Monday, November 30, 2009

The Big Cover Up

Here's a photo of me and the boys on Thanksgiving (how was yours, beloved?). I am usually covered, but was uncovered in this photo (remember hubby prefers me uncovered, though I think he's gotten quite accustomed to seeing my hair covered, and probably doesn't even mind my covering on most occasions, but I digress...); it occurred to me that the more my hair grows (it has grown lots since last winter) and the healthier and lovelier it becomes, the more aware I am of why I cover and why I need to cover.

During the times I am out with hubby and I am uncovered, my hair gets lots of attention. Lots. It moves. It bounces. After I wash it and do it, the boys like to see me run in place because they like to see my hair move and bounce (they are so sweet and always make me feel pretty). But yes, this is it, beloved: an uncovered head brings glory to me...I get all the attention. A covered head brings glory to God; He gets the glory for all the good in my life -- goodness that can be seen in the fruitful efforts of my life; my role as a wife and mother, and all the other hats I wear each day. My beauty becomes about something more, something greater, as well it should be. Physical beauty is fleeting, though I still find I have vanity issues to work through.

Our Thanksgiving was rich and full, and I trust yours was as well. I am learning to knit (thanks, Dianna!), and I'm really enjoying it. In my quieter moments I try to write and sort through my thoughts. I am in dire need of slowing down, and (long hand) letter writing and knitting help to remind me of this need. The boys don't slow down, but now that the weather is getting colder outside, they need direction in order to stay busy at home. We don't watch television through the week and both the boys and I are used to this routine. The holiday had me busy in the kitchen, and I got away from working with them on their letters and numbers and all that stuff. I am trying to redirect this week before things get busy again for Christmas. The boys are getting so big so fast. Our youngest outweighs our oldest, even though our oldest is taller. Such sweet boys they are.

I need to be getting to bed; I hope your week is off to a good start, beloved.

Grace,
M

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn Thoughts

This is the time of year I relish most. I have such warm fondness for autumn, that each year I feel like I love it a little more. Not just the deep crimsons and the whimsical golds, but the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet brings back memories of past autumns: the song "Sweet November" (by the musical group The Deele, led by current R&B soloist Kenneth "Baby Face" Edmonds) which I loved (and still love) to sing; finding my first love, a boy of 14 who attended the same church I attended back in the 80s. There were rainy autumns and autumns pregnant with hope...like the one when I fell in love with the man who is now my husband. And there are sad and contemplative autumns, like autumn last year, when my father died.

But always there is the joy of sunny, crisp days and brisk, chilly nights. I love the idea of having to stay in and cozying up beside a warm cup of apple cider. I love turtleneck sweaters and long movies and the space to write and think that autumn brings. There's not the same hustle and bustle of summer, when we often over extend ourselves with activity upon activity, in an attempt to seize the warm days. I love making homemade bread and pumpkin soup (a loaf is baking and a pot are simmering now) and the cool, dry air. I like using my sewing machine and figuring out what home project I'll be working on next.

Okay, and I admit that it's easier to cover in the cooler seasons. I love a snug, fuzzy cap on my head and the added warmth that a colorful scarf brings.

And what of you? What do you like best about this season, beloved? Do tell. I am planning to make stops at all my favorite blogs. I haven't done that in what seems like ages.

Enjoy your day, dear ones...

Grace,
M

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ready for Sale

We did it, beloved. The head covering book I've been working on all year is now ready for sale. You can click the book's image on my sidebar to order the book. Though the book will be available for purchase through Amazon in about 15 business days, you can still order directly from my e-store (where you'll be taken when you click the image) even after it's available through Amazon. If you have any questions about ordering, let me know.

Thanks for your patience, support, prayers and encouragement. They have not been wasted on me!

Oh, I changed my name on the sidebar, for consistency with the book (but you know I will always be Muhala Akamau!):-)

Enjoy your weekend, beloved...
M

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plugging Along

Dear ones,
It is is terribly cloudy and muggy here for the second day of Autumn! I love Autumn and want to celebrate it with cooler weather, pumpkin soup and warm homemade bread. I am eagerly awaiting cooler temperatures.

I received the first proof of the book! Needless to say, there were endless edits, which I attended to right away. My second proof is on the way; I hope there is nothing left to change, and that the book will soon be available for purchase. Until then, though, follow this link for a preview.

More updates soon!

Grace,
M

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Change of Direction

Beloved, thank you for your patience during my weeks of absence and intermittent blogging. I am still seeking to discern God's will with regard to frequent blogging, but I am always writing -- even when I'm not blogging. And all of you are not far from my thoughts and prayers. Pray with me, please, as I seek to discern God's will regarding writing in general, and blogging in particular. There are spaces and seasons for all things, I know. The boys are growing (so fast!), and are demanding more and more of my time and attention. My "Mommy" role gets bigger and bigger all the time, and I recognize it as my most important earthly work. I long to be faithful in it.

Good news with regard to the book! I have definitely found an open door in the option of self-publishing (which I used to thumb my nose at!), and have seemed to tackle the beast of formatting and editing an entire paperback (I have learned more about Word and PDF files than I ever thought I'd know...what a learning curve, this thing!). It has been a lot of work. A lot of frustration when I couldn't figure out this or that about formatting pages; a lot of research on the proper way to do this or cite that in a bibliography; I've found tenacity I never even knew I had...and the stubborn refusal to let anything stop me from getting this book in print...I suspect this all came from God. I have worked so very hard, beloved...for you and for me, and for all those many women just like us, who long with all their hearts to follow God obediently, whatever the cost.

I finished the tough work of gathering, formatting and submitting (indeed, as you know, the book has been finished for months!). The proof of the book is ready for order, and I will order it this evening. I should receive the proof copy of the book in a few days. When I receive the book, I'll read it from cover to cover. If everything is okay, I'll submit that it's ready for sale. If there is anything that needs changing (and, knowing me, I'll find something that needs changing -- despite the fact that it feels like I've read this thing a hundred times!), I'll correct the errors, re-submit a corrected PDF file, and then it should be ready for sale.

A few things first. The book is called Life as a Prayer: Recapturing the Wind of Head Covering. The list price is $9.99 (I wanted to make it affordable!), and once it's ready for sale, you will be able to order it through Amazon, and my little online store (that I need to work to set up, by the way!) Also, I've decided to take a big risk and use my full name. Many of you know that Muhala Akamau is my 'native' name (my hubby created it for me, so it's special). But I think I wanted to use Muhala Akamau out of fear...it felt safe, and it minimized my transparency. But with my whole name out there, I have only God to trust. I initially thought I'd use Muhala, so it's a tad uncomfortable to use Michele Barnes McClendon, but I think I will. But you will still know me by my face; I'm sure you will recognize me. I'll probably also change my profile 'display' name back to Michele, so as not to confuse folks who may visit the blog after they have ordered or read the book. I am hopeful that our dear community of sisterhood will be growing and deepening.

I have had my share of disappointments with the endeavor of this book. Pray with me, please, dear sisters, that this book will soon get into the hands of women who need it most. Pray that I have the stamina to stay the course with this project.

Stay tuned for more book details...particularly when it will be ready for purchase! Thank you for your love and prayers...I do miss connecting regularly with all of you!

And with that, I'm off. The boys need to be fed!

Enjoy your weekend, beloved.

M

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Book Update

Hello, dear ones...hope all is well with you this summer, beloved, and that you all are walking in
God's rich grace and deep, abiding love.

Many of you know that the book is finished (it has been for a couple of months now); I am actively pursuing publishing still. I was previously not a big fan of self-publishing; I think perhaps I thought it less 'legitimate', but now that I have begun to educate myself about self-publishing, I am finding out how little I really knew.

I still have so much confidence in this book...and I'm equally as confident that there are women out there (like you and me) who could benefit from its content -- particularly women who are curious about head covering or who are feeling led to cover, but are hesitant or otherwise uncomfortable with the idea of covering. We know full well how challenging a journey this can be when we feel it's a journey we must make alone.

So stay tuned. I have taken a break from blogging, but have not taken a break from actively working to get this book published. I hope to have more updates soon, so please check back.

Do enjoy the remainder of your summer, beloved. It is fleeting...

With Love,
M

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blogging Break

News. One of the two publishers who requested the manuscript notified me today that the manuscript doesn't fit within their publishing needs. I'm disappointed, of course, but remember -- a manuscript request doesn't ensure publication. We watch, hope and pray, though. I am still encouraged in the Lord. The other publisher says it may take up to 3 months for them to give a decision. So, now I just wait.

I have been sensing that I need to take a break from blogging, but I have been dragging my feet about it. I love to write and I love to encourage you, ladies, and be refreshed by your love, commitment and faithfulness to God. Natasa, thank you for your warm heart and your encouraging card. You bless me, and I appreciate you! What a blessing to know you all, and I have often found refreshment and encouragement with you when I have found it in very few other places as I walk this covering journey. Thank you!!

I will pop in now and again, and you can always feel free to email me. Also, I'll let you know when I hear back from the other publisher.

