Taking stock of relationships

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In the past month my church small group has been studying stewardship. During one of the lessons, it was highlighted that we are stewards of the relationships God has put our way. It was a time to pause and take stock of the people I was connected to.

I realised that I quickly identified as a wife to one Muse and mother to two lovelies, sister, daughter, christian church goer, neighbour, small group leader, friend… I even introduced myself thus. These relationships demanded a certain level of input from me. I had to be the good neighbour who doesn’t throw noisy parties at 3am or pour trash on the stairs because I was mindful of my neighbours. I had friends who needed me and who I needed to be there for. I had prayergroup mates to pray and be accountable to.

In these relationships I was trying to stand before God and say I have worked what was given me as a mother, wife, writer, Kenyan woman, believer and I have fought  a good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.

But there were relationships I was ignoring or not taking too seriously yet God was expecting me to be a faithful steward in these as well. I was someone’s grandchild. Was I holding my weight to my cucus? I was a cousin, aunt, niece, mentor, villagemate… was I being a good steward? Would my nieces be proud of the aunt I had been to them or I was just a name in their lineage? Would my village remember a daughter like me in their time of celebration or need? Was I holding my weight as a mulamwa to someone?

Christmas will be a time when you are reminded just how many people you are connected to. You can choose to see them as a burden, obother or non-of-your-business but God will demand an account of what you did with your life in relationship to these people. Realise the privilege it is to have those people living across the hall from you, or related to you or attending the same church as you and ask God why he has placed them in your life. Recently there was a story of a woman stranded in Dubai and the first question people asked is “kwani she doesn’t have a family, friends?”

Chance encounters for me have turned to be blessings, people brought into my life for a purpose, people I need to get my job done some day in the future in a way I could never have anticipated. And those chance encounters have probably opened doors for some people as well. Recently I needed to get an article form a medical doctor. Then I remembered a family we had carpooled with for one church trip and the lady is, yes, a medical doctor. And she was willing to write.

On the same note, it’s time we dealt with this lie from hell that we do not need some people in our lives because they come from a certain community, or we don’t need certain communities in “our” country. We are connected, and we don’t always choose who to get connected to. In fact we can only choose our friends and spouses, to some extent. All those other relationships – your classmates, colleagues, cousins, brothers, parents, in-laws, neighbors, parents at same school- are providence. Appreciate them. Build them.

I am taking stock of more relationships in my life and trusting God to give me the love, patience, time and wisdom to be a faithful steward.

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Milestones, and we hang the breastfeeding boots at 31 months

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Last week my 2.7 year old girl finally learnt to peddle her tricycle on her own. And we finally took the training wheels off the 5-year old’s bike. Am I feeling proud of the achievements of these little ones or what! Oh, and slowly but surely Lil Missy is kissing booby bye. Its been 36n hours since her last feed. Happy dance!

Teaching a toddler to peddle was one of the hardest things I’ve done recently. I explained everything right but she still needed someone to push her around and that can be tiring. Then one day she just did it. And you should have seen the triumphant look on her face.

But the hardest thing was stopping her from breastfeeding. I new I wanted my children to breastfeed at least to two years. So after two years, everyone kept looking at us wondering when we were going to stop this thing.

This was someone who cold negotiate and haggle for nyonyo. “Mum nipee tidogo tu (Just a little mum),”she would say. “”Give me one nyonyo,” she would persist. And sometimes I gave her one and she would happily jump off my lap. But most times one is not enough. So after exhausting the right one, she would then ask for the other one, then tell me “Ïmeisha,”as she pulls down my top. Yes, we were long overdue this breastfeeding thing.

But my girl wasn’t quite ready to say bye to boobie and neither was I. After breastfeeding everyday for 31 months, it can become a thing, our thing. I wasn’t quite ready to stop.

Then over the past month i just felt fed up and tired. I no longer wanted to breastfeed her. Her cry for nyonyo made me want to run and hide.Then I knew it was time to stop. So I went to the tried and tested method of chillie on boobie. I generously appplied chilli sauce on my nipples and called her for a feed. !5 or so seconds later she stopped, looked at me confused and said, “kali.” Then left to go watch cartoons.

We would fall off the wagon over the next few days, mostly because I just felt like breastfeeding her, but whenever I got tired, I picked up my chilli and showed it to her and told her “Nyonyo ni kali.”

Yesterday I got home and I was carrying her, she eyed my boobs like a teenager eyeing a young lass, then laughed out saying, “Nyonyo ni kali”.

So, yes, chilli works i stopping breastfeeding.

 

Martha, the mother with a heart for every child in need

 

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Cheerful faces.

I tend to obsess about purpose. I passionately believe that every person was born wired and endowed to accomplish some things only they can the way they can, and that we are never truly fulfilled until we know we are doing what we were created to do. Idealistic, I know. Don’t blame me. I am an idealist in my DNA. I’m the kind that wonders what my epitaph will say when I am gone… the kind that writes bucket lists.

