A life lived for others

hands-reaching

Have you written or thought about your 2018 goals yet?

Last weekend as I spoke with a group of friends about stuff they hope to accomplish this year, a quote stuck in my head-I think it’s by Albert Einstein: That a life lived for others is the only life worth living.

These people had personal goals they wished to get done but they also planned to consciously do things for others. One wanted to actively serve in ministry; another was going to open her home for fellowship;  another wanted to mentor a struggling friend…

Our plans and goals and prayers need to move beyond us to affect and impact others. Why? Because we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10). Because even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Because only those who give their lives away for Christ’s sake will gain it.

If you haven’t found where need is calling you this year, slow down. We can be so pre-occupied with our own lives, schedule and troubles that we speed past ministry opportunities that heaven made to fall across our paths. I have zoomed past people in need of help because I am afraid of getting late for work, or because I want to beat traffic. And even when I knew I should stop and care and do something, I didn’t because I didn’t want to be interrupted. Other times I am so wrapped up in my own little world I just don’t notice glaring needs around me.

Allow your life to be interrupted by the Holy Spirit and by the needs of others. Don’t take for granted that which captures your eyes and heart. Slow down. Be more aware. Put your plans on hold for a while.

Allow your concerns to take a back seat while you prioritise others. Jesus often did. He was going to a quiet spot to probably mourn after he received the news of the death of his cousin John the Baptist but the crowds needed him. So he served them and deferred his QT for later that night. He was headed to Jairus house when the woman with an issue of blood touched him. He was headed to Jericho when a blind man stopped him. Let us pause long enough to notice those around us and their needs.

And when you notice the needs do something practical about it. My time through the book of Mathew was spent noticing how Jesus met practical needs wherever he went. Wherever he went preached the good news, taught, healed the sick and cast out demons. He fed people when they were hungry. What needs are around you?

Mathew 25:34 is a call to care and do something about it, for when you refuse to help the least of these Christ’s bothers and sisters you are refusing to help Christ. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, invite strangers to your home care for the sick and those in prison.

My “others” goal this year is to mentor younger women and what I love about it is that I am so ill-equipped for this it will only be Christ working in me.

Whatever ways you are seeking to serve others going forward, carry these lessons with you:

(Ephesians 4:1-6)

  • Be humble and gentle as you serve.
  • Bear with one another in love.
  • Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
  • Have compassion.

You will never enjoy life fully- the way God intended for you to live it- until you learn it’s not about you. Live a life of service.

Obey God by meeting the needs of others instead of focusing on self actualisation, self fulfillment and selfish ambition apart from Him.

 

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A year of becoming a Titus 2 older woman

gals

I’m hardly the type to make new year resolutions, first because it is so cliche and second because most plans like these lack follow-through because they are emotional spur of the moment resolutions. Instead, I prefer to start on major changes just when my spirit fills sensitized to.

But yesterday as I sat in the Sunday service, a thought came to me that I am not even sure was related to the sermon. It was from Titus 2:3-5

These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

I’ve always considered myself the younger woman who needs to be trained. But even opening myself to that is hard because I love my privacy and independence and I am not too crazy about people getting into my business. However, slowly I have learnt that I need to open up my life and challenges and issues to receive wisdom and grace from older godly women if I wish to become a godly mature woman, wife and mother. And they cant do that if I keep to myself.

But this Sunday it struck me that I too can stick my nose up other young women’s business and hopefully help them become more godly, better wives and mothers. May be I can encourage someone. May be I can become someone’s friend. May be I will have the courage to give unsolicited advice because some things just have to be said and the patience to always be interested and available when needed.

The thought is scary because I am still a mind-your-own-business type, there is a high likelihood that they will block me off or not be interested or I may not even have enough to give but hey! we stopped walking in fear; we walk in faith and obedience. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply this seed for sowing and increase the harvest of my righteousness.

 

The day I quit my job

quit

About two years ago, I quit a dream job that I had believed was an answer to my prayers. I had prayed for it, I was good at it, it paid well, it was in a great company and was in line with my career goals.

But for about a year before I left, there was this disquiet in my heart that I couldn’t place a finger to. My heart screamed- leave. But logic, practicalities like budgets and loans, pride, and fear of people’s opinions and of being broke kept me frozen in this place of anguish. I talked to my close friends and people who had left their jobs and while they encouraged me, one told me that when it was time to leave, I would know.

