Posts tagged Inspiration

Taking Steps is Easy, Standing Still is Hard

Originally posted in November 2014

Chinese Bamboo: Growing up, I experimented with planting – beans, corn, tomatoes, pepper and much later even pawpaw. It was pretty straightforward – plant some grains/seeds where there’s sunlight, water them and in a few days or weeks, watch the first few leaves sprout. I guess that the thrill for me was watching them come to life and going on with the fulfilment that I had “created” something, so to speak.

Years later, I would come across Chinese Bamboo in Paulo Coelho’s Aleph. Unlike other plants or trees, when the Chinese Bamboo seed is sown, you see nothing for about five years, apart from a tiny shoot. Everything else that grows is underground – a complex root system reaching upward and outward is being established. Then suddenly, at the end of the fifth year, the bamboo shoots up to a height of twenty-five meters. I wonder if as a child I would have been able to wait five years for a silly plant to grow, when I’d have been eating pawpaw and harvesting tomatoes in that time. It would have been a waste of space and energy, and maybe I would have tried to uproot it. It would have driven me crazy.

 

And it still does.

 

I think we’re the “speedy” generation. Unlike our parents who probably worked in only one or two places most of their careers, our own measurement of progress is defined by movement. We don’t want to be stagnant so we don’t stay too long on one job. We get into relationships and get out, or we get married and divorce and move to the next one. We move from one house to another, make new friends and do all we can to convince ourselves that we are making progress. While in reality, some of these changes are necessary and taking us closer to our dreams, sometimes, all of this motion is just what it is- motion, not movement.

Last week was my second year anniversary (a la LinkedIn) on my current job, the longest I’ve ever been on one job. A friend joked that it was a lifetime and honestly, it feels that way sometimes. I’ve lived in the same house, dreamed the same dreams and just gone through motions for 2 years. There’s so much that I’ve seen happen in two years – people have gotten Masters Degrees and other qualifications, people have gotten married and had children, people have gotten in new relationships and gotten engaged, gotten new jobs and moved on. And even though I wish them well and I try to be available and show support along their life’s journey, it doesn’t necessarily help to come back from playing Wonderwoman and see that my life is exactly what it was the year before. It doesn’t also help to try to explain to people that you’re on the same spot because you’re waiting for something to happen – a certain something that you can’t even put a finger to.

 

“Be still and know that I am God”- Psalm 46: 10a.

I love “Orange is the New Black” and I admit that the first line that jumped out at me is from the theme song “You’ve got Time”- taking steps is easy, standing still is hard. I always read “Be still and know that I am God” and thought to myself “I’m a calm person, I have no problems being still”. The past two years have taught me what being still is. Being still is David in the Bible being anointed King of Israel and having to wait years till Saul dies before he would reign. It’s having the chance to kill the only person standing in his way and still choosing to do the right thing – wait for the One who promised to perfect it. Being still is when Hannah cried like a drunk woman at Shiloh and Eli saw and blessed. The Bible says her countenance was lifted and she went home. Being still is Abraham waiting for over two decades between the first promise and the actual manifestation of the seed, Isaac. There are no shortcuts to being still, ask Sarah about Hagar. Being still is trusting every single word that God has spoken and is speaking, and trusting Him to direct us. Being still is knowing that the Owner of the cattle on a thousand hills always, always come through and we can still hold on, being certain that He will open windows in heaven if He has to.

Being still is hard, but I don’t know of anyone who ever went wrong waiting for God. Besides, who decides what is right or wrong or what is good or bad? Everything that happens to us, regardless of how we see it is shrouded in God’s goodness; it always ends well regardless.

 

Above all, being still is not just sitting and waiting for things to happen. It’s being deeply rooted and nourished while waiting to sprout. A tall tree without deep roots will snap in the storm, however you look at it. So while you are waiting for things to happen on the outside, you can make things happen underground too.

 

Be still. Be deeply rooted.

They Lied. You are Enough

“Should we pass judgement on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? Don’t judge us yet; God’s not finished. Go” – Kirk Franklin

 

Growing up, I was constantly taunted for being thin. I was called “tiringbeku” and “ego” and every name you could think off. I also remember being called an “ugly bag of bones” once. My mum also didn’t help matters- We were forced to sleep for a certain number of hours every day so we could gain some weight and look healthy. Later on, by some stroke of misfortune, my mum watched TV and learned that severely malnourished children could be nursed to a healthy weight with a soya beans diet. That marked the beginning of the darkest years of my childhood.

