Tag Archives: christianity

Muslim for a day

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Dressed as a Muslim, I was invisible. There were only two people during my day out on the town that regarded me as equal. Read about them below.

I finally got up the nerve to conduct an experiment in which I wore a veil around town and reflected on people’s reactions. I did not intend it to offend anyone but to gain more sympathy and understanding for those practicing religions that include wearing one, especially in my relatively homogenous monoculture.

The pictures in this post are me as Fadia, the heroine in my current work in progress, a christian suspense, where the clash between Muslim culture and American ideals is a large part of the plot. In her culture this is called hijab.

Here is what I learned.

I prayed, before embarking on my adventure, that God would give me insight and deeper compassion in understanding His heart for all people. Then Matt and I headed out to Wal Mart. He dressed simply in his usual–jeans and long sleeved t-shirt. He was nervous because people around here tend to be a little bit prejudice or at least ignorant. Not because they intend to be but there isn’t a lot of diversity up here in North Idaho so it is not something people experience. Matt grew up in California where the opposite is true. And he misses that melting pot lifestyle.

We spent almost two hours at Wal Mart where, except for the veil, I acted my friendly, casual self. In all that time only three people smiled at me (not counting the checker). One was a man who gave me a cursory glance and a meek smile. Another was an elderly woman in the bathroom. The third is the only person the entire time whom I felt looked at me like another human being. While the other two smiles were appreciated, this woman was different. She was also, the first person who didn’t steer across the aisle or look me up and down after I’d passed.

Matt noted that when people avoided looking directly at me, they would turn and gawk after passing. He said it wasn’t a disdainful look but more naivety or curiosity.

The woman in the blue sweater spotted me at the end of an isle. Her eyes sparkled with interest and she blinked only a brief second before looking me full in the face, radiating peace and confidence. I could tell that at first glance, I caught her off guard but she must have had a conversation with herself in that split second and made a decision to choose grace. Her smile is something I can hardly describe because I’ve rarely felt the “outsider” with an opportunity to evaluate what someone must “think” of me. We saw each other offten throughout the shopping excursion and her reaction never changed. I guess it was a smile that extended an offering of friendship despite differences, acceptance regardless of my circumstance, stage in life, religious preference…. It was so fresh and vibrant to be regarded as such after a long shopping experience where I was virtually invisible to most humans.

I hope she knows how appreciated her love was. Her grace must have come from a heart forgiven, unconditional love accepted and a life surrendered to Christ.

We made a quick stop at the mall where I was a little bit less of an anomaly. The young people milling about didn’t take much notice. But an elderly couple passed us in the hall when we left a store where I’d bought a new pair of sweats for after the baby comes. The husband gripped his wife’s arm possessively and looked us both up and down with fire in his eyes. That was the first time anyone took notice of Matt.

I realized that the man thought if I was a Muslim woman then Matt must be a terrorist. How sad that this was his only conclusion. Matt and I talked about all the other possibilities. I could be Jewish, or a cancer patient or simply cold…. And yet he gave us a look like we intended to blow up the mall.

We decided it was time for dinner and so Matt went for the car. I chose a chair in the food court near the door to wait and the most ironic thing happened. A Muslim family came in. Okay, now I’m stereotyping but they sounded like they were speaking another language and the woman wore a beautiful pale blue veil and modest clothing. Funny enough, beneath the veil, she, her husband and her two children more western than I me. She had trendy jeans, and a hooded sweater.

She was the second person to whom I was not invisible. After they had ordered some food she went out of her way to steer the baby stroller next to my table. Her face beamed with recognition and almost relief. I waved at the little guy and her daughter, about 6, played and smiled at me too. We didn’t speak any words but we both knew the other understood. We were two islands in a sea of unfamiliar, lonely and wanting, compelled to smile at each other. We had to band our hearts together in the brief time we had before it was gone again. I realized through that encounter how desperate and empty it is to live in a foreign place and be looked at as the “untouchable”.

 

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Who influences you?

Influence. Be it beneficial or not so edifying. Who and what influence you?

When I take a good hard look at the topic I find it a bit of a surprise what I am actually influenced by. I’d like to think it is by godly principles, right living, and an entirely independent way of thinking that doesn’t include worldly voices but is that what really influences us?