Do we all have a mission? Yes, I used that word. Last week at my place of work a HOD shared a TED Talk about DNAs and shells. Shells are what we do. You are a doctor, a teacher, a missionary, a mother, an accounts executive. That is what you do. Not who you are. Your DNA might be to teach people new things, or two care for the sick and hurting. Or to connect people. Or to create new things. Or create order or beauty in chaos. Then you have to find ways of doing these things, despite the shell that is you career because that is why you walk this planet. If you were made to bring awe to people, you will not be fulfilled unless you are inspiring awe wherever. Sometimes your DNA perfectly aligns with the shell. Other times your shells hinders you from being who you are meant to be. Other times several shells can carry and house your core you.

The TED speaker gave the example of a man who wanted to be a magician while growing up, then trained as an architect, then found himself with a hobby of trekking in the woods, had a first job as a graphics designer and had a dream of starting a company that takes people on outdoor adventures. The underlying factor is that he lived to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in people.

That is why when I met with Cucu Martha at her home in Kabiria-Satellite over the weekend, I was struck by the beauty of a life that knows why it was put on this planet. Martha Njeri is a mother, heart, body and soul – to many children, most not biologically hers, most that she meets in the most painful of circumstances, but all that she would not think a second about bringing them to her home, limitations or no limitations.

With her cheerful smile and glowing face and boundless energy, Martha sort of runs a children’s home. Sort of because she says it’s not a children’s home; it’s a home. She want to see her kids clean and fed and happy and loved and travelling abroad for their college degrees and getting married- just like any mother. And she wouldn’t give any of the 43 of them up, not even for adoption.

“This is their home. What I would want is help to make them achieve their dreams but we are not like other children’s homes. These children already have a home,” she says, pointing to Kevin who has lived with her since he was five years old. He is now 17.

And that is what most of those children desperately need. Some were picked from their houses by the police after  being left for days without food or care. She has in her care a brother and sister were left in their house for four days while aged 6 months and 18 months. Others were left at her gate by mothers who had reached the end. Others were born on the streets without even the help of a midwife, to drunken mothers who rolled over for their bottle of some illegal beverage seconds after labour.

Martha remembers arriving to cut the umbilical cord of one such child who was born on a pavement somewhere in Kawangware. She wrapped the baby in nylon bags and rushed him to Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment since he had been exposed to the cold for too long. She was admitted to hospital with the newborn and while there, met a mother who had a mental disability and had an infant with celebral palsy. While she was leaving the hospital, Martha asked the hospital to waive the bill of the other mother and to release her and her baby to her care. The boy still lives with Martha 11 years later.

Her home is simple and small; it’s hard to imagine how they all fit or even how they squeeze in the sitting room to watch the tiny TV perched on a table. What is lacking in space is made up for by the love and joy that fills the compound. Martha’s love is more than enough to go around for her children and her guests and any other child out there in need of a home. In fact Martha says that as we talk, if she heard of a  baby or child in trouble, she would rush to get him or her without worrying that she has 43 other mouths to feed.

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Martha feeds a 6-month old boy in her care.

Martha says she never went to school and in fact had a very difficult childhood. Born number two in a family of 13 where her father was a drunkard, they lived hand to mouth.

“I never ate till I was full growing up. I don’t remember ever sleeping comfortably at home,” she says.

She took her first job as a house help at age 9 and did this till she was 17 years old when she got pregnant. But life in her mother’s house hadn’t changed and being a new mother, she took up the first opportunity at marriage she got. A friend mentioned to her that a certain “kimundu” [man] in her village was looking for a wife, so she packed her bags and carried her three-week-old baby for the man’s home where she she was duly installed as a wife to man she had never met before and who had a mental disability.

Four years later and with three more children who all happened to have various physical and mental disabilities, Martha found herself back at her mother’s house after his family chased her away. This time she decided to live the children with her mother to go work in Kawangware as a house help. But she says when she went to visit her mother a few months later, she found her children malnourished and suffering from kwashiakor; without a second thought, she took them with her to Kawangware where they all begun life in  a one-roomed mud house. They slept on a a mattress she made from grass and survived on begging or food foraged from dumps in Marikiti.

The interesting thing is that despite her lack, Martha found herself feeding other children in the neighbourhood who were worse of than her, and offering a home to others even while she hardly had enough for herself.

“I would see a dirty child and call her to my house and wash her and giver her some clean clothes. I would see those street women with hungry babies and tell them, ‘kuja twende kwangu nikupee tunguo twa mtoto,'” says the 57-year-old who likes to call herself Cucu.

And the neighbours  [and schools] would wonder what was wrong with this woman, bringing in ‘strays’ while she was no better than them. She says she has begged teachers to take in strangers’ children while promising to get them school uniform when their parents were unbothered.