I remember reading an article on Atlantic.com by Ann Marie Slaughter about the unresolvable tensions between family and career and thinking- this is so me. She talks about how women often value family over professional advancement and how as a maternal imperative, they are likely to choose their family at a cost to their jobs.

She concludes by saying: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”

At least I knew I was not the only one waging an inner war between office and home. Many women had fought those battles or were still fighting them. I wasn’t crazy to long for my home and children like a drug. Christmas in particular brought the blues because my office barely closed for Christmas break. I used to quit my job in my head every Christmas.

I couldn’t even explain to people why I desperately needed to quit my job but I knew I needed to do so. So I tried getting alternative employment for about a year but nothing was coming through. Those doors were firmly shut. After many days of tears and prayer, I talked to my husband and told him I need to take a leap of faith. I can bet he was scared but he didn’t show it. He told me to do what I needed to do. “We will be alright,”he said. Bless him.

Steve Jobs

After I shared my turmoil with a mentor colleague, he sent me Steve Job’s commencement speech at Stanford and I brooded over it for months.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever… Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle….”

The final punch for me was this line by Jobs: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

So on my daughter’s first birthday, February 24, I left my employer for my home. I had the faith that God was leading me out, but not sure into what, but I was ready to embrace that uncertainty. And it was the happiest day.

Strength and courage

That December God had dropped this verse from Joshua 1:9 in my heart, probably in preparation for what lay ahead, and I had stuck it on my office desk.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

It’s been 22 months since that crazy leap and I would make that choice again, may be even earlier. Is he a faithful God or what! It freed me to serve my family, friends, church, make new friends, have new hobbies, take new jobs, make new connections. But most importantly it helped me realize the things that were important in my life and gave me the courage to know that I can walk away if I was not happy. No job is a life sentence.

Now I realise that while my past job brought in a decent pay cheque, it wasn’t a good investment of my life. It didn’t fit with why I thought I was on this planet. It wasn’t what I cared about or what drove me or even about the change I wanted to create in the world. It had no legacy. It wasn’t allowing me to be the creative, woman, wife, mother, or Christ co-worker I desired to be. It wasn’t helping me help and connect with people in a way that was authentic to me. When I wasn’t working, I was too tired to even do the things I love like write or play music or volunteer for anything. The rest of the time I was busy trying to catch up with parenting time. I had no time for friendships. I missed my kids so terribly I would cry on my way home. I knew what my heart wanted and it was in contrary with everything growing up prepared me for. I needed to have my family first. I needed to raise my own children, not have them farmed for me by 10 househelps in a year. A busy job just didn’t give me enough time to do that. I wanted them imparted by my values, not the play yard kids. I wanted to make dinner for my husband and not be dead tired when he came home. I wanted to check my son’s homework. But no one ever told me that this could be a reality in my life or that it was okay to want to be a good mother and wife above every thing else.

For a moment I felt I lost my identity as a successful professional. I lost man’s applause. i was in strange waters. But I never walked alone. All of a sudden a new world opened up of exciting opportunities and friendships. I got to redefine myself. I was not my job. I was who God said I was and I am still discovering that and it’s an amazing journey.

I realise that that is not a  decision every woman can make. But I found out that it was what was best for me and my family. God had pushed me out because i needed to pay more attention to my family and the call on my life whatever that was. I needed to trust and obey. I needed to be those people who when God says jump I ask how high. I needed to lay down my life as I knew it then for something more bold and beautiful and yes, different, something I felt I’ll equipped and undeserving of. But nothing gives me more fulfillment. It’s crazy that “homing” gave me so much fulfillment. Even now I miss that feeling on hanging and unhanging clean laundry and making a snack for my son just before the school bus arrives in the afternoon.

I still work. But I got my values and priorities realigned and my life has more depth, may be even more impact. And while I had to take a major pay cut, I feel more rounded as a person. I have served in church ministry.  I have led a Bible study group. I get to see my kids in day light. I have learnt new skills like photography and it’s exciting. I have built deeper friendships. I have learnt a lot even about myself and what I am good at and areas I am gifted in. My personal devotion is improving though still faltering. I am reading my bible once again. And I have had the opportunity to start and keep this blog running, which i started with the desire to live authentically, connect with people and connect them to each other and relevant resources, to equip and inspire. I hope it lives up to that mandate and I do too.

This is the season I am in and I realise it is not permanent. The one question I keep asking myself is, “Am I obeying God in this season of my life?” What does faithfulness look like in my particular circumstances? I choose to serve God however he chooses. I choose to stay fruitful, stay faithful, stay obedient, wherever that may lead.