Cultural bias. I’m a reader and though I don’t subscribe to any I find that I have plenty of women’s magazines to select from in my house. I decorate, plan and even shop on the recommendations of magazines.

Adds. Aren’t we swayed to veer to an out of the way store often because of a mailer we received touting a sale that can’t be passed up? That reminds me of sales! Is it really a sale if I SPEND where I wouldn’t have spent?

Media. Have you ever spent a day moping simply because of  the depressing things you saw or read on the news? I know I have.

Past  baggage, influential people on TV, family….

Would you take a moment to really think honestly and if you are comfortable sharing, please respond to this question. Who and what most affect how you go about your life?

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Slowing down giving myself grace

Why do we live so much for tomorrow when it can never be caught?

I am beginning to learn. God had to force my hand this week, as I mentioned in a previous post, but it is time to slow down.

Today while I was in the middle of folding laundry I had a break and put “Pink” (nail polish) on PeeWee’s toes. Then instead of the great lesson on hearing that goes along with the “Who was Hellen Keller” unit we are working on I let the kids cover the table with paper and make an outer space scene. Then we sat on my bed and read a poem about families and I challenged them to write a poem for our Christmas letter. We still haven’t done math but they are outside picking and eating the last of the carrots and having a grand ol’ time. I’m resting and writing. Both of which are equally relaxing for me.

With each of my kids (except the 1st) I’ve had a time where I thought we were done growing our family. With Pee Wee it was the most pronounced. I grieved when she quit nursing. I clung to every little thing she still possessed of her infancy. Now that I’m pregnant again I feel so humbled and blessed but also so tired it is hard to revel in the moment. I want to remember the movements that tickle my ribs, savor the feelings of wonder as I daydream about what he will look like, feel like and who he will grow up to be.

I want to embrace these times that are so fleeting. There is a whole lifetime ahead of me for going and never will any day stop for me to catch my breath, squeeze another big hug out of my toddler or make a space station in my kitchen.

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In 30 min or less – purpose, life, struggle with agenda

I set the timer and put aside my slave driver hat. Both for my benefit and my kids’. Life is just to short to stress, drive, push, argue, finagle, (you know the drill). I am such a task oriented personality that it is one of the hardest things for me to remember life is not about a list! Life is not about chores! Life is not about meeting a goal or even completing everything on the homeschool agenda.

Our created purpose is to be an ambassador of Christ. Christian or little Christ.

Often times I put that hat on at church or Bible study. When I get in the car to go home I rip it off and stuff back on my slave hat. Slave to the agenda of raising an all American family. Slave to my ideas, dreams and many times, with a large family, the necessities.

I struggled with this last week praying, pleading and trying to get my priorities into perspective. I had to pep talk myself into remembering that there are seasons where we are more capable than others. Pregnancy is not a particularly capable season. Neither is raising a two-year old, nor a three-year old. When I decided to homeschool my kids I knew I’d need to set aside more of the “necessities” to do that. Yet, I never lowered my standard. I never let myself be truly okay with the extra chaos of school deadlines, potty training and plain ol’ tired mom, necessitate.

I blew it. I told myself I could and SHOULD still do it all.

Why? Because I value accomplishment and follow through. I despise laziness and things left undone.

But then I found myself pondering, what does God value?

Dishes done? Kids on pace with the local school? Floors mopped? Dinner on?

Above all, God created us for relationship. He created us to reflect his nature. And He, all powerful, having everything, knowing everything, desired US!

The more I have on my list, the less I am in meaningful relationships with others. Sadly, this always begins with God, then I alienate my husband and fight with my kids to “get it done” (whatever IT is for the moment) and of course when the house is out of order and my list is getting longer I don’t have time for others.

So after a real live baby fit and a horrendous melt down which I won’t even try to explain. YUCK! I came to the conclusion that I NEED to stop robbing my friends of the blessing of helping me. I need to lay off my husband because he cannot right all wrongs or be expected to “fix” me. And I want to enjoy my kids even if it means putting school aside, inviting them all up to my bed and spending a day reading and coloring. With an overactive personality like mine we are not in danger of living in filth and becoming illiterate. But if I don’t slow down, invite some girls over to fold laundry and drink tea while our kids play and just revel in the simpler things of life I AM in danger of being too overwhelmed, sick or blinded to the purpose of this blessed life I’ve been granted.

