The Reality of Change (My ever so changing journey through Islam)

I have been coming across many friends and family these days who have either a) had a big change come into their life or b) looking to make a big change in their life.  Some of us fear change and some of us welcome it.  I am from the latter category.  I wanted to share my experience with change so that you can either identify with it and relate to it.

When I began practicing Islam, I had this surge of exuberant energy.  I felt like an eagle soaring through the smooth and rough edges of my so called life.  It is this spiritual high that many face when they first discover or rediscover that they believe in something beyond comprehension.  It becomes addictive and soon your family and friends worry about you.  They are happy for you because you are happy.  But they are concerned that you will leave all the other parts of you behind.  They are also concerned about what it is that you believe in.  A few of them, more than less, are rather annoyed by your constant jabber about your new found faith or lifestyle, and to some degree, rightfully so.  Who wants to hear someone say “I am free at last!” or “Allah hu Akbar!” or whatever it is that you would say to show your connection to your spirituality or lifestyle.  Suddenly your Facebook, Instagram, twitter is filllled with enlightening quotes or angry defensive remarks you post to defend your new lifestyle.  I believe that this spiritual surge is something that is meant to happen.  In order to move on to different phases in life, we must peel like an orange, so to speak. Peeling layers zestfully and with gusto.  It’s so satisfying.

Eventually this surge dies down.  And when it completely dies down, you realize you still have a lot to learn.  And that’s when these whispers come in.  Whispers from friends, family, and strangers.

“If God created you, He should love you regardless.  He shouldn’t need your prayers.”

“Are you really going to wear that scarf all the time?”

“Quite a hypocrite for backbiting, that’s not very Muslim of you.”

“Our friendship has changed.  You have changed”

“If there is a God, why do we suffer?”

I was and still am bombarded by questions and I don’t have an answer for all of them.  When one practices a faith, this does not make them an automatic scholar.  Having faith, practicing faith, and being a scholar in your faith are 3 very different components.  A person of faith would like to keep learning about their faith.  But they will not have an answer to everything.  Some times, I do have the answer.  And sometimes I have to find the answer.  And sometimes, I just know that I have faith.  And maybe that answer doesn’t work for everyone. But if there is one thing that faith has solidified for me, it’s that my life will always be solely dependant on me.  First and foremost, I will have to be content with how I am living my life.  Everyone else’s ideas of me will have to take a back seat.  Having said this, I don’t believe you should follow religion blindly.  I feel you should learn about religions.  And I believe if you choose to practice one, at least learn the basic history and general aspects of it.

Wearing a hijab, I find, is a beautiful thing.  I find that the moment I wrap a scarf around my head, it still gives me that same confidence and contentment that it did when I first began to wear it.  But it has always made me a target with Muslims and non Muslims alike.  Strangers have come up to me and asked my why I wear it.  They have complimented it or just felt that they have a right to keep staring at me, which they do.  People assume that when someone wears a hijab, they suddenly know more about Islam than the average person.  This was a hinderance and a blessing.  A hinderance because I will NOT have the answer to everything.  A blessing because, after having people ask me a lot of questions, I try even harder to learn more about Islam.  I don’t know everything and, in all honesty, I don’t think I ever will.

The hardest part of my “change” has been what people have assumed that I view them as.  Some Muslims think I look down on them because they don’t wear hijab.  Some people following another religion, or no religion, have asked me if I believe they will go to hell.  And many have asked my views on homosexuality.  I felt like everyone suddenly felt like I am pointing fingers at them.   I couldn’t shake this feeling of sadness and with my sadness I delved deeper into learning Islam.  And I realized that I am not an intolerant human being.  I never have been and I never would be.  I am stubborn, I am spoiled, I am loud, I am fierce, and I am bubbly.  I am a Muslim and I thrive off of Islam.  Islam teaches me how to be tolerant, even when you disagree.  It also keeps telling me to point the finger back at myself if I point a finger at others.  Me practicing Islam has to do with ME.  You could keep worrying about whether or not I agree with what you do, practice, or wear, but I can assure you, your race, your religion, your sexuality, your ideology, your eye colour, whether you like grilled cheese sandwiches or not, your choice of latte or americano, how many thread counts you would like on your bed sheets, NONE OF THIS MATTERS TO ME.  If you are tolerant with me, I will be tolerant with you.  We will not agree on things.  Some of them will be silly and some of them will be serious.  But that’s life.  Not everyone drinks the same cup of tea.  What matters is how we treat each other aside from our differences.

