The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (my favorite quotes).

The Fire Next Time [Wikipedia Link] was my first book by James Baldwin. It is kinda sad that I discovered him this late. But I am happy I eventually did and The Fire Next Time was my first.

It was also my last book for 2020.

It blew my mind in many ways with its wisdom and insights into black Christian [religious] movements and race in the US.

Here are some quotes I treasure:

Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him. This is one of the reasons that he became so holy.

You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger

Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.

What others did was their responsibility, for which they would answer when the judgment trumpet sounded. But what I did was my responsibility, and I would have to answer, too

One cannot argue with anyone’s experience or decision or belief. 

How can one, however, dream of power in any other terms than in the symbols of power? 

If one is permitted to treat any group of people with special disfavor because of their race or the color of their skin, there is no limit to what one will force them to endure, and, since the entire race has been mysteriously indicted, no reason not to attempt to destroy it root and branch.

Whoever debases others is debasing himself.

White Americans find it as difficult as white people elsewhere do to divest themselves of the notion that they are in possession of some intrinsic value that black people need, or want. 

 

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Dear Friend

Dear friend,

This is to let you know

I will not be attending your funeral

But, as you inhale

I want you to guide me

Through the contours of your heart

Let me touch each crack and nurture each fold

With the spark it deserves and all I can while you inhale

Give me all your breath

So that when yours becomes air

My chest remains sated

May my mind never betray me

Your breath always satisfy me

Till I see you again

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JC no be personal property

This Jesus Christ

That you’ve made your personal property

Positioned yourself

Like Aunty Memuna

Dishing Him out

To those you think He deserves

Hiding Him

From those you think unworthy

I have a message for you

This Jesus Christ

He is for us all

Yes, us all

You got that right

He is for us

Whose sins are out there in the open

And for us

Whose sins are in there in our hearts

He is for us all

So my brother, my sister chill

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Four things I learnt on the job as a housekeeper

Maybe this comes as a surprise, but one thing I looked forward to moving to Germany as a student was the chance to odd job. Apart from it being a thing of satisfying curiosity, I needed the money especially when the seven thousand euros begins to run out. I was privileged to get the job connection through a neighbour of Barbara, my first German friend. Finding one had been tough particularly in the first months when my German was little to nothing. I recall a telephone convo to a packaging company and the shrill feminine voice at the other end explaining how they reserved employment for persons with fluent German skills on a job that required no verbal abilities. ☹

I did not become a housekeeper instantly either, I had an interview (in my broken German) and received confirmation later. I worked in one of German’s top hotel chains but officially employed by a hospitality agency. I did receive hotel employee benefits like lunch, joining in employee events and sorts.

I was on that job for a little over a year. I dare say, this job has been like no other. For one, it has been the only job that required my physical investment to a 100 percent. Though I did learn a lot about how the hotel industry works, I gathered some life tips on this job. I share below of these, four things I learnt on this job.

1. Mindfulness

Did you know it is possible to clean a room in 15 minutes? Yes, you saw that right, in 15 minutes, to the standard required! So, until I went through this process of training as a housekeeper, cleaning was a thing I reveled in. There would be music playing, dancing, etc. basically cleaning at home, could take a chunk of my Saturday mornings. However, working as a housekeeper, I marveled at how fast cleaning tasks could be done and the little time it took to do them. Cleaning a room for new occupancy (check-in) with a single bed can take 15 minutes (some experienced housekeepers do this in less) with training. This means laying the bed with new sheets, cleaning the bathtub (or shower), wash sink, & toilet, wiping surfaces & floors, throwing rubbish out, airing the room and vacuuming. All that in 15 minutes. Can you imagine that? I couldn’t in my first days. So, the trick, I learned, was to be mindful. To be present in and on the tasks at hand. Get in there, do what you need to do, get out. No time for mind wandering. Time is essential on this job. Concentrate on the task at hand, get it done, think later, or you might take too much time on tasks and even forget to clean something.

2. The value of time

As I said time is a key essential on this job. I learned to appreciate time better on this job. Each keeper receives a varied allocation of rooms per workday dependent on season, experience, check-ins, room-type, etc. So, when I get 15 rooms, I may have 7 check-ins which means I would have to lay 7 to 14 new beds and clean the room as if it had never been occupied. If the 8 rooms were stay-ins, I would lay the beds (change sheets if dirty) and clean the room. I would generally have 6-8 hours to get this done. Since check-ins are the priority (get paid more), I needed to apportion the needed minutes for a room, get them cleaned before check-in time which was 2 pm. Respect, in this job, was gained by getting rooms done quickly, in time, and to the satisfaction of the supervisor (quality control). I checked the time each time I entered a room finding the difference in the time I spent and learning to recover from rooms that took much time.