One other thing: strive to be holy. Make it your mission to grow in godliness. I have found (and, indeed, am continuing to find) that it makes other Christians uncomfortable when we want to shut off a movie because of the violence and language; when we want to turn down our plates so that we can fast to better hear God's voice; when we want to cover a little more of our skin, or retreat from some of the more worldly endeavors we have pursued. Our indulgence in worldly pursuits and entertainments doesn't bother many Christians at all, but our retreat from them decidedly does. I've observed that far too many of us (me, included) have ushered worldliness into our front doors, and it has taken over the whole house. And not only have we failed to see this truth, but we cringe when others do. Sadly, many have lost the desire to be holy and to let holiness permeate the nooks and crannies of our lives. I love where James says: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27).

Be encouraged in your covering, ladies. Keep to it. And beware the spirit of compromise.

Love to you all,
M

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Recommit. Again.

It seems the covering journey requires fresh commitments all the time. There are always those days that you could sneak by without it -- those moments when you think it's not all that necessary. Like today. I am meeting with some girlfriends from church; they always see me covered, so is it really necessary that I cover when attending a movie and dinner with them?

There are those days when you long to feel 'part of the crowd' again. There are certainly times when I think I am somehow more 'accessible' when I don't cover. I think perhaps my friends can relate to me better, or that perhaps I make them feel a tad less uncomfortable -- that I am still the same old Muhala.

But lately I've been thinking that I belong to covering and that covering belongs to me. It's what I've been called to. It's what I know. And, for now, anyway, it's what's right. It's not for others. It's not for me. It's for God. Walking out what we feel called to is not always an easy thing day after day after day. I'm trying to experiment with other covering styles, as I feel a little bored with my current one, and I long for something lighter with less fabric. It's easy to get by covered in the cooler months; wearing a heavier covering is cozy and warm. In the summer there are adjustments to make, but I still want to be covered from hairline to hairline...I just don't want to take 3 yards of fabric to do it in a way that appeals to me. I'm so struggling with that. But in the meantime, I still cover, trying not to let my frustration get the better of me.

Just a word of encouragement, ladies: don't be reluctant to commit afresh to this journey. Beware the spirit of compromise (the thrust of my deleted post) by minimizing the importance of covering and your call to it. Others will always have their opinions and their thoughts. Perhaps they mean no harm, but your covering is not their call to make. Remember how you got to this point. Remembery why you are here. Celebrate the call and walk it out in faithful obedience.

Connecting with a plain, headcovering, African-American sister, has inspired me to tone down flashy colors and patterns. I bought a few shirts from my favorite thrift store that are more simple and plain. And I feel more comfortable in them! I'm not saying that the Lord is calling me to be plain, but I do feel a call to simplicity, and sometimes that may mean more simple attire. Each of us has to determine how God is leading us as we continue to cover and move along in our covering journey. My dear, plain sister is taking lots of heat from her church over her covering. But she is sure. She is standing. And we must stand too.

Enjoy your weekend, beloved...

God's grace,
M

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends

Oh, beloved. I have sooo been away, I know. Whatever shall you do with me? Thanks for your patience; I know many of you have checked here frequently, hoping from some word from me. Well, I am indeed here!

Forgive my absence. I have thrown myself entirely into the book, somehow having balanced that great effort with mothering and caring for our home. Remember after reading my book proposal, a publisher requested the manuscript, but the manuscript wasn't yet finished? Well, I threw myself into finishing that thing, and indeed finished the manuscript before the late June deadline time. I emailed it to the publisher maybe a week and a half or so ago. I told the publisher that the bibliography/reference section would be forthcoming. I underestimated the difficulty of doing a bibliography/reference section, but that is another story altogether. I told myself that since I finished the manuscript, I'd take a little break before working on the bibliography. I was having such a nice break, too.

Until another publisher contacted me, and requested the manuscript! Yes, another publisher. I was floored.

The manuscript was done, no problem! But I still had this bibliography section looming over my head, and now I was in a push to get it done, now that two publishers would be expecting it! What a labor that thing was! What a sore underestimation on my part! Tonight, I finished what (I hope) will be the final draft of the bibliography/reference section. At this point, I'm ready to throw the manuscript, bibliography and all to whomever will have it...just don't let me look at the thing for another month! I honestly feel like I need a break. Yes, a real break. Still, I feel like I have a few good books in me, and I don't think I can say that I'll rest too long. There are so many things to say. So many things to be written.

So you know where things stand. I'm waiting to hear back from the two publishers. No guarantees either way, of course; but we do hope for the best. I couldn't have done it without your help! Your encouragement and prayers have meant so much. This has been a particularly lonely journey; this is not an easy book to write, but it's still necessary. A special thanks to Lisa, Joanna, Kim, Isidora, Sanil, Sandra, Regina and Amber. You, dear ones, are the heart of this project...I can't thank you enough!

How are you faring these days, beloved? The weather here is gorgeous...we are working on home projects, and I have fun tooling around in my flower garden, when I'm taking a break from the book. Working in the yard is making for good exercise. Today I shoveled and hauled dirt to the maple tree in the back yard. I hope to plant something beautiful around that big tree soon. We'll see.

Off to bed...it's late and I need rest!

Warmly,
M

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

All is Well

Beloved, all is going well. I told the publisher that the manuscript was not complete, but gave a late June projected completion date. They were more than agreeable, and for this I'm thankful.

The next step, of course, is to get the thing done already! To this end, my dear and beloved friend Christie has agreed to allow the boys and me to come to her house for a few days. I love Christie's home...not just the space of the house, but also the green space of her land. The boys can run around and play, and I can barricade myself in her attic and type till my fingers get weary. I think the Lord just laid the idea on my heart this past weekend. As if I needed a reminder how distracting my own home is, yesterday the phone rang constantly; there was dinner to cook; I get phone calls and visits from well-meaning friends and relatives (my father-in-law, God love him, has blessed me so much with garden plants, flowering trees, the promise of bulbs, garden books and we have enjoyable chats over coffee, which he appears to love even more than I) --- that's not to say I don't enjoy the visits, phone calls and the work of being a homemaker. Still, there are a million and one things to do around the house --- grocery shopping, gardening, laundry, housework, cleaning, ironing --- you name it. Of course there is so much involved with running a household (I know I don't have to tell you that, beloved!). A few days away will subtract from many of those distractions. I estimate being able to knock out a few chapters. At least I hope. I have 8 more chapters left to write, not including the one I'm working on now (the 6th one). I think the change of scenery would do the boys and I good. It's a six hour drive for which I'll need lots of prayer, beloved! I haven't ever liked long drives. Of course, I'd love to be able to bring my dear hubby along with me, but unfortunatly, his work hours are really long...usually somewhere around 12 hours or so. If the boys are late getting to bed, sometimes they see him, but other times they don't see him till morning. I know he's been having on his mind of late whether or not he wants to stay with his present job. Hubby and I are praying for God's guidance on this issue (the job situation), and feel confident He will lend it. Hubby loves his job. He's good at it, too. But the pay is far less than what he was making before, and we feel it. We trust God to show us the way to go.

Spring has sprung around here and the days find us outside working in the yard --- the boys with their little dump trucks and dirt, and me working to pull weeds and getting the flower beds ready. I do perennials, and my neighbor and I swapped seeds after harvesting them last year. Oh, she's got the most gorgeous marigolds that will burst into bloom in clay dirt! That woman can make anything grow. She also passed onto me some columbine seeds. Oh, how glorious! Last year was my first time doing any flowers, but I had such success I fell in love with it. I harvested the seeds and now expect to see in both my and my neighbor's yard, those glorious blooms I so enjoyed last year.

Now back to the work at hand...chasing these boys!

God's grace,
M

Friday, May 1, 2009

Back on My Feet

Okay, so me attempting to finish a manuscript in one weekend is outrageous. Not gonna happen. So I'm letting the publisher know my estimated completion date. I still hope they're interested. Meanwhile, I've gotta really hustle to get this thing done. I'll keep you all posted. I can't tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you. The possibility that our story will be told thrills me to no end. I couldn't do any of this without you guys.

I appreciate your prayers!

Enjoy your weekend, beloved.
M

Oh My Goodness!!!!!

A publisher got my proposal and wants to review the whole manuscript!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course, there are no guarantees, so don't fall over backwards, but still!! Think I can finish this book in one weekend?!! Pray for me!!!!

More later,
M

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Visible Sign

I should not be up at this hour. I told Ashunoah that I would be in bed by the time he gets out of the shower. He takes long showers, so that means I have maybe 10 minutes to write this post.

I sneak in writing this book whenever I can. Sometimes I have spare moments when I could be writing that I choose to spend on something else. Last week, I was stressed, and once I put the boys down, I'd watch the movies that my father-in-law had dropped off for me. I didn't want to think too hard about anything. This was out of the ordinary for me, as I'm not a big television watcher. I can always be doing something more productive, like praying, or reading a book. Or blogging. Last week I closed the door to my home office. I didn't want to work.

