Victress

To the woman that I am privileged to call my grandmother and my role model.

***

I wish that you could have met her, just once. I wish that you could have sat next to her, and sipped a cup of tea with her in her front room, whilst watching the strange outside world fly by.

But most of all, I wish that you could have heard her laugh.

When she laughed, the world stood still.

Yes, there was a certain something about her contagious giggle, something so distinctive and seemingly effortless, something joyful and and yet so simple.

Fearlessness. 

As a young girl I watched her, I saw her and I followed her.

Time and time again I sat with her, and played with her hair, twisting her white soft curls around my seven year old fingers.

Day after day, I wrote my stories and read them too her, one by one.

“Brilliant!” “Superb!” “Splendid!” 

She was always positive and always caring – I was lucky to know her.

The Victress. 

However,  what I – the hairdresser and the aspiring writer – failed to realize, was that behind every Victress, there lies a victory, and behind every victory there lies a battle.

 

Nobody can deny the presence of pain in a world so corrupt and broken as ours.

Nobody can comment on the ease of forgiveness, or at how simple is is too look into the eyes of someone who has hurt you  and wronged you, and yet still find the courage to speak the three most powerful, freeing, confusing words that this world has to offer:

“I forgive you.” 

I cannot write her story, because I truly know so little about her struggle – I did not witness her challenges, her trials or her pain.

Yet, what I saw and what I witnessed, was something of far more worth and value, something truly deserving of admiration.

What I saw was the outcome. 

Her outcome. 

Somehow, when I consider her life, when I look at her journey, the battle does not seem so overwhelming.

How so? 

Each time I look at her, each time I remember her, I see her countenance, filled with love and overflowing with joy .

Every time I think of her, I try to look for her scars, after all – we all have our own scars. Those bitter wounds of a world determined to break us and crush us, the marks of a world so intent on denying every flicker of hope from our eyes.

Yet, each time I look, every single time, I cannot find anything.

The trophy of her battle is the strength of her character.

The mischievous grin of a cheeky grandmother simply up to no good, the enthusiastic drive of a woman so motivated by adventure and the overwhelming joy of a lady empowered by a love far beyond her.

Yes, I miss her. 

I miss seeing the curve in her smile and the look in her eye when her favorite song played on the radio.

I miss the way we danced together, and the way she used to twirl me, around and around and around. 

Today I smile, because the seeds that she planted as an act of obedience and the steps of bravery that she took when all seemed hopeless, have a meaning and a purpose, even now.

I smile, because although I no longer hear her, walk with her, and talk with her – I can be like her.

And I smile, because what she started years ago, what she chose to surrender and how she chose to live, began the process of what I can only think to call –  a legacy.

Her Legacy.

So as we return to our lives riddled with concerns, decisions and questions, let’s ponder on a thought unique to our own lives, our own stories, What will be our legacy? 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31: 25

 

 

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اللغة العربية والقدس

قبل ٤ سنوات قررت أن أدرس اللغات في الجامعة وفي رأيي هدأ القرار كان واحد من أهم القرارات في حياتي.

في العام ٢٠١٢ سافرت إلى القدس من أجل أن أكون متطوعة في منظمة كبيرة في البلدية القديمة القدس.

عندما وصلت إلى القدس ما عرفت كلمة في اللغة العربية. كل يوم عندما عملت في المنطمة سمعت كل الموظفيين تحدثوا معاً في اللغة العربية واردت ان افهم كل ما قالوا. قلت لاصدقائي انني أردت ان أدرس العربية وهم قالولي سيساعدوني. هدا كان الطريق التي بدأت أن أدرس اللغة العربية.

بعد أَن انتهيت من العمل التطوعي في القدس خططت ان أَدرس اللغة الانجليزية في جامعة بانغور في شمال ويلز ولكن عندما بدأَت دراسة اللغة العربية وقعت في الحب مع هذه اللغة وثقافتها.

مديري في القدس سألني اذا كان يمكنني ان ابقى في القدس من اجل ان اكون سكرتيرته. هو قال اذا بقيت في القدس المنظمة سيدفعون لي لدراسة اللغة العربية في كلية هند الحسيني في الشيخ جراح في شرق القدس. قررت ان ابقى في القدس لسنة اخرى.

من ثم ادركت انني لا ارغب للدراسة اللغة الانجليزية في الجامعة. بدات لبحث عن درجات في اللغات من الشرق الاوسط.

وجدت دورة في اللغات من الشرث الاوسط في جامعة مانشستر وقررت ان ادرس اللغة العربية واللغة العبرية مع بعض.

