friends from church over for coffee last week. We spent some good time talking and I told her that I now cover my head and I told her the reasons why. I talked to her about my bondage to vanity, and how the intentions of my heart weren't always pure when I wore what I wore. I wanted to be noticed for my slender figure, and wanted to "show off" in outfits that were quite flattering. She had a hard time believing that. Not the part about my covering, but the part about my sin of pride.

"But you want to look nice for your husband, and there's nothing wrong with that. And it's not like you wear your clothes skin tight or anything like that. There's nothing wrong with looking nice and wearing clothes that suit you well or are flattering on you," she said.

I knew she wanted to think the very best of me. God love her for that.

"Yes, but the motivations of my heart were not pure," I countered. "I was vain and vanity is sin. My pride was a sin that was costing me something very valuable. And now I just want to trade it in for something that's more pure."

She was very kind, and looked at me with something akin to sympathy. And a tad bit of confusion. This is not your everyday plate of pie. It's some foreign, weird, ethnic dish that everybody just can't get with.

And watch out for an emerging pride of a new variety: the "I'm better than you because I've been 'enlightened'" sort of pride. Let's exchange old impurities for cleaner things, but let us not take on pride in any form. Let's not judge our sister. Indeed, there is a part of me that could wish (if but for a moment!) that I were in those ranks again...feeling like a normal part of the crowd; not standing out; not going out of my way to find something that "covers" as much as I can possibly get away with.

Yet, as I think on it, I wouldn't trade it for where I am now.

Unless I am connecting with you, dear sisters, I often feel I walk this journey alone, with little to rouse me to excitement in covering in my day to day normal life. I'm busy running after my two toddlers and have little time to think about what's on my head! Yet I press forward, from time to time, seeing new insights into covering and why I chose to do so (or why, rather, it chose me!).

Yesterday, Ashunoah came home from work and I was tussling around with the boys, and forgot I'd had my covering on. I quickly took it off (my hair was already styled beneath the scarf, but the scarf was light material, and it was easy to forget I had it on).

Also, my visit with my church friend reminded me that often we don't want to see the worst in ourselves or in others, either, for that matter. If we are Christians, we naturally want to assume that our other Christian family and friends are filled with good stuff and good intentions all the time. God help us and free us from ourselves! Save us from ourselves! Covering is just a small, outward reminder of my desire to follow and obey Christ. It means I'm giving up (at least trying to!) prideful ways whose gains are fleeting, in order to embrace quiet humility, trust and obedience whose gains are eternal. It means I'm "opting out" of the world's standard of beauty and "opting in" to God's standard of beauty. It means that, once again, I'm in desperate pursuit of authenticity. And I intend to lay hold of it!

Since I was 11 years old I've suffered with a chronic pain condition that has often hindered the quality of my life. It was with me throughout my teens, my twenties and my thirties. It's still here with me today, but by God's grace I do okay on most days (even pretty well for long stretches) and I now take meds that help significantly, but not perfectly.

One day, when our first son was just a few months old, and I was still carrying him in a fleece sling that I wore around my torso, I got hit with bad pain while I was shopping in an aisle of the grocery store. I was stuck there for a moment, with Obi lying in his sling on my chest and me momentarily paralyzed with pain (and fear).

I prayed. "Lord, help me. I've got this child with me...."

I felt the Lord say "Just keep walking." And so I did. Slowly at first...very slowly. I kept moving and moving and by the time I'd gotten to the checkout counter, the pain was gone.

Sometimes it feels as though no one is around to understand me through this covering thing; to uphold me and to encourage me. Sometimes it feels like life is that big grocery store and I'm in the "covering" aisle a bit immobilized by lack of support and encouragement. Yet still...

I just keep walking.

Grace and Peace, beloved...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Famine...to Feast

Okay, confession: I had another pretty negative experience with a Mennonite woman whom I know. It wasn't as major as the experience I wrote about in my last post, as I was treading fairly lightly. She isn't a covering Mennonite, though, and she was pretty dismissive when I shared with her my desire to cover. She said that her church doesn't require that they cover, and then she sort of changed the subject. I felt a little hurt, but I pressed on. I know this isn't a breezy journey.