The other day my nephew was listening to that Rihanna, Kanye (don’t get me started on Kanye!), and Paul McCartney song.  I think it’s called Four Five seconds.  I generally don’t care much for music but my nephew thought his singing skills were exceptional and I was complaining that, unfortunately, they weren’t Grammy material.  I looked up the lyrics to this song and something resonated with me:  “They want to buy my pride, but that just ain’t up for sale”.  As tears flowed down my chubby little cheeks, I realized that it’s important for me to keep true to myself.  If I was to conform each and every time someone had a different point of view, or whether they agreed with me or not, I would simply shrivel up like a burned piece of paper and eventually whither away.  I will stand my ground, not out of stubbornness, because this is the first time in my life that I feel solid.  Unshakeable.  That is enough for me.

I would love to hear about your journeys.

 

To write…or not to write…

A friend that I have recently made was talking about how she was confused about what she wanted to write on her blog. She had made quite a big change in her life and, because of the change, she also welcomed a new fan base. Here “new” and “old” fan base were similar and different in various ways and merging them together wasn’t going to be easy and so she was confused about how to carry on. I told her that everyone who read her blog wants to read about her and that she should just be herself and everything will be fine. But, soon after, I realized I wasn’t doing the same.

I feel as though my life is a mixture of puzzles that I’m still trying to put together. There is a part of me that has a passion and an addiction to travel. This part of me has stayed with me the longest and it is a solid piece of my puzzle. When things get confusing or when things stay mundane, this part of me remains dedicated. I have no doubt in my life that travel will stay with me forever.

There is a part of me that has to do with my relationships — my relationships with family, friends, and everything in between. These are relationships that, for the most part, are a solid piece of my puzzle but are ever changed, or, evolving I should say. I accept the flimsiness of these pieces of my puzzle as I know that all relationships are creative and emotional.

Then there are those pieces of the puzzle rather annoying. I like to call them my quirks. My insecurities, my fears, my traits that I would like to change but have too much pride, at times, to do so. These are those small pieces of the puzzle that you just get frustrated with but when you think you have finally placed them, it’s just so bloody satisfying!!

The most difficult part of the puzzle in my life has been something that I disliked and have now fallen in love with. That piece of the puzzle is my faith. And this piece of the puzzle has not only built a solid foundation but has become so beautiful to me that, at times, it feels like I don’t need anything else. I mean of course I know that I do. It all goes hand in hand. But this just goes to show how special my faith has become to me.

The difficult part is being able to feel comfortable with writing about my ever so changing life. All of us lead a fruitful life and I guess the concern for bloggers, some of whom essentially write their blog as they would their diary (almost), is the reaction they will get from family, friends, coworkers, and fans, as to their ever life choices and lifestyle. I’m afraid that if I write about my faith, people will think I’m preaching and when I don’t write about it, I feel like I’m leaving out such a huge part about my life. But after telling my friend to be herself, I felt guilty. I was able to tell someone else to do it, but I am unable to do it myself.

So I will bite the bullet. I want to write more and I don’t want to be afraid to write any longer. Now this doesn’t mean my blogs will only be faith based. But I certainly won’t feel as though I shouldn’t say something just because of what people will think.

Bolivia – The sweet and the salty!

I cannot believe how long it’s taken me to write about Bolivia!!  But I must!! Because what I experienced in Bolivia was such a bundle emotion and I can’t wait to tell you about it!  It was magical, terrifying, and peaceful.  I guess that actually sums up Bolivia:)

I knew what altitude sickness was before I left for my trip to South America.  I knew that both Peru and Bolivia had parts that I would tour that were high in altitude and so, because my tour started in Peru, I assumed that I would experience it there.  But what I experienced in Peru wasn’t so bad, just a little short of breath and I thought “yay!  I’m done my altitude sickness!  Onwards and upwards from here on out!”.  I threw away some medication I had brought with me that was for altitude sickness and I entered the beautiful country by the name of Bolivia.