الآن انا اعتقد أَنَّ كل شيء يحدث لسبب.

سارة

Father’s Joy 

Sometimes life is beautiful, and sometimes it brings more burdens than we feel we can bear. Often these burdens come hand in hand with choices, decisions that we must make on behalf of someone else.

This story is for every parent who has faced the unthinkable decisions that nobody is ready to make. This story is for every child, youth or adult who has ever felt the bitter pain of worthlessness. And this story is a celebration of my beloved parents, who have dedicated their lives and sacrificed so much, to provide myself and my sister with everything that we have ever needed. 

Written with an  adoration and an admiration for my father God in heaven, who’s love is unconditional and perfect. A God filled with compassion, grace and love for every person, in every situation. 

Dedicated to: Aboudi and Salah, Patrick and Theresa and Omar and Rebecca.

****

“The truth is, your daughter will never be normal, she will never live an easy life. The strain that she will bring will be an incredible amount of pressure on your family.”

The words echoed through the empty room as the doctor slowly began to list of the various illnesses.

One by one.

They had announced the news February last year, the couple were to become parents to a little girl –  a beautiful blessing, a little sister, a cousin, a niece.

A little girl, who would become a member of their family; treasured, precious and loved.

Like a knife, sharp and intrusive, the words of the doctor cut through the dreary thoughtful silence that had filled the room.

“We could terminate the baby, in the long term this may be more beneficial – if the girl lives we expect that she will not live longer than one year.” 

Silence.

The Father-to-be stood with his hand on his wife’s shoulder as he stared towards the floor.

A pearly tear trickled down the side of his face.

From the outside he was calm and collected, composed and strong, but from inside he was screaming.

ANGER, blood red and bitter

Suddenly he had questions, unanswered questions.

 

Why?

Life had been hard for him, as a child he had never known the comfort and compassion of a family.

He remembered the feeling of rejection as his own father stared him in the eye and he remembered the pain of his father’s cruel, hate filled words:

“You are nothing to me, nothing but a stupid idiot! You were my biggest mistake.” 

 

He felt a tremble beneath him, and as he looked down he saw his wife, his companion, his best friend, crying.

Her makeup once unnoticeable now lay smeared around her eyes.

He held her in his arms, he had never felt so helpless.

He remembered the moment he had taken her into his arms and asked her to be his wife, his one and only, his lady.

He remembered their wedding day, she was so beautiful – an angel dressed in white with a flawless smile and the most contagious laugh. 

He remembered asking her to be the mother of his children. 

**

As the day drew into evening the doctor’s words played continuously though his head.

“Terminate” “Child” “One Year” 

All his life he had believed in reasons. Everything in life had a reason. Everything in life had a purpose.

But this time, he had no answers.

As he washed the dishes pondering the days ahead, considering the decisions and the consequences, the radio rattled in the background.

Within minutes a stream of sentences, a chorus, echoed throughout the empty kitchen.

“Everlasting Father, enduring love forever, your kindness makes me stronger

“I am loved, I am loved, by my Father, I’m forever Yours”

Such simple words, such powerful words.

He had lived over twenty years of his life believing the lies and the words uttered over him at such a young age.

He had believed he was worthless. 

Then came the time when he met with the love of a father, unexpectedly.

He had promised from that moment onwards to live his life empowered by that same love.

He had made a promise to himself that if he ever had a family, if he ever had children, they would never go a day without feeling loved, protected, honored and treasured.

They would know what it was to have a father.

Four weeks later, hand in hand, the couple walked into the doctors room.

And with a smile on his face the man looked at the doctor.

And as the doctor began to discuss the process of termination, the man interrupted, in a strong, emotion filled voice:

“We will keep the child, whether she lives for one day, or fifty years. She will know a father’s love and a mother’s smile. She will feel love every second of her life. She will be treasured, honored and cherished.”

The doctor stared at the couple, in awe and shock.

“And we have a name for our daughter – Joy – She is her father’s joy!”

He paused, and slowly as his eyes filled with tears and a smile formed on his face.

“She is her father’s joy… she is MY JOY!”

 

SONG: EVERLASTING FATHER 

Remembrance

For the encouraging friend and brother who uses his time and energy to inspire the ones that he loves to live their lives to the fullest, I want to thank you for living fearlessly and for choosing to use your time to encourage others. You are a blessing and a treasure. 

***

“Yella habibi, let’s go! I have time” 

And so we drove away from the vibrant lights of Amman, far from the city streets, we drove.

As the city disappeared behind us, the road ahead widened.