I'd read somewhere recently where a covering woman approached a muslim woman to ask her about where she buys her clothes (hijabs, and such). I stuck the idea in the back of my mind. I do come across Muslim women fairly regularly, I suppose...at the grocery store or on various errands. I guess I just never thought much about it. We live in the city, and it's not out of the ordinary for me to run into a woman covered in hijab. I just have to be more intentional now about saying something when I do see one, providing the opportunity is there.

Well today I had one! I had to make a quick stop at my boys' pediatrician office, and there was one who walked in! Yes, I am a little shy by nature, but I'm not afraid to seize an opportunity if there is an open door.

This woman and her son walked up to the window right next to the one I was standing at. When I had finished my business at the window and had nothing left to do, you should have seen me trying to fiddle around and buy some time! If I left then, when I was done at the window, I wouldn't have an opportunity to speak to the woman in hijab (who was still at the window). So, I let the boys play with the waiting room toys for just a bit. Then, Bo-Bo had a boo-boo, so I had to go into the bathroom to change him. When I came out, there she was, sitting there filling out the form. I was poised to make my move!

"Excuse me," I said (taking it gingerly but being focused and serious at the same time. I didn't want another let down!), "I'm new to covering and just dressing more modestly, in general. Would you mind telling me where you find your clothes?"

She smiled and she was SOOOO kind! She told me that she thinks there are some shops downtown, but that she couldn't think of the names of them at the moment. She asked me for my email address and said she would talk to some people and email me whatever shop information she could gather. She went on talking for a little bit, until it was her son's turn to see the doctor. She talked to me till the very last moment, and she was obviously quite happy to talk to me. What a blessing!

I feel encouraged again.

She is a Muslim woman and took me for a Muslim, too, until I told her I was a Christian (which didn't change her level of warmth toward me...praises be!). She told me something that I've read other women say, as well. That dressing this way is not something that they are made to do, but something that they want to do...something they are compelled to do of their own free will. I say the same thing. I wouldn't for a second want anyone to think that someone made me dress this way. I am where I am because I felt led by God one day, and that since that day I've been trying to be obedient.

I need to feel comfortable, though, in the skin that I'm in. My covering has become for me, really, a sort of second "skin". I'm not entirely used to that concept yet, though. Yesterday, my hubby's father stopped by for a visit (hubby's side of the family don't usually call first...they usually just "pop in"), and when he knocked at the door, I quickly snatched my covering off, rustled my hair, and made it look as though I had just been around the house with my head 'uncovered'. I'm not sure exactly why I did this. I need to learn that it's okay if folks come by and see me with my head covered (so long as it's not hubby, for whom I usually take my cover off around the time he's due home from work). Certainly, people may begin to talk. People may begin to ask questions. And one day, I'll actually have to break it down for them. Hubby's father is not the least bit religious; you may as well say he's an atheist. He'd probably think I was out of my mind (or not...he's come to like me more in recent years, I think). At any rate, I'm looking at my behaviors and questioning them. I think it's good to be reflective about the journey.

Having been out of town this past weekend (for my father's memorial service), head uncovered most of the time, I was ready to be back home and focused once again on covering and what covering means to me. Also, I was eager to connect again with you all, who act as my supportive community in the absence of one in my day-to-day life. I've come to value you all so much --- thank you.

Ro, I thought of you one day a few days ago, when I was without my cover and found myself praying. I threw up my arms and hands and placed them over my head. I should carry a bandana around in my back pocket at all times!

Grace and peace...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good Moments (and embarrassing ones)

For those not hip to our name changes, the names I use on this blog and my other blog, Testimony and Truth, are our native names that we've given to one another. Hubby is Kakitapi Ashunoah, I am Muhala Akamau, our oldest is Zwaraha Obigawe and our youngest is Tashumawe Nawagaki. Because each of us has such a lengthy name (!), I'll usually use abbreviations of some sort.

