Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The successes we can't see

How do you know when you’ve made it? When can you confidently call yourself a success? According to current societal trends, there’s about five distinct ways to find out. If you’re swimming in a ton of cash. It doesn’t even have to be cold hard paper, but if you’re making money by the millions, you’re considered successful. If you have a great job that allows you to pay your bills, you’re successful. If you excel academically and have exceptional academic accolades, you will be considered successful.  As you grow up and reach a certain age, having a family would put you in the successful category. From beauty, to fame, to exposure and number of friends, the categorization of success differs wherever you go. However, one sure way to know that you’ve succeeded in some way is if people are coming to you for guidance. They’ll want tips on how to get where you are, and to know how you approached a specific situation. They’ll want to dress like you dress and talk like you talk. They’ll come to you for advice and hang on to every single word you say because in that particular way, you represent success.

Which is why I was perplexed for the longest time about the lady next door. I could see no way in which she was successful. Tall, dark-skinned and over-weight, she wasn’t employed and had not been since she had her second child. She often dressed in ragged old clothes and walked around the neighborhood with unkempt hair and muddy shoes. Her phone conversations could be heard all the way from the main road. Her children were more often than not loitering around the neighborhood naked, muddy and usually with snot running down their nostrils. A quick look at her front yard might have you confusing it with a dumping site; the overgrown grass failed to cover up used diapers, black polythene bags with week-old water stagnated in them and fresh fruit peels littering the compound. Her husband, also unemployed, could be found at any given time on any given day of the week, sitting outside a bar or next to one of the local kitchens ordering for the famous “rolex”. It probably was his coping mechanism to get away from his ever-crying children and several utility company field officials that often came by to hand him a disconnection notice due to failure or extended delay in paying the bills.

What left me perplexed in particular about Ms. Lady next door was that people came to her for advice! It wasn’t uncommon to find one of those very large fancy cars parked right outside her gate, the owner an equally posh and refined lady or couple. Probably due to a semblance of shame, she would seat her visitors on plastic white chairs out in her front yard in the grass-less patch that was once a gully for water but had been enlarged by children playing in it. (I once went over to congratulate her upon the birth of her second child; the inside of the house was not only smaller, but also worse than the outside of the house.) These guests often purchased some of the ‘organic” home-made juice she sold and carried it home along with the advice she dished out. It was also not uncommon, during one of her broadcasted phone calls, to hear her give advice to a breast-feeding mother on how to properly breastfeed, pregnant ladies on how to handle the transition from delivery, mothers who were having problems with getting their infant children to eat healthy as well as wives with marital issues. Each of these conversations was always punctuated with several loud and high pitched laughs, various exclamations of surprise or shock, and sounds of chewing on something.  I wondered how, after seeing the mess that was her life, any one could take advice from her! Wasn’t the reason people got advice from someone who had it all together because they had it all together, or at least appeared to? Weren’t you supposed to be successful?

For months, I wondered silently and curiously. Did these people not see what I saw? Did they just not care? Were such conditions a normal occurrence in their lives and so not a shock? Or did they not even notice? Was this lady conducting some sort of con-artist business in broad day light? Was there something she was putting in that “organic” juice?

It wasn’t until I had an unexpected run-in with the children that it all made sense. Ms. Lady next door might not be BeyoncĂ© or Indra Nooyi but she was successful in her own right. Her children, once cleaned up, were really polite and friendly. She was pursuing her P.H.D. Her husband was a good father, always playing with the children whenever he was home. And they were happy! Not one night would go by without hearing laughter come out of their home. She had some little sure victories tucked into her belt; you just had to look a little closer to see. Those who did saw it, and kept coming back.

It’s so easy to dismiss someone because they are not shiny on the surface. It’s so easy to over-look someone because they don’t tick any of the “successful” boxes. But if you took the time to dig just a little deeper, you just may be surprised. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dear God...

Dear God,

This is a thank you note.

Allow me to elaborate.

My grand aunt (if that’s even an English word) was a single mother of five. Her husband, after over a decade of marriage, woke up one day and decided his five children did not mean that much to him anymore; he got himself a new wife, and went ahead to have four more children with his new wife. At the time this happened, her eldest child (my aunt) was about eleven years old.

This tale is vivid in my mind because I looked up to my grand aunt in all matters spiritual. You could cut her up, limb by limb and she would still not give up her faith in Jesus.