The two of us, two friends who were not searching for anything but were merely filling time, drove beyond the noise to simplicity, to nature.

As the road swerved the dead sea was revealed to our right: a shimmering, black, vast carpet of water hidden by the darkness of the night.

A short time passed and we stepped out of the car to take a look.

The glimmering city lights opposite defined the distant hills of Jerusalem  from the thick black sky.

And we looked up. There they were, in their thousands – stars.

Within a few minutes the world became so insignificant. The thoughts and questions that had consumed my mind for months were silenced.

All then my surroundings disappeared, it was just me. 

I have never known a peace like that, so swift and sudden.

For the past few weeks questions had haunted me, thoughts on the past, feelings about the future.

Now, nothing seemed to matter.

I realized that the past, full of joy and triumph, mistakes and regrets, would always be the past.

As I stood, watching the stars, listening to the gentle music playing from the car, a shooting star ran through the sky.

I have seen a shooting star once before in my life, whilst sitting at the beach.

The star like a strange, reassuring, gentle whisper, reminded me of something I seem to forget so quickly.

 God is with me.

Within seconds the shooting star had vanished.

Looking up, it was so hard to imagine how such a vast ray of beauty could merely be an accident or a chance.

That night, I felt held in the hands of someone greater than I could ever be. Held by someone far more knowledgeable than me. Held by God.

The designer of the universe, designed my heart.

He knows my weaknesses and failures, my strengths and my accomplishments.  And he was there, with us.

He is there in the complicated and he is there in the simplicity.

It’s hard to put words to such a feeling.

Insignificant, yet still significant.

It is the feeling of knowing that your life is one of billions in this universe, yet your life is so perfectly unique and complex.

The feeling of empowerment and liberation was one that I will never forget, one I will always remember.

 

Her name is Bravery

Dear Brave Girl,

I am sorry that we are so quick to misunderstand you. I am sorry that we only seem to see your scars and fail to acknowledge your never ending battle, your daily struggle and your fighting heart.

I’m sorry for the way that you have been treated, and for the way your trust has been broken time and time again. 

This story is for you – it’s a tribute to you. We respect you and honor you. Don’t give up, no mistake you have made can define you! 

Many people know her and many would recognize her in the street.

“Don’t talk to her!” 

Of course everyone knows about her and her stories.

“How could someone be so naive? She is foolish to have done something like that!” 

Let me tell you her story.

Her life had been one of despair, rejection, pain and fear. Mistreated and abused by those who should have protected her, she lived a life doubting her worth and her very existence. Everything seemed so hopeless to her, her life was one of shame.

A few years ago, this same girl made a decision – she chose to love.

It was not just the normal type of love,  but it was the fearless, vulnerable love.

A few years ago, she chose to push her fears to the side, she chose to silence the lies, and forget the past that so cruelly and viciously haunted her for over twenty years. She chose to believe in love, and that she in turn could be loved.

And those thirteen months of love were truly beautiful.

Love  transformed her once bleak, hopeless life into a vibrant, colorful paradise. No two days were the same, every day was a unique adventure.

Days swirled into months and life had never been so glorious.

Hand in hand, her love led her to a view overlooking the city and as she rested her head on his shoulder he uttered the magical words every girl longs to hear:

“What we have, it will be forever – we will be forever!”

Finally, after twenty traumatic years she would be safe.

As evening drew near he asked to claim a part of her, he asked for the part of her so intimate, a part of her that she had promised to never give to anyone.

And as night fell her tore down her walls of fear, he slept with her.

It was culturally forbidden. 

As the days passed things began to change.

Slowly.

Contact between the two lovers began to fade and after one month, he had left.

The vibrant life she had once known disappeared. Gradually a familiar bleakness returned, a sinister dark bleakness.

He had left with no explanation, no reason.

Perhaps it was boredom?

A year passed and her motivation  was lost.

No single night went by without tears, self examination, questions and anger.

Bleakness.

And a week later the unthinkable happened – she saw him, in the street.

He was smiling, he was happy, he was arm in arm with a young woman.

She was tall and elegant and graceful.

Someone shouted to the couple in the street:

“مبروك الخطبتكم”   “Congratulations on your Engagement” 

They were engaged. 

Suddenly something was torn away from her. A pain so sharp and vile ripped every ounce of hope away from her.

She had lost everything, culturally she would never marry. She had lost her chance.

She turned, and ran.

She ran through the streets, she ran past the shops,  she ran.

Her heart was truly broken and the pain was horrific.

And today she continues with her life, as a prisoner to her new identity -a prisoner to how people perceive her.