This photo of us was a good family moment. Except our youngest is refusing to smile. Both kids seem to have gone through a stage when they flatly refused to smile during photos. Bo-Bo is at the tail end of that stage, though; in fact, he's been smiling a lot more for photos (he turns two tomorrow!). But he had an off moment in this photo.

Speaking of 'off moments', I had a terrible one a couple of weeks back. It was the most embarrassing moment I'd had in a long while and though I'd love to forget about it entirely, I feel like it's going to stay with me a long time.

Such a naive new headcoverer I am! I try to wear my headcovering as often as I can when Ashunoah isn't around; as you know, he doesn't prefer it, so I try to make the best of those times, and -- surprisingly -- I am having a good hair week, but I digress...

So here I am skipping along, thinking all is well with the world now that I'm a headcoverer. I shopped along at my favorite thrift store during at outting with the boys a couple of weeks ago. I recognize what I'm sure is another headcovering woman (I'm sure of it!), and I'm also "sure" she will respond to me well when she finds out I'm a headcoverer, too. She'll be ecstatic!

Not.

I can't believe I even mustered the boldness to ask her, "Excuse me, are you a headcoverer?"

"What?" She had a little girl there with her, who looked to be a bit younger than my boys.
"A headcoverer."
"What's that?" She asked, turning her attention back to the clothing racks, clearly uninterested in me.

Uh oh.

"Um...women who cover their heads..." I said, rather shakily, wondering how on earth I was going to exit from what looked to be an emerging, majorly embarrassing moment.

"Yes, I'm a Nazarene Christian," she said, still searching the clothes, while I stood there with an awkward (unbelieving?) half smile. She couldn't have been less interested if she tried. I introduced myself and my sons, to which she offered a feeble, "Hi." She never introduced herself or her daughter and she kept her attention on the clothes on the rack, and I was just...well....standing there. Looking stuck on stupid.

She made it clear that she was done talking with me.

I pushed my cart past her, feeling like I wanted to cry. I felt so discouraged at that moment. Here I am facing this new challenge, joy and revelation in my life and this is how it is? I felt terrible and couldn't shake the weird way that woman had responded to me. Maybe I was the wrong color? I am not one quick to throw in the race card, but I wondered if she would have responded to me differently if I was white and wore a flowered dress down to my ankles.

As if that wasn't enough, I saw another woman, the next aisle over who looked like the Nazarene woman I'd just spoken to. I thought for a moment that they might be together, but hoped that wasn't the case. She probably couldn't have been any meaner than the woman I just left. I think they were together, though, as that was confirmed later. As I made my way to the checkout counter, I saw the two women together, talking. It looked as if the woman I spoke with was telling the other woman about her exchange with me, because the other woman was now looking at me. Oh, great, I think. It just keeps getting better and better.

I tried to erase the whole thing from my mind, but obviously, that's pretty hard to do, so I may as well write about it, right?

And, God forgive me, but the evil thoughts I had about this woman! I wanted to tell her off right then and there, up one end and down the other. I wanted to tell her I thought she was a perfectly lousy Christian and probably couldn't even convert John the Baptist with that nasty little attitude of hers. What would Jesus think, lady?!?...Oh, I wanted to ream her bad. You have no idea.

Mostly, I was hurt. Seems I've a little wising up to do. But...all a part of the journey, I suppose. Worse things have happened to far greater people.

Grace, beloved...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lazy is a Four Letter Word

Recently it dawned on me just how lazy I'd been with regard to being more modestly dressed. I remember some years back I'd put on a tank top (it was a hot summer and we had no central air) that was showing lots of skin. I remember saying, "I can't wear this." I took it off and tossed it in the draw to be worn beneath a shirt or as a pajama top. I'd felt God's Spirit, at that moment, expressing disapproval, and I responded.