WHERRRREEEEEEE DID MY OXYGEN GOOO??!!!!!!  Literally from the moment I landed, I felt like I couldn’t walk without heaving and why oh why did it feel like my heart was pounding inside my eyeball?!!!  Where are the cocoa leaves I need to chew on?!?!  It was horrendous.  I’m telling you altitude sickness is REAL!  And apparently my symptoms weren’t all that bad according the owner of the airbnb I was staying in (which I highly highly highly recommend!)  He said there have been times where they have had to bring in an oxygen tank because people haven’t taken care of their altitude sickness properly.  There is plennnnty of info on the web about how to prepare for and take care of altitude sickness but a couple of things that stood out were a) drink plenty of water a couple of weeks prior to leaving.  At least 1.5 litres a day and b)  the moment you feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, sit down.  Rest.  Staying active will make matters worse.

I spent my 5 days in Bolivia in two cities:  La Paz and Salar de Uyuni.  There is so much more to see in Bolivia but I didn’t have much time!  La Paz was an interesting and fun city.  It’s very hilly and very populated.  The people were so friendly and welcoming and I actually found La Paz quite safe.  If you ever get a chance, check out the mountain biking tours here!! I hear that they are insane!!

La Paz was wonderful but Salar de Uyuni just blew me away.  Never have I ever felt like I was on a different planet until I reached the salt flats of Bolivia!  It goes on for miles and it’s just unimaginable that the world can look so completely foreign to you!  What was just as exciting was being able to stay at a hotel made almost completely by salt!! Hotel Luna Salada was so surreal and so peaceful it is indescribable.  After the tour of the salt flats I decided to stay in the next day because my altitude sickness needed some tender love and care.  While everyone in the hotel had left to explore, I stayed in and literally engaged myself in one of the most peaceful meditation sessions I have ever had.

Here are my pros and cons of my time in Bolivia:

Pros:

The friendliest people ever!!!
The city of La Paz has some of the coolest city views and also has many adrenaline filled activities you can take part in
Salt Flats are definitely definitely worth a trip to Bolivia

Cons:

You probably will get altitude sickness
The traffic in La Paz makes you feel like pulling your hair out!

Some pics for your enjoyment!!

La Paz, such a beauty day and night

La Paz, such a beauty day and night

 

 

Such colourful buildings, but I wouldn't don't let the lack of traffic in this pic fool you!  La Paz traffic is like no other!

Such colourful buildings, but I wouldn’t don’t let the lack of traffic in this pic fool you! La Paz traffic is like no other!

 

This hotel needed a tour of itself!  Made out of salt, it had so many places you could just sit and have a snooze

This hotel needed a tour of itself! Made out of salt, it had so many places you could just sit and have a snooze

 

I've taken so many pics of the salt flats but this one had the little salt mounds!  It was so cool to watch how the salt gets cleaned, iodized, packaged and ready to go!

I’ve taken so many pics of the salt flats but this one had the little salt mounds! It was so cool to watch how the salt gets cleaned, iodized, packaged and ready to go!

 

I also had the humble opportunity of visiting a mosque in La Paz:)  Bolivia is home to about a very small population of Muslims (about 1,000 in the entire country).  I didn’t think I would get a chance to see a mosque but I did some research and was pleasantly surprised that it was just a few short blocks from where I was staying in La Paz!  I met a wonderrrrful Bolivian lady there who does a lot of the care taking of the mosque and she was just such a sweetheart!  We have kept in touch and hopefully Insha’Allah I will make a trip to La Paz once again to visit her.  Here is a picture of the mosque:

mosquebolivia

 

Well that’s all folks!!  Hope to blog about Argentina soon!!

 

 

 

je ne suis pas charlie (I am NOT Charlie)

I’ve been wondering how to write this blog without offending anyone.  And I am aware now that it may.  Before I move forward, I apologize if anyone becomes upset over this blog and I urge them to have a “talk session” with me directly to discuss.

I was telling someone the other day that, in the last year and a half that I’ve been really making an effort in learning Islam, I feel I’ve spent most of my time defending it.  I told my friend that I have not lost faith in Islam, but at times I feel as though I’m losing faith in myself.  It’s important for me to let you know right now that in no way have I forced myself to learn Islam.  I fell in love with it on my own.  In my own time.

What unfolded this week in Paris was a heartbreaking.  Someone’s mother, father, sister, son, husband, etc. has been killed.  As much as we have become desensitized now to the idea of tragedy, it still remains in my heart that this could have been my family or friends.  And if any form of violence ever happened to someone I cared about, I don’t know how I could live the rest of my life.  My heart goes out to the ones that lost their lives.

But I am not Charlie.  I am not Charlie for so many reasons.

