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.

#SocialStigmaAlert: Breastfeeding past age 2

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Everyone seems to be wondering why I am breastfeeding past age two. I sometimes wonder the same, considering the acrobatics of getting kicked hard in the mouth by a feeding toddler, how many times she has embarrassed me when she gets bored in public gatherings with cries of “Mum nyonyo; mum the other one,”, how voracious her feeding can be even when she has sucked me dry and how poor she is at eating food.

The other day at the paediatrician’s office, Little Missy was crying for nyonyo and the doctor wondered aloud, “Is she getting any nutrition from that?” People keep asking me with a look of shock,” You are still breastfeeding! How old is she?”

Even her daddy, if he could have his way, the girl would have kissed the boob good bye the night before she turned two.

But I am not quite there yet when it comes to weaning. For starters, she is super attached to nyonyo. I feel like a mean parent taking away something she really loves if it has no negative consequences just because people don’t approve. You should see the look on her face when she tells me, “Mami ni tamu!”

Secondly breastfeeding has always been a quick solver of toddler problems, from sleepiness, to tantrums, pain, to hurt feelings and hunger. I’m afraid of losing my soother and bribery tool.

Third I enjoy breastfeeding. Except for those times when she is crying unstoppably for it in church or kicking my shin out in enjoyment, I love that I can feed my child and comfort her in a way that only I can. This has always been one of my little pleasures, mummy-child time, especially after I have been away from home all day long.

Fourth, my daughter initialised all her milestones, from eating to crawling, walking, talking, potty training … I am starting to wonder if we could experiment with self weaning. Is there a likelihood she will be in Class Three and still craving nyonyo?

Fifth, we have had times of illness, even as recently as last week, when for days she did not allow  a spoon close to her mouth, not even for water. I was grateful that the breast could provide hydration, antibodies and a little bit of nutrition to keep her looking bright despite sickness.

But two-year-olds are such aggressive breastfeeders that weaning is bound to happen sooner rather than later.

But before we get there psychologically, research does seem to indicate benefits of breastfeeding past the age of two. Lactation specialist Kelly Mom quotes research that indicates that breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as it continues. So yea doc, she is getting something nutritionally.

Kelly Mom also notes that breastfed toddlers aged between one and three have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration and lower mortality rates. “Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness. Breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest,” she says.

On the flip side, short of being accused of pulling a publicity stunt, researchers says late nursing increases the risk of severe early tooth decay.

Some other people claim children who are breastfed for too long tend to become self-interested and demanding because they are not used to boundaries [You should see the look on my face]. That and that moms who breastfeed for too long are  self-indulgent and possibly narcissistic, who are seeking attention and purpose through their children.

A writer on Daily Mail, UK, said: “Breastfeeding a child old enough to walk over to his mother and open her shirt creates a confusing message about personal boundaries and our bodies.”

Dr Joan Meek, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that after a year, when solid foods are introduced, breast-feeding is less important from a nutritional standpoint, but “there is no psychological harm and no reason to stop.”

Kendall-Tackett, who is co-author of the book, “Breastfeeding Made Simple,” said that worldwide, the typical age for weaning is 2.5 to 3 years, but some mothers continue past 6 or 7.

“Some kids need it longer, and it’s OK,” she said.

Jen Davis in an article for lactation support group La Leche League International says, “Non human primate data suggests that human children are designed to receive all the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding for an absolute minimum of two and a half years, and an apparent upper limit of around seven years.”

“Many toddlers are dependent on a bottle, pacifier, thumb, or blanket, and this is quite accepted, but a mother who is nursing a toddler may have to deal with veiled or point-blank suggestions that her child is too old for it,” she adds.

In 2008 the American Academy of Family Physicians said this in their position paper:

It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer. There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child.

In the hopes that I might make a genius, I will continue breastfeeding just a bit longer. [Research here shows strong evidence of a causal effect of breastfeeding on IQ, although the magnitude of this effect seems to be modest.] May be we will even make it to the cover of a magazine for breastfeeding too long.

#LoveNeverFails

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Too many people are over this coming weekend and week going to hear these life changing words: “I love you.”

