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Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

Bismillah

I just finished watching a documentary and I’m just in tears subhanallah. It was about a woman, a Turkana woman married to a man who was hell bent on being and remaining a herder. He also had another wife. His mom was the one who decided which of the women will have kids and when.  By the time I started watching the documentary, she was on her 7th child, who later died. She had a son, Erdo who was 2, and was not happy with her situation.

She considered her husband’s opinions on how to survive or raise their children flawed and insisted settling and farming were the way to go, not herding anymore, especially since their land was overrun by ‘shiftas’ and when war was heating up in Turkana Land, which is part of Kenya and I’m guessing Somalia.

The documentary follows this woman, Esta, along with her family, as they struggle to make it and survive in the very harsh environment that is just not friendly subhanallah. I watched this woman build houses that she kept having to run away from due to the shiftas and their shenanigans. I watched her give birth to child after child, watch them die, have dreams for the remaining ones (12 at last count) and struggle to help them help themselves and ‘make it’.

She refused to give away any of her kids, despite the difficulties she faced to provide them and give them her attention, seeing as she had to help her husband herd, make a small farm that would feed them, help her husband cut  trees so they could create charcoal that they then sell for money that by her estimation, would then feed the kids for only 3 days before more charcoal has to be created again.

She said she wasn’t afraid of hard work (while bulding a house and carrying water for miles, while heavily pregnant and with a small child, no more than 2 by her side!). she said she only had one dream and that is to send her kids to schools so they can better themselves.

She was so eloquent subhanallah, this poor woman, uneducated, living in the bunnies of Kenya somewhere unnamable mashaAllah! What really struck me was her uncompromising stance on her views, her strength of character in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles, and her consistent hope that with hard work, dedication, and reliance upon God, one can make it and accomplish much (though not everything).

Her son grew up to be a very profound young man from what I saw and heard, heading to college in Nairobi this year 2013. He seemed very aware of the dangers of leaving home, living in a big city, and trying to make it in the world. I loved it when he said that ‘corruption kills hope’ and waxed eloquently on how due to corruption and the need to bribe authorities for every small right and progress, no one makes it, and chances are nil for the average Joe giving it a go.

The whole video made me think so much and for days too. I’m still feeling the repercussions of it in my psyche a few weeks later and keep seeing flashes of various scenes from it.

ps. I apologize I could not post the video as by the time I was able to search for it, I could not find it. I will keep trying inshallah and post it when I do inshallah.

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Bismillah

Recently I read that it is good to have a mission statement as a mom/wife/write./believer etc. I agree with this because in part because I’m trying to get myself organized and this is the year I’m going to do it bi’idhnillah. And in part because I see the managing of my self, my family (husband/children), my work/home, etc to be a type of job (paid in full by Allah swt at the end of my contract inshaAllah). And any job of any company requires a mission statement.

So I went about creating a mission statement. It was actually a bit hard but I think I have something workable. My mission statement should remind me why I’m here and why I have the responsibilities I have. It should inspire me to do better and re-focus me when I loose sight of what is important to me in this life. It should serve as a guide to what is next to be pursued, and a source of inspiration for what more I could accomplish.

And so here it is:

‘To worship Allah as if I see Him and even though I don’t, to always remember that He sees me and two Angles are recording all of my intentions and deeds. To be the bird whose head is Love for Allah and whose two supporting wings are Hope in Allah’s Mercy and Fear of Allah’s Wrath. Therefore, to be sincere in my intentions and deeds, patient in my struggles, and thankful for every moment for it is a blessing granted by the Merciful and Beneficent nature of Allah.

To be an oasis in the desert that is living to my husband and children by being patient in times of hardship, by putting their needs above others, helping, supporting, and loving them with all that Allah has blessed me with. To my husband, I wish to be the wife of his dreams, who pleases him whenever, and to whom he has full trust, reliance, and finds fulfillment of himself as a man and a father. To my children, I wish to be the mother that they would not change even if they could, to be their teacher, advisor, friend, and nurturer. To show them the right path, instill in them confidence, and teach them to think, to reason, and to view the world from perspective of a righteous believer.