 I was an eager and curios child of maybe fifteen, a very impressionable age if you ask me. A group of about five of us were seated in a living room of her village home in Western Uganda, listening  intently to grand aunt tell this tale. The look in her eyes was one that said ‘I don’t expect you to believe me but this actually happened”. It was a cold night so we were all covered up in different kinds of warmers, all eyes on her, no one daring to breathe too loud lest we miss even a word. As she spoke, eyes darting from one person to other, she leaned forward into all of us, one thin hand holding her evening cup of tea, the other gesturing for effect. Every two minutes or so, she stopped to seep from the severely diluted cup of milk tea (she liked it that way- diabetes and all that), a smile playing on her lips. The story was narrated in our local language; I suspect it was to make sure we pay attention and to add dramatic effect.

Back in her time, the road network in villages was not as extensive or developed as it is now. She was a Primary School teacher and her second born son was just about to sit for his Primary Leaving examinations. By this time, her estranged husband was about to have his third child with his new bride. Her candidate son had not paid school fees. It was a Sunday and she was embarking on a journey from the town where she taught in one district to the boarding school her son studied in another district, hoping to beg for mercy so they could let her child sit the exams and allow her to pay the school fees later. The Primary Leaving Examinations were to begin early the next morning and if she didn’t arrive today, it would be too late. So after her classes that day, she got into one of those small taxis that ferry people from one district to another upcountry. The taxi only went as far as the district town Centre. From there she would have to walk a journey of about ten kilometers on a dirt road through a swamp to reach her son’s school.

With all its various stops for passengers, the taxi arrived in the district past seven pm. She was determined still, and after waiting about thirty minutes at the stage, hoping to hitch a ride with a passenger vehicle that may be headed the same way, she decided to take her chances and walk before it got too late. About 4km and an hour later, her hope was starting to fade. It was terribly cold, mist all around because of the swamp and only the sound of a thousand crickets for company on that dark road. She was cold, tired, hungry, and scared.

At this point, she stopped to take a sip from her cooling cup of tea.  I used the opportunity to change posture as my leg had started to feel pins and needles.

It’s past nine pm now and she is only about half way the journey. At this point, all hope is gone and she breaks down and starts to cry and pray to God. She won’t make it to the school alive, and even if some strange men don’t rob or kill her in this swamp, they will never let her into the school at that time. Even if they let her in, her son’s teachers would be asleep already and where would she spend the night? Her son would have to go through the class again and she would have to pay fees for an extra year with money she didn’t even have. “Why was she going through this”, she asked God.

At just that moment, she spots a church about half a kilometer away. It’s the only place with electricity she has seen so far so she decides this is where she will spend the night and deal with tomorrow’s troubles tomorrow. At this point, she can barely drag herself up the church steps, and is even more exhausted from all the bitter crying she has done.

She sits up during the narration, switches her cup of tea to the other hand, adjusts the shoal covering her legs, widens her eyes, and with all certainty, without blinking, says, “That’s when I saw the angel”.

It was a man, very tall and big with large wings and with so much light coming from him that he lit up the whole church compound, all the way down to the road. At first she wasn’t sure what was happening and when she did realize what was happening, she was too dumbfounded to respond.

The details from this point are not clear but the angel informed her that not only would she make it to the school but her son would excel in the exams he was sitting for the next day. He doesn’t remember how she did it but with renewed vigor, she walked the remaining kilometers to the school and found a teacher that let her spend the night and went on to assist her sort out the P.L.E issues the next day.

My Uncle sat for his Primary Leaving Examinations the next day and went on to become the best in the country that year. He is currently a surgeon in the United States. My Grand aunt eventually became the headmistress of that school but has since retired with various businesses. All five children are actually doing exceptionally well. Even now, you won’t go to her house and leave without hearing about Jesus.

I remember how for the longest time I prayed and prayed to God that I too would see an angel but the prayers became less and less until they were no more. For a long while, I thought that maybe You didn’t answer that prayer because I would eventually see angels when I get to heaven and it was all a lesson in patience but it hit me recently that I’ve been so wrong all this time.

You did send me angels, not one but many. They may not be ten feet tall or shine like the sun. They may not have big wings or leave me dumbfounded. However they do help me up when I fall, and give me strength to go on when I am sure I can’t. They support me and make things possible. They encourage me and accept me. They renew my vigor to walk this journey. They show me that my grand aunt’s tale is true. They show me that you not only heard my prayers but you answer them.

So God, this is a thank you note. For all the angels you’ve surrounded me with, and for the others that I will see when I get to heaven. 