“I didn’t want any child to grow up the way I did. I am particularly drawn to children from alcoholic families,” she says.

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I go gooh gah gah over this two week old twin-let.

Martha currently has one helper but her daughter comes in once in a while to assist at the home they call Shiphrah Centre, although on Facebook they go by Martha’s Little Angels Kawangware. We ask how she survives with 43 kids, some as young as two weeks old. The oldest is aged 19. She says she lives like the Israelites in the wilderness, trusting for each day’s provision.

On this day they have generously shared with us tea and chapatis. We joke that we will be visiting on Saturdays to eat more chapos.

“Actually, that’s all we had in the store so we decided it’s what we will eat today,” she says. Why does it sound like that  widow of Zarephath in the Bible who made prophet Elijah bread from all the flour and oil she had? May that jar of flour not be used up and the jug of oil not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on this humble home.

 

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You’ve got to love this cheerful bunch.

 

Classes needed here!

Bible study

Today I read Titus 2:3-5 and burst out in laughter. Classes needed here.

Titus was saying that older women need to be:

  • Reverent
  • Not given to slander
  • Not addicted to much wine
  • Teaching what is good

In turn these older women were to train young women to:

  • Love their husbands
  • Love their children
  • Be self controlled
  • Be pure
  • Be busy at home
  • Be kind
  • Be subject to their husbands.

Why? So that no one will malign the word of God.

Who else like me feels like they need classes in the above?

Clearly you can be taught how to love your husband. And who ever thought you’d need knowhow on loving children? And being self controlled, kind, pure, busy at home, submitting?

And we are to learn these from older women who disciplined and spirit-controlled, who have mastered their tongue and have themselves learnt to be reverent. Biblestudytools.com describes these as older women who are living “like holy priests serving in the presence of God. Their sacred personal devotion to the Lord has slowly come to influence every aspect of their lives.”

I long for such an older woman from whom I can get encouragement and perspective. Loving my husband is hard. Submitting to him can be a mountain I don’t care to climb. Loving my children is hard. Staying pure is hard. Don’t even go to the part about being busy at home. Or being kind. Or not blowing up at everything. Have you had episodes in your life that needed motherly advice and not from your mother? That’s what I am talking about.

The scary part is that I am an older woman to some fresh-eyed bride. Do I fit the cut of a teacher? Do I have anything worth sharing? Can I open up my life to share on what I have learnt so far on loving my husband and children and reining my emotions?

What season are you in?

Life beginning on wasteland

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1–5 (NIV)

This verse popped twice in my study time today. Then I came across this study on Christianity Today and it reminded me of a seminar I attended by the Mukolwe’s who pinpointed that Jesus healed many sick people in his day; but he did not heal every sick person; or raise ever dead person; or preach every possible sermon; yet nearing his death, he said that he has finished the work and glorified the Father. What work has been set out for me today, this year, this season of my life? I’m being called to be faithful and obedient.

Here’s the study:

By Jocelyn Greene

The common refrain among time-starved, noise-saturated, overworked Americans [Kenyans] is, “How can I achieve balance?”

We’ve been asking the wrong question. Nowhere in the Bible does God tell us to pursue balance. Your purpose in life is far bigger than that. Jesus said that being his disciple requires us to deny ourselves, to lose our own lives so we can find life in him (Matt. 16:24–25). As we follow Jesus, with our crosses on our backs, we aren’t balanced—we’re leaning, hard, toward our Saviour, whatever that may look like in our current season of life.

If we define balance as a state of equal attention given to equal priorities—a static, even-keeled division of time — Jesus himself was not balanced. Sometimes he feasted, sometimes he fasted. He preached to the multitudes, but also escaped from the crowds to pray alone. And yet soon before he was arrested and crucified, Jesus said to the Father, “I have brought glory to you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). No, Jesus was not “balanced”—but he was passionate and complete, because he did the work the Father gave him to do.

Balance is not our goal. We are free to lean in whatever direction God is calling us. Whether it’s a time to build or tear down, to run or rest, to raise small children or start a company, we have the freedom to order our days accordingly and without guilt. In reliance upon God, we each can lean into the current season of our lives, understanding that other seasons will follow.

Is baby sick or just teething?

 

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Have you ever met two doctors whose different schools of thought leave you more confused as a patient?
About a year ago, Little Missy, then about 14 months old, woke up in the middle of the night throwing up and with some crazy fever. My children chewed our two thermometers so nowadays I can only classify fever as mild, high and crazy. Crazy must be in the ranges of 38.5 and above in my head.

Anyway, since the elder boy had also been throwing up and running a fever for a day or so, I decided to take the two to hospital the next day. The older boy had a nasty throat infection and was put on antibiotics. For the girl, apart from fever, the doc couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular, but because she had similar symptoms as the brother, she too was put on antibiotics.The boy improved promptly. But the girl, after 24 hours on antibiotics seemed to be getting worse. Her fever was not abating; in fact I was alternating Brufen and paracetamol every two hours with just a little improvement and I started worrying I would overdose the baby. She was weak, screaming in pain every hour or so, was  diarrhoeaing and throwing up . I started wondering if she was adversely reacting to the medicine. So on day four of sickness and day three of medication we went back to the same hospital but found a different doctor, who decided to change the antibiotics.