3. Are Gyms not overrated?

Being a housekeeper takes a toll on literally every part of the body. You need strong arms to lay beds to standards, bend multiple times, squat to check under beds, back and shoulders to push those trolleys, run in and out of rooms. There is so much movement and you are literally standing for most parts of the working day. This job made me lose weight without a gym subscription. In the beginning,  all I did after work was sleep. After a month or two, I felt stronger with lesser fatigue. Though the cleaning chemicals were a minus, the work was a sure test of my physique. It is a job requiring a lot of physical exertion and did help me unwilling to get my physical body stronger.

4. Empathy and Respect

I wish this had been something I learned before this job. This position gave me a hands-on insight into housekeeping. It is a challenging job mostly done by women, migrants, and persons with low societal status. The experience left me with respect and awe for housekeepers. They literally are the backbones of the hotel industry but as always never get the due recognition, never seen, never heard. It is hypocritical that I say I realised this after being a housekeeper because there is no need to walk in someone’s shoes to be empathetic to their situation. We can be kind, respectful, and empathetic when we choose to.

So, the next time you are in a hotel, kindly remember, yes, you paid for the room and have earned the right to let your pets sleep in the bed or throw toilet roll all over the room. But also remember that the more time a housekeeper spends in cleaning your room, the less money they make. What stays with most housekeepers are the acts of kindness, tips yes of course! And the people who lay their beds, clean after themselves, there are people who even leave written notes of gratitude with smileys. Yes, those are some of the acts you never forget when you have a day with 24 rooms to clean. I will also never forget my colleagues, some of who have had only this job their entire lives and will till they retire. They were some of the kindest-hearted women I ever met. They helped me a lot in the first months. They did show me a lot of kindness which warms my heart when I think of them.

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How I self-worship

Failure is a reserve for those alive. It is a privilege for those who can breathe.

Yet I find daily a need to preserve my perceived perfections, so dire no taint is permitted.

What they call the overnight success is what I beg for. The one  where the night birthed in the perils of try and err is surpassed.

I honour myself and keep wishing to only wake to a dawn that beholds the new life promised.

 

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How I read 100 books in 2020

2020 Reading GoalsHow did I read 100 books in 2020?

I set myself an extreme ambition to read 100 books in March 2020. I have always loved reading but never seemed to have enough time to read as much as I wished. This year, however, I tried to make time for what it is that I claimed to enjoy. How did I read the 100 books?

By goal setting: I wanted to “improve my reading habits” and the obvious step was to read. However, as all other things, I claimed to enjoy I assumed reading was done when time remained from doing all the other “important things”. By setting this goal, writing it down, and also making it public, I knew there was something I had to work intently towards. I made a Facebook post about reading 100 books and asked friends to join me.

Making time: There is no time unless you make out time. As a single mom, I am pressed for time. I am careful (or try to be careful) of how I spend my time. Time is precious to me. However, setting this goal and seeking to attain it made me realize how much time I spent on unproductive events and people. One of the major time distractions for me was Social Media: Whatsapp and Instagram. I limited my time on these platforms and when I was on there I decided to be more purposeful. Establishing relationships and connecting with others as compared to mindless scrolling. I also dedicated time say at least 1 hour a day to read or listen to an audio book. I incorporated it into daily activities such as riding the bus, at the playground, cooking, cleaning, and mindless staring 😉.

Being disciplined: It took a lot of discipline to read 100 books. Sometimes I had to turn my data (internet) off or even switch my phone off. My son goes to bed at 8pm (also something of necessary discipline), and if I do not have housework or office work to attend to, I have a couple of hours say 2-4 hours before I turn in. I try to make good use of this time by doing things like reading, concentrating on reading, and not giving in to the temptation to check emails or Instagram posts.

Staying focused: “I can do this” and “I will not give up” were my guiding quotes. Fixing my focus and concentrating on the path I set was necessary. It can get overwhelming when you see other persons reading profiles and get tempted to veer towards what others are reading. As a wise woman said to me “You can’t read them all”. I focused on the books I wished to read, made a couple of guiding lists. The website Goodreads was also helpful in keeping track of what I read and wanted to read. I explored all possible book formats such as eBooks, paperbacks, audio, etc, and always had a form of a book on me all the time, on my phone or in my bag. There are many platforms where one can read books for free or download pdf versions of books. Additionally, I borrowed books from the library which is also very cost-effective.