It's tough to have very many lofty goals when you have kids this young. But I am pressing forward. I spent the afternoon trying to steal moments to write a paragraph. Wait, no...maybe just a sentence or two. Seemed like every time I typed a few words, one of the boys would bring me up some (pretend)'oatmeal' or 'cream of wheat' for me to eat, which I would, then declare to them how yummy it was. They would then tell me that they were going downstairs to make some (pretend) toast, and would be back up. But it was okay...today I was feeling patient, so I obliged them. The interruptions were numerous, but it was okay. Always, the boys first. I tell myself that if the boys grow up never even realizing that their Mommy was a freelance writer then I will have obtained my greatest success. I need them to know how very much they mean to me. And yes, writing is important, but not more important than they are.

So, it's nearly 1 a.m. and I'm sitting here writing. I finished another chapter tonight --- I was determined to. Well, I should say that this chapter's rough draft is finished. I am amazed. The women I am writing about are amazing. Their stories are amazing, and the words of these women minister to me with every chapter I write. Their words stir me. Haunt me a little.

When I'm feeling high on my headcovering horse, Joanna comes and knocks me off. The beauty of her humility is so bright it's blinding. And when I'm questioning just how often I want to cover (why do I really need to cover when I'm around the house, anyway?), Amber comes along and reminds me of the practicality and devotion of covering all the time. Covering all the time was the first conviction of my heart. But it can get inconvenient, hot and a bit annoying. Amber reminds me what a beautiful grace it is. Her humor warms my heart. I am made richer by the women who open their hearts and lives to me so that their stories can be told. I get the very privileged task of weaving together all the beautiful fragments of their journey --- one piece here, another there, till before I know it, a chapter is completed.

My concern is that this book may be too long. All of the chapters are pretty long thus far, and if it's ever picked up by a publisher, I'm concerned they may want to slash, slash, slash. I feel protective of these women, of these stories. All the pieces that have brought them thus far are important --- every one of them, and I want to get their stories told with all the depth and candor they deserve. Well, I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The shower water stopped. And with that, I'm off. I hope you're sleeping restfully, beloved.

Grace,
M

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Big, Long Skirt

This skirt was almost bigger than me. But that's okay, because it did the job. I felt so great in this skirt. It gave me such great coverage, and I got some unexpected compliments, too, which was pretty surprising, as it's probably not likely to win any 'cute' awards. Still, it's practical, functional and best of all comfortable! Moreover, I loved the way it draped behind me when I descended a flight of stairs; I felt like such a girl. :-]

Waiting for Sons

Okay, this is the sort of motherhood thing that I so looked forward to. Children pulling dandelions, or other flowering weeds, from the yard and presenting them to Mommy. My boys know I love flowers, so these are ones Obi picked for me today. Aren't they sweet?

Obi is a dear child. Last night, as I was giving the boys a bath, he told me, "Mommy, I'm your husband." I said, "Oh, really? What does that mean then, if you are my husband?" His answer (so sweet, even if it really didn't make any sense!) was, "Um, I just thank God. I just thank God that I'm your husband.
!
I told Obi that this was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But that he couldn't be my husband, because Daddy was. Hubby said that Obi declaring that he was my husband shows that he is beginning to understand commitment and devotion --- that both boys are, because our youngest said that he wanted to be Miss Kristin's husband (one of my longtime girlfriends), and then Obi said that he was going to be Madison's husband (Kristin's daughter). So, yeah. I guess they are beginning to understand commitment. I do love that they see their Daddy doting on me. I want them to know how special a marriage relationship really is.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Truth and the Delicacy of Life

I've been doing some ducking and dodging in my life recently and, well, not so recently. A family member of mine had been disregarding some boundaries in my life, only I didn't recognize it as a boundary issue at first. It just felt like she was driving me crazy with all the phone calls and excessive information on her soured marriage. Maybe it's age --- perhaps now that I'm 40, I'm a little tired of not speaking up. Maybe it's not age at all, but God giving me opportunities for authenticity in my relationships. Whatever the case, I sometimes avoid speaking up because I don't like confrontation, I don't want to feel uncomfortable, and I hate the thought of hurting someone's feelings. I wasn't sure how she'd take it, but she actually responded quite well. I think defined boundaries has given our relationship some much needed balance.

And there's another one: my neighbor, Willow (not her real name). Willow is a little girl of ten years of age. We've lived in our house for nine years, so that means we've known Willow for mostly her whole life. She wasn't talking well for about the first 3 years. But when she finally got a grasp on the English language, boy, did she immerse herself in it! "Miss Muhala, can Zwahara and Teshumawe come over and play? Wait, which one is Zwahara?" or, "Miss Muhala, can your dog come over and play?" or, "Miss Muhala, can you tell Mr. Ashunoah that I have something for him when he gets home?" If she is not overwhelming you with questions upon first sight of you, she is talking your ear off while you try to get into the car, bring in groceries or pull weeds in your flower garden.

I'd try to accommodate her when I felt up to it, or I'd just roll my eyes in irritation. Then I was like, "Wait a minute. I'm the adult, she is the child. Why am I ducking and dodging her?" I was determined to have a little talk with her the next time I saw her. And try to remember that Jesus loves the little children. All the little Willows of the world.

My opportunity to talk with her came at a time when I was already irritated with the boys, and she was calling from her back yard into my open window asking me to come out. "Willow, I need to talk with you," I called out through my dining room window. And I was glad I took the time to walk outside to our fence, instead of talking to her through the window (those few moments provided me the opportunity to calm down a bit and remember that I should be delicate --- that she is just a little girl).

I spoke to her calmly, but firmly, about boundaries and the importance of respecting people's personal space, and not overwhelming us with questions every time she sees us. I told her there might be times that the boys would go over to play, or times when I might let my dog go over to entertain her, but that she ought to let me offer, and that she should refrain from asking so much. She seemed embarrassed, but she also seemed to understand what I was saying. She is a smart girl. But there was also something else. As we continued to stand and talk over the fence (well, over the fence for me, through the fence for her; she's not very tall), she told me some things about herself that I never knew. Like the fact that her grandmother is raising her because her mother was, and probably still is, doing drugs. She mentioned that her birthday would be coming up and that she'd soon be turning ten. I made a big deal about it, but she told me that her mother doesn't always come to visit on her birthday; that in fact, she may not even see her on her birthday this year. She made a reference to the man who was actually her "real" father, as opposed to the man whom she took for her biological father. It's clear that her grandmother provides her with some much needed stability. I felt so sad that this little girl had a mother who really didn't seem to care for her. Her grandmother is not married, nor is Willow's mother. Most of our neighbors are either single, divorced or widowed. I reasoned that Ashunoah and I probably provide Willow with the best and strongest example of a loving marriage. During that same conversation, Willow and I talked about a lot of things. I learned things about her that I'd never known before. I think, for the first time in 9 years, that we actually connected on a meaningful level. Look how delicate life is! Here, I'd come to "speak my mind" and ended up confronted by Willow's great need, and met also by my own compassion, which I was not expecting to meet.

Today is Willow's birthday, and I told her I would make some jewelry for her which, of course she got excited about. I told her that after church, we usually take a nap, but later in the afternoon, I'd come and get her so we could make jewelry. She was so pleased.

It's been a long and draining weekend and we all needed the nap like nobody's business. As I lay there taking in the warm breezes from our open bedroom windows, I heard a voice, carried on the wind, drifting up and floating to my ears: "Miss Muhaaaaala! Miss Muhaaaala..."

Enjoy your Sabbath, beloved.

Grace,
M

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Around the House

This was today's lunch. Yum. But let's keep it real: it is not cheap to make a salad with colorful greens, raw vegetables and fruit, seeds and a salad dressing that's as delicious as it is healthy. It feels good putting good things into our bodies, but why must it cost so much? Wait, don't answer that. I think I already know. Still, I wish it were less expensive to make better choices. Ashunoah's grandfather found out yesterday that he has a malignant growth on his colon. Surgery is planned soon to remove it. Last week, we buried Ashunoah's dear aunt who lost her battle with breast cancer at only 55 years of age. This is all so tragic. I can't help but wonder if our dietary choices have anything to do with our constant health maladies.
The whole back and side of our house has been dug up. What a mess! But we intend to put all that dirt back once we remedy the problem and there's no longer water leaking into our basement. Hubby, his cousin and his dad spent most of this past weekend working on this project. The boys wanted to help, of course, but can only do so much. It's been raining a lot, too, and this doesn't help matters any!

I love my guys!!

Walking, Standing, Sitting

I had this post all planned out for this afternoon. But I just couldn't break away from the boys, nor did I feel I should. Our 2-year-old (Bo-Bo) is a sweet and mopey soul. He mopes around hoping to happen upon a snack ("Mama, I want some pancakes!") or some comfort food ("I want some cream of WHEAT!") or anything else remotely resembling edible pleasure. When he can't eat, he wants to help out ("Mama, I want to HELP you!"), so I knew I had to find some task to dig into, so that he could come along and help out. So that's what I did.

