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...