Here is a list of books I read this year.

  1. The Fire Next TimeBaldwin, James
  2. The ArrangementsAdichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
  3. Say Her NameElliott, Zetta
  4. Lord of the FliesGolding, William
  5. Let’s Tell This Story ProperlyMakumbi, Jennifer Nansubuga
  6. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that LastsChapman, Gary
  7. Their Eyes Were Watching GodHurston, Zora Neale
  8. The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design For You and Your MoneyRainer, Art
  9. Blood Child, and Other StoriesButler, Octavia E.
  10. Changes: A Love StoryAidoo, Ama Ata
  11. The Kickass Single MomJohnson, Emma
  12. How to Have That Difficult Conversation: Gaining the Skills for Honest and Meaningful CommunicationCloud, Henry
  13. Relationship Goals: How to Win at Dating, Marriage, and SexTodd, Michael
  14. She Would Be KingMoore, Wayetu
  15. The Death of Vivek OjiEmezi, Akwaeke
  16. The Girl with the Louding VoiceDaré, Abi
  17. BelovedMorrison, Toni
  18. A Spot of BotherHaddon, Mark
  19. The Woman Next DoorOmotoso, Yewande
  20. ZikoraAdichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
  21. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary ImaginationMorrison, Toni
  22. Born on a TuesdayJohn, Elnathan
  23. Was Nina wussteGrossman, David
  24. Small CountryFaye, Gaël
  25. The Why CafeStrelecky, John P.
  26. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Adeyemi, Tomi
  27. Teaching My Mother How to Give BirthShire, Warsan
  28. Rules of Engagement: Preparing for Your Role in the Spiritual BattlePrince, Derek
  29. Fisch aus GoldLe Clézio, J.M.G.
  30. God Is a MatchmakerPrince, Derek
  31. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad OnesClear, James
  32. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen SuggestionsAdichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
  33. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceObama, Barack
  34. HouseboyOyono, Ferdinand
  35. The Kangaroo ChroniclesKling, Marc-Uwe
  36. Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming AnxietyWorthington, Alli
  37. Song of SolomonMorrison, Toni
  38. KitchenYoshimoto, Banana
  39. BecomingObama, Michelle
  40. The Five People You Meet in HeavenAlbom, Mitch
  41. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in AmericaByrd, Ayana
  42. Outliers: The Story of SuccessGladwell, Malcolm
  43. Master Your MoneyBlue, Ron
  44. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative BattlesPressfield, Steven
  45. LoveMorrison, Toni
  46. KintuMakumbi, Jennifer Nansubuga
  47. Friday BlackAdjei-Brenyah, Nana Kwame
  48. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any ManuscriptBell, James Scott
  49. HomeMorrison, Toni
  50. Sick of Me: from Transparency to TransformationCapps, Whitney
  51. How Music WorksByrne, David
  52. The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to ManhoodCoates, Ta-Nehisi
  53. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write ThemProse, Francine
  54. LyingHarris, Sam
  55. The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful GivingAlcorn, Randy
  56. The Gifts of ImperfectionBrown, Brené
  57. The War is Over: Stop Struggling and Accept the Privileges of Peace with GodWommack, Andrew
  58. The Elements of StyleStrunk, William Jr.
  59. This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) AmericaJerkins, Morgan
  60. AyitiGay, Roxane
  61. The FishermenObioma, Chigozie
  62. The Moor’s AccountLalami, Laila
  63. The Screwtape LettersLewis, C.S.
  64. On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftKing, Stephen
  65. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou’s Autobiography, #1)Angelou, Maya
  66. Becoming Nigerian: A GuideJohn, Elnathan
  67. A Raisin in the SunHansberry, Lorraine
  68. The Lies That Bind: Rethinking IdentityAppiah, Kwame Anthony
  69. The Joys of MotherhoodEmecheta, Buchi
  70. EducatedWestover, Tara
  71. Indigenous Research MethodologiesChilisa, Bagele
  72. God Help the ChildMorrison, Toni
  73. An American MarriageJones, Tayari
  74. The Hundred Wells of SalagaAttah, Ayesha Harruna
  75. Behold the DreamersMbue, Imbolo
  76. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeLamott, Anne
  77. The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village TalesHead, Bessie
  78. The Practice of the Presence of God In Modern EnglishDavis, Marshall
  79. Girl, Woman, OtherEvaristo, Bernardine
  80. PatchworkBanda-Aaku, Ellen
  81. Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and HealthLeaf, Caroline
  82. How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleCarnegie, Dale
  83. Raising Giant-Killers: Releasing Your Child’s Divine Destiny Through Intentional ParentingJohnson, Bill
  84. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the OddsGoggins, David
  85. The ScatteringKubuitsile, Lauri
  86. Allah is Not ObligedKourouma, Ahmadou
  87. American SpyWilkinson, Lauren
  88. A Woman Is No ManRum, Etaf
  89. A Taste of LoveGowon, Sifa Asani
  90. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives RevealedGottlieb, Lori
  91. Mere ChristianityLewis, C.S.
  92. The Bold New Normal: Creating The Africa Where Everyone ProspersQuist, Lucy
  93. QueenieCarty-Williams, Candice
  94. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?Warren, Rick
  95. A Room of One’s OwnWoolf, Virginia
  96. The Death of Ivan IlychTolstoy, Leo
  97. The Confident Mom: Guiding Your Family with God’s Strength and WisdomMeyer, Joyce
  98. Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect ScienceGawande, Atul
  99. Battlefield Of The Mind: Winning The Battle In Your MindMeyer, Joyce
  100. The Memory of LoveForna, Aminatta

