A Letter to God On Behalf of a Muslim Man

Dear God,

Thank You for choosing me to be Your daughter and for giving me the freedom to choose You as my God. Thank You that You have saved me from a sinful life and have introduced me to Truth through Your Word. I’m surrounded by people who don’t know You and have a misperception about You.

The worst part is that they haven’t formed their opinion based on logic or research. They are simply brainwashed. Their words are contradictory. One second they question how You can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit and still be one God; the next, they argue that You and the god of their book are one and the same.

These are all lies, Lord, and it’s obvious Satan is behind them. He is the one who steals, kills and destroys. He has stolen their freedom to choose whom to worship, he has killed their spirit and he has destroyed their chance of eternal life in Heaven. It’s not too late, though, Lord, and I know You want to save them.

Lord, I wish to pray for this one man in particular, the one I met yesterday at the beach. He has formed his opinion based on hearsay. He used the same arguments I’ve heard so many Muslims blindly repeat – Christians believe in more than one God, Christians believe in different bibles, Christians were born into their religion. It’s Satan’s propaganda. He distracts them with the small details – which aren’t even true – so they won’t dig deeper.

I trust it wasn’t a coincidence that I met this man yesterday and that we got into a debate. I know You died for him. I ask you, Father, that You would show him the truth about Yourself. Show him Your mercy, kindness, forgiveness, justice and love. Tell him that You want to be his Father and that You died for his sins so he could have an eternal life with You.

Open the eyes of his heart so he can see what his future can look like with You as his God. Send more people who will push him to ask tough questions about his beliefs. Don’t give up, Lord, until he is baptised with the Holy Spirit and becomes Your disciple.

Jesus, this man represents the entirety of the Saudi population. I know you’ve already done a lot of work, bringing Saudis to You and I know you’re not giving up on them. Go around doing good and heal all who are under the power of the devil. Let this area no longer be mainly Muslim. Let there be freedom of choice, so people can convert without consequences.

Holy Spirit, keep me always prepared for debates. Help me answer calmly and wisely. Help me distinguish the people You want me to talk to. And it wouldn’t be so bad if someone, someday, could come to You thanks to something I did or said.

All this I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Why I Prefer to Mind My Own Business

A Lebanese actress I follow on Instagram posted a picture of herself in Ibiza, wearing the bottom of her bikini and a shirt that shows half of her stomach. With that picture came a lot of encouragement but also a lot of critique.

She replied to negative commentators with two stories, (1) asking what the problem is, when someone on vacation, in the summer, posts a picture of herself in a bikini and (2) suggesting that whoever has a problem with her lifestyle should unfollow her. She’s right, what difference does it make that she’s posting these pictures? What difference does it make to me, the follower?

Why do we love to gossip? Why do we love to criticise others, who make different life choices? Why can’t we accept that we all have our own belief systems and ought to respect others’? I may not be comfortable posting such a picture of myself. That’s my choice. If she is, that’s up to her.

It doesn’t only come down to this simple example. I mean, believe me, I find myself judging others quite often. For instance, it’s hard for me to understand why a woman, in her right mind, would want to cover her hair. Or why a mom feels uncomfortable leaving her child with anyone, including the child’s grandmother. Reality is I don’t have to understand. It’s none of my business. And because it’s none of my business I shouldn’t judge her.

When I judge someone, I shouldn’t be surprised when they – or others – judge back. When I gossip about someone, I shouldn’t be surprised when they – or others – gossip back. You may say “So, in the case of this actress, she must have judged someone to deserve all whatever negative feedback she received.” No, not necessarily. She got this reaction because she did something that is still not widely accepted in Lebanese culture.

And that’s the point. It’s not because I have a conception of what my culture should look like, that I can expect everyone to fit in my box. My box makes me comfortable, not others. This is even more true in the complex world of social media. I follow so many people who make life choices that are different than mine. Still, I encourage them when needed, and I respect them at all times.

Once I feel like their content offenses or insults me, I can either gently send them a message and explain myself, or I can unfollow them, if I feel it’s not worth the effort. If this actress had written in her caption that, fat girls are ugly, or that people who can’t afford to travel are losers, then I would have sent her a message.