You can only connect the dots looking backwards.

 

Biblical-historical timeline

creation big bang

Ever wondered where our history lies in the Biblical context? I attempted to compile my own biblical cum historical timeline because deep inside I am a child of faith and science and one who wishes science and religion shouldn’t be in such a collision. Si they can help each other through history? Like this week I saw a scientific article that said sharks are older than tree, for example. Someone else was wondering how we can be receiving evidence from billions of light years away when the universe is only 14 billion years old.

What do you think? Can I have my cake and eat it?

Did pre-adamic creatures exist that used tools?

When was the world created?

Did Noah know Abraham?

14 billion years ago? Universe?

4.6 billion years ago? Big bang? Solar nebular?

6000 BC tools, stone age, homo erectus
5529BC creation?
4500BC copper age
5000-3500BC sumerians
4000-3000BC bronze age

4004/4027BC Adam, garden of Eden
4000 BC first neolithic settlers in Malta
3500BC mesopotamic writing
3382-3017 BC Enoch
3317-2348 BC Methuselah
3300 BC bronze age in Indus valley
3227-3102 BC Krishna?
2898-1948 BC Noah
2800 BC Gilgamesh historical leader
2348 BC flood
2100 BC tower of Babel
City of ur
Melchizedek
2085 BC Abraham
2038BC Eber
1800 BC Mayas
1792BC King Hammurabi
1650BC Joseph
1500BC Incas
1447BC The Exodus
1300BC Moses
563BC Budha
551BC Confuscius
540BC Jainism
6BC Christ
50 CE agnotism
70 CE New Testament
570CE – 632 Muhammad
590 AD Roman Catholicism
Shakers
Millerites
610 AD Islam
1845 AD Seventh Day Adventist
Unity School of Christianity
1928 AD Opus dei

And the kids run the shopping list

 

Today I laughed out aloud after I saw a discussion on Twitter about how it is us parents who make the buying decisions in our homes, not our kids. You wish! I thought. The discussion was on the recent ads and packaging by Brookside for their Dairy Fresh Yoghurt that features Disney characters and someone was saying the toon targets kids yet it’s the adults buying. ”is-a-lie” and we all parents know who makes the purchasing decisions, at least when it comes to our kids.

On Saturday I was looking for trousers for my five-year-old son but ended up buying  a jumper that had Chase the dog because I knew the kids would love it. My son would rather carry his torn to tatters Lightning McQueen bag to school than a new bag we bought him that has no cartoon character. Woe unto me if I bring home a birthday cake that is not cartoon-themed. You will see the disappointment. Then you understand that it is not just about cake. May be I should be more worried that Disney has brainwashed my kids!

My youngest hates yoghurt. But since Sofia showed up on the pack, she actually carried the yoghurt outside to show her friends, “I have Sofia Yoghurt,” she screamed at the top of her voice. “And Frozen, and Moana.” She didn’t care the flavour. Just Sofia was on it.

I have sworn never to buy Jawbreakers and Skittles because I think they are a waste of money but I would be a cruel mom to ignore two months of pleas, “Mum please bring me a jawbreaker. I wont bite it with my teeth. You can even buy me on Sunday after church,” the negotiations go.

You still want to brag that it is you who does the purchasing, not your kids?

 

Side Note:

I have finally managed to convince the kids not to watch Vampirina the new cartoon on Disney Junior. Even before I watched it, I hated that the story was about a vampire, regardless of how nice she was and the many lessons she taught on tolerance. No, someone was not about to make my kids think that vampires, ghosts, and coffins are cool. But the tots loved the sound track and story. After battling within my conscience, and someone mentioning how Vampirina sleeps in a coffin and drinks blood, I decided that was it. I sat them down and told them no, Vampirina is not a good cartoon. It has scary things and we are not going to watch it. And Yesterday when the cartoon came on, I asked them to change and they did and affirmed, Vampirina is  bad cartoon.

I hope in my absence they will still do the same. At least in the past we have been successful in banning Aerial the Little Mermaid because it gave me the hibbie jibbies. I love Moana’s music but my son saw it at a neighbour’s house and walked out midway to tell me that “they are watching a bad cartoon” because of the fire monster scene.

Names should be important

name cloud

My five-year-old son has this habit of catching songs fast. The first time I heard him sing along to Jeremy Camp’s “Defender” I was shocked because I didn’t know the song myself, and it’s not one of those easy sing-along songs. He had caught the tune on radio and it had stuck. This week I heard him massacring another Chris Tomlin song and mildly corrected his lyrics but was still amazed because it is not one of those that are endlessly looped on my play list.