Over at my other blog, Testimony and Truth, I once wrote how I'd left the house feeling like something was wrong with how I looked, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. I later came to the realization that my outfit was too sexy, and I wrote about it here. I think the post I wrote over at T&T was the beginning of me seriously responding to what I felt God was speaking to me about dress and apparel.

But I know in the past (and I still deal with it a bit), I've just been lazy about changing. I'll get something on, the skirt is snug and shows off curves, and I know I probably should change, but I just don't feel like it. Too much work. I'm already running late. The kids are already in the car, and I don't have the time to run back into the house and change. Excuses that really amount to nothing more than being lazy.

To be sure, it takes a certain amount of discipline to cover and to be modest. To get up and cover when you don't feel like covering. To change when the ensemble just does not work and isn't in keeping with your values of modesty. In the post over at T&T, I wrote about coming to the realization that I want how I look on the outside to correspond with the values I have on the inside.

Last week I had another episode. Okay, so I had on a long shirt that wasn't flattering and that covered my bottom. But my jeans were just too snug. The kids were buckled in the car and the key was almost in the ignition. But I told the boys I'd be right back, and I ran into the house and upstairs to change. Annoying and a little inconvenient? Yes. But I'd save myself trouble if I just make sure I'm right before walking out that door. The commitment to covering and dressing modestly is indeed just that --- a commitment. You don't take days off and you don't slide by, hoping it's not "too bad".

Enjoy your day, beloved...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sabbath (beneath the veil)

I was pleased when Ashunoah told me he is fine with me covering for church. He said from what he's read (from the info I'd given him last week, and also perhaps from his own Bible reading), covering is fine for public worship and prayer. I was delighted to hear that, because let me tell you, I got up at 6:30 this morning, got the boys fed and dressed and we were still rushed to get to church by 8:45 (it was our week to work nursery duty), and we had a really long day yesterday, and my hair was the last thing on my mind. Many times it's easier and quicker just to cover! I'm encouraged, though, because his permission provides me with freedom of thought and creativity...I can be thoughtful and creative about what my coverings will be for Sunday. I like that. And also, I've invested in really nice material to make the wraps. I hope to invest in more, but I also hope to grow in learning new ways to wrap the material. Reading the blogs of many of you reminds me that there are endless ways to style your headcovering! I'm excited to check out a few. Please give me your suggestions. What works for you? What do you wear most often or feel you look the best in? YouTube has been helpful here. The tutorials there are great! I wouldn't even mind wearing a hijab, but I think hubby would flip and that folks at our church would start talking.

But I'm finding there are lots of possibilities, and that dressing modestly and covering doesn't necessarily mean we have to feel drab. To that end, I've really enjoyed some of the items I've seen on the Islamic Design House website. Ordering clothing online seems to open a whole other world of possibilities. What are some of your favorite sites to shop from?

But I have also found that dressing modestly opens up a whole new world of attitude and service to God. Is it just me, or do you feel differently when you dress modestly? How I dress now reminds me of my service to God; it reminds me that I'm set apart...it reminds me of my desire for humility and obedience. I can't aptly explain how all of this has come to mean so much to me. Far too recently I was going to church and being careful to show off my slim waistline. I felt happy because I felt people saw me as beautiful, that maybe even (dare I say it?) other men might have had small crushes on me. Feeling beautiful (slim, well-dressed) made me feel accepted and loved, and love (I think) is what we all want and even crave desperately. I feel so much more free on Sunday mornings now! Today, I wore a long denim dress (that showed absolutey no curves or slim waist) that I got from my favorite thrift store, brown boots, a colorful head wrap and earrings that I made. It was simple and it was SO enough! I watched as different women came and went from our Sunday school classroom. These black women are beautiful --- hair freshly done, slimming black sweaters or skirts on, make-up well done. These are my friends and they are beautiful! But today, for the first time, I didn't feel like I needed to work to keep up with them. I sat back and sipped my coffee and felt a different kind of beautiful. This new way of thinking and living is incredibly freeing and, as I said before, maybe other Christian women don't need to be rescued as desperately as I do, but I needed Christ to rescue me, to save me from this shallow beauty madness! The constant monitoring of my waistline, guilt over eating this or that, watching how snugly or loosely my jeans fit was driving me batty! In this renewal of modesty and covering, I declare that I'm not a part of this nation's code of beauty...not a part of how this nation defines beauty. I've opted out and you can't know how desperately I needed it. I still have my days and moments of struggle when I worry about how I look or I focus too much on the areas of my God-given design I may not like so much (I solicit your continued prayer for me in this area), but now, I feel like I'm beginning the journey of seeing beauty the way God sees it. I feel like I'm being freed from trying to show off my own (fleeting, shallow) beauty, and I can now embrace the beauty of humility, holiness and walking in obedience to God. I feel like I am peeling back the layers of a fickle culture and I am finding it doesn't own the definition of beauty (to which I'd become a slave)...God does. What an amazing realization that is!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