I love you. How many times we rehearse those words in our heads when we are in love, waiting for the best moment to say or type them. Words we mindlessly utter on phone to the wife or husband of 15 years because we know we are expected to say them. Words we hopefully say to our children to remind them that we we would sell our souls on their behalf- well, almost. Words we forget to say enough times to the people we should say them to- our God, our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, our brothers in faith, the weak among us, the lonely…

Every time I read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 on love, I find myself copying the verses, word for word, back into my notebook. This last week I was thinking about how Paul defined what it means to love, and compared that to how I love my children and secondly, how I love a certain difficult relative.

Love is patient, kind, not jealous, not conceited/does not boil over with anger/does not crave self interest, not proud, not ill mannered/rude, not selfish, not irritable/easily angered; it does not keep a record of wrong, it is not happy with evil but rejoices with truth. Love never gives up. It always protects, always trusts, endures all things, hopes in all things and never fails. Love is eternal.

As you tell someone, “I love you” this Valentine, check your heart against this benchmark. If you told someone I love you, if you are in a love relationship, and if you are supposed to be loving someone, check your heart against this benchmark.

My growth areas is communicating kindness, patience and no anger/irritability to my children. The list with my husband is longer: I pray that my love will be kind, will not be easily angered, will admit when I am wrong, will not crave self interest,will keep no record of wrongs no mater how many times they are repeated, will always protect, always trust, always hope… that my love will never fail my husband.

For my other relative with whom I am in a difficult relationship with, I seriously need to stop keeping a record of wrongs, to be patient and kind and to always hope.

I have recently totally forgiven and released someone who keeps hurting me, yet has never asked for my forgiveness, actually doesn’t even deserve the forgiveness. God forgave me and called me into his family when I was most undeserving. I can’t truly claim to love if I keep holding an age-long grudge.

Loving people like this without God’s help is impossible. Our hearts are selfish, catch feelings ovyo ovyo and remember wrongs done to us in nursery school. We always want to ask, “why me?” Why should I be the one being thoughtful, forgiving, initiating conversation, giving despite many broken promises, holding on even when everyone else thinks that ship is sunk?

God’s love flows through us, healing us, forgiving us, comforting us; and we can channel the love to our partners, our children, our relatives our friends. Because God’s love never runs dry, ours too can be eternal because we are being filled at the source whenever we feel like we are running low.

If you are running low on love for people God is calling you to love unconditionally, now you know where to get a refill so you can send the Valentine forwards, SMS, flowers etc and truly mean the words you say.

Getting your child school-ready: Tips from parents and teachers

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A class in session at Zuwena International School. Photo: Courtesy

I spoke to a few parents and teachers about how to make the search for a school easy, how to make the transition and how to ensure the time spent in preschool is productive.

Kate Kitaka, mother of a five-year-old preschooler

“Know what you want for your child. Is it focus on developing non-academic stuff first or is it full swing academics?

Find a  school that does not shy away from religion, for example, find one that teaches children how to pray.

Then start hunting for a school as early as second term. This helps you do a thorough background check on the school and teachers.

Visiting the school is a must. Check for child-friendly facilities like toilets, the teacher-pupil ratio, the desks they use etc.

Find out exactly what the school fees covers as some schools have hidden costs that can see your budget stretched beyond what you had anticipated.

Consider the time it takes to get to school. School transport can take children for rounds before they get to school.

Then start talking to your child about school early, buy school stuff like cute numbers, alphabet charts etc and start singing about them at home.

To help your child adjust to the school environment, potty train early and let them learn to feed themselves.

Ask about school daily — ask about the teacher, friends, songs learnt etc. That’s when they narrate the good and the ugly. Ask even about little scratches and falls they had. Then let the baby teach you the songs they sing and sing along and follow the ‘dance moves’… that part is hilarious.

Finally, they should sleep early so that they don’t struggle in the morning. The first year we did 7pm. He always woke up fresh and ready to go.

Helen Ntinyari, mother of four-year-old

“For us mornings can be hectic since I leave the house pretty early, so I ensure everything is ready before retiring at night. For example, the uniforms have to be ready and placed at an easy to access place (read a chair in the sitting room).

I also realized explaining everything clearly to the househelp goes along way. Explain the tiniest of details to her, like the school schedule, snacks, clothes  etc. Having her on board has made it easier for baby and I.

