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Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

Holiday Notes From a Muslim Mom

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Muslim women are oftentimes easy to spot. We wear a scarf around our heads as an open declaration of faith. Based on cultural preference, this head-covering varies from vibrantly colored wraps to longer, flowing styles. Not all Muslim women choose to carry such an obvious banner of religious identity, but a lot do.

Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

This, fortunately and unfortunately, has put us in a sort of spotlight. Don’t worry though, if you spot us you can rest assured we’re generally harmless, sleep deprived and pretty approachable. We may seem a little grouchy in the morning before the coffee has kicked in and sometimes very disheveled trying to haul two or more squirmy toddlers into a quiet library for story-time. Feel free to stop us on our tracks to say hello. We love the holiday season as much as the next hot chocolate addict. There are worse things you can do (and have been done) to Muslim women in the recent months. Be a proactive element in strengthening the ties of community love and humanity. Let’s teach our children how to keep those bridges of harmony and love intact as these ideals are attacked on a daily basis.

News anchors, presidential candidates, and several other spokespeople with a platform from which to eject words to larger audiences have been feeding a very evil image of the average Muslim person. As false as it may be, the waves of fear mongering have swept across the globe and unsettled everyone’s sense of safety and security.

After a monstrous attack or fatal atrocity occurs, my phone begins buzzing. Fellow moms, Muslims and not, share information about the events as they are leaked by media sources. We exchange feelings of sorrow that the world is in such chaos. That there are people out there hurting others, individually or en mass. We weep for families who are waiting for news, we pray for survivors.

Our hearts squeeze together, wondering how we can raise children in such a scary world. A world that can hurt innocent people senselessly and create dangerous rifts between people who are of different faiths, cultures, and races.

We begin conversations with our children. There are some people who say some mean things about Muslims. You can always talk to us about it. There are other kids who may be going through the same thing. It can be a little hurtful and scary if you get teased about what you believe. Don’t worry, we continue to explain, they’re only confused. People who make judgement calls on large groups of people can do very dangerous things. The important thing is to continue to have a good and pure heart. Look for the people who have kind and open hearts, too. Always smile, and be positive. Don’t doubt who you are or be ashamed. Throughout history, even grown ups have made really big mistakes about other people. A time came when Native Americans were stripped of their land and dehumanized. There are African Americans to this day who are treated unjustly. From Catholics to Japanese Americans – there has always been a time when a group of people were seen as scary when they really weren’t. Don’t worry, we remind them again, there are still good people. Be a good person so when someone mean comes across you, your goodness can create a light that may draw them closer to knowing who you really are.

There are a number of holidays that are being celebrated around this time of year. A nice list that my children learned about in school and a few they didn’t. For those which weren’t included, I’ll make a polite note to their teachers to become even more inclusive in the coming years to expose children to an even wider array of religions and cultures that are coexisting on this earth. That’s the least we can do to counter a lot of the rhetoric out there causing divisions between races, cultures, religions, and ways of life.

We had the opportunity to watch a few live-streamed sessions from the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah this year. It was an immensely pleasurable experience to see people of all different faiths and belief systems come together and celebrate the unity of humanity, spirituality, and love. There was a notable session in which women came together and shared their experiences of celebrating life by highlighting their own roles as mothers and caregivers.

As nurturers, we play such a crucial role in how our children grow up to partake in society and evolve into open minded and caring adults. Let’s begin today by learning about someone who is different from those living inside our four walls and begin a proactive journey to combat the violence and prejudice that exists today.

So from this Muslim mom to all the other parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, little tykes, more – Merry Milad-un-Nabi, Khwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Omisoka, Festivus and many more holiday celebrations to you and a Happy New Year!

Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.

Childhood Cancer: Lessons from Our First Year

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Such beautiful lessons about grace and peace in the midst of childhood cancer.Berkleigh was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma on September 15, 2014. It’s been one long year. In that time, we have done six rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, 5 or 6 surgeries, countless biopsies, scans and radiation.

We finished our last antibody treatment on Friday. We even had a party.

Having just walked through the Red Sea, I am overcome with emotions.

And all these thoughts are jumbled up and drenched in prayer, tears and stale coffee. Forgive me, if I ramble.

I used to read about the exodus from Egypt…and think “those Israelites! They saw God’s miracles. They walked on dry land through giant walls of water…get to the other side and doubt God? Seriously?”

I am eating those words…because this morning at 4 am, Berkleigh spiked a fever and we are right back where we started in the ER. Admitted. Again.

James 1: 2 - 6While I know that God is healing my daughter, I have caught myself more times than I care to admit within the last month doubting our financial recovery, complaining about this time in the desert and the manna that He is providing.

I am an Isaelite! Good grief!

I wonder how long I will be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wonder how long “my leg hurts” or a high fever will punch me in the stomach and take my breath away.

So when I feel like I can’t possibly take anymore, I remember the key to JOY:

I look to Jesus…J

I look to Others….O

Then I consider Yours truly…Y

One of the hardest things about cancer is managing this sequence. Keeping Jesus first isn’t hard. We have nothing but time to pray and so much to say.

Serving others becomes the biggest challenge. Loving, wonderful people have a tendency to put “cancer moms” first. It is a huge blessing. But it always keeps us in the position of being served. And sometimes holds us hostage to the emotions that come with being a cancer mom.

Honestly, we are unreliable. We have a ton on our plate. But, allowing us to hold your baby at a birthday party, or do the dishes, helps us to have a glimpse of just being another mom. Being ourselves.

And any distraction from dwelling in this moment and focusing on ourselves brings us closer to joy.

When your child has cancer, it is easy to get caught up in “to do” lists, trying to keep things normal for brothers and sisters, and just finishing the treatments at hand. It is easy to worry. It is easy to give into fear.
I am so blessed to have the Word to redirect me. I am humbly admitting it to you. I know with all my being that the God, who has healed my baby, CARES about all the schedule adjustments, the mini medical issues, financial concerns, relationships, siblings and anything else that would creep in and steal my peace.

Berkleigh's JourneyI am committing to rest and enjoy this season of manna in the desert – because there are miracles here too. And being with God in the desert is amazing in comparison to life in a “perfect world” without Him.

I want to be in the presence of the living God, content and humble.

Kneeling next to her bed this morning, I am choosing thankfulness – God, you are so good!

I am choosing faith…just living it.

I am choosing peace…resting in the arms of a loving God who has shown me faithfulness in abundance.

Kyler, my 14 year old, once explained to Taryn, who is six, that God is a healer. And he WOULD heal Berkleigh. He could do that through the doctors, through a miracle, or by taking her to heaven. Our job was to be courageous and be “ok” with however God chose to do that.

I can’t put my own limitations on a limitless, all-powerful God. God covers all of this. Completely.


Stacie Slaughter Griggs

Guest post written by:

Stacie Slaughter Griggs