I sorted through my closet(s) and pulled out items for the local Salvation Army. Bo-Bo helped. Too many clothes! Though the closets in our house are small, my goal is to fit all of my clothes into our small bedroom closet that I share with Ashunoah. As it is, we have clothes in our bedroom closet, as well as clothes in the guest bedroom closet. Then you must sort through the colder-weather clothing, pack them away and pull out the warmer weather clothing. So, my neighbor has a friend who had decided she has too many clothes. My neighbor discovers that I am her friend's size. She tells her friend. So I regularly get very nice, higher-end clothing items from this very nice woman I've never met. And also, if you lived as close as I do to the best thrift store in the city, you'd probably end up with a bunch of stuff too. But I am not one to accumulate much, so my closet gets downsized on a regular basis, particularly when I feel the Lord is telling me to simplify my life.

In this last batch of clothes passed onto me by the very nice woman I've never met, there were several skirts. Here's where the tide starts to turn for me a bit. I know there are women who feel led to wear skirts or dresses all or most of the time. Quite honestly, I've never felt led in this way. Most folks would describe me as very feminine, whether I'm in a pair of comfy jeans, slacks or a long skirt (I don't do short skirts anymore), and most times I just feel more comfortable in jeans or slacks. But as I'm writing this book, I was reading through some pages of one of the women I'm writing about. She mentioned something about feeling like skirts and dresses show off less of our "assets" than slacks or jeans. Hmmm. Okay, I'd be willing to consider that. I don't think I'd ever heard it worded quite that way, or maybe I just wasn't listening before. I don't know. I know there are some slacks I may never give up, as you can't beat them in terms of comfort. For me, the BIG thing? Comfort. Comfort all the way. Sometimes comfort can come before style. I want clothes that move with me, clothes that don't bind, pinch, pull, separate or otherwise show skin I don't want revealed (midriff, lower back, chest area or legs). So, the nice lady I've never met who sends me clothes? This time she sent me skirts. Cotton ones. Ankle-length cotton ones. A-line, ankle-length, cotton skirts. Okay, they weren't too cute, but why was I loving them?! Because they were amazingly comfortable! Add to this a pair of cute, comfy sandals, a t-shirt and I'm good to go! So, in essence, if I wound up having more of these ankle-length "flowy" skirts, some of my jeans and slacks might get kicked to the curb. We take it a day at a time.

Similarly, many of my dear sisters feel led to grow their hair long(er). I've never really been in that camp, either. But guess what's been happening the past few weeks? My hair is growing, and I like it. No, I mean I really like it. Okay, so I joke, "Um, hi...1983 called and said she wants her hair back", but I love its fullness and body. It could easily become (more of) a vanity thing, but the headcovering cuts right into that. Just cover that sweet glory right on up.

A couple of weeks ago, Ashunoah and I watched a movie called Brick Lane that my mother-in-law recommended. It looked a lot like the movies I'm drawn to -- independents with an interesting plot. I think I've gotten hubby to like indie flicks, too, but action and suspense are still our favorites. And documentaries. Or maybe that's mostly me. But I digress. So this movie seemed right up my alley. Only it had adultery as a pretty big part of the plot. Hubby and I don't dig movies about adultery. They just serve to tick us off. And of course hubby and my mother-in-law end up having a spirited exchange after the movie was over. I'll spare you those details. But check it out: the female lead in the movie was an Indian woman living in India who covered all the time. She had been married for 16 years or so, and had a couple of kids. Her husband was a really good guy, much older than his wife, overweight, not terribly interesting, but very loving and kind. Of course the male lead was single, young, handsome, mysterious, passionate and very interesting. Their connection started out very innocently. She was doing some sewing on the side, in her home, to make extra money. He would drop off clothes that needed alterations. At the beginning, whenever this man showed up at her house, the married woman was always covered from head to toe --- especially her head. You could tell that she was very unaccustomed to showing her hair to anyone but her husband and kids. She'd be holding the head covering in place, to make sure no hair peeked out from any end. Then the attraction came. As it did, you could see the gradual change in the woman by the way her relationship to her headcovering changed. Ashunoah was very sensitive about this, and I was impressed that he really took notice. At the onset of the attraction, the woman still covered her head, but maybe she didn't pull the fabric as close to her head as she once had. She wasn't as concerned about making sure every square inch was covered. As the attraction further progressed, she grew more cavalier about her head covering --- it might drape loosely around her head. Later, the head covering moved further back on her head, exposing more of her hair. Still later, the covering draped loosely around her neck. By the peak of their passion, the man (still coming into her home --- this is where they conducted their affair) would knock on the woman's door and she would now greet him with no headcovering at all.

Isn't this something to really consider? Covering has great value in our lives, and I really enjoy having an outward sign of my devotion both to God and to my husband. But sin is sneaky, is it not? Remember the first Psalm? First you are walking, then you are standing, next you are sitting. Sin can sidle up to you that way sometimes....it's smooth and gradual. Sometimes you might not even feel it's happened. I loved the spiritual parallels I found in this movie (we are always looking for them!), and the way it provided a deeper understanding of why women cover, and what can sometimes happen when we don't. To be sure, we can sin with or without a covering. The issue in the movie was the woman's heart. As it drew closer to sin, and the full manifestation of that sin, it cared less about any outward sign or what that sign represented. I'm not saying I recommend this movie. I'm just saying that I got tossed lemons and tried to make lemonade. All in a day's work.

And with that, beloved, it's good night...

Grace to all,
M
P.S. Movie Spoiler (beware): I should say that at the end of the movie, the woman let the lover go, and seemed to understand that there were different kinds of love. She deemed the love she had for her husband to be the lasting kind. Hooray!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Made it Through in One Piece!

Tonight was the night I spoke to the group of college students; I've been preparing this talk for weeks...felt a little sick in the stomach about it too. I am SO not a front and center person and I totally don't dig public speaking. I basically showed up to speak to a room of 30-35 students I didn't know at all. They didn't know me, either. I was just this new face in the crowd and I was incredibly nervous. You have no idea. The last time I felt this scared, I was being rolled into an operating room to get a total hysterectomy. That's just about how scared I felt. I had absolutely no idea what the whole evening would look like and for me that's often the most challenging part: not being able to anticipate what's going to happen. That element of 'not knowing' just does me in. As I drove the nearly 30 minutes (the 'scenic route') to my old college town (I was speaking to a group of Christian athletes at my alma mater), I kept singing that old song taken from one of the Psalms: "When I am afraid I will trust in You, I will trust in You, I will trust in You. When I am afraid I will trust in You, in God whose word I praise..."

It was a good night. I made plans to do an ice-breaker which got everyone warmed up and a bit more relaxed with me, and me with them. It was a great ice-breaker and everyone loved it. So did I.

I took my notes, but ended up not using them, as it just wasn't the format to use them, and I think I was slightly more comfortable not being so dependent on them. I was actually surprised when I got a couple of laughs at the beginning of my talk. I think that helped to relax me a lot. I also tossed in a couple of interesting stories which really seemed to drive home some of my points, and the students seemed to really relate. I talked a lot about having Christ's lordship in every areas of our lives --- not just the big areas, but also the small nooks and crannies of our lives which reflect our Christian witness just as much. I talked about loving our neighbors in ways that cost us something, and ended up telling the story of how we recently loaned our second car to someone we knew who needed to use it. She ended up getting into a car accident with it, and our car was totaled so we had to junk it out. Sometimes it turns out great, and sometimes it turns out not so great, but my challenge to them was to still love their neigbor in ways that cost them something because it will always reap eternal rewards.

I also talked to them about cultivating a heart of gratitude and embracing self restraint. Lastly, I spoke of living their lives as if eternity matters. I told them there's never a time where you feel like you will live forever more than in your youth. I also said that this culture doesn't teach its young about death, dying and the truth of mortality. I encouraged them to formulate an eternal perspective that affects all of their decisions, thoughts and actions. Before I knew it, it was time to wrap up. I hated that my husband couldn't be there for the whole talk, but I was sooo thankful to see him there toward the end. Of course, I had my head covered...I felt a little vulnerable to be quite honest. There were lots of young men there (emphasis on the men); I am much more comfortable speaking with women. But this is a Christian group of young women and men; that just couldn't be helped. After the talk, a few of the students came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the talk. One young man asked how he can best implement Christ's lordship in all of those small areas. His question touched me a lot, and I could sense his desire to please the Lord. One girl asked for my address, and still another spoke to me about her desire to adopt (she knows that we have adopted children). All in all, it was a lovely evening, and I was so glad it was over I could have skipped down the street. You have no idea how much of a huge hurdle this was for me to get over!

Now that that is done, I can throw myself back into the book. I am making really good headway, and am still sending proposals and queries out to various Christian publishers. I have another one to get out this week, as a matter of fact. Thanks to all of you who have worked with me and have helped me to tell your stories in ways that will encourage other women who may be new to covering or who may have an interest in it. Aside from working on the book, I hope to soon be throwing myself into gardening and painting our kitchen. Last year we bought ceramic tile on sale at Home Depot. This year, the plan is to get it installed, but I do want to paint before that's done. I'll try to post some 'before' pics of the kitchen and maybe some shots as I'm working on it, then 'after' pics.