More than 24 hours later on new medication, Little Missy wasn’t getting out of the woods. She still was running a burning fever and we were alternating painkillers every three hours, she was having tremors and was so weak her legs couldn’t bear her weight. Every 1 hour or so she would scream in pain touching her legs. I started wondering whether we were treating the wrong thing when may be the problem was in her legs.

I remember holding her all day long on Sunday as she drifted between awake and asleep and thinking “I so do not feel confident in continuing with this treatment at home another day.”  Being a Sunday, I called our paediatrician and explained what had been going on and asked for advise- whether to continue waiting or to take the child back to hospital. He told us to take the child to hospital.

Hubs had mentioned our week of no sleep to a colleague, who booked us an appointment with a doctor friend of hers. “He’s so good with babies and he does not prescribe medication unless he thinks it’s necessary,” she said.

On Monday we went to see the new paeditrician who observed my daughter as she breastfed and cried, switching arms from mine to the dad’s.

“So I am the third doctor you are seeing in a week?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Your daughter is not sick, ” was the shocker.
I thought I heard him wrong. What did he mean our daughter is not sick? This girl in my hands who was shaking like a leaf, who hadn’t eaten anything in a week save for breast milk, and who was falling if she tried to even stand despite having taken her first steps months before?
The doctor said our daughter was teething and that the mistake we had done was to take her to hospital too early.

“She should never have been on those antibiotics,” he said.

He explained how baby teeth come out in mini phases hence the periods of intense pain, especially at night, explaining the screaming. He gave us a mini-lecture on how “us people” with insurance are quick to run to hospital instead of observing baby for a while.

“He asked me if I would have done all those trips if I was paying cash. I didn’t answer him but I thought that he must have been crazy if he thought I would have stayed with that baby in the house. It was that place of stress and worry and sleeplessness where staying with a sick baby in the house was not an option, cash or no cash.

Anyway, I liked this doctor because he inspired confidence in us. The heavy weight of worrying was lifted and we knew we were not missing something. He did not prescribe any medication or test, just told us to go home and continue with the antibiotics and to manage the fever.

Two days later, Little Missie started eating and the fever could now be managed on a six hour basis. A week later she was slowly walking. Yes, she had had new teeth coming out, but our regular paed still insists that teething should never make a baby sick or cause high fever. The verdict I suppose is still out there.

Where are you men of courage?

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Dear Fathers,

Happy Father’s Day. I hope the children will this weekend remember to call you, tag you on their Instagram flashbacks, buy you happy socks (or an iPad), take you out for a movie or a game or buy you a good lunch. If they are still Littles, accept the goofy card on green manilla that was made with a lot of love and effort and help from their teacher. And if they haven’t yet gone to school, a hug and messy kiss full of oats or yoghurt will still do.

You see, Father’s Day is going to be about celebrating every big and small contribution that fathers make, from donating your great genes, a name, tribe and presence. It will be be about thanking you for denying yourself, making sacrifices and sweating some blood and a few tears to make sure your children are fed, full, safe, schooled, disciplined, mentored, loved. It’s also going to be a day of finding out from your littles or not so littles, from their mother and from society how you can better fill those huge shoes of “daddy.”

My son once told me when he grows up he wants to be a daddy. From observing his father, he must have thought that there is no greater job on earth for a man and I see why. I love the daily reunion that happens at my door when Mr M gets home to be met with a big hug by two little pairs of hands and the squeals of “daddy” that follow. They then carry his laptop and lunch bags plus any other baggage or goodies that are in tow. Often they will remember to call him just before he leaves for home to ask for balloons or Kinderjoy. The rewards of being a parent.

I suspect it must be hard being a father, especially when you are expected to lead a way when you are unsure of yourself or your capabilities. In an article I read today, Denise Glen, the leader of an international women’s ministry, tells her husband this: “Babe, you are the spiritual leader of the home. I’m right behind you. I’m with you. Whatever you decide, I’m with you and I’m behind you. I’m going to support you in that. But it’s you who is going to stand before God for the decisions that are made for this family. I’m going to back you up.”

Yes, it is you husbands and fathers who will stand before God for the decisions you make for your family. Stand for your families. Courageously. Mould your children. Help them develop character and build relationships. Give them a godly identity. Teach them their purpose. But more importantly, spend time on your knees. You need it. Your wives need it. Your children need it. Your work needs it. This nation needs it.