My five top books in no particular order

  1. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré for its originality, uniqueness and entertainment.
  2. Battlefield Of The Mind: Winning The Battle In Your Mind by Joyce Meyer  for teaching me to master my mind
  3. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins for the motivation to move beyond my past and present limitations
  4. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison for the wisdom
  5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones for keeping my mind up at night even when I had finished reading it
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What do I see?

As humans our superpowers are limited. We define persons by their outward appearances and actions. We can never be privy to the deep intent of a person’s heart, even if they told us. We assume love, affection, kindness, holiness based on what we see, while God accesses people by the intent of the heart.

We like persons based on their beauty, oration, warmth, and so on and are shocked when we find out the outwardness does not match the inwardness. We latch on easily to persons that smile at us, believing that it ultimately translates to good intentions. We form bonds based on the outwardness.

A strategy of con-persons is warmth, they approach with warmth and an outwardness that suggests good intentions, but “they were so nice and friendly” shocks and hurts us when we learn their intent.

I am inspired to write this post due to a critique I saw on Facebook about the way women dress. It said women who wore dresses above the knee were promiscuous. I found that weird, a weird task of a pastor to judge the morality of girls and women based on the length of their clothes, because the gospel is not about keeping up “holy looking” appearances before people.

I think as preachers or pastors, we veer off the message of the cross when we concentrate on telling persons to work on their outward self. There is an elevation of the ability of self to perform righteously, and an advancement in the contribution of works to salvation. If all women did wear dresses to their toes, will that ultimately make the body of Christ a righteous one?

Have we been commissioned on this journey of criticism by the Holy Spirit? I believe that when God changes us, He does this on the inward and it reflects on the outward. Unless God reveals the intent of one’s heart you cannot judge them by what you see. As a human, you are limited.

God calls us all, regardless of what we look like on the outside because He is confident of His power to renew the mind and heart. He is confident He will make us into what He has envisioned us to be. Our righteousness cannot be earned, the Spirit of God through our obedience makes this righteousness evident before people.

As I undergo this process of submission to the Spirit, I realise how patient the Holy Spirit is. How even when we stumble the Holy Spirit does not give up on us or call us names or accuse us of ruining the body of Christ.

My dear friend, as humans, we are limited by what we see and cannot judge one’s relationship with God based on their clothes or earrings. Perhaps the person you are calling out is in a stage of struggle with God, perhaps they are finding their purpose and being positioned by God, you cannot understand their position by accessing outwardly, and even then, what business is it to question how God works on someone especially when you have never prayed for them. The moment you earnestly pray for spiritual growth for someone you stop critiquing their actions because your assurance is in the power of the Spirit of God.

In criticising others, we often fail to talk about our discomfort (weaknesses) and position ourselves as epitomes of perfection. It is uncomfortable, especially with a mind that runs without restrictions to have to look at persons “inappropriately” dressed. I remember being uncomfortable watching a sermon where the pastor was in very tight skinny trousers and a t-shirt showing his bulging biceps. It is easy to let the mind start to imagine all sorts of things and uncomfortable because that is not what I signed up for. Until I was able to get past my discomfort, position myself for benefit regardless of an outward appearance I limited myself from receiving this message which helped me at that moment with something I was struggling with. At this stage of maturity, I tell myself I will never allow someone’s outward appearance to limit me from receiving from God. Can I confront my discomforts, not drown my inability in blame and allow the Spirit of God to move as I confront my weaknesses, and show me His glory?