To my faithful readers, thank so much for your patience while I prepped for the speaking engagement and worked on the book a bit more. I felt I really wanted to focus more on those things, so I put my blogging on the back burner. I have so missed catching up with each of you; I hope to do some blogging "rounds" soon, and will try to catch up with each of you on your blogs. I'm eager to find out what's new with all of you.

Until then, grace to you, beloved. Thank you so much for your prayers!

Muhala

Friday, April 10, 2009

Waiting for Judas

In my Lent devotional, Bread and Wine, Madeleine L'Engle takes from her own"Waiting for Judas" and writes:

...And when we meet our Creator, we will be judged for all our turnings away, all our inhumanity to each other, but it will be the judgment of inexorable love, and in the end we will know the mercy of God which is beyond all comprehension...

...There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw, way, way up, a tiny glimmer of light. After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to try to climb up towards it. The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down. Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down. It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb up again. After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table. "We've been waiting for you, Judas," Jesus said. "We couldn't begin till you came."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Touching Base

I have missed blogging, dear sisters! But I sensed the Lord might be pulling me away so that I could focus better on some other projects at hand (of course I haven't started prepping for the talk I'll be giving next month, but let's talk about something else...!). I've been spending some time in books on Liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer. We go to a non-denominational church (which I used to think was pretty cool --- that is, the fact that our church is non-denominational, but now I'm having second thoughts about that, but anyway...). I'm so drawn to liturgy, and I've no idea why, really. So I'm reading to get to the heart of this thing. I actually stumbled on the Book of Common Prayer and am sad that I'm only now coming to a knowledge of it! Also, I've been devoting myself heavily to the book and to getting more chapters done. Last week I sent close to 10 queries out to 10 different Christian publishers. I worked on more chapters, because many of the publishing companies were requiring more chapters completed as a part of the whole book proposal. There are endless publishers, so it seems, and there is endless waiting...up to 12 weeks or more before you hear a single word. Some (surprisingly more than I thought) are asking for much more than a proposal; some publishers are asking, for example, for suggested marketing plans on how to effectively reach my intended target audience by selling at least 10,000 copies of the book within in a two year time frame! They want to know why people will want to buy this book; they want to know how I will be perceived as the author and they want to know (well known? famous?) folks who might want to endorse the book. Some book proposals are less like book proposals and more like college majors. Ashunoah said, "If you give them all that, then what on earth do you need THEM for?" I said, "I know! I'm not a marketing strategist, I'm a writer!" To which he said, "And on top of that, you could give them all the marketing strategies, possible endorsers, consumer contact points and competitive consumer benefits there are, and they could STILL turn you down!"

Totally true.

Even when I feel like I must have surely lost my mind to work on this book, I continue to pursue its completion, anyway. And I'm still continuing to send out the proposal. Since I'm looking at a pretty good wait with regard to hearing from the publishers, I continue to knock out chapters. I do solicit your prayers, dear sisters, as I've had some really doubtful and discouraging moments of late. And not just where the book is concerned. I've been entertaining head covering doubts far more than I should be, and more than I have in quite a while. "Does it really make a difference?" I think to myself. I'm pretty sure we've all entertained such doubts as we trodded along in our covering journey. Someone I am writing about in the head covering book (forgive me, the name escapes me; these women's stories and experiences feel so interconnected, it's hard to remember where one leaves off and the next begins) said she sometimes feels as though people are just waiting for her to stop covering. Like if they wait long enough, she'll eventually fold. I feel that way, too, sometimes. Shoot...I sometimes feel it about myself! I ask myself, is this just some sort of weird phase? Lord knows I've had enough of those in my 20 year journey following Christ! It seems I'm always going through some radical phase. Just ask my husband!

This morning, though, I felt a little less doubtful. And then we went to church. Our next door neighbor ended up visiting our church (she's a member of another church in our neighborhood, but we'd invited her before and she came today). She sneaked up on us and said, "Surprise!" It was a delight to see her. The winter can be such an isolating time; we are all indoors all winter long and then when we see our neighbors again, it's like it's been years! In the fall our boys were still 'babies', but when the spring comes and they show up outside in the back yard, they've grown like bean stalks! Our oldest is all arms and legs, and though I see him every day, I wonder how he got to be so tall! But I digress...

So our neighbor (such a dear thing) comes up to me and says, "Girl, you got to get over to the Good Will. I was over there yesterday and they got all those (typically Muslim) outfits with the long tunic over the pants, and they have the headcovering too...cuz you know they cover their heads, too. But yes, girl, the whole outfit with the headcoverings for SEVEN dollars! You better get yourself ova there!" (Once you meet Toni you will never forget her. She is boisterous and loud, but we love her so).

So I'm standing there, and I'm listening to her, right? I'm thinking, who told her I cover my head?? Because I certainly didn't! And I've hardly seen Toni all winter long --- I might catch a quick glimse of her as I'm getting into our car and she is getting into hers....that's been about the extent of it since Christmas. Okay, so either the neighbors are talking about me walking around with my head covered, or hubby told them. At any rate, Toni seemed so supportive, like she would have bought the outfits for me right then if she knew my size! So, that goes to show, you never know who is watching you. I'm sure on the side of the church where we sit (the kids section; ours is a pretty big church so you can go weeks without seeing someone who is there every Sunday) members and friends have noticed the head covering. After I talked to Toni (and she told me she had a Good Will coupon for me for 20% off), a friend of hubby's told me that he liked my head covering. Imagine! I was pretty close to hijab today, so I was sort of surprised that he said that. I guess if you must cover, ours is not a bad town to live in. I see Muslim women quite often and from what I can tell, they don't get odd stares. They seem pretty comfortable. But that's just my impression. I could totally be wrong. I can see, though, how others might feel differently living in different areas of the country. Also, I live in a well-integrated area, and there are a lot of African-Americans like me. Black women wear scarves and hats on their heads quite often, especially if they are having a bad hair day, or didn't feel like fussing much with it.

Lots more to say, but the boys need fed. There's another thing that's happened with us lately. More on that later.

Be encouraged, dear ones.

Grace,
Muhala

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fifteen Years and a Blogging Break


Ashunoah and I had a lovely evening last night celebrating 15 years of marriage (and also my 40th birthday)...what joy! The boys hung out with some of our friends from church, and they had lots of fun; I don't think they were quite ready for us to return for them!

We have been taking a photo of ourselves on our anniversary each year, but unfortunately we didn't think to do this from year one. We've only been doing it since year 6 or 8 or something like that. Anyway, it's nice to see how we grow and change. After all these years now, I can't imagine being with anyone else!

Blogging Break

I will be taking a blogging break for a while. Of course, I love blogging and connecting with you, my dear sisters. But I need to focus: I'm feeling God is calling me to more spiritual reading and study; indeed, these are the ways I grow and develop. I can always feel when I'm beginning to get hungry for connecting with the Lord more deeply through spiritual reading and study, and I am about at that point! Moreover, I am giving a talk to a group of college students next month, and I need to be diligent and begin to prepare for that. Lastly, I need to free up some time to get more focused on the head covering book. The more women who email me, the more excited I become, and the more I see how necessary and timely this book really is. Please know I'm only an email away. If you are still interested in sharing a bit of your headcovering story for the book, please email me! During the next few weeks, I'll be sending the proposal out to more and more Christian publishers. Pray with me, please, that God will lead this thing in the direction that pleases Him most. I want to see Him glorified and women encouraged...that is my heart's intent. I'll be sure to keep you all posted. I can't thank you all enough for your incredible support and words of encouragement. I value you more than you know! I'll be back in just a few weeks.

Take good care of one another till I come back!

Grace,
Muhala

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome to Forty

My husband. You gotta love his creativity.
Last Friday he came home early from work, which I expected. But he complained about his stomach bothering him, and said he needed to head to the bathroom (need I say more?).

Within the next half hour, my cousin calls to tell me that she's stranded at a hotel, locked her keys in her car, and has now called everyone in her phone book, and I am the last person who she's trying. Can I come and pick her up? Sure, I said. But that was after I asked hubby if he could go, as I needed to stay and get the boys dressed. He told me he needed to stay near a bathroom, and that he could get the boys dressed and I could pick up my cousin.
I had to pick her up at a hotel, where she was giving some sort of presentation to some clients she had. Wasn't this a nice hotel, she wanted to know. Sure, I said. It's really nice. Did I have time for my cousin to show me some of the rooms? They are really nice rooms, she insisted. Of course, I didn't have the time, since it was early Friday and I had plenty to do at home! But I told her it was no problem, and she took me up to the 4th floor and let herself into one of the rooms with a key. Yep, they were really nice rooms. Contemporary and stylish. Then I noticed a envelope in a chair there in the room. The handwriting looked familiar. I got this eerie feeling of deja vu right before I asked her "What's that envelope for?"

"That's actually for you," she answered calmly.

"For me?"

"Yep. For you."

Oh, no. I'd be had once again!

