“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”

Mama, I thought held an archaic perspective to relationships and was altogether too prim and proper about everything. Times have changed and things along with it but not mama. She still held on to the colonial definition of civility – sit down right, dress like ladies, talk to your friends with ‘courtesy’ ….and the list was endless.

The hardest part of these was the gowns -long and loose flowing dresses or skirts practically to the feet-she made us wear. We wore them everywhere except for school: where we obviously had to wear uniforms, and even with that she sewed our uniforms extra-long. I do not know about my sisters but for me this was quite frustrating and annoying.

At a point in time, all the kids at school were to go to the children’s park for a funfair and mama had promised us new clothes for the occasion. I was excited because I felt nothing in my wardrobe was good enough and also because a new dress held the promise of a much current fashion style. I should have known mama wouldn’t deviate from her usual ‘length appropriate clothes’. The clothes finally arrived and to my disappointment they were gowns.

I was so pissed. Before the promise of new clothes I had resigned myself to a selection from my woefully-limited-in-style wardrobe. The silver lining that came with mama’s promise turned out not to be silver after all: now I had to reconcile myself with my earlier decision and this was hard. I probably would have sat it out if not for the fact that I wanted to go so bad.

The day for the fair came and I dressed up with very little excitement. On the bus, I was rather melancholic in contrast to my sisters who were busily chatting away, obviously unperturbed by their clothes. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my friends because I knew they would be better dressed than I was, and they were.

I went to say hi to avoid looking snobbish or troubled, either of which would have warranted a lot of explanation of which I wasn’t exactly in the mood for.. In course of the exchange of pleasantries, Joy, a friend of mine, said “I love the way you are so simple Sarah”. She probably meant it as a complement but I didn’t take it as one. It just set my teeth on edge. Was I so pitiful that the best she could say was “simple” in her attempt to be nice? Moreover, if she thought my clothes were that great why didn’t she get similar ones, I had worn the styles enough times.

That evening, my cousin Emma showed me a picture of a dress her mama was going to get her.

Much Later that night, mama told me a bed time story different from the popular ones.

…….

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FITTING RIGHT

 

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Watching Jordan, my younger brother, trying to put together a puzzle brings fond memories of my own childhood streaming back. I have been watching him for a little while now and I know exactly when he started feeling a bit frustrated; everything isn’t fitting exactly where he thought it should and I totally sympathized with him because I remember feeling exactly the same way, even a little irate, back then especially when I wanted to move on from putting together a puzzle to something else and parallel felt obliged to close the puzzle case before anything else. I’m supposing he is getting to the point where he will attempt fitting any piece anywhere just to get the feeling of completion so he can just move on to something else [ at least that’s what I did sometime].

The scene seem to tally with a fascinating truth I learnt about the great temple king Solomon built in Jerusalem. Until quite recently I had always assumed the magnificent temple had been built like all the other building I see. I couldn’t be more wrong. I learnt the temple was simply assembled. Every material was made and worked on so that during the actual process of building, there was no need for cutting, sawing, chiseling etc, it was about fitting the cut out pieces in their respective positions. The materials were all already designed and custom made to fit a particular place. So that if something didn’t fit somewhere it wasn’t forced or patched in; it didn’t make useless the piece, it simply meant that wasn’t where it was designed to be.

How alike to this process of assembling we are. We are also custom made to fit a particular place/position/spot. We however, miss this truth often probably because we get frustrated with things we so badly want to happen for personal reasons [like Jordan] or some other reason and make do with being patched up elsewhere just to make it happen. This brings to mind the saying square peg in round hole. This doesn’t make useless the need to adapt but focuses us on the need to find where we are designed and purposed to be. A wise man once told me, ‘acknowledging our place and importance would make us more appreciative of other people’s place.’ Then there would be no need to be envious/jealous of others…. because we know we are just right for our purpose. We stand strong together when we stand in our appropriate places.