Purpose to do what is lasting.

Passion to see the hope in my future without a selfish agenda.

Strength to cling to the promises of the Father and raise my children to fight this same battle in the future with weapons of faith and love.

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The grumps, free graphics for collague, homework, mom woes

I’m so grumpy today. What a way to start a post huh? I can’t figure if it is simply the weather (rainy and overcast) but what bothers me about that possibility is that I don’t NOT like the weather. What a mouthful! It is refreshing, smells so clean, great for the garden etc. How could I protest that? Yet, is my body protesting against my will?

Is it business? Stress? Baby blues? I’ve been much better lately about being in the Word first and foremost in my day. That helps. I used to do it before bed but now days that time is best used doing chores and I listen better to the Lord when my mind is slow (quiet might be a better choice of words) and moldable. Once the day gets going I am off to a hundred different agenda’s from homeschool to potty training to finding some sanity as a person. Am I a person anymore? Have any of you felt like that before? Like your life, kids, projects, whatever, rob you of your personality, strip the creativity and humor from your usual self? I feel like that lately. I’m humorless and just plain grumpy.

Well, one thing I do know is that the Lord wouldn’t have me dwell  on those thoughts so even though that’s where I want to wallow I think I’d better move on to another topic and see if I can’t get a better perspective.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)

True – Hmmm, well this is random and probably not what Paul was talking about but I found a free graphics site for collage projects. I’m excited because I’m still trying to get a little bit of art into my days. I love to journal and it is great fun to journal with art mediums; paint, collage, markers, colored pencils etc. I’ve been wanting to post some more pics of various pages but… so much to do so little time! I know what’s true about it… it is true there are places to find free graphics but really the thing I love about journaling is the conversations that go on between my soul and Christ. Sometimes while I’m praying I write down the thoughts, other times I am in a certain mood and I will paste various things to a page and leave it for months then along comes a sermon topic that fits exactly with that page/mood and I’m able to complete the thought as a sort of conversation between me and my Maker. He speaks gently and deliberately, taking as much time as needed and through the art journal I am able to visualize that communication. It’s neat! I keep track of prayer requests and answers, topics I am struggling with and answers, precious moments with my children and husband or the difficult ones but always there is my Jesus, listening and teaching. That’s TRUE.

Noble – Webster’s includes these definitions;

  1. of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence; lofty: a noble thought.
  2. admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition: a noble poem.

And this is what came to mind. I’ve been urging the women in my Bible study to pray about and seek earnestly a “verse to live by” that they can learn, dwell on and cling to throughout our next study. I have yet to do MY homework. 🙂 But the following verse keeps coming up so I think the Lord has revealed the verse I am supposed to work on.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (NCV)

 

Right – Again, trusty Websters: that which is in accord with fact, reason, propriety, the correct way of thinking, etc

 

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Well, I don’t know about FACT but I took the Emma Adaptations quiz and my results were a reasonable description of me. This is what they said…

 “You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed.”

Pure – Peewee was in pure bliss this morning when she discovered the boys had left the sugar tin out on the counter. She scooped a good cup full out onto the table, licked her plump little fingers and went to town scooping and licking until I caught her! Even though she was in trouble the look on her face was absolutely heaven.

Lovely – My cozy, grass green sweater, a cup of coffee and a fire in the stove.

Admirable – How my husband puts up with my grumpy moods and no matter what I throw at him he says “I’ll pray for you” and usually has an idea of something I could do or think about that would help my perspective.

Praiseworthy – My children playing happily together in spite of the fact that I’ve holed up in the basement (where that fire is) with the computer and my sweater. They even made PB & J for everyone for lunch. I’m not going to say anything about the jumping on the couch they are doing because they don’t think I know.

Okay, well I have to say I do feel better and I think I might go have a PB&J

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Balance, perspective, priorities, desires…

Balance, perspective, priorities, desires and that dog gone knowledge thing I can’t talk about.