I opened the envelope and it was a note from Ashunoah. He was thanking me for all I do for the boys and him. He told me he wanted me to have the whole weekend to focus on me, so this would be my hotel room for the whole weekend. He said he knew I had the big prayer event I had to orchestrate for our adoption ministry, but he said he would help me with whatever I needed. He told me this was the only weekend he could book this time for me at this very special hotel. He told me to go home and pack a bag, and to take my journal, books, movies, headcoverings (on this line he told me that I was his glory...how sweet!) and whatever else I might need for my retreat weekend. I was floored. Hubby is good for stuff like this, but it had been a few years. But once again, I'd been had.

My cousin never locked her keys in her car. Hubby never had stomach problems that would keep him on the toilet; it was all a ploy to get me to the hotel!

I was thrilled, needless to say! I went home and finished cooking the items I needed to prepare for the Prayer Event (to be held Saturday morning), and I finished a load of laundry I had started. Hubby took over from there: he got the boys dressed, cleaned the kitchen, and in general was at my service for whatever I needed in order to get me back to the hotel as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, I didn't get back to the hotel till early evening. I went into my delightful little hotel room and looked around. Truly this place was beautiful. But wait! There was another note from hubby there in the same chair where I'd found the first note! This note said for me to get settled in and to be back downstairs in the hotel restaraunt by 7:30 p.m. sharp.

I got settled in, unpacked, and was enjoying some alone time when the phone rang at 7:00. I jumped! It was such a loud ring in so quiet a place! The voice on the other end was a woman's, and she told me it was time to come down for dinner.

Was Ashunoah coming to have dinner with me? Had he gotten a sitter for the kids?

No. That would be too simple!

I took the elevator down to the first floor, and when the elevator doors opened to let me out, there were five of my closest friends sitting there, waiting to see the expression of surprise on my face. My jaw dropped!
Hubby had arranged for my friends to 'surprise' me with a nice birthday dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. He even gave them a dinner 'allowance'...how sweet and thoughtful! My friends came bearing gifts (though I won't turn 40 till next Thursday), and we had a delightful evening talking and laughing. Only two of them knew each other, but they all became friends by the end of the evening. We all agreed that this very same group needs to get together again soon, so much did we enjoy our time together! I told them I would be personally responsible for making it happen.

On top of that, hubby made arrangements for one of the five friends to share my room with me on Friday night, and another to share my room on Saturday night. I had a delightful time staying up and chatting with two of my close friends --- one on each night. Oh, I had such a hard time saying good-bye to the boys on Friday afternoon! I felt like I wanted to cry. I'd never been apart from my boys overnight! (I think Zwahara [Obi] was too over it too. Hubby said that he peed on himself TWICE that weekend. He hadn't done that in weeks! Teshumawe seemed to do okay, but fell into my arms when he saw me again on Sunday). But when I got ready to check out on Sunday morning, I felt near tears. The wonderful weekend just wasn't long enough!

Ashunoah got me the most lovely bag (green, my favorite color...I'm passionate about green!), and two beautiful scarves. Since we were married on my 25th birthday, it doesn't usually feel like my birthday is a day just for me. But this year, it feels like hubby gave me a day just for me --- indeed, a whole weekend! How thoughtful and loving!

Seems he's grown much more comfortable with my covering. I thanked him for his support and generosity, too. Sometimes he might not like something new that I introduce into our lives and our marriage, but by in large, he grows supportive over time. And he can't possibly know how much that means to me. There is hope, dear sisters. There is a delicate thing called hope.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Week's Thrifty Find


You know I love my thrifty finds, and I often tell my hubby if we moved away from this area, I don't think I could bear leaving my local thrift store behind! I wouldn't know how to act if I had to pay full retail price on clothing and shoes.
I paid $4 for these boots, that hardly look worn at all. I actually found them by accident. I saw another woman holding them when I passed her in the thrift store, and I said, "Wow, those are nice!" She said, "Yeah, but they're not my size. They're a six and a half. Are you a six and a half?" My eyes widened, and I said, "YES!" Now, I know that sometimes you need to get your boots a half size larger, but I was still hoping these puppies would fit. They do, and they're pretty comfortable too! I was very pleased, and they wear well with jeans and long skirts. Gotta love that!

Fun with Fabric

Finally I get this bun right! Not sure whether it's the fabric or the technique, but of all the ways I can wield a head wrap I have struggled with the seemingly simplest technique! Wish me continued success...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mama by Day, Writer by Night

I can't thank all of you enough for your outpouring of support on this head covering book effort. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to get myself into such things. What on earth would make me think I have the time and energy to pull together such a tall, tall order? Yet, I am convinced -- now more than ever -- that this is so much bigger than me, and that there is far greater a need for such a book than I earlier realized. So, a couple of things I need from you, if you will, dear ones:

1. Write me. I need your stories. Your stories will constitute the "real" experiences that women just like you and me will want (need!) to read about; it's these stories that will make up the "meat" of the book. Email me at write2muhala@gmail.com. Tell me a little bit of your story. Already women have responded, and I am just amazed at how unique everyone's story is! I may not be able to use all of your stories, but please don't assume that your story isn't unique! Please continue to write me and tell me a bit about yourself and your covering story. Please be patient with me. I will respond to every email I receive; it might take me a couple of days, but I will respond.

2. Pray for me. I'm just amazed that there are so many women out there who are new, or fairly new to covering. I think for every woman who finds this blog, there are many more looking for a supportive community of some sort --- they want to know they are not crazy, and that there really are other women out there just like them that have chosen to cover. Please pray that God's divine purpose would be accomplished and that this proposal will be accepted, if it pleases Him. Also, pray for me as I balance being a wife, a mother to toddlers and a homemaker while caring so much about seeing this book effort through to the end. I definitely need your prayers!

3. Pass the word around. Maybe you know someone who might want to share her story, too. Pass along my information to those you know who might be interested in partnering with this project. Already I have to thank readers who have passed along my info to someone they know who feels led to share their story. A special thanks also to those of you who have posted information on your blogs, linking here to my blog. I am moved almost to tears as I read your stories. It's amazingly apparant to me that God is in this thing. It's just amazing.

It's late and I need to be in bed. Thank you all, dear sisters. I am far more thankful for you than you can know.

God's grace...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

You Don't Have to Understand; You Just Have to Obey

These are the words that have been on my spirit a lot this week. Sometimes I think the Lord is speaking something to me, and I wrestle with it and wrestle with it. I have these little dialogues in my head about why I don't need to do thus and so because it doesn't make sense, or that it wouldn't be in the best interest of yada, yada, yada to do thus and so, and it wouldn't be a wise move, and think about the long-term ramifications --- blah, blah, blah.

Some of you know that I am working on a book about head covering. Last week I finally finished the long and laborious toil of the book proposal. This thing would get me up in the morning before the boys woke. I would write and write. And I would stay up too late writing, after I put the boys to bed. Seems like I ate and breathed the thing until it was finally done and mailed to the publisher. I need your prayers and your help. More on that in a bit.

So I finished this beast of thing --- wrote drafts, proofed, re-proofed and proofed some more till I just wanted to get the darned thing out of my hands. Still, God had been nudging me about letting Ashunoah read the sample chapter that was a required part of the book proposal.

Oh, if you only knew me! I can be terribly sly and it's nothing I'm proud of. Well, Ashunoah knew I was working on a book proposal (he knows I'm a writer, no big thing), but he didn't ask what I was writing about, so I didn't (yet) mention it. Finally, I casually worked it into the conversation that the "women" in the "head covering" "book" I'm "writing" and the "book proposal" this, that and the other. Finally, he got the big picture that I'm doing a book on the (re) emerging head covering movement. He was really kind of laid back about it (he's that sort of guy...mostly), and nodded and just kept right along.

Days would pass and I'd be up early working on the proposal, or up till late at night working on the proposal (in between those two extremes I'm busy running after two toddlers who don't like to see me sneak up to my office to write for 30 minutes. "Mama! Come downstairs, Mama!"...so off I go).

He saw me working on that thing and he began to champion me on. He went out and bought me nice folders to put the proposal in so I could submit it in an attractive package; he bought special, better quality, heavier paper to print out the many pages of the book proposal on. One night he even told me he was proud of me for working so hard on this thing!

That, in and of itself, is a testimony, as many of you know he was not leaping for joy when I told him I felt led to cover. And even after he was "fairly okay" with me sometimes covering, he was never thrilled with it, and we still had some bumps in the road over the covering. It's been some road, that's for sure. To hear him say he was proud of me for working so hard on this thing was pretty amazing, but I'm not naive enough to think that there may not ever be any more bumps over the covering issue. But, I am most thankful for what I have. The Lord, dear ones, has shown me much grace.

I mailed the proposal on Thursday, but before that I was doing more proofing and editing and printing. And I felt the Lord nudging me about letting hubby read the sample chapter. Oh, I was resisting, beloved. Oh, that you could be a fly on the wall of my brain! I was like, "Okay, Lord. I'll do it. I think. No, wait. I can't do it. You know that part where I say yada, yada, such and so? Nooo. I can't have him read that." or, "Well, if the proposal is accepted, he'll read it anyway. Is that good enough? No?" or, "I'll read it to him. No? Because I might skip over some parts?" And then, something inside of me kept answering back when I'd say to myself, "Well, I'm not sure if this is God saying to let him read it, so I just won't let him read it." then, something (Someone!) would say, "Oh, I get it. In this very book proposal, you talked about not being sure, but you'd rather err on the side of obedience, than to walk a different path, and now you are saying just the opposite?"