I believe that freedom of speech should be valued and should be a blessing and that no one should die for it.  But I also believe that when you poke and prod at people, using your freedom of speech to bully, its only a matter of time before some lunatic comes knocking at your door.  Charlie Hebdo, the company, stood for nothing I have ever believed in and I would rather die than stand by a company who has been built upon years and years of bullying various faiths and various races.  Did anyone deserve to die?  Absolutely not.  But I feel sympathy for the deaths.  Not the company.

I understand that the term “Je Suis Charlie” stands for the idea of being able to practice our freedom of speech without having fear of being killed for it, but it seems to me that the freedom of speech, especially in France, may not mean freedom for all.  Why is it that women wearing hijab are fined in France and even arrested?  Is wearing religious garb not considered an act of freedom?  Recently a women was kicked out of the Opera house in Paris for having her veil on.  In another horrible instance, a woman wearing a headscarf was violently beaten while two men tried to take her scarf off.  She was beaten so badly she lost her unborn child.  These attacks, as well as the attack in Paris this week, are the results of a government dividing its people and a newspaper like Charlie Hebdo egging it on.  Having been to France and having spent some time with locals there, I realized two things.  France is beautiful and, much to the surprise of many, I found the locals very friendly and welcoming.  I hope to visit France again some day.  But France has a clear and strong divide which is noticeable to anyone who chooses to lurk outside of the city and speak to the locals.

Having said all this, I am well aware of the dire situations in Muslim countries.  I cannot flip through a channel without hearing of persecutions of non Muslims and sectarian violence and sexual harassment and so on.  I feel a constant finger in my face the moment I put my scarf on.  I am not in denial and have various discussions about the state of affairs in Muslim countries.  But it pains me that those same media channels that put Muslims in the global spotlight tend to forget that we are also being victimized by other countries.  Perhaps you should do your own research on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Chechnyan Muslims, the Uyugur Muslims in China, and the daily murders that are taking place in Gaza and realize that we are all in this together.  There is no one type of people that is getting away with anything.  We are all in this together.  Neither good nor evil has a skin colour or a religion.

To those who have decided to create defamatory caricatures in the name of Charlie Hebdo:  I urge you, from the bottom of my heart, to stop.  Just stop.  Stop making fun of something that is dear to anyone simply for the reason that it isn’t bringing any good to the world.   Happiness comes from using your talents for the better.

I have nothing to say to lunatics who attack in the name of Islam, or any other religion for that matter.  I would send them the same message I would send a person who’s murdered anyone.  You are evil and we have no place for you in this world. To continue to ask the billion Muslims to keep condemning attacks which they cannot understand themselves is breaking our community.

I know that all I’ve said may seem simplistic.  I also know that I may sound knaive.  I try my best to keep up with current events but what I write doesn’t come from years of research in history and politics, but from my heart.  And frankly, I think that’s what we need to get back to.  Speaking from the heart.

I asked my father once how to help a world that’s filled with violence.  He said to be kind.  I asked him what to do if people don’t listen.  And he said to be kinder.

I am not Charlie.

 

 

‘Twas the year of 2014….!!

2014! Where to even begin…. I can’t really recap the entire year as I tend to have the memory of a goldfish! (ask me what I did this weekend…no clue!!!!) What I can say is that something awoke in me this year that I definitely hadn’t felt before. Something in my heart kept saying “This is just the beginning Azzah….you’re just getting started”. And I don’t know where that’s coming from honestly! Maybe I’ll become the superstar I always wanted to beeee!!!! Or maybe it just means that I will finally learn to scuba dive!! Maybe it is nothing but my narcissistic ramblings in my head! I don’t know!! I’m just thankful that I have this feeling so that I can push my boundaries further without fear. Let’s see what 2015 has in store! Without further babbling, here are my top 5 of 2014:

5. Getting the chance to do makeup on City TV Breakfast Television! I will never forget this day and how it meant more to me than people will know. Something so small to one person can be a huge deal to another. Thanks Vicki for letting me in on the gig!

4. I am a reader. Some years I read more than others but this year I seriously had an addiction to reading!! Out of all the books I read, my favorite was “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart. This book made me realize that everyone can empathize with a quirky family!! I don’t want to give too much away but it’s going to surprise you, I promise!

3. Taking my nephews and niece on a camping trip at Harrison Hotsprings. Best. Vaca. Ever. Seriously.

2. Crying my eyes out at the mosque in Argentina. There wasn’t any particular reason. It just happened when I entered. It was a very humble moment for me and it definitely was something I will not forget.