Look, we look “prim and proper” by society’s standard by grace, so please let us remember to extend this same mercy we received to others who to us are not “prim and proper”. Let us be kind to girls and women, regardless of how they dress up because they are as important to the body of Christ. All parts are important. The essence of a finger is neglected until it goes missing. Let us remember we need to approach this issue from a place of love and kindness. As you can see this method of harsh reproach has not worked and is not working. If I am wearing indecent clothing, openly shaming me on social media does nothing to increase my love for God. I will feel hurt and wonder if God loves me too especially if it is a leader of the church doing this. This social media courtroom may lead people to lose their faith in God. If it is not leading them to God, it is leading them away. Are you building the church or destroying it? Let us commit to the harder work of the inner transformation, committing to guide as siblings in love under the guidance of the Spirit of God.

God will use who He wills for what He wants, your opinion will not matter!

Nothing is impossible for God to do.

Our confidence in the Spirit of God to move mountains will be seen in how we address these issues.

Peace be unto us all.

 

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Positioning rejection as a favour

This year has done well in teaching me about life. One major thing I had prior struggled with was rejection. I saw rejection as not good enough. Though sometimes true, I now position rejection as the hand of God, a favour of God.

Rejection is tough. I would avoid it if possible, to “preserve” the useless pride I had. I would avoid asking certain people for things or putting myself in a situation where I thought the likelihood of rejection would be high. Unanswered DMs, emails, and requests are the killers.

But rejection I have learned is the evidence that you tried. You gave it a shot.

When you position rejection as a hand of God, you ask what the purpose is.

In 2019, I submitted a couple of literary pieces for publication. I was rejected for most of them. Those emails of rejection are horrible no matter how harsh or kind a reviewer is. It is the physical thing that says ‘we cannot consider you because your writing is not good enough for us’.

However, this year, something changed. No, I have not received a thousand yes. No. What happened is I took those rejections to mean I needed to improve on my writing. I did and continue to do.

I have significantly improved. And the funny thing is when I took those pieces for which I was rejected and re-read them I realised every rejection was justified. I would not accept my own writing now in the state it was. This became clear when I improved.

There are three Bible verses to remember when it comes to rejection:

  • Joshua 1:5 (Hebrews 13:5) God says He will never leave us nor forsake us, He will never reject us. He is always on our side.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 God is working ALL THINGS for our good and this includes rejections.

The moment life on earth is positioned from a place of purpose you will see things get much better (not easier). It gets better because you understand someone is working actively, mixing all that happens into something glorious for you. Someone who turns things around ALWAYS for your good.

A rejection does not mean give up. If what you are doing is your purpose, gives you life and you know it is what you were made on this earth for: do not give up. A wise person said the biggest fight on this earth is the one for yourself. To be other people is easy but to be that unique you is the biggest challenge: ask many pacesetters.

Many people, institutions, even your church can come against you that you try to be who you believe God has called you to be. People will say no to you even the ones you love. For when God needs work done, He will move things and people out of the way. He will not let the emotions you have for other people get in the way of what He is building for you. Just because you love someone does not limit God from his purpose, especially if your purpose will be furthered with someone else.

As you embrace rejection as the hand of God you will see how much of a favour God is doing you.

One more thing, I think it is futile to hate people or label them as bad or wicked for their rejection or spend time brooding over them for their rejection. Can you imagine Jesus after those episodes with Judas and Peter, brooding and telling everyone how the two had treated him? Cursing them and insulting them for their wickedness and betrayal? Jesus had purpose only on his mind.

He persevered with a mind focused on God, the goal before him.

In the story of life, there will be many actors, some will come your way to bless you, others will come to exalt you, others will lie about you, and some will leave you in wonder at their wickedness. It is just so.

 I heard a pastor say, “God plans persecution for every Christian’s life”, perhaps harsh but true because persecution though harsh is also working out for your good and God’s glory. Consider Job, God knew everything about his persecution. What about 1 Peter 1:7?  Has your faith been tested yet? God did not call you to easy but His presence is assured.

If you forget everything above, remember these two things.