Ouch. I couldn't say anything about that! So, in the end, I handed him the darned thing and let him read it. I told him I wanted his blessing on it. That sample chapter had a LOT about him in it, but you know what? He was impressed. He told me he really liked it and what parts he really liked in it.

Sometimes we don't have to understand why God wants us to do this thing or that thing. We just have to obey. Later we may understand better, and maybe we won't. But the point is to trust God and follow his nudgings and promptings. He loves us and put His Holy Spirit in us to lead and guide us. The more we respond and obey, the better prepped we are to respond and obey the next time a nudging or prompting comes along.

But back to the book. The proposal is off, but it will take many weeks before the editor says "yay" or "nay". Lisa, from over at Those Headcoverings, (she is an incredible wealth of information) said on her blog some time ago that she sensed a movement was afoot. She could not have been more right. Indeed, there does seem to be a movement afoot, the likes of which we may easily underestimate. We may term this 'movement' a spiritual (re)awakening of some sort, if we care to define it in such terms at all (I realize that there may be some who are uncomfortable with the term 'movement' and don't want to minimize the holy beauty of covering by saying it's part of a 'movement'. I understand and appreciate that. My intention in terming this a (re)emerging movement is merely to find a framework wherein I can practically place women who are new to covering and who have had, many times, a 'sweeping transformation' with regard to their covering. These women appear to be popping up everywhere throughout the U.S. and internationally, as well. I am one of those women. The term 'movement' becomes a loose way to identify such women and is not at all meant to diminish the holy and beautiful practice of head covering). Many women who are now practicing head covering just sensed a leading from the Spirit that they should cover. Many have no history with head covering. Many of us couldn't find a single book that could offer us the kind of support we needed --- a book written by real women for real women who want to embrace the ancient spiritual practice of head covering. Lots of books have been written on the topic of head covering, but there was still something missing.

My hope in penning this book is that women who are looking for support and advocacy in head covering can find it in this book. Too many women feel alone in their families, communities and even churches, as they may be the only woman covering. And this out of the blue! Spouses have a hard time (often) getting their minds around why their wives feel the need to cover their heads. Wives try to explain, and sometimes hubbies come on board, but many times they don't. I hope this book will offer direction, support, insight and courage for women who feel led of God to cover. I hope they will find the strength to cover (or, for that matter, the strength to submit to their husbands and not to cover --- the book will address this scenario, as well) in a culture where covering is not esteemed --- even in many Christian circles, churches and denominations. Many of you may recall that I am covering in the face of my pastor's disagreement with it.

Anyway, my idea is that this book will be comprised of many voices who represent many situations and angles of covering. I am interested in your voice, too. If you think you might like to be a part of this project, please drop me an email (see my profile) and let me know. I'm interested, in particular, in women who live in the states (it's okay if you're a missionary who currently doesn't reside in the states. If you were born and raised here I can use you!). I'm particularly interested in "new" headcoverers (maybe those who have started covering in the last year or two). I'd like to tell your story if you are one of a few, or perhaps the only, head covering women in your church, community or family. I'd like to hear your story if your hubby didn't like it, or maybe your friends, pastor and sister didn't like it. In short, those women who are covering amidst uncomfortable circumstances, but who are trying to press forward in it. If your hubby doesn't want you to do it, I want to hear from you. I need your stories more than you know. I'm also interested in you if you have a history of covering or if you have been a committed covering Christian woman for a while. I'd like to write a little about that, as well. Let me hear from you or feel free to pass this message around. I may not be able to use all of your stories, but I may use some (depending upon the responses I receive). I already have a core group of women I'm working with, but could use some more. Let me hear from you, dear ones. There are many women out there who need to hear voices the likes of ours. We have experiences that can help them as they begin (or continue) this journey of covering.

Love to you, dear ones.

Grace!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Update on the Home-front and Mysteries Unknown

Well, we are moving to higher ground, I think. I have been cleaning up my act, and have been on my p's and q's. Ashunoah has noticed a world of difference and has been praising me, much to my delight. Ever since he had "the talk" with me, I've been really diligent about working on those areas that needed improvement, and he has taken significant notice. Not only that, but he's been surprisingly supportive about the headcovering issue. He still may not understand it fully, but doesn't complain, so long as his needs are met. I'm learning new things (every day, it seems!), and one of the things I think I'm learning is that sometimes (not in every situation, though) our husbands want to be first. Right at the very top. They want to be right up there with God. When we go on and on about covering our heads, sometimes it may seem to our hubbies that the headcovering is more important that they are. They sometimes end up wishing that they could get the special attention that the headcovering is getting. Again, this is not a fast and hard rule, but I think that if our hubbies feel like they are in the number one spot, and they are getting all of their needs met in every area (for us that means going an extra mile or two with regard to our care of them), they maybe couldn't care less if we undertood headcovering, skydiving or fly-fishing. So long as they are happy in every area, many times they are as compliant as can be. That's at least one observation I've made.

Here's another. Often times I think people are less concerned about what our headcovering says about us than they are about what it says about them. Though we aren't saying it (I know we aren't...we aren't those women), I think people are worried that we are somehow more spiritual than they. They might reason that if we feel called to something spiritual that they have no inkling or desire to learn about, that maybe we are somehow more in tune with spiritual things than they are. Like maybe we have a special connection with God, or something. If they deny our headcoverings, they deny that anything is amiss in their own relationship with God. If we don't cover, it means they are okay. There's nothing that they need to change.

This is a bold comparison (forgive me), but check it:

woman to husband: "Honey, I've been feeling that the Lord has called me to do such and so. He showed me in a dream that once I do this thing, we will prosper financially such as never before. I really feel this strong impression to do it. We've nothing to lose, and He showed me that not only would we be financially prosperous, but that our family will be closer than ever. What should I do?"

husband: Well, so long as it's not sin and we have nothing to lose, what's the harm in trying? And since you feel so strongly led, why not follow through? Besides, this could be a real answer to prayer for us.

Please don't hear me wrong on this. I'm not saying that our husbands or our friends would necessarily be okay with everything else besides our own spiritual (re)awakenings. But what, after all, does our headcovering have to do with them? "Nothing." They might be inclined to say. To be sure, my husband was speaking from his heart when he said he felt my headcovering was all about me and for me. He felt it had nothing to do with him, and he wasn't happy about it. I think when our headcovering spills over in areas that include our hubbies and friends, maybe (not always) they will take more interest. Often (as in the above example), they are more excited about something worldly for us/them, than they are about something spiritual. They might not even need to "pray" about; they answer yes flat out! But when it comes to something spiritual, to something so small as a piece of cloth on our heads, folks get bent outta shape and are all up in arms about it. Sometimes friends stand there ready to tell you what is wrong about it. People congratulate you when you've just won a million dollars or you just got a big promotion that will now give you a six figure salary. But when you tell them you feel called to place a little cotton or lace on your head, they walk away and shake their heads. They feel sorry for you.

And as always, dear ones...press on in the journey. For some strange reason, I feel like we are meant to be right where we are.

Grace!
M

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Odds and Ends

We are getting slammed with snow here; it's not even 4:00, and already we've shoveled three times today. I think things are beginning to slow down. It feels like two feet or more of snow. Our dog can't even find a place to squat, poor thing. The snow seems to almost envelope her!

I am beginning to make friends with my hair. So this is how things are lately. I so often cover, and I've not taken much care for those times that I don't cover. I usually feel a bit self-conscious, because I've been so cavalier about the whole hair situation. I decided to straighten a bit (no chemicals, though) to make things a bit more manageable. It helps a lot, and is much more time-saving that having to wrestle with my thick and course hair. Hubby likes it too (hubby likes the entire "look" --- hair and clothing ensemble ---you see in this photo, as he told me so later on in the day that I wore it). As far as length goes, it's pretty short, but grows fairly fast, so I'm hoping I can get it to be chin length before too long. I guess then I'll decide what I want to do with it. Short hair is sooo much easier and quicker to deal with, and I do tend to like my hair in layers. At the same time, it's frustrating when I can't get my hair into a little ponytail! Also, I've grown out my old perm and the blonde highlights. My highlights are now the gray hairs that I'm letting grow in!

These are my cherubs. Aren't they delicious? Obi is three and Bo-Bo (also lovingly known as "Sweetfat") is two. God love my mother-in-law who is a tremendous help to me when she comes into town. I can't say enough good about her, except that God has richly blessed me with her and her giving heart. God gave me a good mother who, with lots of love and hard work, raised me to womanhood. After that He blessed me with a good mother-in-law who visits often, rarely gives unsolicited advice, drops the 'in-law' and calls me her daughter --- and on top of all this, she never comes to our house empty-handed, she engages the boys, teaches them their numbers, letters and colors and buys many of their clothes. For Christmas, she bought all their clothes, cut all the tags off and put all the new clothes away, while having to move older clothes out of the way. This one task alone saved me hours of time! Okay, sure, she cooks way too much when she comes (we tell her she needs 5 more grandkids the way she cooks!), but the operative phrase here is that she cooks for this household when she visits...that alone is such a big help. It means I don't have to cook, and can spend that time doing something else.