Friday, 30 June 2017


Wolf and lamb in the same skin
My protector and my murderer are one and the same
Love and anger wrestle in the same dark small cubicle
Pain; the feeling of having your skin peeled off as you watch
Of someone taking your four fingers, pulling each two apart in opposite directions until the skin reaps
Until there's blood everywhere and the smell of putrid raw flesh fills the room
My healing lies within my suffering
You should have known. You should have intuition about these things; how couldn't you tell?
If we are joined at the hip, aren't we joined at heart as well?
Isn't my sin your sin? Don't you hear the words in these tears falling down my eyes?

I need for you to fix it, to nudge me forward and take me back to the beginning
Where it all started, and where it ended
To stay by my side and leave me alone
Reverse time; make it so none of it ever happened, so we still have that picture perfect I saw the first time I looked in your eyes
Take me back to innocence, where I could look the world dead in the eyes, a stare-down where only I could have won
My savior and condemner wear a shared face
If you weren't here, would I have felt all this pleasure? Would I have felt all this pain?
My fate is sealed; I must carry the heavy shadows on my bent back down this dark narrow winding path
I must wade through the muddy knee-high waters underneath the bridge I once rode on, the stone bridge I paved myself with bruised hands to keep me from drowning
My darkness is my light.
Will you relieve me, my captor and my hero?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Journal from the past; You're okay!

Nothing in life is a coincidence. I believe that everything happens at a particular time for a reason; you just have to be sensitive enough not to miss the purpose and whatever life is trying to impact on you.

Just this week, my sister decided to do some re-organisation of the bookshelf at home. The most interesting article she found(at least to me) was this journal I kept from 2012.It's deep blue in color with each page divided to cover three-four days. It's branded because it's one of those company diaries. You can tell from the worn edges that it was well used. Most of the pages are pretty full; I clearly had a lot to say. Most probably, I just had a lot of time on my hands.

After my sister handed me the diary, it lay on my bedside table for a few days. Just yesterday, while I was lounging around, I saw it and thought, "Why not?" So I opened the first page and begun to read. Most of it was pretty dramatic, I was a dreamer and I saw the world in HD/full color. I was young, without experience and with such an appetite for life. I was hungry to do, do, do!! I had such high expectations from myself, my loved ones and life. I had seen nothing!!! On one of the first pages one of my statements caught my eye....

"I wish I could fast forward to five years from now and see what happens then. Or just to skip this part anyway. Living one day at a time sucks".

Guess what, It's almost exactly five years from the day I wrote that. And I want to reach out to me five years ago and just give her a long, tight and warm hug. If I could talk to the Kullein of 2012 (insert some time-travel stunt from any movie), here's what I'd say...

Enjoy that phase
It probably feels like it's dragging but you'll miss it, at least parts of it. You will one day look back fondly at that time and laugh at how simple it all was...

Slow down
Pace yourself. Don't be skipping any parts and trying to look for shortcuts. I know you're trying to get to a place people took 2 years to get to in 2 months. It's not a bad thing. Just try be present; fully feel and enjoy where you are NOW.

You're on schedule
You're doing better than you or anyone else ever thought you would be doing at this point. You've gone over and beyond and will bag some remarkable achievements. You have a great support system; you're in love with an angel, your friends are loyal and your family has never been closer.

Don't stop dreaming
Never lose your hunger and appetite for life. Don't ever feel like it's a disadvantage because it's not something everyone has. It might get you into sticky situations some times, but you will live a full life.The future is so much better than you can see right now.

Ease up on yourself
Give yourself a break. Give your loved ones a break. It's not as serious as you think it is, and yes, you will recover from the mistakes. You will learn so much that you'll even shock yourself. If you could see yourself five years from now, you'd be so proud of you. You're on the right track,

You're not fat!!!
I probably can't convince you about this no matter what I say but just for the record, it's true.

Last but not least, don't quit on the journals
Look at how handy this one came in. I know at some point in the future you will give it all a break, but do resume when you can.

There's no such thing as coincidence. This diary re-appearing in my life at this exact time is no coincidence. It's God's way of saying, 'Hey, you're okay'. He is saying 'I still got you'.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Majority knows best!