 

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” – The Bible

 

STANDING OUT

It was a very sunny Tuesday afternoon, several days after school reopened and two days to the deadline for student registration. Three of my friends and I were walking to lectures. We had dashed to the faculty in between lectures to finish the final step in our registration process and we were not particularly in a hurry to get to the lecture theatre; to get to shelter from the scorching sun was a different story. As we were walking across the lawns scrutinizing a document (I don’t remember exactly what) my eyes darted around. A tiny flower springing up caught my attention. It was nothing extraordinary but it looked outstanding surrounded by so much green grass. I thought it was very beautiful and I would have taken a photo but couldn’t because I didn’t have a camera. My phone wasn’t functional at that time. I did draw my friend’s attention to it though and made a silent promise to write about it someday. Today is that day. Of course Ransford, one of my friends, was quick to point out to me that the flower was nothing special [just in case I thought otherwise], and was actually very common. A flower of a common weed in fact. I didn’t doubt that for a second, it wasn’t the particulars of the flower that drew me to it but its uniqueness in its immediate surroundings. Imagine a whole lawn of neatly mowed grass with a tiny spring of white flower, just an inch taller sitting right in the middle. Impressive, right? I don’t know if my description does justice to the picture or make you catch a glimpse of what I’m talking about. But this picture stuck with me. I thought how bold that flower was to spring out right in the middle of so much uniformity and dare to be different. I imagined how odd the grass might have made the flower feel and it (the flower) probably might have felt very out of place. But standing there watching this tiny, maybe even sickly flower, I thought it was glorious and I saw how much courage it took to stick out like that. It made me wonder why we sometimes go to extreme ends to fit in when we could simply stand out and make a better and extraordinary, or even perfect picture.

I noticed how contrary to this flower I have been most of the time. How I had robbed the world of much beauty. Because in my quest to group, I had conformed to the standards of my friends, even when I thought different, and been broken time without number under peer pressure. I appreciated afresh the sense in variety and understood slightly perhaps, why God in his unsearchable wisdom created all differently; so we could complement each other among others. We lose this beauty when we strive to all look the same. After all what fun will it be if we were all the same- boring replicas of each other?

Stand out everywhere, be outstanding!

            Never be afraid to stand out, it’s better to be remembered for
            standing out in a crowd than to be forgotten for blending in.
                                                                  Ash Sweeney

 

WINDING ROADS

 

……the way of man is not in himself…….

I had tucked the children in for the night and I sat with Mike to chat a little bit. Thirty minutes now and I could see him trying really hard to stay awake and listen to me chatter. Five minutes tops and I knew he would be totally out. This didn’t bother me in the least, in fact, I’m a bit surprised he’d managed to stay up this long. He has had a full day today. He was working tirelessly on his new project at work and I knew Wednesday’s were also the meeting days for the evangelism team at church. And he hated to miss a meeting. Kirk was so passionate about the kingdom business. Watching him lying so peacefully in sleep on the sofa, I couldn’t bring myself to wake him up to go to bed. The sofa was comfortable enough; maybe in the middle of the night when he woke up, he would find his way to the bedroom. So I just covered him up with a blanket, gave him a kiss on his head and headed to the room. I checked in on the children one more time and made my way slowly to the room. I didn’t have anything left on my to-do list and I would end up reading myself to sleep. I realized I was humming. I tend to do that a lot these days, so contrary to some six, seven years ago when I was so angry and bitter. Now, I count my blessings and know my life is nothing short of a miracle.

Before, when I didn’t think much about miracles and grace; when I didn’t count all these blessings [God, my own family & good friends], I was a lost child.

An average kid born into a family of geniuses. It was so easy to be forgotten [everyone else was wrapped up in their own problems], dismissed; easy to have self-confidence issues and struggle to meet standards that my siblings seemed to set without much effort. Of course it wasn’t all bad, there were perks too. I got free extra tuition and I didn’t have a single strike or a low score on my assignments. I simply wore my siblings out until they helped me with them. Don’t get me wrong, I was no slacker I just didn’t measure up to my siblings. But like I said, I was lost. I changed my mind so many times about the career path to take.  I didn’t know it then, but I so badly wanted to get the approval of my family about every decision I made. Looking back now, I suppose they never noticed or guessed my inadequacies, insecurities and self-confence issues; I hid it well. I also didn’t have the maturity of mind I have today, so I held it against them.