My mom-in-law started teaching me to sew, and I've been having a good time playing with fabric during this winter season. I'm really just learning basics and experimenting, but I am looking forward to making head coverings and new tops from 'too-short' dresses and old skirts (recycling material in this way is good, since the $1 or $2 skirts, shirts and dresses I buy from our local thrift store is less than what I would pay for a yard of fabric). Since I'm unable to work in the garden, and it's too cold to open windows for any painting projects, I'm keeping myself busy teaching the boys and with household duties that always beckon (especially laundry and cleaning); I have been having a good time baking up yummy things, but I'd like a bit more margin in order to work on discovering the possibilities of fabric.

For a little while, I think I've had the curiosity (dare I say hunger?) of divine liturgy, and have wanted to experience what a liturgical service might be like. We attend a non-denominational church, but I usually observe Lent and Advent on my own. I recently met a new friend who is also a stay-at-home wife and mom, and we'd talked a little about her church. I'm familiar with the church, as another friend of mine attends there too. Maybe I can make plans to visit; until then, maybe a little research here and there. I also welcome any thoughts you might want to share.

God's grace to you, beloved of God...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Feel Like Going On...

This past weekend met me with difficult points. Ashunoah came clean with me and told me about some things he is not happy with about me: areas where I really need improvement. He further explained that my headcovering seems not to impact certain areas that pertain to him; this headcovering thing, he said, came rather out of the blue, and that it is a change that mostly affects me. Moreover, I did it in spite of our pastor's disapproval (that hurt). He also said that my vegetarianism is another decision that mostly affects and is for me. Others may reap some secondary benefit, but it mostly affects me, he said.

Ashunoah was kind in his delivery of those words, but it still hurt. I was completely discouraged and heavy of heart. Still, I appreciated his honesty and told him that I want him to continue to be honest with me about areas I need to make improvements in --- otherwise, I might not know that anything needed to be changed. He was agreeable.

My sharing this with you, dear sisters, is a lesson for me in humility. I was so hurt. I felt I was being a really good wife and I was so conscientious --- I wanted to make sure that I was giving right attention to every area. I was in prayer to God about my behavior and thoughts; I wanted to honor God and my husband and children in every way. My efforts have not been as successful as I'd hoped, and this is hugely disappointing and discouraging.

But I share these things with you, dear ones, so that you may be vigilant. Our covering means precious little if it doesn't change us for the better. We are to become more gentle, more loving, more attentive, less selfish. We are Christians, yes, but the cloth is just one small thing that should take us farther and deeper in our walk with Christ, and that in and of itself should show in our relationships with others. Let's have a keen eye to recognize the greatest needs of our spouse and family, and let's hurry to meet those needs. Let us hurry to be full of forgiveness when we are hurt or offended. Let's not let that hurt turn into the venom of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness. Let's concern ourselves less with being understood and concern ourselves more with being understanding (St. Francis of Assisi said that). Besides, there is no one who can understand us (on this and the other side of eternity) quite the way God can.

Part of my problem, I think, is that I want my husband and others to see my positive changes in my life as acts of obedience, not just something I do for my fun and pleasure. To be sure, covering up and going against the grain of the culture is neither fun or pleasurable. It's so much easier to walk the path of least resistance. I expect (perhaps too much) for people to understand the pure motives of my heart: to honor God and to walk in obedience to Him. I'm not perfect in this, but I want to be temperate and do not want to just go tossing anything into my mouth without conscience or care for the body God gave me. I am misunderstood if people think that I do this for fun, to draw attention to myself or to flagrantly disregard my pastor's thoughts on headcovering. But then, I am in good company. Jesus was misunderstood. So were His disciples. And so shall be many of His followers. But my hope is in Jesus. I need to lower my expectations a bit, perhaps, and realize that people are not made to understand me through and through --- sin is just too prevalent in our culture for even those close to us to not suspect us of impure intentions.

When Ashunoah said those words to me, I wanted to toss away the cloth. "What difference does it make?" I thought, "if even the one closest to me doesn't see any change in me?" I wanted to toss away the cloth, but I didn't. And I don't even really know how I didn't, except for the grace of God. And somehow, oddly, I feel like going on...

Peace to you, beloved of God.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Longest Day on Earth

That's surely what it must feel like for the Obamas today. I am thrilled, overwhelmed to the point of tears and nearly speechless at today's events. What a moment....what an amazing moment in time.

God's grace....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Open Door

It feels like life comes in waves...sort of the way understanding does. Like when a Bible passage you've read 20 times before hits you differently on that 21st reading. Suddenly certain passages ring with such clarity now. Like this one:

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2).

As believers, we read this passage (and many others) and take for granted what it means. Sure, we're called to be different; we're called to be like Christ...that's pretty much a no-brainer. But for the headcovering Christian woman, this passage takes on a new richness that is not to be taken for granted.

One of my friends (God love her) recently emailed me and wanted me to know that she supports my decision to cover. She didn't want me to think she didn't support me because we've not really had a deep discussion about it. I told her it was fine, and I'm not really about bashing my friends over the head with the book on covering --- it's just not my mode of operation. Some women have had really sweeping transformations with regard to covering and dressing more modestly. I described my experience to my dear friend in these terms: God was opening a door. I had a choice. I could walk through the door, or I could walk away from the door. If I walked away from the door, I already knew what awaited me: self-doubt, bondage, anxiety, defining my beauty by the world's standards, continued issues with body image, pride and vanity.

If, on the other hand, I walked through the door He was opening, I had a real chance at peace and freedom. I was now free to define my beauty by God's standard. I could exchange my pride and vanity for humility, wisdom and purity. I could turn off the noise of the world's lies and step into truth. It was just a door and the choice was mine.

I like to think I made the right choice. Some days I get up and it makes absolutely no sense to me. Then I think of my world B.C. (before covering), and I realize I'll take my chances on this side of the door. I don't need it to make sense at every single moment. I just need to remember that my reasons for being here were the right ones. And, as another covering blogger wrote, if I felt God was leading me in this direction, I'd rather err on the side of obedience than on the side of disobedience. And as an old friend once told me, if you're going to struggle, it's better to struggle inside the will of God than outside of it.

So, dear ones...press on...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Men Folk on the Journey

I love this post (from a husband's perspective) on what it's like when a wife speaks about wanting to cover. I love the honesty that Rick shows in this post, and I love that he and and his wife, Melly Elizabeth, are on this journey together.

Oh goodness, God is so patient with us! Rick's testimony surely reveals this, and I think we can all see it in our own lives. Years ago, when I wanted to go from full time work outside of the home, to part time work outside of the home, Ashunoah really struggled. At one point, when I was immature and self-seeking, I went to work part time, anyway, not bothered much by what he thought of it. Oh, and you must know how ashamed I am of that. Eventually, I went back to full time. After some time had passed, I told him I'd like to go part time again (this was long before the kids), and wondered what he'd think of it. This time, I was committed to only going part time if he said I could. I continued working full time till he gave me the okay. Some time had passed and he got into some good conversations with another godly, male friend of his who asked him just how much he really trusted in the Lord's provision if he was afraid for me to work part time outside the home. Some things in that conversation really hit home for him and he began to do a turnaround. After a while, we were both settled and content with me working part time, and God was providing for us just fine! I even continued working part time when I became a mom for the first time (that was by choice on my part, as I was in something of a verbal commitment with campus ministy work); but by the time our youngest came along, we both knew that working outside of the home was out of the question. Since then, I've been happily at home with my boys. We've certainly had some challenges, but God has helped us through every one of them.

I see Ashunoah warming up to my headcovering, in a subtle sort of way. He works in appliance repair, and if he goes to the home of a couple where the wife is a headcovering woman, he takes special note. When he comes home, he tells me about it, and says, "You would have liked her. She was all covered up." or he might say something like, "Yeah, she was Muslim. I was asking about her headcovering and I told her about your covering and she was very interested."

I don't doubt that many husbands find it hard at first to accept the idea of their wives covering. It's weird. A little off-center. What will folks say? I think in many ways our men folk are on a journey of their own when it comes to our covering. I'm confident that many husbands just want to do what God wants them to do; some come huffin' and puffin', some come humbly with teachable hearts. Wherever they are on the journey, they need our prayers, our love, our submission and our respect. I'm also confident that most wives know that nagging and self-seeking attitudes get us no where fast. Otherwise, what's the point of the covering? As one dear blogger wrote recently (quoting from Amy's blog From this Minute), “I love the face of a nun. The glow. I know my headcovering doesn’t automatically give me that. I may dress the part sometimes, but I still have a lot of work to do. You have to earn holiness. If I can just be a fraction of the person I dress like. That’s what I pray for. What I commit to each day. Just a little bit like that person.”

So well said!