To let my home speak of the thankfulness I hold in my heart for the generosity of Allah in our lives by keeping it clean and smelling great, filled with a welcoming atmosphere to family and guests alike, and a place that serves health and nutrition along with wisdom, love, calmness, and laughter.’

I do feel like this mission statement does not contain everything that I would like, however, I’m in a place of transition this year inshaAllah and as such, I feel what I have down is sufficient for my what I anticipate my needs to be for the rest of the year.

 

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About Islamic Patience

And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ] 2:45

And whoever submits his face to Allah while he is a doer of good – then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to Allah will be the outcome of [all] matters. 31:22

Bismillah

This is going to be short and sweet but it is a topic I’m going to revisit a few times this year (Hijri people, get a gripJ) inshaAllah.

As some of you may know, I was visited with some trials, some Fitna in the past few years, from losing my yet unborn baby to being separated from my husband by circumstances beyond both of our control Alhamdulillah, and by the Mercy of Allah, and His abundant Grace, we made it through and are back together mashaAllah and not only have added to our family in the interim (for Allah is Al Razzaq, Al Karim) but also are expecting another new addition soon inshaAllah Ta’ala.

In that time, I felt very alone even though I was surrounded by people I both love and respect, this I’m sure was partly by design from Allah, so I would lean upon Him, learn to trust Him further, turn to Him more completely, and realize (crystallize in my brain) that life and its happenings, are not within my realm of knowledge or ability to control, but in His. The other part, I’m sure was the Shaytan taking advantage of my weaknesses and short comings in myself and my Deen, to try and convert me to his way, the way of disobedience, or prideful disdain, of rejecting the authority of Allah, etc.

Allah is Merciful and He helped this unworthy servant of His, and made the statement ‘a trustworthy handhold’ (see Quran 31:22) a reality in my life, and showed me some of the meaning of being ‘humbly submissive’ (see Quran 2:45), of seeking help through patience and prayer, not ‘careful planning and preparing’.

I was able, after a lot of struggle and feeling like a fish out water, floundering for my next breath, to grasp (I hope and pray inshaAllah), the reality of what is truly before me, and that is nothing but Allah. He is Al Haq. He is the Truth. Either you worship Him and make it inshaAllah, or you don’t and don’t make it inshaAllah. There is nothing else. There is no success in Dunia life, how can there be when it is but a collection of atoms that we perceive as a whole through our 5 senses, which by the way, cannot distinguish truth from falsehood without relying upon the ‘brain/heart/soul’ that is within.

So today, as I sit here and prepare for my day inshaAllah, I want to remember that my Guide is Allah, my Provider is Allah, my Light is Allah, my Truth is Allah, I have only Allah and only by His Mercy and Grace, is anything at all possible. The entire existence of the entire universe is literarily within His Grasp and all I need to be is His humbly submissive servant.

TBC inshaAllah

 

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The Six Portals

Bismillah

I was reading a book by Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) and he said something that really resonated with me and makes a lot of sense even in retrospect. I have reflected on the matter and am going to paraphrase with additions of my own, what he (rahimahullah) said.

There are six (6) entry points for the Shaytan. Phew, doesn’t that make you feel a lot better to know that a) there are only 6 and b) you are about to know exactly what they are so you can guard against them? Well, that’s exactly what I felt I assure you.