After high school, I didn’t make good grades to be admitted in my choice college for the course I had finally settled on. I prayed a lot in those times though I wasn’t much of a religious person then. God had to do something, anything; everything couldn’t be on just me. Out of nowhere, I got admitted to read a course I never opted for and I jumped at the offer. All the way through college I prayed & hoped for a job after school cos I sincerely wasn’t sure my course could land me any meaningful of job.

It was during this time that I met Daniel.The most wonderful friend anybody can have. A perpetually   happy person who rubbed off on those around him and a much better Christian than myself.  He was a very supportive friend. Daniel knew how I felt about my family and about almost everything. We stuck together through the changing scenes of life. He was like the brother I always wanted. I always thought that our friendship was skewed – cos he was always helping me out in one way or another- although Daniel insisted it was just right. After college, our bond was stronger than it was and we kept in touch. Daniel was a healthy and active person so the news hit me hard when he was diagnosed with cancer. Where was God? This young man was one of His gallant ambassadors. It felt so wrong that such a thing would happen to someone like him. Of course he kept believing until he reached the end of his “race”.

I kept really close after his diagnosis. I started going for fellowship meetings with him. He had invited me many times and I went sparely. I figured I didn’t have the many years that I envisioned so I took any time I got, even if it was just sitting by him throughout service. I prayed so hard those days. God had to come through for him, if not for me. Fellowship meeting had an impact on me. I started hoping after hearing some seemingly hopeless cases that God made possible. Daniel seemed more courageous than I was right to the very end. After his passing I become a very angry, sad and angry (again) person. I sat blindly through the burial service. Mike, one of Daniel friends I had met during one of my visits to church before he fell ill came up to offer his condolences after the ceremony. I could barely hear what he said. He took it upon himself to check up on me once in a while, maybe because I looked so shattered after Daniel’s passing. Whatever his reason was, he started annoying me. I was too angry and not ready to let it go.

One Sunday morning I simply drove up to church, I don’t know what inspired me, but I sat through the service. The minister talked about how God’s plan for our lives was to bring us to an expected end and I couldn’t help wonder whether Daniel life was an example of the expected end the minister was referring to. I later found a scripture about how God’s ways were not like ours and about how His thoughts were higher than ours. I started praying again, it was more of throwing questions at God and ranting. Somehow He seem to pay attention to me because I didn’t know how the minister always preach about something I had asked God. Gradually, I was learning.

Mike never gave up on checking on me and very slowly we became friends. He helped me pray through my anger and frustrations. It was a hard thing. It wasn’t particularly rosy and easy letting go of many years of misplaced anger, unforgiveness and bitterness against my family. I wasn’t pleasant when God showed me how wrong i was and the many loopholes in my life. I allowed Him to hammer out all the pride and arrogance and other vices out of me.

Five years down the line, I married Mike and I know with a certainty that he is God’s gift to me. Looking back now, I realize that I forged many virtues during those trying moments; I remember Daniel with fond memories and I acknowledge how he was God instrument to touch my life and how events unfolding led me straight to where I am today, so I simply live everyday surrendered to the one who holds tomorrow.

 

Many times we reach places in our lives that are dark and bleak. And we wonder why and what we are doing there. We get to a point where sadness, gloominess, hurt  and regret steal so much from our lives, the ‘if onlys’ are so many, we miss the joy in today. In these times and moments, let us remind ourselves that every road, no matter what, will lead us to exactly where we are supposed to be in life. Let us take our mistakes and repent, forgive ourselves and learn from them, take our hurts and trust them, hold our heads high and be in the remembrance that “I will be exactly where I ought to be in the end”

I’m not saying that we should make deliberate blunders or that we would not reap the consequences of our past and present decisions, cos we definitely will. I’m saying that as we feel the friction of the outcomes of our decisions, we should remember that we will come out with finer/ smoother edges. Though the roads may be hard, we should not be so consumed with regret, disappointment and defeat that we fail to see the Calvary before us. On the lonely road of hurt, loss and pain remember there is a purpose and trust in God.