These are always a struggle for me so as I learn more about photography (and have such great subjects, 4 crazy Thinglets) it’s hard not to spend hours editing, sharing, creating. I need to put myself on photo editing restriction or something.

I do the same thing with anything I’m enjoying. Writing is another project I have to keep “under wraps”. I’d love to fall into the page and forget my surroundings, learn new things and talk to God through my writing. If I could divide my time between writing and being on a horse with occasional picture taking, I’d have it made.

Or would I?

Last night was one of those nights. I think Pee Wee might be cutting her last eye tooth and so she cried off and on all night until, somewhere in the wee hours Matt got her up and sat with her in the living room. Not ten minutes later Loud Kiddington started howling and crying in his bed. Then of course the big boys tried shushing him. Everyone was up and hollering.

What a night. But still, the patience I need for my children is drained on days when I seek only to please myself. When I go to bed with an agenda for the next day and wake up with a list of desires (not just chores) I feel nothing but frustration toward the four little one’s who constantly derail my plan. But when I plan only to enjoy my children I find I have more debth of character, more passion and joy to pour out when able or simply enjoy.

After the crazy night all the kids woke up happy. Little Pee Wee came toddling into the living room, plucked her paci out of her mouth, threw it on the ground and and hollered “Where Daddy?”

So precious. I do have to say though, the thought did cross my mind that her big blue eyes and emphatic expression would have made an incredible picture. I was quickly re routed upon smelling what eminated from her diaper.

How could I miss these times?

Easily.

With very little sleep this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and poured a cup of coffee. I’ve been reading in 1 Corinthians. I found a quote from Isaiah 64:4 which is quoted in 1 Cor. 2:9 – However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

So all this to say. I have plenty of my own plans. Tons of ambitions. Long lists of good things to do but it all requires me to KNOW! This verse points out that no one has known. I’m off the hook. I don’t need to know anything because if I could gain all the wisdom of the world it amounts to nothing next to God.

1 Corinthians 1:25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

I need only to rest in Him, wait on His timing and pour myself out for my family. If anything interferes with that I’ve got my priorities upside down. If anything tempts me to put that off, that thing can wait because this innocence that my children now have, doesn’t wait. Before I know it they will be balancing their own lives and my job as advisor, counselor, late night rocker will be over and I’ll have days and weeks and months and years to pursue my desires.

Hopefully by then I will have learned the lessons and my days will be filled with living for Christ. For only he is wisdom. Only he is knowledge.

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When I first visited Japan

I went to Japan at age 16 (Setagaya – I think – it’s Tokyo area, not far from Shibuya) to visit a girl who had come as a host student to our house the year prior. Her name is Erica. Her dad worked for a company that had work for him in the states for a while so she has excellent English. We were great friends and good pen pals so it was only natural to visit.
My first impression upon arriving was how oppressed it felt. Though I didn’t know a lot about the country nor was I that mature in my faith but I could feel the loneliness. God started to plant the seed in my heart for Japan not just my one friend.
I experienced my first earthquake within hours of arriving. It was a mini one but left a lasting impression. I felt so small. The earth literally swelled like a boat on the ocean.
While I was there I spent time in downtown Shibuya and met a tall white man who spoke only Japanese. I was so naive!
I visited Tokyo Towers where it felt like I could see the world. Mt. Fuji was beautiful that day and we could see Meiji Jingu Shrine (which we visited later). They tell me that we rode the worlds fastest elevator.
I was blessed to be in Tokyo during the time of the cherry blossoms. For almost the entire trip the trees were budding out, ready to flower. People were everywhere with picnic lunches and lawn chairs. The city we were in had a huge cemetery called Aoyama and the park was full of the beautiful trees. Here is a picture on a Japanese site. To this day the Cherry is one of my favorite trees. I was told that a strong wind or rain can ruin the buds so people wait for days to see the flowers.
I love Japan and someday I’d like to go back again.
Next time I’ll tell you about being a bridesmaid in a Japanese wedding. Maybe I can even dig out some old pictures. 🙂
Check out this blog by a wonderful Christian family living in Japan
And this website by some friends of ours planting churches in Japan

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