  1. God loves you and created you for a purpose on earth. He is gonna work that purpose to fruition. It will grind you, smoothen you, and make you perfect for His glory.
  2. Rejection has purpose, check the Bible, every time rejection takes place, it is for a higher plan. Joseph was rejected by his brothers for a coat and dreams. Do you think Joseph would not also have loved to belong to the fold of brotherhood, to be loved as a brother should? Genesis 50:20 says it all.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

I am still learning, but what I know is that when rejected, it does not mean you should be immune to the pain or pretend to be strong.

Hurt, cry, pray, ask God why, and remember God is in it. He is working it out for your favour. Push on, find alternatives, find other ways, your destiny is in God’s hands.

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I followed the light

Baba’s new sense to the things of the world were unrivaled. He liked every part of him to be a part of everything that went through him or around him. I particularly liked the way he dressed now. His brown shoes which suffered a few wrinkles from the moisture of the years shone each time he came to pick me up in the morning for school. His self-ascribed uniform was a short-sleeved white shirt and blue-black pair of polyester trousers deeply starched with ironed edges that would remain standing after a hug from an elephant. Even though his teeth had been stained from regular bouts of chewing cola the one gold tooth he had now made it all look perfect to me. Baba broadly showed me all the 32 when he asked me how I and everyone else in the family was doing and if we had a good night. After school, mostly on the pay-days, he would drive by Aunty Memuna’s sandwich shop to treat himself and I to sandwiches. When they came, he would say loudly “b-ismi-llāh-ir-raḥmān-ir-raḥīm “, take a sniff, admire the sandwich before he would take a bite. And when he did, his eyes closed, he allowed all the thousands of taste buds on his tongue to work, to bring to him what each portion of the morsel tasted like. Aunty Memuna and I would wait for his first bite, like he had trained himself, he could tell exactly what surprise Aunty Memuna had in the sandwich which always left her in amazing laughter and extra sandwiches at no cost. And this was only a tiny thing Baba could do. Once Madam Franca, my French teacher, joined us for a lift to town. Baba told Madam the name of the perfume she used and what the inspiration elements for the perfume were. Baba told me after Madame alighted with surprise and smiles on her face at her junction that Madame had resprayed the perfume on her to musk a certain smell. Baba said the smell was something for adults to discuss.

That evening when I told Mama about Madam Franca, she said Baba’s new life made him see the world in a different way. So, I asked him the next morning what it was he saw. Baba smiled and said I followed the light that has always been in me. He told me the world is such a beautiful place if we allow it to be. The next time we went to Aunty Memuna’s, I asked her to surprise me too. I did it just as Baba did, prayed, sniffed, though I failed to smell something at all. Baba watched me as I took my first bite grinning. Aunty Memuna watched me in anticipation. Everything tasted the same to me the tomatoes, salad, meat and bread were the same. Baba pat me on my shoulder and said it takes time Ali It takes time.

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Out of Nothing

When you ask God to come into your life, you do it because you believe He is going to make you better. You are hopeful. You think He is going to come into your life (which we assume is like a house) and make things nicer. You think he is going to plant some flowers in the front, make a garden in the back, paint old things, change the wall colour and make the house look pretty and sophisticated. You like the ideas you form in your head because now everyone will see how beautiful you can be.
 
But the next day, He comes back with a wrecking ball and an excavator, with excitement. He says, which you already know, “am making all things new!” and thrusts the wrecking ball into the house. You scream! You loved this house; you did not even know how comfortable and in love you were with the house until it starts to fall. Can’t we negotiate this you ask Him? This has been your home for a long while, even if the doors creak, even if darkness fills some rooms, and even if some windows are sealed off. It is your home. Everything has worked the way you know it to till now even though it has always not been right.
 
And He continues, He says “I love you, I’ve got to do this dear friend, only then can we have that masterpiece”. He starts pulling, ripping, tearing apart. He pulls you from toxic situations. He grabs you from things and people who take life from you. It hurts because you loved them. He is touching the parts of your heart you never let anyone touch before. He pushes you into uncomfortable places. He makes you talk to people and do things you would rather not. You confront the darkest rooms together. And He is always, always there. He holds your hand while you tear up when you see the nothingness left, and out of that nothing He creates. With every brick he lays, you see the perfection. You see the beauty and are amazed at how you were content which that which was before.
 
And like a child you ask each day when He will be done, and why it takes so long? He builds your patience. He makes you love with your heart in His hands. You move over and he becomes the Lord of the home you have now. He amazes you at how slow but with precision He makes you, like Him. Your joy is overflowing, the pain is worthy, your home is His and your peace unwavering.
 
(The motivation for this piece is from a quote in Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird.)
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