She continues with her life, fighting the battle every day to believe that she has worth.

She continues with her life, despite the attitudes of the onlookers.

She continues, and she will continue.

Dear Brave Girl, Thank you for being true and fearless. I pray that one day you will come to a place of comfort and peace. On behalf of the cruel world we live in, I apologize. 

 

AN INTERACTION WITH DARKNESS (A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE)

The concept of a loving God can be hard to picture in a world so rooted in darkness. This story is based on a personal experience and the restoring love of God. When bad things happen we have two options – to run away from God, or run straight towards him.

My prayer is for every reader to have a conscious, strong experience with the love of God in a powerful and tangible way.

_____________

She chose him and followed him in times of uncertainty and she returned to him time and time again when things became difficult.

She consciously surrendered everything to him and tried her hardest to live a perfect life, focused on his plans and his will. She chose to surrender in the knowledge that she would always be protected.

Suddenly like a flash out of nowhere she was surrounded by a deep darkness. One interaction with the cruelest aspects of this world, one of the vilest forms of sin. And it hurt her -deeply.

Scars dug deep into her soul, deeper than she could ever possibly imagine and she scampered into hiding away from the light, far from hope.

Slowly and surely, people began to look for her and search for her, gently helping her and aiding her.

But the same question remained in her mind, the same confusion and anger:

“Where were you? Why did you leave me?  You promised to protect me! Why?”

It is the cruelest of things when sin breaches a heart after God. After a while that same  questioning seed of doubt began to grow, and grow.

With tears in her eyes she whispered: “Are you even real? Do you even love me?”

And the answer came, through the simple voices of children, the honesty of friends and the words of her closest family. The answer was louder than she could have ever imagined.

I love you, I died for you! I gave you the chance to come to me, and you came. You want to live a life surrendered to me, but you are not home yet.

You met with darkness when you least expected it. I have protected you, for your identity will never be tarnished by what has happened to you.

 I have protected you, for no  matter what this world throws at you, my love will always be stronger. I have given you eternal life. YOU ARE FREE! 

You can stand in the knowledge of your identity as my daughter – a child so precious and dearly loved in my eyes.

Since the day you came to me you were never alone!

Radiance

“Who is she?”

My friend glared at me and repeated her question again, who is she? Bewildered she stared into my face, searching for an answer.

“How do you know her Sarah?” “What is your relationship to her?”

I had met her accidentally, one afternoon in July, in a beautiful flower filled courtyard. She looked towards me and caught my eye, we both paused and fixed our eyes on each other. Within seconds her eyes widened and began to glow.

Warmth, purity, innocence – Love.

She handed me a plastic cup of water, an act so strange and so simple. How could such a heart be so rich in love – who was she?

Three months passed by and sadness came. Sadness and mourning. I still remember that evening, we were sat in the garden when the news came. Her father had died. The news hit the embracing community hard, he had been a pillar of support and encouragement, suddenly we stood alone, bereft of a dear friend. But that night, no heart broke faster than hers.

The following day I heard news from England, my Grandmother had died. She found me, sat in the garden surrounded by beauty pondering the loss of such a dear woman. She looked at me through a pair of red-rubbed tear stained eyes and stared into my broken spirit whispering undoubtedly the most powerful words in existence.

“I love you Sarah”

After five months her laugh began to return, slowly. There were four of us gathered in her mothers small sitting room. Her hair was being cut for the  first time in months by a treasured friend. Strands of her hair fell to the ground and we all laughed and chuckled together. Once again I caught a glimpse of her gentle, healing heart through the same purifying words.

“I love you Sarah”

And then my birthday came. She found me and sat next to me holding a plate with a piece of bread and butter.

“Happy Birthday, Sarah! Happy Birthday!”

I looked up to see my friend staring at me with the same confusion on her face.

“But Sarah, who is she?”

Who is she? She is the radiance of the sun amidst the darkness that surrounds her. She is gentle and soft like a dove, like peace. Her eyes are full of care and admiration for every soul that passes by. She is simply a lover, a person destined to love. People look at her as if she was different and unusual – she is unusual – THANK GOD – we need unusual!

She is unusual because of her hope – the hope within her outshines the darkness of adversity. She is a lover to be sure, a lover of the ultimate lover – her father God in heaven, just like her parents before her.

She is a warrior and some would even argue, an angel. She has faced many challenges in her life and she will always continue to conquer them.

I looked down towards the table as my phone began to ring. I accepted the call and was greeted by the familiar words of that same, sweet friend.

“Marhaba Sarah, Keefik? I love you!”