Not every road is good and easy; some are hard and dreary. Choose wisely but if you happen to have chosen the wrong one …….take solace that there is hope. Remember, “I’m exactly where I need to be now in order to be where I need to be in future. That is not saying, every stand is right [we have to ran, walk even crawl, if we must, out of wrong places.]

 

All things work together to the good of them that love the Lord, to them that are the called according to His purpose.

 

 

THE PUSH

In January, the day right after the hike in fuel prices, I had to push a car into a petrol station.  It was not my first time pushing a car but definitely my first pushing one in the middle of the road. Right after church I entered into the car with a few others just as always. I even made a comment about how worn out the car looked just to tease some response from my brother who happened to own the Hyundai Galloper II we were going to ride in. After barely five minutes ride, the car just died in the middle of the road. We noticed it was due to petrol shortage and so we had to alight and push the car to a nearby station. There was no gallon available so we didn’t have the option to dash to the fuel station and get the fuel. The push was no easy matter. I along with all the others were sweating profusely and were evidently tired by the time the car finally pulled beside the fuel pump.

I drew a couple of lessons from this ordeal.

Appreciation is important. Don’t overlook it.

It’s so easy to overlook/ fail to appreciate our situations/people/blessings etc… I had gotten so used to being carried in the car every day that I saw it as normal. I didn’t think there was much to appreciate or be thankful for. I described the car as old, battered, not sleek enough. Until I got to “carry” it for a change I didn’t appreciate its purpose and work. Now, when I enter into the car and get home without event, I’m thankful.

You can’t be too sure; there is nothing wrong with double checking

When we realized the reason the car died, my brother informed us that he had bought the same amount of fuel he buys every day. He knew that amount was sufficient for the whole day so he didn’t bother to check the fuel gauge (which was faulty anyway). If he had done, he would have realized the shortage and maybe would have remembered the hike in the prices of fuel and we could have avoided the whole incident. His knowledge of his car fuel consumption was rendered insufficient in the situation.

Pray for the people ahead of you.

We shouldn’t get so consumed with our own success and with overtaking the others ahead of us that we forget to pray for them. We must not envy them but rather celebrate them and pray for their progress. When our car died in the middle of the road, the cars coming behind us and even those coming on the other lane had to slow down to match our progress. It took them a while, longer to overtake us than it would have taken them if we were moving okay….some even couldn’t. Don’t wish those ahead breakdown cos you may just end up stuck behind them.

 Run light; it’s easier.

I could have easily walked the same distance we pushed the car in less than ten minutes instead of the twenty minutes plus it took to push the Galloper. I wouldn’t have even broken a sweat. My load made so much difference so it’s better to drop every unnecessary baggage on our journey. Free of loads we get places faster and easier.

Sometimes it takes a team.

I’m usually a loner, but I acknowledged to myself how difficult and perhaps  impossible it would have been supposing I was the only one available to push that car all the way to the fuel station on that day. Being in a team doesn’t mean an inability but sometimes it’s the only way things can be done better.

We have different capacities.

Among the five people pushing the car (myself including) I noticed that we all didn’t have the same amount of strength. Some were stronger than I was and I was stronger than others. Some of us had to take a little break and others didn’t. It didn’t mean the others were not as important as the very strong ones. It just meant we had different capacities and capabilities. We can’t all operate on the exact measure because we are individuals, unique and different from one another.

We need a push sometimes.