It appears I've overestimated Ashunoah's acceptance of the headcovering. The other night he confessed that he's tired of the wrap. I later asked what he thought about me varying the headcoverings...be creative with the types of coverings I choose. He said he just doesn't like it, and finds me more attractive with no covering at all. I told him I appreciate his honesty, which I do. I really want to know how he feels about it all; at least I know what I'm dealing with. I printed off some helpful headcovering information I'd found, with reasons, myths and further explanations (biblically speaking) and handed it to him to look over. He put it in his Bible, so it appears he plans to read it at some point.

If I had to guess, I'd say in general he's displeased with headcovering, and doesn't think it's necessary or important for today...it's a minor issue. The packet of information I'd given him to read over biblically spoke to these concerns, and hubby tends to be reason-centered, so maybe this will help him better understand things. Maybe, maybe not. It's just not a culturally accepted practice within the church today, and so I think we've been sort of made not to think about it. I know that was definitely the case with me up till a couple of weeks ago. I really don't blame him for feeling the way he does. What if the tables were turned? I may feel the same way. Sure, if he wanted to follow something he felt was biblical and it was a practice that ushered him into deeper obedience to the Lord, growth in holiness and humility, and was a symbol of his devotion to God, I might be okay with it, but I'd probably be pretty uncomfortable with something so new that's not talked about much in the church. He said he'd been praying about it, and really hasn't felt God speaking anything in particular to him about it. So yes, though, I'm disappointed and a little hurt, I'm not angry with him about it. Neither am I turning around and going back on this thing. Now that I've made the decision and commitment, I can only go forward. I know my decision to do this will be terribly unpopular in current culture, in general, and in our church culture, specifically. One day, in our Sunday school class, we were asked to make a statement about our spouse...say something that others might not know about our spouse. Ashunoah said something memorable about me that really moved me, but others didn't think was a big deal. He said, "Everything that she's ever done, anything meaningful, anything she's ever done well or has been successful at are things that have been counter cultural."


Hmmm.


Well, onward I go. Here's how I dissect this thing: I'm not mad at Ashunoah, and I refuse to let bitterness and unforgiveness wrap themselves around me or infiltrate my walk. Sure, I'm sad and disappointed that he doesn't like to see my head covered, but I will submit to his authority. I will wear the headcovering as often as I can get away with. This morning, I got up early, got dressed and styled my hair. He made mention about how nice I looked today. I felt naked and sad without my headcovering, but I didn't let it show much. I was pleasant and agreeable. When he left the house for work, I put my headcovering back on. It will be on all day, till he comes home from work, then I'll take it back off. At home, while praying, I'll cover as much as I'm able to do without causing problems. I don't think he'll object to this. We talked about a compromise like this, but yesterday he got home unexpectedly early, and I still had it on. I apologized and he said it was okay.

So...that may be the way it has to be for a while. Still not sure what I will do about church, as hubby likes me to show my hair when we are out together. I have to pray and trust that God knows what's going on in this situation and will change things as He sees fit.