The first are the eyes and ears. You can immediately see where this is going right? MashaAllah! The eyes see things and transmit that info to the heart (the brain in some cases) and the heart then yearns for those things, sometimes making the yearning the sole occupation of the heart. So if you guard the eyes from seeing that which is impermissible, or that which Allah gave more to others than to you, or that which is unattainable for you due to circumstance, or that which is harmful to your akhira if pursued in this life, then your heart will be free of yearning and aspiring and wishing for that which is of no use to you at all and may actually lead to your downfall. Some examples that come readily to mind is when the eyes view a beauty without that is not within the heart and yearn for that beauty to be theirs. Such that the person may curse Allah’s beautiful creation (the self’s appearance) by saying, “oh, how ugly I am!” Can you imagine such a scenario? Oh maybe the self will complain, sometimes very loudly, about what is lacking in their life. Things that they didn’t feel they were lacking until they saw them on others or at others or with others. Maybe the nafs will desire a bigger house, a better car, a stronger husband, more children, a high status job, better pay for work done, more vacation time, a larger extended family (or smaller one), etc.

The exact same argument goes for the ears, with one additional thing and some clarification Inshallah. The listening to gossip is sometimes the sweetest thing, making the heart feel proud that you are not in that situation, or that you are a better person in akhlaq than the one being discussed, or that you have avoided the pitfalls that the other one has fallen into, or that, it may be, your heart whispers to you that Allah has favored you over that person, so surely He must be pleased with you and will reward you even more on the day of meeting! Yes, yes, I know about what the heart whispers so don’t try to hide it o’ dear Nafs. Well, my dear, its no true, that’s the Shaytan, having entered through the listening post and is busying himself with staining your heart black so it can be deprived of the Rahma of Allah, by virtue of it being too black and too hardened.

If you want to know that which is impermissible for the ears, it is music, the luring voice of the Shaytan, speaking to your desires, arousing your emotions by using illusions hidden in flowery words. Music makes you prefer it over the Quran, the speech of Allah and that is sin enough to avoid it with a powerful avoidance. But in addition, music makes you think and feel things that aren’t really there, it causes you to yearn for delusions, it takes your heart strings and strums them so the bahar of emotions becomes tumultuous, tossing the nafs here and there, all security gone and no harbour of safety in sight. Music is the voice of the Shaytan, calling you to your destruction, to forgetfulness, to saying that which you do not know of Allah, and so many other abominations, that there isn’t enough space to cover here.

Often what the eyes see and what the ears hear causes the person to forget the blessings from Allah in their own life thereby forgetting to thank Allah for His bounties and thereby missing out on a great reward. The other thing that roaming eyes and open ears cause, is a nafs full of desire and little satisfaction. That nafs then starts running for those things it thinks will alleviate her pain or her dissatisfaction, running for the things of this dunia, the temporary things that will vanish along with everything that is set to vanish. The nafs then can become so immersed in this that it forgets its Creator, its purpose, and its final destination. The nafs then becomes lost and its affair is not something we wish to discuss for it is too painful. And Allah’s aid is sought Inshallah ya Rabb.

The next two are the mouth (tongue) and stomach. I thought you expected as much right. The mouth is the opening to all evils or all good, depending on how it is used. The freely flapping mouth, without a break, a fore thought, a pause, an examination of intentions, is the fastest and most assured entry of the Shaytan into the nafs. First lets look into its speaking. We have been ordered to speak good or remain silent yet even that small goodness that we could have earned is overturned by the bad intention behind it. That of appearing better than the others by not speaking bad about that person all of you are discussing! Yes, yes, I know dear, don’t try to hide, I know you really well you know. The tongue is also given to lying in order supposedly to protect the rights of the Nafs. It tells lies, fabricates matters, speaks at will about matters not concerning it, calls people names, tells jokes full of untruths or exaggerations, laments at the seemingly scarce bounties of Allah in one’s life, complains at the decree of Allah, pretends friendship, and so many other atrocities, I cant even think of all of them right now. Though the tongue has the opportunity to be the best part of the person, it often is their worst part and that is a shame indeed.