Of course, my favourite Father’s Day song is “Courageous” by American Christian contemporary band casting Crowns. It’s a song calling fathers to be courageous in taking back the fight for their families. It tells the men that they can’t just stand watching by the sidelines (or busybodying and hustling in offices, businesses, stadiums and sports bars) while their families slip away.

“We were made to be courageous, we were made to lead the way; we could be the generation that finally breaks the chains…”

Fathers, when your children need hugs and food and school fees and medication and there’s homework to be done and lessons to be taught and bikes to be ridden and footballs to kick and sex talks to give and stories to read and school trips to pay for and colic to soothe and little feet to tuck into bed,  then there’s life and a woman who probably looks up to you when you yourself have no idea what is going on, this can be overwhelming.

But if God has made you a father and husband and employee or business owner and leader and … all your other roles.. it is because he has equipped you to deliver. You are empowered. You are enough. God has all you need.

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In the interview Denise Glen  says of her husband: When I let him lead and make decisions, David felt compelled to pray and compelled to go to the Word. It’s his testimony that it started his quiet time because he said, “I don’t have enough wisdom to make these decisions. I don’t know what I’m doing. Don’t make me make these decisions. David’s five minute a day quiet time, just reading a few psalms and saying a few prayers that time has now grown to forty-five minutes to an hour before his very early work day. He’s on his knees daily praying for our family.”

Where are you, men of courage? You were made for so much more.

Love your wives and children; refuse to let them fall… May the watchers become warriors, Let the men of God arise

 

Marriage: A formidable team of two

Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/182369

“Scissor blades frequently go in different directions, but they are most powerful when coming together.”

Three incidents in the last one month starkly stand out in my mind. All of them relate to oneness of purpose in marriage. During a couple’s retreat I attended, Rev and Mrs Kwame Rubadiri spoke about the need for spouses to serve together or in ways that complement each other, giving an example of their lives where they have always served in a way that allows them to be together. They seemed to imply that serving in church (and other ministry) should not pull a couple apart but help them achieve oneness in marriage.

Later a friend was telling me that she needed to find out what her husband’s mission was so she could align herself as a wife to that and be able to support him.

“If my husband goes to work out of the country today, the fact is that I will pack my bags and follow him. If he decides God is calling him to be a pastor, that affects me,” she said seeming to hold to heart Paul’s word in I Cor 11:9 when he says ““for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” She seeks to serve her husband in all ways.

Finally last weekend at a seminar one man expressed concern that there were few common grounds between his area of service and his wife’s. He wondered if God could send one spouse to work in Wajir while the other’s ground was in Kajiado.

It’s then I stumbled on an article by Ngina Otiende, author and blogger at Intentional Today, where in encouraging couples to seek unity of purpose, she challenged them to ask themselves this question: “Why does my marriage exist?”

Why does your marriage exist?

Ngina went on to explain: “I believe the reason we are married is because God thought we would have greater impact in the Kingdom as team of two. The dynamic of teamwork is meant to transform you to a powerhouse.Marriage is supposed increase your impact and effectiveness

“Now you can be quite formidable as a single person. In fact some of the most sold-out, on-fire, storming-the-gates-of-hell-kind-of-people are single. And I believe that’s why God takes that singular power (or potential) and multiplies it in a marriage union. At least that’s what’s supposed to happen,” writes Ngina.

Now I liked that. Do I know what I am called to do, and what my husband is called to do (Be), and did we have a game plan or revelation on how to harmonise these visions and agendas to be a formidable team in God’s kingdom?

 

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour”.

Jesus also said in Mathew that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there, and many preachers and writers have pointed out that there is no better two than a married couple.

Once you are married, you are not meant to walk (or cycle) your path alone. You are nor supposed to pursue your purpose in isolation. You aren’t meant to achieve your dreams alone. Becoming one, behaving like one, is part of God’s plan for a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24-25).

We are a formidable team when we parent as two. We are formidable when we pray as a team… when we invest as one… when we serve as one… when we plan together…

Strong alignment is the secret to a truly strong marriage.

Christian blogger Liam Naden compares marriage to a bike ride, where you have to stick together to stay together. Be on the same ‘journey’ – always, and at the same time.

“Unfortunately, many couples forget to stay on the same road. They think they’re going in the right direction and are both aiming for the same place – which is of course to be happy – but they forget that the journey is the most important part,” she says.

Ngina observes that for many couples, the being-marriedness begins to consume their energy and focus.

“We get wrapped up with “us” – our lifestyle, our problems and squabbles, our future, our money, our careers, our family, our house, our vacations..us us us,” she writes. “We rarely pause to ask “Wait a minute… Did God have a specific thing in mind when He hooked us up?””

A purposeful marriage is made up of two purposeful individuals. You need to figure out what your purpose is as an individual first. What has God called you to do? Then harmonise that in marriage- two dreams becoming one.

“Remember that purpose is not something you assign yourself. Purpose proceeds from God. He deposits desires and dreams in our hearts and then stirs us toward achieving them,” she asserts.