I would also say understand your baby sleep needs. My daughter need nine-plus hours of sleep or mornings will be hell. So we have supper by 7.30pm and she’s off to bed by 8pm. It’s not always smooth but i have also found not getting worked up when she’s acting out helps in the end despite the fact that am afraid she’ll awake the younger one and get me late to work.

I do school transport provided by a private provider because of the personalised care. They pick her right at the house and drop her there. They make calls to make sure somebody is ready to pick her in the evening.

While scouting for a school, we wanted a place that was well-equipped in handling early childhood developmental needs, with experienced teachers, a place with a holistic approach to education and a value system that was similar to ours. We have exposed her to the Bible and the Christian faith and we wanted a school that will enhance that. We had to settle for a Catholic school because the Evangelical schools we either too expensive or their approach was skewed.

I also considered location; you do not want her to travel a million miles to school, what with the Nairobi jams. Cost too played a role.
Shop early for things like bags and shoes that are not standard. Also identify schools early (our school did interviews in July) so we had requirements early. This helps in getting stuff such as uniforms ata cheaper price.

We were to buy uniforms at School Outfitters but when I compared prices with School Uniforms (it’s on River Road), the prices were worlds apart, I ended shopping there. They do not have badges but you can order and wait for ten days. This being Kenya people will always inflate prices if it’s deemed the season for school shopping so shop off season.
When speaking to the teacher, try to gauge her on things like patience, passion for teaching children and friendliness.

Introduce school as a fun place. Taking them to organized kids groups of their age should come in handy too. We started Sunday School at 20 months so by the time she was joining school it was a lot easier because she already had similar exposure.

Also buy learning material like nursery rhymes CDs and DVDs. The songs will be a welcome familiarity when they join school.

 Esther Etende, director Zuwena International School

Every parent should visit the school and asked to be walked around. During the visit, the parent should check:

  • Is the school welcoming?
  • Is it neat, organized and clean? The toilets, especially, should be well cleaned and disinfected daily. The teachers should have their own toilets separate from the children.

Parents should ask to meet the potential class teacher for the child to assess if the staff are friendly enough to handle the children and their qualifications and experience.

Parents should check out the school menu and ensure that children are fed on a balanced diet.

The parents should understand the curriculum they want the child to follow and the school should be able to provide the yearly class goals for that child’s age.

She tells parents to request for a contact of an existing parent of the school to hear more about the school.

Before taking your child to school, talk to the child about starting school and actually visit the school together, introducing the child to the class teacher.

Have him/her meet the other children in the class and interact with them.

Buy the school items together with the child and have the child enjoy trying them out before starting school.  Ensure that all the uniform, bag, shoes and other items are well labeled.

Be positive about the school you have chosen for your child. Give your child a smile and a hug and reassure them that everything is going to be all right.

Be supportive. Get a daily update from your child about how school was, the most interesting things they did and also any challenging things experienced. Also assist your child with homework, read and sign off the school diary.

Instill a sense of confidence in your child. Celebrate your child’s successes and appreciate her for the work well done.

Be involved. Take time to learn more about the school and read the school information sent home with your child. Ask for clarity from the school where necessary. Ensure that you attend school activities scheduled during the term. This encourages the child and boosts their performance.

Finally, highlight to the school and teacher any issues that you may have and give them time to adjust. At the same time give credit for the good work done. Also suggest solutions that would make you and your child’s experience better in that school.

Twidley Ithiga, director, Jawabu School

“Do not to rush the process of selecting a good school. Consider the following pointers to guide the process:

  • Is there a good playground for the children and is there sufficient amount of time in the timetable for just play? Play is very crucial in the growth and development of every child and should therefore be incorporated in all school programs
  •   What is the teacher to child ratio? We consider 1:15 ideal in our school and especially for this tender age as they require a lot of attention.
  • What does a typical day in the school look like? If possible, request the administration to allow you spend a full day with your child in school. This can also help you as a parent to know how best to supplement the classwork at home. Beware of a school that is hesitant to let you do this.
  •  What kind of hands-on manipulatives are used in the classroom and how exactly are basic concepts like sounds and numbers taught? Please take note of drilling at this point. Such manipulatives really help in reaching out to the different kinds of learners in the classroom as well help the little ones grasp concepts faster.
  • Ensure that literature is part of the curriculum. Books open up children’s minds to the wider world and how best to respond to situations. Without books, children might end up being narrow-minded. Also, getting them to love reading at this tender age prepares them for the higher classes.
A music class at Jawabu School. Photo: courtesy
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Once you’ve settled on your ideal school:

  • Request the teacher or administration to send you monthly updates, if possible, of the content that the children will be covering in the classroom. That way, you are abreast of what is going on and it’s thus easier to take note of any progress made.
  • Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. When on leave or if you have a flexible schedule, please volunteer one or two days in your child’s school to perhaps read a story to the children or even teach an art class. Your child will treasure such moments and your child’s teacher will appreciate your help.
  • Always have the teacher’s contacts with you and check on her every so often as well as find out from her what more you can do with your child from home.
  • Ask as many questions as possible and politely share any concerns you might have. Remember that schools work as partners with parents and working from the same side, rather than against each other, will help your child in the long run. As an educator, I get concerned when a parent inquires for a vacancy for their child but does not have the time to hear more about the philosophies that guide us, more details about the curriculum we use and what a typical day in school looks like.
  • Attend school meetings and events as this also gives you a better glimpse of child’s progress and builds a richer relationship with the school. You can request the school to give you the school calendar and your child’s class timetable to enable you plan better.

This article was first published on Mums Village.

5 factors to consider when choosing a kindergarten

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Finding a kindergarten for most parents is a stressful affair. Why? Because we have expectation and needs we want met and most times getting a school that has the perfect mix and match can be impossible. Often parents will find that they have to choose what matters most to them, then compromise on lesser matters to choose a school that offers the closest to their ideal.

People consider different things while choosing a school. You may not believe it but there is a school I checked off my list because it didn’t feel right. Everything looked alright on paper, the budget was ok, it was a walking distance form our home, but I couldn’t picture my son in a class there. I went for a repeat visit and again it didn’t feel like home. My husband just shook his head when I told him that the school felt off.

In another school I showed up at the gate and it’s the kids who were playing outside who opened for me. No watchman was in sight. I almost turned back.

Kindergarten is your child’s first introduction to formal learning so you want it to leave a positive impact on your child and not undo all the foundations you have so carefully laid.

Consider these factors:

  1. Educational philosophy. The school should share your philosophy on education and raising children. It needs to reflect your values and embody the future you want for your child. May be you want a school that instills confidence, or independence, or one that gets your daughter to speak with a twang. May be you want one that exposes you child to kids from different backgrounds. At the end of the day, these are the things that will help you judge whether the school has been successful with your child or not.
  2. This encompasses the distance to the school from home and accessibility. You may want to limit the number of external factors during the commute for your child’s safety and the amount of time spent on the road. You also want to ensure a decent pick up and drop off time. A school that is located a walking distance to the school is great. But what if the perfect school is two highways? This is where you weigh whether the benefits outweigh the risks of a long commute, the costs, inconvenience and the fatigue involved for you and your child. The distance to the school will also influence how early the child is picked up and dropped off. We had found a great school that involved a 90-minute direct ride on the school bus and a pick-up time of 6:20am. Add the time spent dropping other kids and our son would have been on the road an average of five hours every day. He’d also have had to wake up at 5:30am. I didn’t care if they were just about to turn him to the next Einstein. No, thanks. Traffic Jams happen; accidents happen; el nino happens. You need to be able to get to your child easily. That is not possible in the case of a school that is 15km offgrid.
  1. Education, particularly in Nairobi, has become expensive. Sometimes I look at fee structures of some schools for a term and I think, “It didn’t cost me that much to go through primary school, secondary school, university and graduate school.” You will need to find a school that fits your budget and for Pete’s sake stop competing with the Joneses. So they took their kid to the top school? Run your race. I believe that with a little looking, you can find a little gem that that fits within your budget and offers what you need for your child.
  2. Your child’s needs. Not every school will work out for your child’s specific needs. May be your child is gifted, or slow in learning than the rest. Bear these in mind while shopping for a kindergarten. This way you will know what to look for in teachers or the environment.
  3. Other extras offered. Apart from formal school learning, you will want to consider other special offerings like sports, swimming, music and musical instruments.