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

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. 

 

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!”

Her Story

The lady who inspired me to write this story is truly very special.  Each time that I travel to Jerusalem  she constantly welcomes me into her home and openly tells me her stories. She imparts wisdom and life lessons to all who enter her house, everything that she has she counts as a blessing and she loves to share with the people around her.

For this lady,  life has not been easy and the challenges have been great.  She constantly fights each personal battle with bravery and courage.

Today her heart is for the visitor, the traveler, the new mother and the newlywed. To the world, she is a normal woman walking the streets. But I know her secret!

—-

Not many people know her story and even fewer people know of her life.

Before the night fades and the sun begins to rise, before the Fajr prayers echo throughout the city – she’s awake. She has already started preparing breakfast for her husband.

No two days are the same, and there is no telling who will come to visit and who will come to stay.

As she glances into the mirror whilst fixing her red long hair, a lifetime flashes before her eyes. Her lifetime. Her legacy. She remembers the stories: the pain, the challenges, the passion and the survival. As she sweeps her hair behind her ears, she glances over pictures of her family: her daughters, her sons, her pride and her joy.

The thudding sound of the rusty courtyard door awakes her from her reflection. The cleaner is arriving, humming softly upon entry carrying fresh produce from Damascus Gate. She greets the cleaner and welcomes her.

Click, the Fairuz tape begins to rattle in the player – and the cleaner begins to work and sing. Her strong voice echos throughout the house and out into the courtyard:

خدني ولا تخدني الفرح عالطريق حبك بيحصدني وماعندك رفيق

“Take me, joy is on the way, my love for you consumes me and you don’t have a companion”

And so she works – the meals, the visitors, the preparations for her family. Hours fly by and there is still more to be done. She joins in the cleaning, the sweeping.

After a while the first neighbor arrives.. he’s Eritrean; he works late at night in the city center. He has no television, so every Tuesday he comes to watch the latest news played on the Eritrean channel. He adjusts the channels and she starts to prepare the tea.

Colorful pictures flash before the unlikely pair.

“This is my city, my country. We have hotels there, people can visit..” 

They converse in broken Hebrew and Arabic whilst she pours the steaming tea into two tall clear glasses.

From cooking to dancing, singing to hotel advertisements the flickering television reveals the secrets and gems of Eritrea.

The neighbor leaves just before One o’clock, and she continues cleaning. After eating a little food, the maid prepares herself to leave, fixing her hijab across her face. Their eyes meet and they exchange a soft glance of warmth.

“See you tomorrow, Insha’allah”

As the day progresses her family begin to arrive. They come with their friends, their daughters, their sons.Within minutes the house is an array of different languages – Hebrew, Arabic and some broken English – yes, all are loved here. ALL ARE WELCOMED HERE.

Some of the family stay for a few minutes, some stay for hours.

It’s 7:30pm and I walk up the stairs, three neighbors sit gathered around her. Those gathered smile and laugh together with her, she looks so radiant, so poised.

“Ahlan Sarah habibti”

The neighbors shuffle to create some room and a chair is pulled up. We talk together in the courtyard whilst sipping our hot arabic coffee. As my eye wanders, I see a white flower falling from the plant growing on the wall. Jasmine. It sways in the wind, slowly and softly falling in front of her, landing perfectly on her knees. When she sees it she smiles.  She clasps the sweet flower in her hand and smells it with closed eyes. As her eyes open she looks at me, with a smile. Grasping the flower, she slowly places it into the corner of my hair. Her eyes are sparkling and she is beaming.

***


In my eyes it is her strength that makes her beautiful.