Unmarried women...take notice. If you have a desire to cover, be sure your future spouse upholds this and plans to fully support you in this. Otherwise, you might end up a 'part-time coverer', and you might not be able to devote your best efforts to this practice. Anyone, please feel free to email me if you have questions or advice. I'm still a real newbie to this thing, but committed to it. I could also use your prayers!

Enjoy your weekend, beloved...



M

Thursday, November 6, 2008

First Eden, Now This

When I came face to face with the fact that this covering journey must begin, I knew it wasn't just about covering my head; it was about covering my body.

I looked into my closet and sighed. "Help me, Lord."

I feel like I'm starting all over again. There is much in my wardrobe, thankfully, that I can keep. But there are a lot of things that have to go. We have small closets in our house, and I've always said that small closets keep us honest; we can't be packing a bunch of junk in there. We must choose wisely.

As you might imagine, there are quite a few summer dresses that will have to go. A couple of pair of snug jeans have got to bite the dust. Shirts that draw the eyes to my bosom need to get kicked to the proverbial curb. So here's the game plan (I must start somewhere):

I'm upping my sizes. Instead of small, I'll begin to buy my sweaters and shirts in a medium. I'll go up one size in my slacks, as well. Along with being more comfortable, I think this will draw attention away from the body parts I only want hubby to see.

My favorite chain store in these parts is a thrift store with great clothes at amazingly low prices. I buy most of my clothes and shoes there. I've recently done a bit of shopping and am picking up new-to-me clothing items here and there. I hope to slowly, piece by piece, eventually create a wardrobe of very modest clothes that I feel comfortable and pretty in.

Until that wardrobe is fully built, in the meantime, I'm trying to work with what I have. I have found that long wraps and scarves are especially helpful for covering. I recently invested in a few long scarves (in various colors) that I can wrap around my waist, drape over my torso or use to cover my head. These have been lifesavers for me when I've found that some of the clothes in my closet aren't as loose as I'd like them to be. I also joined an online group of women who swap modest clothing, as needed.

So for now, I'm getting by, and getting used to this new way of life. I wrap my head at night, and keep my head covered when I pray, but the other morning I prayed before realizing that my headcovering had fallen off throughout the night. Then another time, I was downstairs ironing and began talking with the Lord, and into that prayer, I realized my head was uncovered, and so I snatched a t-shirt nearby and tossed it on my head. It does take some getting used to, but the Lord is rich in mercy and grace. And I am so thankful for that!

Grace, beloved...

P.S. Since I wrote this post, my neighbor asked me what size clothing I wear. When I told her my jeans were an 8, she said "I knew it! One of my friends asked me if I knew anyone who wears an 8 or a 10, and I at first I said 'no', but when I pulled into my driveway, I thought of you. I'm going to go tell her when I get back home." My neighbor is an older, faithful Christian woman who is a widow and whose children are now grown. She told me her friend has a lot of clothes...too many clothes...and that they are taking up too much room in her house and that she needs to get rid of them. Let's hope there are plenty of modest picks in this group when I get them!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beginning. Again.

So this is my journey. Recently I was thinking to myself that it feels like I just had a baby, so overwhelmingly huge and life-changing this whole thing feels. You know when you have a child that you're never going to be the same again. You know when you've given your life to Christ that you're going to be changed forever. And in many ways this feels very much the same. Like a marked beginning that will take me places I hadn't planned to go.

If you had told me a month ago that I was going to be a headcovering Christian woman, I would have told you just how little you really know about me. That's some other woman, but that's not me. I should have known this was coming, though. I never know what God is up to.

This past summer I'd started a string of fasts. It began with a five day fast I'd done with a friend of mine who is having troubled times in her marriage. The intent was to do this with her and for her, but the fast was remarkably meaningful to me; so much so that I turned right around and did another fast for several days. These fasts had taken my intimacy level with the Lord to a whole new level. During these fasts I'd feel like God was telling me things that seemed clear, but things I clearly did not want to do --- silly things, that seemed to make no sense --- at least at the time. But to not do the things I felt he was leading me to do, well that would be blatant disobedience, and I didn't want that.