The power in “agreement”, “unity”, “oneness”, “being one” and “covenant” holds the potential to radically transform your marriage.

Writer Dennis Rainey says that oneness is about a husband and wife who are grafting intimacy, trust, and understanding with one another and chiseling out a common direction, purpose and plan.

Intimacy. Trust. Common direction. Purpose. Plan.

He concludes: “A oneness marriage demands a lifetime process of relying on God and forging an enduring relationship according to His design. It’s more than a mere mingling of two humans—it’s a tender merger of body, soul, and spirit.”

Big goal, merger of body, soul and spirit. Is it even attainable?

Ngina says that the decision to work as one takes an intentional choice on the part of both spouses.

Nadem says couples need to be one when it comes to goals, values and core beliefs. Do you want the same things? Do you support each other in individual goals? Are the same sorts of things important to you? Are you on the same page about fundamental issues such as bringing up children, lifestyle, finances, health and spirituality?

“The more aligned you are in your marriage the faster you can move ahead and the more you can enjoy the journey of your life,” says Nadem.

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 How to align yourselves

Talk: No matter where you are in your marriage, think about and talk about your goals, values and beliefs. Align them as much as possible. Be on the same journey, on the same road.

Prayer: Through prayer God reveals His purpose to you and your spouse. David Penley, author of Couple Connect says it’s important for couple to pray together. “Prayer acknowledges Christ as the Lord of your marriage. It connects you together spiritually. It allows you to hear each other’s thoughts and prayers, which helps you understand your spouse better. It brings a special intimacy as you seek God together. Hearing God’s word together fosters discussion of God’s direction and plan,” he says. Since God is the architect and builder of marriages, as we ask God for wisdom and search the Scriptures, He supplies the skill to build our homes. Kate Scoggins opines that you cannot have a successful marriage without prayer.

Support each other: Nadem writes that part of honouring God in your marriage means to support and push your spouse in fulfilling their purpose. Husbands and wives unite and align on their individual purposes and thus the purpose in marriage.

Have you found the purpose your marriage exists?

 

 

 

RESOURCES

http://intentionaltoday.com/why-you-must-align-your-marriage-to-gods-purpose/

David Penley WHAT IS ONENESS? — A Couple’s Bible Study

http://liamnaden.com/the-power-of-alignment-in-creating-a-great-marriage/

http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/gods-plan-for-marriage/the-foundation-of-a-oneness-marriage

http://simplyoneinmarriage.com/oneness-in-marriage-part-1-what-the-bible-says/

http://simplyoneinmarriage.com/oneness-in-marriage-part-3-what-the-bible-says/

 

 

22 things I would tell a younger me

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You are beautiful. Inside and out. You are not created like anyone else. You were made by God, every part of you. He quietly knit you together in the secret place. So forget the low self esteem and love you. Believe that someone else can love you. You are not defined by the length of your legs or colour of your skin or texture of your hair. (By the way your hair is just awesome). Every part of you, every quack in your personality, he made it for his glory. Make the best out of what you have and always put your best foot forward. Project how you want to be addressed.

On schooling- go the extra mile and then another. Don’t settle for good enough just because your good enough is the best many have seen. Your potential is so much more. Push yourself out of your peer’s comfort zone. And apply for courses and funding out of your comfort zone. You just never know. Know that your grades might not determine whom you become in future. They will open up opportunities, yes, but don’t be shocked when your future deviates from what you learnt in school.

On dating- Take loving slowly. Very slowly. Dating isn’t about casually playing with people’s hearts. Your heart will get entangled deeply. Too deeply that it will scar you for many years and will take divine healing to be okay once more. Don’t give your body to anyone before marriage. Sexual relationships when single complicate life, bring heartache and have a way of reaching from your past into your present, bringing along baggage you will wish you never touched in the first place. Keep yourself for the man who is hopefully keeping himself for you. There is a lot of beauty in being innocent on your wedding night.

On personal growth. You may feel limited by your exposure, background, school, resources, family, personality. Just keep your heart open, read voraciously, embrace every opportunity that takes you out of what you already know and love change because it is here you grow. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t let your inexperience affect you attitude. Time will change everything. Give yourself grace.

On dreams. Dream as much and as high as you want. No one can put a cap on your imagination. Paint the best future you can while your heart is still unbridled and your passion yet untampered.

On loss. You will lose things you love, people you love. Don’t hold on too tightly to things, people. We are all transient. So enjoy the moments God gives you with the people, make the most of every opportunity. And if you lose things you love or money, you are alive to work for more. God does restore years the locusts have stolen.

On career. You can choose money or you can choose passion. You will be lucky if your passion pays well. But if you choose the big bucks over heart, disillusionment and stress will eventually check in. Make this a short term strategy to gain experience, make a name or make money to fund your passion. Working to pay bills is emotionally draining with each passing day if you have no larger reason for doing what you do. Find your passion, know your mission, know what you are great at and make money out of these.

