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.

 

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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

 

 

 

 

How to keep friendship ties strong

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Last year a time like now I was coveting strong female friendships. God is so kind to me. In the past 12 months I have made friends in church, friends in my neighbourhood, mom friends, Bible study friends, prayer partner friends, rekindled college friendships…

I am still learning on how to be a friend, to make friends to keep friends. Here are some things I have learnt:

If you want someone as your friend, make it happen. I am no longer scared of approaching women I admire and introducing myself and striking a conversation. I am no longer scared of knocking on doors of people I would like to get to know better. I call the people I have missed or need in my life even if they don’t call me and I try to build common ground/rekindle lost ties. Of course things don’t always turn out rosy but I am trying.

Be available. For the time she needs company to a bridal shower across town or a chaperone at a blind date or for shopping at Toi Market or for a function at her shags. Be there when she needs to call someone and rant for 30 minutes or talk about this great idea that just crossed her mind or when she just wants to be around another person because she had a terrible day.

Receive love the way it comes. May be I’m the kind that loves with food. Or unsolicited visits to your house. May be I love by baring my heart out. Or with gifts and parties and out of town trips. Let me give my love the way I know to. Don’t seek to be loved on your terms.

Let go of hurts. Close friends will hurt each other. you will get bored, fail each other, say hurtful things, do bad things. but as long as both your hearts are in the right place, you will be fine. Give yourselves time, speak about what happened (or not) and pick up the pieces, wiser.

Don’t judge. Their choices, fears, sense of judgement, residential address, clothes, significant other… Of course you will advise. You should voice your opinion. But friendship is on as-is basis. If your friend’s choices or habits give yo sleepless nights, then you aren’t quite ready to be besties.

Be a good story teller. Female friendships exist to allow us to talk. This unfortunately means you will sometimes betray confidences and hear confidences betrayed. As long as you are not malicious in spreading information, you are safe. Ever wondered why friends tag each other when stuff is about to hit the fan on Kilimani Mums?

Always remember the good times. Remember when she traveled to your shags to cook for your ruracio. or when she gathered a party for your baby shower. or camped at your hospital bed till you got well. or when she spent the night on your couch because you couldn’t be alone that night. remember the clothes or shows she gave you for a date and never asked for them back. or the emergency loans she has sorted you with. even when testing times come, you can ride on these pleasant memories to bring you to sunny friendly grounds. Don’t forget the past.

Like and comment on each others status updates, Instagram photos and reshare blog posts because that’s what friends do. We all need to know at least one person is interested in our lives.

Avoid competing against each other no mater how hard the temptation. I know you want to be like them when you grow up and there will be the pressure to change jobs because your friend did, or overhaul the kitchen because she bought new dinner sets but just don’t. Pray that God will give you the wisdom and self control to refrain from pulling a one up on your friends.

Find something positive and strong that you can learn from your friend and use that to grow yourself. Whenever I am stressing whether to buy a fashion item, i ask myself whether XXX would wear it cos she knows just what to wear. If she wouldn’t, then I don’t buy/wear it. The reference point can be anything- parenting, anger control, relationships with family– how would so and so handle this? on that note, your best friends should be better at you at least on one thing. You should have something you admire in them and them you.  that way you learn from each other, build each other up, carry each other.

Keep each other grounded. be their voice of reason when they can’t think straight.  call or visit and ask the difficult questions they are afraid of even asking themselves. You keep each other accountable.

Speak the truth in love. If she needs to change an outfit or her hair or attitude, let her hear it from you first. If she needs  a reality check, let it be from you first. Don’t let your friend make a bad decision (even a purchase decision) while you are there and saying nothing. She may not listen to you but she will know you had a her back at all times.

Open your hearts mutually. Share confidences. A friendship where only one person is open will eventually fail. share intimacies. share thoughts and ideas. share fears. share prayer items. share past hurt/joys/successes. share dreams and plans. You friends should be able to see a car or sofa or kitchen or shoes and think of you because they know your heart. And when things are happening in your life let your friends know. Don’t say you are fine when you are not. Lt me not be discovering three weeks down the line that you lost your job or was sick in hospital or have a new beau or are pregnant and yet i never heard it from you. It makes my friendship to feel slighted, like you don’t trust me enough to handle the good and bad in your life

Your friendships don’t have to involve you spouses; although it is probably good if they do. Expecting your significant other or kids to have chemistry with your friend’s significant other is expecting  a little too much. That said, you need to try and like what/whom she treasures. you can’t not stand my husband or kids and you are my friend.

Stay steadfast. All friendships will get tested. May be the person you consider your great friend isn’t feeling you all that much during a particular season. May be they are that much into you as you are into them. May be life is getting busy and you are in different seasons of life. But if you truly want this friendship to be for keeps, don’t give up on it. keep calling. Keep texting. Stay genuine. Stay true.

Know when you have found the real deal and cherish it. Call. Be there for her. Pray for her. Love her kids and dogs and parents. Respect her spouse and siblings. Respect her house. Give of yourself and your substance.

 

 

Petty DM manenoz

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It seems house helps bring out the petty in me. After toughing it out for more than a month with no DM (domestic manager) I finally hired one only to sack her after 17 days. Then I hired another who is testing the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

I fired the first DM primarily because she was not forth right and secondly because she was grumpy. Petty, huh!

Let me start with forthrightness. My house is not an office. You have access to me and my children and my husband during our down time. You get to overhear private family conversations, see us vulnerable. You might even get into my bedroom and bathroom. You most likely have access to my handbag. So, no, standard rules of hiring and employment don’t apply.

I need to know everything I need to know about my DM to feel comfortable enough to leave her in my house and with my children and with my keys. She can’t be vague about her mother or who’s watching her children while she’s working or about her about her ex-husband. She can’t lie to me about how far her home is in hopes of minting extra bucks for fare. She can’t lie to me about small stuff in my house – like if my children ate supper or not or the details of a household accident no matter how miffed I’m likely to get.

Miss Grumpy. In her 17 days, I never heard her laugh despite hanging out with kids. She also had this look whenever I asked her to do something or called her a little too often for her liking, I guess. Yet she came to work in my house on her own free volition. May be circumstances were forcing her to do household work but that’s neither here nor there. May be she was running away from someone or something and my house was her safe house. If I had those details I might have been more accommodating. But I couldn’t have a DM who looks as if she’s under house arrest. A DM is a key atmosphere setter in the house; she can’t alter the mood in my house for the worse. If she can’t play, laugh and sing with my children, she is in the wrong job and wrong house. If working for me makes her so miserable, then I don’t want her working for me. It’s not a punishment.

My current pet peeves – taking three minutes when I call, wearing my or my husband’s slippers, leaving oil and food marks on utensils, leaving work undone to go chat up a neighbour’s DM or a young man in the estate, not turning clothes when hanging them and vice versa when folding them  and ignoring my directions/not following instructions/not doing what she’s been asked to do. Initiative only counts after you have finished doing well what I expect you to do.

However because I am a grown up who’s been doing these DM manenoz long enough, because I am human with my own weaknesses, because I have discovered I can’t have a life without a DM at least for the next three years because I hate washing dishes after dinner and mopping floors, I can live with these little annoyances as long as I see a DM has a good attitude towards her work, me, my husband and my children and that she listens to correction and tries to learn and grow. At the end of the day a DM with great attitude trumps all. But then again, you never know how long my patience will last.