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 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!