But public shaming is not an option to me. It’s the same with talking about someone behind their back – and believe me this is still a struggle to me too. I, for one, cannot trust someone who talks poorly about others in my presence, because I know they do same to me when I’m not around.

In conclusion, why do I prefer to mind my own business? Simply because it’s none of my business what choices other people like to make.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. Anything You Can Be, I Can Be Greater.

Why are we so obsessed with being the first, smartest, fastest, biggest, slimmest, richest, cleanest etc.? Why do we get so satisfied when we think we’ve got the upper hand over someone? Why can’t we settle in the middle? It’s because there’s no middle in a competition.

We long to be labeled “the best.” But truly, what does that even mean anymore? We’re constantly comparing one thing or person against another. We even do it to our babies. “When did yours say his first words? Mine did at 6 months.” We’re obsessed with the thought of “what I have is better than yours.”

I don’t know about you but trying to join the bandwagon left me miserable. It’s unattainable! Even if it was, here’s what it says about me “I’ll only be satisfied with myself when I’m able to reach this or that.” Only when you finally achieve your goal, you realise there’s another challenge waiting for you. That’s because there is no such thing as being “the best.”

And let me tell you something, social media haven’t helped. Some people’s posts basically translate to “Look at me, I lost this weight in so little time. Can you do the same?” or “I’m a PhD, are you?” or “Look at my breakfast, I bet yours isn’t as healthy.” You might rebut that not all Instagrammers have such poor intentions. You’re right, but even those with the purest of intentions can create a spirit of competition, without realising it.

I follow a few influencers to gain from their knowledge on anything related to babies. But when their daughter was able to sleep through the night at 4 months and mine still wakes up a handful of times, I freak out. “What am I doing wrong? I’m failing. Obviously I’m not doing a good job. She’s so much better than me.” When that happens, the focus shifts, I’m no longer benefiting from this medium, it’s quite the contrary. What’s worst is that I sometimes get angry with my daughter for not keeping up the pace. “When will you be able to sleep by yourself?”

When I shared my fears with my family, they all showed me a different perspective, one where I was doing a great job. One where babies are all different. One where my daughter has her own strengths and weaknesses. One where I shouldn’t force my daughter into author X’s idea of a baby’s daily schedule. And then it’s all OK again. I have to remind myself repeatedly not to compare my life with anyone else’s.

This also applies to other people’s lives who are facing bigger struggles. For example, another mother on Instagram has Irish twins and the younger one has a genetic disorder, known as Trisomy 18. A lot of us do this and think “at least my baby’s healthy, thank you God.” That’s just as bad, because our self-satisfaction is – to a certain extent – still a consequence of a comparison we made.

It scares me because I want to raise my daughter, without having to pressure her to be the best at everything. What’s more important is that she enjoys whatever she’s doing, that she learns, that she grows as a person. So what if she didn’t come first in her class? So what if she didn’t score the best goal? So what if she wasn’t the prettiest? Will I love her less? Of course not! What I will do, however, is teach her to be miserable if I don’t change my thought-process anytime soon.

Remember, It’s A Doctor’s Job to Create Patients

Acne and irregular menstruation cycles. Two of every girl’s worst nightmares. So you can imagine the mental playground my mind became when, for six months in a row, my face kept breaking out and my period disappeared.

It never occurred to me that it could be a hormonal problem. My first reaction was to see a dermatologist, so I went to see the one I thought was very qualified. I don’t know if it was out of good intentions, but since my wedding was approaching, he advised I took Roaccutane, a medicine so strong, it messes up our hormones and, if taken less than six months before pregnancy, guarantees birth defect.

I didn’t know better. I followed his “professional” advice. I was on this antibiotic for a month. Not only was it useless with reducing my acne, it made my skin extra dry. Against the doctor’s recommendation – who wanted me to be on Roaccutane for months – I stopped taking it.

A friend of mine had a similar experience with acne and Roaccutane, so she suggested I saw a gynaecologist. I did. She discovered I had many cysts and diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She prescribed me three different medications, which would control my period. I was on them exactly a week. Once my period came, I waved them goodbye.