Slow down child
You skip and you slip 
without a care in the world
You swish and you sway
and say all your thoughts out loud
You shouldn't be so happy
You should carry some worry

Slow down child
lest you meet your fall 
We were once young like you, you know
we thought we knew it all
But life will shake you up good, it will
show you who's who in the larger scale of things
You shouldn't be so full of hope

Slow down child 
you will get your heart broken
It may seem like it's for forever right now 
but we can tell you it won't last
Haven't you heard it said,
"All good things come to an end"?
Don't you dare trust fully

Slow down child
follow the pre-defined steps
There's a reason why these things are in place;
Majority knows best
There's no need to fix what isn't broken
or make better what's working fine
Try to not be so adventurous

Slow down child
You risk and you believe
trying to shape your own way
You question and you doubt
and want to try everything out
keep your head down and try to fit in
Don't try to stand out, it will only do you in

Slow down child.
We know what's best for you
Slow down child.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Courage in the time of fear

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

Some messages never grow old. There are some topics that after I’ve read two or three posts about them, I’m done. Being bold is not one of those topics.

Naturally as human beings, we are comforted by routine. The safety net it brings allows you to feel like you’re in control of your life and what tomorrow will bring. It becomes your identity, how you describe yourself and how others define you. It becomes your main frame of reference when making decisions. It allows you to fit into a certain social category; heck, it even gives you new friends. When that safety net is suddenly ripped away, you’re left exposed. You’re suddenly vulnerable and lost, like a chick that was separated from mother hen and siblings when crossing the road. You start to look left and right, looking for anything that looks familiar or accepting. The doubt then starts to set in; were you even ever what you thought you were? Are you sure you weren’t a phony the whole time, an act that got so good at the scene that it looked real? Are you anything without that safety net? What about your friends; will they really still be your friends even after you’re no longer under the same net? Was it the right decision?

The truth of the matter is Fortune favors the bold. No one ever got anywhere without taking the risk, and trust me it doesn’t matter who you are, risks scare everyone. Nobody said you wouldn’t be afraid. The trick is to do it even when you are afraid. Choose to focus on the little courage you have and drown out all the fear/doubts. I’m not talking about that action that you know will hurt everyone around you and put you in trouble. I’m also not talking about those whims that come as a result of watching too much soapy television. No. I’m talking about that itch that keeps you awake at night. That thing you can’t wait to get up and do in the morning. That thing that brings you so much fulfillment because you know that you know that you know that this is what you’re supposed to be doing! You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Nah, this ain’t for me. I’m way too unimportant. I have too much to lose. I couldn’t possibly be able to pull it off.”

I wish I could tell you that it will all most definitely work out but I can’t. It will probably be hard and you will most probably go through some days where you wonder if you did the right thing. But if you don’t, you will spend each and every day of your existence half alive. You will grow resentful and angry and lose all sort of motivation. You will simply drift from one day into another and ask questions like, “What day is it?” and it won’t be because of a crazy night out the night before. One day 20 years down the road, you will wake up and wonder where your life went. All the things you were afraid would happen if you did still happened when you didn’t. You will carry around the pain of a loss so great that it will show in your empty sad eyes and your stooped walk.

Do it. Take the plunge. Today is only the beginning of the rest of your life.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The 103rd Psalm of King David

1.  Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
It’s not even about saying it with your mouth as it is about being so grateful in your heart; your insides should be dancing with praise. You know how you feel when your loved one does something so sweet and you just feel all warm and delicious inside; that’s what King David meant when he said ‘…all my inmost being, praise his holy name’.
You have so many blessings (benefits) some of which you don’t even notice; life, health, family, friends, career, peace etc. Even the hair and stilettos I have are from God!
6 The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities.  His mercies are new every morning. Picture yourself as a criminal. Each morning you’re in the same court room for a different case(s) and each time, after hearing the charges against you, the same judge says ‘Forgiven. She/he is free to go.’ *Insert sound of gavel*
No bribe, no trial, no defense, no nothing. Every day, every week, year after year...

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
  and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.
From everlasting to everlasting; As far as the East is from the West and the heavens are above the earth. Before you were born, from the year 1BC to the year 200,000 or eternity, that’s how long he has loved you. It doesn’t matter if you live to be 85 or 130, twenty lifetimes would still not exhaust his love for you.  
And it’s not love in portions; He is not measuring 20litres of love (if love was a liquid) per week so that it’s equally spread out and he has enough to last him the whole period of time. Think buckets and floods of love, the kind that almost drowns you and washes everything else away. That’s what we are dealing with here.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Let’s just put this Psalm into perspective.  Replace “Lord” or “He” with Sarah or Timothy or Mum; if you had someone who did even a quarter of this for you, constantly, consistently and unconditionally, you would be singing their praise on every possible platform possible. You’d be posting pictures on Instagram and videos of all their deeds on Snapchat with hashtags like #Bestfriendever, #Mybooisbetterthanyours #Feelingloved etc.

What’s stopping you from doing the same for God?