In addition to the mouth speaking much when in all honesty it should be very quiet, it also collaborates with the stomach, in order to fill up the stomach of unnecessary food. The mouth has cravings and the stomach is similar to skin in construction and can expand unlimitedly if it is so allowed. So while the mouth robs the Nafs of her good deeds, the stomach, full and greedily using up all the blood from the other organs, in order to work properly, it makes the Nafs lazy to commit any more good deeds. These two are thieves of the highest order because working in pairs; they grab the attention of the already lazy nafs, with entertainment, while silently and greedily stealing each and every good deed the Nafs acquired with much sacrifice in other areas.

If you notice, often the mouth and stomach are the main guests at any event of entertainment such as weddings or house parties or whatever is similar to this. The mouth busily chats away, mentioning Allah but little, rejoicing at the opportunity to showcase its ability for new words or spinning an exciting tale. At the same time, the stomach is busy collecting all that is on the table and storing it for later use. Later, when the mouth is silenced by virtue that the party is over and everyone has gone home, the stomach then comes to do its work on the food collected, making the person lazy, sleepy, tired, and fatigued so she is only interested in sitting down or lying down or sleeping, or resting with something that does not require too much mental focus because the stomach is busy and needs all others to rest while it uses their energy to work.

So next time you are invited to a party, think twice why you are going and who are taking with you. It may just be you are taking the two thieves, who will use that opportunity to rob you of your good deeds, sometimes more than a year’s worth maybe, and Allah knows best about all matters and only His aid against these two is sought.

As for the last two portals, they are the hands and the feet. The hands have the capability to do great work, yet often they are misused and instead of giving, people use them for taking, instead of sharing, they are used for appropriating and instead of helping, they are used for hoarding. The hand that gives is better than the hand that takes and is always more superior in the eyes of all and sundry, even a child knows that. Our hands are our actors in this world. By the actions of the hands, the person is known, not by his speech and certainly not his looks or possessions or anything. The person who is called a miser is termed so because no one sees his hands neither giving nor helping. And the person who is called generous is the one whose hands are open and constantly ready to help. Though none of our actions should be to please others, Allah does talk about how one knows a person and one way is through their actions and the actors are often the hands.

The feet are the carrier of the person, where they take him, he has to go. By guarding the feet, one can prevent the self from going to forbidden or disliked places, or sometimes, to places that may be in and of themselves neither forbidden nor disliked but the actions that the person will most likely do there, is either forbidden or disliked. For example, going to a house party, where there will be just your friends and family is perfectly permissible. However, one must question why they are going, who they are taking there with them (the mouth, stomach, eyes, ears, and hands), what purpose do they foresee to accomplish therein, etc. You see, its not enough that the place is permissible, there are factors to be considered which are just as important. Some people go to the Masjid, which is a beloved place to go, yet they loose more ajar by going than by not going. It maybe be they will sit in the back and chat about family (gossip/slander) or business (trade is forbidden in the masajid) or to look at the opposite gender (Allah has ordered the gaze to be lowered from the opposite gender) or to show off their new clothes or other acquisitions, etc. The intention behind the action to be committed is as important, if not more important then action under consideration is. Truly Allah is the knower of what He created and He knows what dark whispers are whispered to the heart. And we ask Allah to safe guard us from the going astray and the earning of this wrath.

So you see, Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullah) truly touched on exactly the places that need our highest level of vigilance against in order to safeguard one thing, the heart. The nafs resides in the heart (in a manner of speaking ok, I have no idea where the nafs is and that matter is of the unseen and as Allah has said, of its knowledge we have been given but very little and to be very honest, I don’t even possess that little knowledge and for that I’m very thankful to Allah). If the heart is the throne of all limbs, then the nafs is sitting on that throne Inshallah. And if the body is a kingdom, then the 6 portals are the entry into this kingdom. If the nafs is to direct her kingdom so it can be successful, then the portals need protection because if they kingdom is invaded, especially when the nafs is unprepared, then the kingdom may fall to the enemy and can be either ruled as a whole or be divided into smaller kingdom, each ruled by its own newly installed king, none of them willing to work together and all of them trying to establish their dominion over the others.