I never would have known for sure that I was capable of pushing a galloper across that stretch until the need arose. I had no choice in the matter and this was the push I needed to reach into myself to pull out strength to execute the task before me. My younger sister who had never driven a manual car can now boast of handling one. Don’t get frustrated at challenges, they have a way of propelling us to higher heights.

From another angle, we all need help sometimes. The car needed help to get to the fuel station cos there was no easier way there at that particular time. Asking for a hand doesn’t mean you are weak it means you are wise enough to recognize your need.

………I can’t say the incident was all bad, no matter how unpleasant it was while it lasted, because among other things it reminded of of the above.

 

You learn something everyday if you pay attention.

Ray LeBlond

 

UPSIDE DOWN

“Grrrrrr, grrrrrrrrrr……”the alarm went off at exactly five o’clock. It goes on to play a song “God is a prayer away”, one I selected to spur me into praying at that hour. But as usual I snoozed it. “Kofi, Kofi wake up!” I hear my mum call right after I snooze the alarm for the third time. Apparently, it takes more than the sound of an alarm to get me out of bed each day: My mum’s voice has to be thrown in the mix. I brush and join my sister and parents for morning devotion, after dragging myself out of bed. It is 6:15 by the time devotion ends and I had exactly 30mins to get ready if I didn’t want to miss the school bus. You can call this my routine on school going days. On Saturdays and holidays, I get to go back to bed after devotion.

I’m not particularly the school enthusiast my mates think me to be: with an IQ of 180, other students think I must simply love school. On the contrary, school actually bores me: Most people are interested in being popular; the latest fashion in town and making worthless conversations. An ideal conversation, to me is one in either mine or another’s best interest and not one about trivial matters like how Kate’s shoes made her legs look crooked or how crazy John’s haircut looked.

The only sure thing about my uncertain future is that, whatever it turns out to be, it must definitely be one that makes a huge difference. i want be or do something that really matters. In pursuit of this, I read to the kids at the children’s library two blocks away from school every afternoon. It is one of my high moments in the day and I look forward to it every day. Children are absolutely delightful and pure (well, most of them) and it is simply impossible to not be charmed by them.

Today, I’m reading “Snow white and the seven dwarfs” and apart from the occasional questions and comments everybody is quietly listening. Most times when I’m almost ending or in the middle of the story, I let one child read a sentence or two so they feel a part of the reading as much as possible and to motivate and encourage them to read on their own. All but Rosie have read at least a sentence once and this is not because I miss her raised hand or anything else but because she’s never volunteered or raised her hand although she always prefers to hold a copy of the book being read. Today is no different, so I let Maggie read. The session is over and parents are trooping in for their kids. I’m all over the place saying hello to this mom or that dad. After the crowd thins, I realised Rosie was still sitting with the book so I drew close to talk, her mum hadn’t come.

Rosie is neither a chatty nor reserved kid. She always wears an inviting smile, and so I invited myself. “Pretty interesting story, is it?” I asked. (I mean, it had to be because she was looking in the book so intently she missed hearing me.) “Rosie”, I called again. She seemed to hear me now, because she’s looking up and smiling. “Interesting story?” I repeat and she responds affirmatively and goes right back to reading. “You think you could read the last sentence to mum sometime?” I asked, while turning to see what had her attention. That’s when I realised she was holding the book upside down.

Now I didn’t know what to think; had she been holding the book that way since the session began, if yes, how come she didn’t notice it; had the book fallen and in picking it up she had it all wrong and couldn’t know because her mind was wandering elsewhere. No way I could know unless I ask, and ask I did.
“Did your book fall down? Were you holding it like this since I started reading?”, I asked. She shook her head to the former and nodded to the latter. Half a minute later, she seems to notice I was still there, she looks up. I smile, she smiles back, and I sit.

Seeing Rosie holding that book upside down reminded me of two things; a bed time story my mum told me when I was a kid and a scripture that was repeated often enough I couldn’t not know it. I related the story to Rosie….
It was a story about a farmer who, to the surprise of his neighbor, never seemed to make a big harvest despite the enormous hard work he consistently put in. The neighbor, at a time later, identifies the setback facing the farmers hard efforts while strolling past the farm sometime: He drew the farmer’s attention to the fact that weeding before sowing seeds would yielded a better harvest than would sowing seeds before weeding. The story ends with the farmer having a bountiful harvest after heeding the advice of his neighbor.