I finally got my period, after a six months break. My problem with acne did not vanish but it did get better with time. Still concerned with this PCOS problem, I went to see another gynaecologist. She said likelihoods I got pregnant were small and prescribed me Glucophage, as well as another medicine that would re-balance my testosterone levels. Having learned from my previous mistakes, however, I did not take any of it.

I decided to trust my body and its power to health itself. Guess what… A couple of months later, I was pregnant. Go figure. My period wasn’t regular, I still had cists and I got pregnant without medications. Fast forward a few months into my pregnancy, I learned from my gynecologist – it took me a while before I found a truly qualified one – that I could sue the dermatologist for having prescribed me Roaccutane. By law, he clarified, a dermatologist cannot prescribe this medicine.

Please, please always second guess your doctor. Feel free to ask them as many questions as you want. Many of them gain commission from companies that produce medicine. If it comes down to preparing “trap” questions, do so. If you’re not comfortable with their judgment, see another one, and then another one. Remember, it makes them look good if you keep returning to them, so make sure you’re going back for the right reasons.

I Used to Be a Stoner Too, You Know? And It Ruined Me.

Do you know that teenage girl who has a mediocre reputation? The one people liked to whisper behind her back. The one who seemed to jump from one guy to another. That was me. It’s a long story that started with sexual abuse – but that’s for another time.

Naturally, I attracted bad boys. They fooled me, making me believe it was fine for girls my age – I was 12 when it all started – to do sexual things, drink, smoke, sneak them in when my parents weren’t home etc.

I was very naïve and didn’t have a mentor looking up for me. At home, I was a rebel against my mother and my father wasn’t involved in my disciplining. My older brother and sister traveled abroad to pursue their studies. I was at home alone, a lot of the time. And when I wasn’t I just wanted to be in my room, my private bubble.

There are many things I could focus on, but this article sheds light on my experience with smoking pot. It all commenced after I’d broken up with my boyfriend – whom we’ll call Bilal. I was sixteen. I’d already been smoking cigarettes for two years.

When I first met him, I didn’t know I wasn’t a virgin. He found that out. We dated for six months and had lots of sex – he was the first one I’d had vaginal sex with. Our break up took its toll on me. All of a sudden, I was smoking hash and only made friends – sometimes with benefits – with boys who smoked. I was very subtle about it, never making it clear that hash was what made me friends with them.

It was one guy after the other. I must admit, the lack of an active father figure made me seek a male figure elsewhere. It only made me more addicted to hash. I made them believe I loved them, I got them attached to me, so I could feel worthy and loved. I was pretty good at it.

I began lying to my parents. I never wanted to stay at home and, no matter what, my mother could not punish me, as I’d nag and nag until she let me go out. I snuck out at night and came back in the morning. I got caught a couple of times – it was after our building guard told our neighbours I was sneaking out, who in turn informed my mom – but it did not stop me from repeating the same mistakes.

I never paid for hash, so I felt that, in order to keep getting hash, I’d had to offer something in return. And that thing was sex. I pretended I was happy. I was a negative influence to my girl friends. I was miserable.

And then I left the country to pursue my studies, guess where… the Netherlands, where I could smoke as much as I wanted. I smoked through my first year of university. I no longer needed anyone to buy anything for me, I could do it on my own, without supervision, without having to rebel against anyone. I could smoke by myself or with friends.

It felt good until I noticed I was making heavy breathing sounds when I slept. I felt sorry for my lungs. It wasn’t long before I quit smoking cigarettes and then weed. I quit both overnight. And you know what? It wasn’t difficult. A lot of people say it’s a big challenge quitting this habit but when you realise how much harm it’s doing you, it totally outweighs the benefits, which, in reality, is only one thing – the high.

I left my whole entourage, and believe me when I say it wasn’t easy making friends in a country and culture that was super new to me. It was what I wanted. I wanted to be in control. I didn’t want to be connected to this thing that caused me to do things I’ll always be ashamed of.

If you can relate to my story and are seeking someone to talk to, or if you’re battling your own addiction and are sick of yourself, or whatever your story is, please feel free to reach out to me, even if it’s been five or ten years since this article was published. I will listen and I will not judge, because I know what it’s like to be uncomfortable in your own skin.