When this happens, it is when you will sometimes the person is given to good in some things and bad in some things, and completely unconcerned about other things. A nafs conducting a defensive war is a nafs that is in great danger, at any moment they can fall, their resources are depleted or depleting quickly, and in essence, that nafs is living from breath to breath, not sure when it will be defeated, but getting weaker and weaker, so that it may the weakness will defeat it, an internal weakness, not even the enemy that had invaded anymore. Except that the enemy would have contributed to the condition that allowed that internal weakness to manifest and cause a complete breakdown.

Now then, I cannot leave my explanation at such a low point and must give an attempt at a plan of action to combat the onslaught awaiting us Inshallah. Since we know the 6 openings from which the Shaytan and his minions can invade our stronghold, we can then work to strengthen each portal then to post guards to each portal so that it is well manned, and in case of an actual invasion, it is quickly defended and restored Inshallah.

Allah has Alhamdulillah provided a natural covering for the eyes and if we actively manage the lids by pulling them down over our eyes in all situations, we can truly start to not see this world and instead, start to see the inner reality of matters before us. This world, as Allah has explained to us, is a place of pomp and mutual boasting, a place where nothing will last and everything is bound to perish.

We can see this every spring when the earth becomes decorated beautifully as if it will never go away again and then the fall comes and all that was green and lush is dried stubble and scattered. By lowering the gaze from the illusions of this world, Allah has promised that the reality will become clear, and certainly we can start to see better our real purpose and start the process of cultivating for the real home where all of us are going. Remember, the first glance is excused and the second is the Shaytan tempting you and if you follow through with that glance, your heart will become corrupted by him. As it has been said that the eyes are directly connected to the heart so what the eyes see, the heart yearn for. So lowering the gaze is the first step to purifying the heart from the love of this world, from the love of what is illusion and starting to build the love of what is real, Allah and the life to come Inshallah.

The ears have no natural covering and will need the help of the feet and or the tongue to attain success Inshallah. So if the ears hear that which is not beneficial to its coming life, then the tongue can try to speak and change the situation and if that cannot happen, then the feet can remove the ears and carry them away to safety Inshallah. So the ears are the messengers that should activate the tongue and or the feet to righteous actions. If the ears indulge in the sin, then the tongue which did not speak and the feet which did not move, will have to answer along with the ears, for they then become corroborating appendages in the crime being committed.

The tongue is the messenger of the Nafs to the rest of the world. Therefore, let is say good or be quiet. Let is encourage righteousness and forbid evil, either with itself or with remaining limbs (hands and feet). To help busy the tongue that likes and is used to flapping for many hours of the day, it is best to recite adhkar. By reciting the names of Allah, reading the Quran or just reciting from memory, saying the beloved remembrance of Allah, about His Glory, His Praises, His Greatness, declaring the shahadah and reflecting about it, and other forms of remembrance. If the tongue tires of reciting prescribed adhkar (the ones the prophet salallahu alayhe wasalaam used to recite as has reached us through authentic Sunnah), then the Nafs can engage in a dialogue with Allah, a dua’. Dua’ as has been explained to us, also falls under the remembrance of Allah and is considered a form of prayer also. This I think is because when you are engaged in dua, you are praying to Allah for something and also by praying to Allah, you are acknowledging that Allah is there, listening and hearing you, that He is able to answer you, that He has power of whatever you are praying about, etc. So in essence, you are affirming His names and attributes, Great is He. So the best dua is the one that does this Inshallah, that is it affirms the names of Allah and His attributes and thereby, by virtue of the fact that you need Him, you are also affirming your status as a slave, and by supplicating only to Him, you are affirming that you worship only Him. How excellent is dua to save the tongue from the fire of Hell, and refuge is only sought from Allah.

The stomach must be kept neither empty nor full, but in a state such that you cannot feel it. What I mean is, since the stomach has the same construction as the skin, able to expand or contract in the same manner, being porous in the same manner, and even diseasing in the same manner, then it should feel like the skin feels, and that is like its not there, you don’t feel it, you are not aware of it.