After a couple of long fasts, it was nearly time for my 20 year high school reunion. I was really excited about seeing my classmates again and was in a tizzy over what to wear. Suddenly, at the last minute I felt led to wear the more modest dress (one that wouldn't show off my slim figure as much) and no make-up. I really struggled with God's directive on the make-up part --- no make-up to my 20 year class reunion?! No make-up with my oily skin in the smoldering summer heat?! This was preposterous!

But I felt I couldn't not do it. So I did it. I could have felt prettier, but I think I gained something greater than feeling pretty. And now I'm gaining a deeper perspective of what seems to have started this summer.

I've been praying for wisdom and humility for a very long time, and healing, too, from a distorted body image. I can't help but feel that God is answering my prayers in some pretty meaningful and unexpected ways. Maybe every Christian woman doesn't need to be rescued the way I do, but I've been desperate for something more for longer than I care to say.

At first it felt uncomfortable, but intriguing -- the whole idea of covering. Then it felt thrilling, but uncertain. After the initial realization of truth and the height of emotion wore off, I felt as if I was just floating along on a notion --- doing the right thing but not having it feel like such a big deal. I'd read one woman talk about those feelings --- that when you wake up feeling like you don't want to cover, cover anyway. And that's exactly what I did.

I found comfort (surprisingly and not so surprisingly) online --- finding other women like myself, with stories just like mine; women with husbands and kids and actual lives. I'm not even sure how I found them, except for the grace of God. In my hunger and desperation I just kept clicking one link after another, and before I knew it, I was reading about other women just like me.

In retrospect, maybe the writing was on the wall all along. During my fasts, I felt this odd need to drape some cloth over my head when I prayed. It was like my prayers felt more serious when I did that. And I hadn't thought about that I Corinthians 11 passage of Scripture since I don't know when. It just felt oddly right.

When things (finally) came together for me, and I felt God was ushering me in the direction of covering and modesty, I sought counsel from my pastor who advised against it and told me that I didn't need to cover. I felt honestly VERY confused and doubtful. I didn't think I would keep moving forward with this whole idea of covering, especially with what my pastor said. I felt really sad and disappointed. I thought maybe it was all in my head, maybe I'd only imagined being enlightened in some way, maybe covering wasn't all that essential and that maybe it wasn't such a big deal after all.

The next day I felt completely different. I just knew I had to do it; I had to follow through. Maybe God was leading me and maybe He wasn't, but I decided that I'd rather err on the side of obedience than walk a different path. I kept feeling that this might be God's way of answering my (desperate) prayers over my distorted body image. I kept feeling like I wanted to 'opt out' of the current culture's standard of beauty and with God re-create (or re-discover) beauty how God fully intended. This was an enormously freeing thought! And as a black woman, the practical aspects of headcovering were incredibly appealing. Oh, the stress I've had over my hair! Go natural/naptural for a while, which I did, but then it was too much to handle with two toddler boys on my hands. So I go back to a perm after a 13 year break from it, got blond highlights and people couldn't stop saying nice things about my hair. When I was na(p)tural, they mistook me for Celie from The Color Purple, and nobody loved me but my husband and my friends who were naptural themselves. The drama we black women go through on account of our hair! We are accepted when our hair is as European as it can possibly be --- even our mothers and grandmothers insist our hair should be straight, and ask us why we are walking around without our hair done when it's not straight. Oh, the looks I took! Never mind my desire to be authentic and to have my hair stay just as God created it....that's just kookie talk!

So. That said, I have plans to get my permed ends cut off and go back to being naptural. I just feel it's who I am. What to do when it gets so long and thick I can't comb through it unless it's wet? Who cares (and who has to know) since I'll usually be covered when I leave the house? Around the house I can look like a wild woman and have an afro all day...hubby loves it. :-)

Spiritual meets practical in the everyday journey of my life, making ordinary moments sacred. I think this is the way it's supposed to be.

The journey of headcovering, by necessity, also involves dressing more modestly. I'll save that story for another post.

Grace, beloved...