And the number one moment of the 2014 was…

1. Sitting at Machu Picchu and, after finishing prayer, I made a wish for my mother and a gust of wind came rushing towards me. It may have been chance but I’d like to think she was giving me a fist bump.

There you have it folks!! Have yourself a great new year!!

Ramblings on My Travels and the Infamous Airport Incident!

It alllll started on my last day in Machu Picchu…

I had some time to kill before my train left to Cusco so I had lunch and then walked around the market. There were a lot of spas around the area for people who hiked to Machu Picchu and, normally I wouldn’t care to spend travel money on a massage but they were so cheap and my back was aching! So I booked a half an hour back massage. Well, soon I was lying on a comfy spa bed and the lady came and and at first, all was well, the neck was feeling much better and so were the shoulders. Suddenly this tiny woman climbs on the bed and is massaging the living daylights out of my back!! I am pulled and prodded until somehow I’ve turned into a pretzel yoga pose!! I tell her “too strong señorita” and she says “too soft? Sorry señorita I do strong!!” From there on I almost thing I slipped in and out of consciousness as my once healed back had felt like it had gone back to square one!! A half an hour after, I paid and ran out of that beast of a spa and headed to the train. I was so exhausted from the massage that I was happy to get on the otherwise uneventful and slow train ride back to Cusco. I was hungry but decided to skip dinner and assumed I will have time to eat the next morning before heading to the airport to go to Bolivia!!

Well clearly that did not happen. The alarm failed to go off and before you know it I wrap my hijab put on some tights and decide there is no time To change my pajama top as I’m 30 minutes away from boarding time on the international flight!!!! Wait…it gets better.

Finally reach the airport and I tell them at check-in that my flight is about to board and I need to check in asap! “No problem” they said. “Passport please”. I give them my luggage to put on the scale. “Señorita your luggage is too heavy”. Ughhhhhhh. Oh this is not even close to the climax.

Suddenly I notice 2 men and a women surrounding my luggage. “Señorita this is the police. Please follow them” and they did not look like happy people!!!!! A few years ago I would have thrown a tantrum and told them I don’t have time for this and that my plane is about to leave!!! But, I have aged. The last thing you want to do at an airport is put up a fight which will make things worse. As I walked with them one of them let me know not to worry and all I was thinking was “this is it. My family is going to shoot me if I end up in jail here!!”

“What is your name?”

“Azzah Ahmad”

“You are from Canada”

“Yes! Here is my passport” flirty smile of course.

“Señorita before I open your suitcase, do you want to tell me anything?”

“No you can open it”

“Do you have cocoa”

“Yes” I reply “do you want it?”

“Señorita you have cocoa?”

“Yes! I have needed it the whole time
I’ve been here! I have it in my purse I can show you!”

Suddenly the other officer steps in.

“Miss Ahmad he does not mean the cocoa candy for your altitude sickness. He is asking if you are holding cocaine.”

“Ooooohhhhhhh myyyyyy Godddddd” literally that is how it came out and suddenly I am sitting on a seat “no no no no way!!!!” “I do not have any cocaine at all I have never even seen cocaine!”

They all look at each other seriously.

My heart is pounding. I’m going to jail for sure. My family is going to kill me.

They all burst out laughing.

“It’s okay señorita we just have to ask before we check”

They open my suitcase and suddenly I realize why the suitcase is so heavy!! All of my fathers Arabic books are stacked on the bottom of my suitcase to give to the mosques in each country!!!!!!! I break into a sweat. They find the books.

“Señorita what is this”

“My papas books”

“This is Arabic?”

“Yes”

“Are you Muslim?”

“Yes”

“You believe in Allah?”

“Yes”

“You believe in Jesus?”

“Yes”

I’m thinking at this point for sure they are analyzing the books, my scarf and the whole 9 yards and now I am going to jail yet again. My family is going to kill me.

“Señorita this is good.”

They put my stuff away and tell me I am free to go.

I run to catch my plane which, honestly I don’t know how, was still there and got in the plane.

In all honesty I really believe this wasn’t some sort of racial profiling. I can’t say for sure but even if it was, it is not my country and the last thing I would do is get on the defence in a country with different laws I may or may not understand. Plus I needed to get on that plane!!!

On the plane it hit me that I hadn’t eaten for about 20 hours. Suddenly I felt shaky and weak and I thought “it’s okay, just a couple of hours and I will be on land again.”

