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.


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.


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,
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!


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."