My sister recently recorded him singing the entire ”You’re my Defender” song then told me, “May be you should pay for him music classes.”

We laughed about it then. Today I was reading a book I have had for the last three years, a gift from my dear friend Mary Ngigi. Marla Alupoaicei in “Prayer Warrior Mom”writes: “An excellent way to bless your children through prayer is by finding scriptures that pertain to their names, personality traits, gifts and character qualities (both the qualities they already have and those you’d like them to develop). Names are important to God, so they should be important to us. Find out the meaning of your children’s names and then use those insights when you pray for your kids.”

I paused to smile because my son’s second name means praise. May he live to declare the praises of He who called Him and may his lips openly profess the name of Yahweh.

Are your children living up to their names? Pray them into the destiny and character qualities you named them into.

Honouring parents

farmer mama

When I was getting married I had this grand vision of myself walking down the aisle, looking all majestic and glorious, all eyes on me, may be singing to my husband-to-be who would be wonder-struck and shedding tears of joy at the altar. My pastor was keen to know why I wanted to walk myself down the aisle.

“No reason,” I told him. Ït’s just what I wanted.

But he told me of what an honour it would be for my parents to walk me and hand me over to the man I was going to marry. I agreed to do it if doing otherwise would have dishonoured my parents.

In retrospect, I’m glad I did. My parents have never been prouder, and I was shaking so badly along that long walk, I would have tripped myself if I had no one to hold me.

A few days ago I came across a verse in Matthew 15 where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees who refuse to help their parents because they had already made a vow to God. It’s one of those verses that I must have read numerous times before but never really noticed till now. From the verse, it seems that Jesus would rather you first help your parents when they ask for help rather than meet an obligation you had made to church. Correct me if I am wrong.

For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[b] But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents.[c] And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.

It’s easy to ignore our parents once we are out of their houses, and especially if we feel they made our growing up years hard. Finally we can’t wait to break free and be ourselves.

But we have a Christian duty to honour our parents and to take care of them. According to 1 Timothy 5:4-8 providing for our parents is a gospel issue, whether they deserve it or not. It’s pleasing to God.

Here are other ways we can honour our old folks apart from letting them give us in marriage.

  1. Forgive them. I don’t think any of us has perfect parents. They failed us numerous times when we were growing up and we carry grudges and hurts that affect our relationships with them, with our own children and our spouses. But once I realised that my parents are sinners in need of grace as I am, once I removed them from the exalted pedestal and saw them as people who are also messed up and dealing with their issues, not seeking to hurt me purposefully, I was able to forgive them for all real or imagined wrongs. They were not perfect, they will never be perfect, but God is good.
  2. Pray for them. They have needs, dreams, challenges… pray for them. for their health, for their jobs or businesses or enterprises, for their friends, for the burdens they carry, for the house they are building, and for their redemption.
  3. Acknowledge them. Letting my parents walk me down the aisle acknowledged who they are in my life. Mention the dad who has always denied himself to make sure you have during your graduation speech. Praise the mother who has been on her knees on your behalf since you were in nappies at her retirement party. Introduce them to your friends with pride. Keep them in the loop on what’s cutting in your life- did you get a new job, moved houses? Seek their counsel or thoughts  on issues.
  4. Bless them physically. I belong to a Facebook group of aspiring and already-there home owners and I am so proud of the many posts I see of people who are building houses for their folks even before they build their own. It’s beautiful. Find ways to bless your parents physically. Buy them something they need or wish for, especially if it can make their life easier. Update their phone software and teach them how to use that Facebook.Remember that joke about men who buy random girls iPhones yet their mothers are using a rubber band-bound Mulika Mwizi whose key pad is so worn out calling people is a fit?
  5. Help them in their time of need. My folks are still young but I realise that as we get into our 40s and 50s, the reality of ageing parents kicks in. What do you do if your other siblings are unbothered by the arising needs? You will still take care of their hospital bills and when that time comes, let them stay in your house if they need to knowing that you are honouring them and God is pleased.

How else can we honour our parents as grownups?

 

“We should never allow the cares of the world to overshadow the things that are most important—serving God through serving people, especially the people in our own families.”- Gotquestions.com

Taking stock of relationships

faces-of-africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milestones, and we hang the breastfeeding boots at 31 months

chilli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yes, chilli works i stopping breastfeeding.

 

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

 

DSC_5195

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.