Just think for a second, can you feel your skin? I hope not Inshallah! The stomach should be in the same state Inshallah and that is best for it Inshallah. Because if it is too empty, then it will bother you with its insistence at being fed and this may distract you from important work, and certainly may diminish your concentration. And of course, a continuously empty stomach may diminish your strength over time, making you weaker and closer to sickness than health and this is disliked if it is a condition brought upon the self purposely. As our Leader (salallahu alayhe wasalaam) has advised, fast and eat, as he (salallahu alayhe wasalaam) used to do this. And even Prophet Dawud (alayhe salaam), fasted one day and that was for worshipping, and ate the next day, and that was for being thankful to Allah.

The hands and feet should try to work in conjunction with each other as much as possible. So that the feet will carry the hands to places where goodly actions may be easily accomplished by the hands, and the reward will be for both of them Inshallah. The hands should become accustomed to giving and should rarely take, and this is a way of affirming the attribute of Allah Al Razzaq. By giving and being a provider to others, not only do you demonstrate the names of Allah who is our Provider and Sustainer, but also, you have the opportunity to affirm His Mercy, His Clemency, and certainly Inshallah His Forgiveness.

Remember, the generous person and the righteous person is the one who gives without expecting anything in return, at least not from his fellow slaves, but from the owner of himself and others. Being righteous is not just about praying and fasting and fulfilling the commands of Allah, it is also by doing actions that are deemed righteous and having right conduct Inshallah.

So a righteous slave partakes of this world only very little and give to this world as much as he can from his own provisions. This is partly because the provisions are not really his own by are actually on loan to him and partly because this world is the trading ground and those that hope for success, should trade as much of what they have as possible, as often as possible, and as correctly as possible in order to increase their stock of goods and their profit margin from their business during the trading hours, and those are short, comparatively.

So my dear lovely well meaning but somewhat misguided Nafs, set for yourself a program where you can review the state of your kingdom, along with its borders, then start the process of rectifying that which needs rectification as soon as possible. The enemy is at hand, ready to annihilate you, so let not your destruction lay at your own hands, by virtue of that you did nothing to save neither yourself nor your kingdom. Lower you gaze, cover your ears or change the subject or admonish against it, or remove yourself from that which will burn your ears. Additionally, leave your appetites at home, lock the stomach, and shut the mouth with a strong shutting, permitting little in and even less out. Make your hands be messengers of glad tidings, and your feet a means of escape once you have tried the doing all good but have failed Inshallah. Remember that Allah is with you when you are Patient and when you remember Him, do be patient and remember Him often. Know that Allah has illegalized suspicion and gossip and slander so avoid them lest you land in His jail. Know also that Allah loves those who speak truth, who fear Him much (and hence avoid wrong doing), and those who enjoin good and forbid evil so strive to do this for His sake so He may be pleased with you Inshallah.

O’ Nafs, I pray Allah gives you success and all safety.

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Bismillah

An illustrative story mashallah.

“There was a couple who took a trip to England to shop in a beautiful antique store to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery, and especially teacups.Spotting an exceptional cup, they asked “May we see that? We’ve never seen a cup quite so beautiful.”As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke, “You don’t understand. I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over and I yelled out, “Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone,” but he only smiled, and gently said, “Not yet.”

Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was made to suit himself and then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. “Help! Get me out of here!” I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, “Not yet.”

When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on he shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! “Ah, this is much better,” I thought.

But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. “Oh, please, stop it, stop, I cried.” He only shook his head and said, “Not yet.”

Then suddenly he puts me back in to the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited and waited, wondering, “What’s he going to do to me next?”

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said, “Look at yourself.” And I did. I said, “That’s not me. That couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!”

Quietly he spoke: “I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”

The moral of this story is this: God knows what He’s doing for each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect.

So when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life seems to “stink”, try this.

Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest tea cup, sit down and think on this story and then, pray to the Potter.”


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