This is a story that thought me the need for order: some things no matter how hard we tried regardless of the effort we put in will never turn out right if we didn’t do them in the right order. It was in my relating this story to Rosie that it dawned on me that my mum could have easily made up this story to teach me a lesson like I was trying to teach Rosie: she could read better with her book turned right up.
She gave me a shy smile and turned the book right after I had finally gotten her to know about the book through my winded way. As if on cue, her mum walks in and we parted after a quick hug.

Now I don’t know (I doubt it even) if Rosie will raise her hand to read a line at our next session (for she has a long way to go before she could manage reading on her own) but I know for sure we have started on the right path and that, alone was enough to make me smile; it is stuff like this i always want to do.

In this century where all we seem to know and remember is going about our jobs having fun and accepting everything the way they come, let us not forget the eminent fact, there is a chronology to life: No hard and fast rules, but rules nonetheless. We see them often enough, even in nature – conception comes before birth; life before death, dawn before daybreak, preps before performance. Ignoring this chronology is like living life upside down, sowing seeds before weeding- we may see some results but not commensurate our efforts. Don’t live life putting the cart before the horse.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all other things shall be added unto thee.

LITTLE THINGS

…….the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.

People can tell who you are by what makes you laugh. It’s an easy enough statement. One we probably don’t pay much attention to. It was this statement Vincent had to repeat to me while we were walking home from church one Sunday afternoon. Vincent is a pleasant, chatty and older friend I made at church. We met when we both signed up to learn to play an instrument at church and our relationship has been progressive.

We were talking about an incident that happened in church – one of the deacons had come tumbling down when the chair he was sitting on had broken. I hadn’t seen the incident but I heard the commotion. It was this “commotion” Vincent was relating to me on my prompting. I remember clearly saying “I’m sure I would have laughed if I saw it. I’m sure it was funny”. That was when Vincent replied with the famous statement- people can tell who you are by what you laugh at. I immediately looked appropriately chastised, but I actually didn’t see the big deal it was. I mean, we’ve all pulled chairs from underneath our friends just before they sat to create fun. However, the whole journey back home the statement had been on the background of my thought.

Here I am 7years later, having had a lot of years to mull over it, and I know the statement holds so much weight than I had imagined that Sunday. Elisa(my friend) said she wouldn’t mind if i shared her story. It is a perfect depiction of this statement.

Elisa’s Jacob was a fine young man. We (the lot of her friends) all agreed he was a perfect gentleman. He pulled out chairs, offered to hold handbags, didn’t swear, dressed decently, didn’t hit her, hit on other ladies…..i mean very traditional. So imagine my shock when he laughed at a joke a young man from our class made at a socialization. It wasn’t that he was laughing at a joke, but that he was laughing at that particular joke – a dirty joke. It made me question so many things about him and I could see from the look Elisa had on her face she was thinking along the same lines I was.

See what I mean? You can’t claim decency and laugh at dirty jokes same way you can’t claim to be morally sound/ upright and watch or read pornographic materials. You could talk until your face turned blue, and it will still be next to impossible to convince me (and I’m quite sure a legion of other people). I wonder how you could claim sobriety whiles you always keep a company of drunkards. It just doesn’t tally. What you find funny tells to a large extent what you are made of. Find filthy stuff funny and I will suppose you are comfortable with filthy talk. And you know, filthy talk makes you comfortable with filthy actions; filthy actions with filthy habits…..

You probably might have wondered growing up, how people (grown up mostly) could think you were disrespectful when you were only laughing at your least favourite teacher or your mean aunt/uncle/grandma that fell down. Think on it. It says something, doesn’t it?

It says a lot about you, what you laugh at or about.