Well my friends, the turbulence hit and it hid HARD. Soon we were flying left, right, up, down, diagonal!! Everyone was nervous and the flight attendant let us know it was normal. Well my stomach did not think it was!!! I was reaching for any plastic bag I could find but u hadn’t eaten and so nothing was there to come out!!! Oh man this is graphic!!

We landed and my body was now taking full control of my mind. I was dizzy, tired, hungry, and mad!!

I get to the immigration area and they keep tossing me from line to line and I don’t even know why!!! Mind you they were switching others too but I had just had enough! Finally I just gave the police officer that look. You know that look you give your spouse when you say “do I look fat in this?” And they say “well…” The police officer understood, turned on his heel and walked away.

Got through immigration and finally saw a sign held up with my name by the airbnb host. I didn’t care who he was I literally slumped when I saw him. He knew I was in bad shape so we headed to the airbnb, which is the best one I’ve been in so far by the way!!

Oh no!!! It’s time for me to sleep!!Buenos Noches!!!!

The Beauty in Pain

I get a question asked to me a lot.  In fact at least once a week I hear it.  The question is “why is there suffering in this world?”

Now, I cannot pin point the answer to this as, obviously, we can all base it on our own theories.  I can only give you mine from my own experience and from what I’ve learned from own spirituality and faith.

Firstly I have to say, I can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes.  I have absolutely no clue what it is like to suffer from poverty, war, natural disasters, etc.  I can only speak of my own type of suffering and hope that you can somehow transition my thoughts into your own life.

I knew at a young age that I was a worry wart.  I had anxiety over everything.  I had some of my darkest moments through my childhood and my teens.  And then came my twenties and I had my first brush with the whole “finding a soulmate”.  I don’t think anyone gets through this part of their life without having any form of heartache.  I cannot tell you the amount of destruction I’ve gone through in this phase of my life.  I remember there was a day where I received a call with some terrible financial news and I had just been through a messy engagement gone wrong, and all I could think of was “I’m not going to get through this….I am NOT going to get through this”.  This was my suffering…as little or big as it may seem.  It was definitely not the worst form of suffering, but it was certainly not the easiest.

What I can see now is that, in the times of suffering was when I had meaningful questions.  I questioned life, I questioned God, I questioned my actions.  It is are darkest moments where we look for a spiritual connection, because nothing in this world seems to make us feel any better.  I couldn’t see my family’s support.  I couldn’t see my friends being there for me.  I was numb and couldn’t feel anything.  It was then that I was delving into my deeper questions and looking for something more divine than just life.  So one of my answers as to why I feel we suffer is because it brings us back to our faith or our spirituality, whatever this means to you.  Somewhere deep inside there is a need to have this connection.  And in the darkest of times, finding this connection is what makes us believe that if everything falls apart, we will still be okay.  That to me is the biggest part of faith and spirituality.  As for myself and my faith, did I question why God wasn’t here for me or why He was doing this to me? Yes.  Now I see that God was always there.  He was being patient and waiting for me to see that I can be there for myself.  It’s as though I was learning to ride a bike and through my bumps and bruises I still got up and then I was so proud of myself, and my parents knew I could do it all along:)

Another aspect of suffering is to learn to peel the layers this world has painted upon us and getting back to the core of being a good human being.  I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve seen and heard stories of people in the worst condition going out of their way to help someone else.  I see it around me all the time.  Suffering builds a strong wall of compassion and empathy.  And when you suffer, you know what it’s like for others and you support them.  A friend of mine just moved to help build a school for Syrian children and he was telling me about how he is in awe of these children who have suffered so much more than anyone can imagine.  He said they are always smiling and they always say “Alhamdulillah” which means “thank Allah”.  Imagine being in the middle of a war and having people die in front of you and still having the courage to be thankful about life.

I just recently had a close friend of mine who had a bout with cancer and I saw some of her darkest moments and it was so difficult to see my dear friend go through this.  I knew that even though her family and friends were there for her, she needed to be there for herself.  And thankfully she is better now and in all honesty Ive seen such a beautiful change in her.  There is a glow about her that I believe is her ray of strength shining from her.  I think she’s proud of herself for being a strong as she is.  I would be.

By telling you these stories I’m not saying we should welcome pain.  No one wishes for pain and suffering nor should we.  But it is inevitable that we will go through suffering in parts of our lives.  But it’s clear to me that there is a meaning to our suffering.