On planning a wedding. Have a wedding. And invite you friends and your parent’s friends. let them witness God’s faithfulness. Plan it your way. Let the day reflect you as a person and as a couple and let it speak to you. Because your life is about to turn around and you will need to be fully awake.

On friends. Life-long friends are few and far between. But in every phase of life you will have good friends. Love them. Enjoy the gift. And when it comes time to let go, do so without burning bridges. You never know where your paths will cross again.

On work. Always give your best. Brand you is brand excellence. It’s brand I-am-putting-my-heart-and-mind-into-this. Believe in your abilities and never stop learning. Like Steve Jobs said, stay hungry, stay foolish. You have many talents, mad skills, great passion and a big heart and mind. Make them count. Touch lives. leave a mark. Your work is your gift to God and mankind. Serve God’s purposes in your generation. Always know you have a heavenly master.

On family. You will never quite understand what it means to lay your life for another until you have children of your own and you know by God you could give up your life, career, comfort, for them. Treasure motherhood, honour your marriage. I know God will bring you  good man because he is a good God like that. FYI marriage and parenting will change your life, forever, in all the good ways. Embrace that. Learn kindness. And remember that in life, most of your happiness will come from good health and family. Guard those jealously.

On weaknesses. You will feel inadequate a lot of times. That is the time to lean heavily on God. Don’t settle for mediocrity; we have the help of the Holy Spirit. But understand that you will never arrive in this life; we will never be perfect. Again we are all different. You might never love early mornings. Work on what you can but focus on what you are actually good at, great at. Even your weaknesses in other contexts are strengths. Find where you can thrive.

On hard times. They don’t last forever. You wont eat plain spaghetti forever in you little bedsitter. You wont always worry about tomorrow. Broken hearts get healed. The lost get found. Even the worst hurts are forgiven. Always hope for a better day.

On unanswered prayers. They are sometimes God’s best gift to us. That boy who broke your heart was a gift from heaven. That job you never got was God’s hand at work. In all things give thanks and trust the unseen hand that moves everything.

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Stay true to yourself. If your inner child loves classical music, feed it. If it loves space, travel, parties, colour, live true to you. You are unique. Do you. You are not a mistake. Don’t try to be a cheap knockoff of someone else. Don’t live in people’s moulds and expectations. It will suck your soul dry.

Do things you love even if you are not great at them. Play the piano. Sing. Dance even if you suck at it. The joy they bring and the memories cannot be quantified.

Your feelings are valid. So don’t feel bad about loving or getting angry or embarrassed. Don’t feel bad about feeling everything a little too deeply.

Not everyone will like you and that’s okay. You also don’t like everyone, everything. Forgive those who hurt you intentionally or not. Free your heart.

Don’t doubt that your parents love you. They may speak a different love language but know they always want the best for you.  Honour them.

Be kind to people. Especially those who least expect it. Be a good person.

When you can’t understand the bigger picture, trust God who always connects the dots. He never wastes any experience. Its true all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Every path you walk, experience you have, play a role in the divine plan.

On God. He is a good father. He loves you more than you will ever understand. He is not vindictive. He is not out to get you.  So deepen your relationship with Him. Faith in God is a solid foundation. It is all that remains when everything else is shaken. Faith. Hope. Love.

 

Children are like arrows

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I am greatly inspired by a song by Central Kenya musician Loise Kim titled Mwana, which was nominated for the Groove Awards 2017. In the song, she blesses her children, tells them they are blessings and not curses and that they were designed for greatness and to rule. She wishes them strength, courage, hope and faith in God. She calls them her gifts from God, a reward and arrows in a warrior’s hands. I listened to the song and blessed my children along with her.

This led me to read up on what it means when the Bible says that children are a heritage, a gift, like arrows. From several sermons and articles online, I garnered the following:

  1. Dr Rick Taylor in a 2015 article titled “Children are Like Arrows” notes that it is easy to start seeing our children as obstacles that keep us from doing things we want or desire, to see them as annoyances that irritate us and distract us from things we deem more important. But the biblical reminder is children are a gift. A commentary on BibleHub notes that children are to be counted as blessings and not burdens: he who sends mouths will send meat if we trust in him.
  2. Children are a heritage; the Lord’s possession, the Lord’s property. God assigns them to be grown under the parents’ care. So your child belongs to God, you are just a caretaker.
  3. God has entrusted us with our children for a time. He sees us as warriors in the midst of battle and He wants us to prepare and then send our children far into a future that we will not be a part of. The children belong to Him, but He has gifted them to us for a period of time to accomplish certain things He has designed. It is as if God has contracted parents to participate in the raising of His children.
  4. The fruit of the womb is the trophy of God’s love. Wise parents and grandparents take pleasure in children. From God’s point-of-view there is no such thing as an “accidental birth” or a “surprise pregnancy” or an “unwanted child.” Each one belongs to Him and is assigned rightly by Him to the parents.
  5. Children are a great support and defense to a family. Steve Higginbotham in a 2009 sermon points out that like arrows, children need external direction and guidance to be successful. “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23), “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26), “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). To “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) necessitates abundant parenting, significant amounts of spiritual direction and guidance.
  6. Like arrows, Higginbotham says, children need an archer (father) and bow (mother). Without an archer an arrow never takes flight. Without a bow, an arrow can be nothing more than a puny spear. The accuracy and force of an arrow is largely dependent upon the aim and strength of the archer and the integrity and caliber of the bow. Because it was a life-or-death matter, great concern and effort were given to developing the skill of accurately aiming and rightly releasing an arrow. In far too many parents’ minds today, conceiving and raising children are viewed, at best, as recreational matters, rather than solemn spiritual responsibilities. Therefore, as many children mature they have little, if any, sense of purpose.
  7. Like arrows, children must be aimed and released. Arrows are made differently and for different work but they are also very similar — each has been carefully fashioned and crafted, molded and balanced. They’re all intended for flight. They’re all intended for a target. They’re all intended for maximum impact on that target. To talk about arrows without talking about targets is absurd. Arrows, especially in ancient days, were not recreational toys or childish playthings. They were weapons used for livelihood (i.e. hunting) and self-preservation (i.e. warfare).
  8. Alan Smith in a 2002 sermon titled “Arrows In the Hands of a Warrior” notes that children are very different from one another. They have different looks, interests, personalities. But they’re also very similar because each of them was fashioned and crafted by God. And each of them is being molded, balanced, and readied for flight from the home. Arrows are designed to fly. They aren’t for show. They were never intended to stay in a quiver. The quiver is just a vehicle that carries them until they are ready for release. You might say that arrows were made to be released. They were made to fly. They were made to pierce a target. Smith adds that children were never intended to stay within the four walls of the home. The home is a merely a means to prepare them and mold them and straighten and balance them. But the time is coming when they will be released. Our children were designed by their Creator to make an impact on the world. To live for a reason. To set their minds toward a goal. To accomplish a purpose. To count for something in God’s great scheme of things. God once said of Abraham, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice…” (Genesis 18:19).
  9. Children should be aimed at godliness (Malachi 2:15) so that they will “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) from the days of their youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1) “unto death” (Revelation 2:10). In the heat of an intense and dangerous battle no warrior would view the aiming and releasing of his arrows as a casual matter; the stakes are too high.
  10. Ultimately our children are responsible as individuals before their heavenly Father for the flight they take and the mark they make. But as a father or mother, as a warrior, you are also responsible to release those precious arrows to the best of your ability.
  11. You must decrease as they increase. In John 3:30, there’s a turning point in his ministry where John the Baptist said of Jesus Christ, “He must increase, I must decrease.” That describes well the role of a parent with our own children. Their personal responsibility to the Lord must increase; their personal responsibility to Mom and Dad must decrease.
  12. Arrows allowed a warrior to impact a battle scene from a great distance. In a similar way, we can impact the world through our children in a way we could never do by ourselves. Paul said the same thing to the Corinthian Christians, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men.” (2 Corinthians 3:2). Everywhere our children go, people will look at them and see the results of our teaching.
  13. Steve reminds us that like arrows, children have great potential for good and evil. Few things in life are more devastating than the regrets of careless, foolish, shortsighted parents. Consider what heartache God says awaits them: “He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy” (Proverbs 17:21).
  14. Like arrows, children are a one shot deal. Children who are young, may be directed aright to the mark, God’s glory, and the service of their generation; but when they are gone into the world, they are arrows out of the hand, it is too late to direct them then. As David so poignantly proved with the death of his rebellious son Absalom, there are no do-overs in parenting. What a sad epitaph it is when it can honestly be said, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

At what bull’s eye are you aiming your children? Let us help our children find their identity, build their character, develop relationships and be ready and released for their mission.

Below is a prayer by Steve for his son. I found it as poignant as Loise Kim’s song and you can probably adopt it for your own children as you release them into the world:

“To a world very much needing his character, gifts, skill, and love for Christ, we proudly and humbly this is our beloved [state name of child] in whom we are well pleased. Like an arrow fashioned not to remain in the quiver but to be released into the heart of its target, we release him/her to adulthood. We know him/her to be thoughtful, capable and mature. He/she is the message we release to a world we will never see. He/she is a man/woman. We release him/her to his manhood.womanhood and all of its responsibilities. To the finding and cherishing of a godly and supportive wife/husband, to the begetting and raising by God’s grace and design of believing children. And to the commission of the Lord Jesus Christ to go into all the world, making followers of all people, teaching them to observe the rich and life-giving truths of His holy scriptures.”

 

Links

http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/LikeArrows.html

http://thewellcommunity.org/blogs/kids-connection/children-are-like-arrows