N.B. Writing this article was a challenge because of the memories it brought back, I actually deleted the article before I was even done with the introduction. But then I wondered “What if it can help one girl? What if one teenager’s struggling with the same battle?” That revived the article. If you’re that girl or boy, please know that you truly matter and your situation is temporary. You can turn your world upside down.

I’m Sorry, The Dog Ate My Homework. Part 2

Yesterday, I published “I’m Sorry, The Dog Ate My Homework,” where I discussed what it truly meant to be accountable for one’s mistake. Little did I know, I underwent the test myself the same day. Did I succeed? Let’s see…

I live in Saudi Arabia, a country that only allows security dogs. I don’t know how, but my shitzu, Leo, was born here. Since we’ve had a baby join the family, he’s no longer constantly under the spotlight – and I feel bad for him. So every time there is a chance of a playdate with other dogs, I get super excited. Yesterday was this one day.

The plan was for my husband to drop me, our daughter and Leo to my parents’ house – women only started driving two days ago in Saudi, so I still need to be chauffeured. He would go back to our compound to play tennis and finish right in time to watch the Argentina vs. Nigeria game.

In the meantime, my dad would drop me and Leo to the playdate. My dad only agreed because I had informed him that the playdate was taking place close to his house. Here is my mistake, which I’ve done a gazillion times, I did not double check the location. It was half an hour away from my parents’ house. This I only bothered to check when we were on our way to my parents’ house.

Can you guess what happened next? Do you think my dad dropped me? Or did I can cancel the playdate? Or did my husband cancel his tennis practice and drop me?

Well, as soon as I told my husband about the actual location, he immediately volunteered to drop me, so my dad wouldn’t have to. But I didn’t want him to cancel his tennis practice. It was my fault so I should have to pay the price. So right when I was about to cancel Leo’s play date, my husband noticed how sad I’d become.

In the end, he canceled his practice and joined me at the play date. Was I willing to take responsibility for my mistake? You bet I was. Did I take responsibility for my mistake? No, my husband saved my behind. Did it feel right? It totally didn’t. Will I learn from my mistake and triple check crucial details in the future? I doubt it…

When I asked my husband if he forgave me, he answered positively. Then I said “I owe you two hours of tennis practice.” His response? “You owe me to always check your information.” He knew it wasn’t the first time I’d made this mistake. He was also certain it wasn’t going to be the last. So, the dog did not eat my homework. I messed up so my husband gave me his homework.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, we made it right on time to watch the football game. You can say it was a happy ending.

I’m Sorry, The Dog Ate My Homework

Mistakes are bound to happen, right? So it’s normal that we’re sometimes late to an appointment, that we send the email to the wrong address or forget to wish a loved one happy birthday. Mistakes are resolvable and if you’re an ordinary person like me, it’s not like the safety of the world depended on our mistakes.

What’s important is our attitude when we make mistakes. Do we apologise and explain what happened that caused us to be late, for example? Or do we own it without making excuses? I vote for the latter. Here’s how the two are different. When I apologise and blame traffic for being late, I’m basically claiming that it’s not my fault. Only it is.

Because it’s a mistake, it means that it could have been avoided. And even if it couldn’t have, I shouldn’t be sending the message that my reliability depends on inconsistent circumstances like traffic. This is why when I apologise, it usually sounds something like “I’m sorry I’m late, it’s my fault. It will not happen again.” No excuses. Whatever the reason, whoever is listening doesn’t need to know. What they do need to know is that I’m being accountable for the mishap.

Notice the “It will not happen again.” It’s not a sentence I throw at the end to make myself look good. It’s not a false promise. No, it basically means that “whatever happened this time that caused my tardiness, I’ll make sure I prevent it next time.” So if it’s traffic, I’ll leave my point of departure earlier next time.

I believe it’s important to apply this as a general rule in our daily life – both personal and professional. When we are accountable and make the extra effort to prevent the same mistakes from happening, people learn to take us seriously. They learn that they can rely on our word. So, the dog eat your homework, you said?