My mum would put soya bean powder in Stew. When there was no visible improvement in our weight, she extended soya beans into every dish- Eba, Egusi soup, Ewedu, and even Beans. After a while, my elder sister and I devised a means to save ourselves from the misery of mealtimes. We would stick morsels of Eba on the walls and ceilings and flush the soup in the toilet. For Beans and stew though, we always had to swallow the whole meal like we were taking pills. After a while, my mum gave up because she saw there was no improvement. Ironically, my mum was just as skinny as a child.

 

As a teen, I grew a thicker skin. If anyone said anything about my weight, I would retort that people paid to lose weight and rarely to gain it. In any case, there was strangely no full mirror in our house at the time, so I only saw a full view of myself in car glasses, which gave me just the view I wanted. Even when I passed by sliding doors, I chose to believe my car glass image. Heck, I had gotten what I wanted and no one was going to take it from me.

 

A few years ago, my mum’s dreams would come true. After years of trying (with B.co, Super Apet and Complan Milk), I gained 12kg within one year without consciously trying. Then the comments started pouring in. “You are too hip-py”, “You look fat”, “I know a good gym, you should start exercising”, “Your cheeks are too big” and so on. I was in shock! The same people who were praying I would gain weight suddenly didn’t like that I had gained weight. But it didn’t matter. I loved my body. I knew how to calculate my BMI, I found clothes that would fit my frame. Life was Beautiful. I was enough.


As humans, we are constantly under pressure for acceptance, sometimes unconsciously. We feel the need to fit into people’s expectations of how to live- the things we should wear, how to behave in public, what to say in Public and even how to worship. At the end of the day, we realize that no matter how hard we try to conform to other people’s expectations, we are never good enough. You cannot succeed at being anyone else.

 

I remember in the not too distant past eagerly trying to fit certain expectations and stereotypes – “don’t speak too much Yoruba”, “why are you always smiling”, “that Church isn’t quite the Church” and so on. At the end of the day, nothing I did was good enough. Eventually, the same person would turn around and complain that I was attending the church she recommended and that I always wore a long face. While I did realize that it was human nature to suddenly not want something again, I was disappointed in myself for trying too hard to fit their perception.

We are all flawed, but we often forget that our imperfections make us who we are. Each of us is different, struggling to be judged acceptable in the court of public opinion. I have come to realize that I have no power over people’s perception of me, and so however you judge me now is your business. I know who I am and so I have cut myself some slack.

I am still a work in progress.


Today I am off my knees. I have stopped praying to be flawless. I realize that to NOT love myself is disrespectful to a Creator who made me in His image. And He’s still painting, He hasn’t finished.  So when you say my face is too round, I will tell You that God only draws perfect circles. I will watch my weight, when I feel the need to.  I will break into a dance suddenly; it’s okay if you cannot hear the music. I will have conversations with myself every night. Tomorrow at work, Marilyn will ask me a question and I will reply in Yoruba, and then translate into English. She will laugh, she loves learning. I will throw my head back and laugh out loud; I love the sound of my own laughter. You will love me as I am, or you will go.

 

I am ME. I am happy. I am ENOUGH.

Now You Can Lose Your Map

Originally posted in April 2013

I remember breaking down in tears when I saw my NYSC call-up letter in March 2009. In that moment, I felt condemned to a slow painful death, or who sends a young girl all the way to Yobe when she’s been dreaming of life in Lagos Camp? Like everyone else who shared the same fate, I licked my wounds and prepared myself for a gruelling three weeks in Fika, and mapped out a redeployment strategy. A road trip seemed the most practical option, and I chose it.


You know how everyone seems to have a survival manual for you when they think they have been in your shoes, well I got many of those – the bus to travel with, what to take with me, how to dress outside camp and how to live in general. The good student in me absorbed everything and set out on what has been the longest road trip of my life’s till date. The journey lasted all of twenty two hours, and an unplanned night in Jos because of a curfew.

I always think of myself as a tough cookie who is prepared for the worst, but nothing prepared me for Yobe. The wind that hit me as I alighted from the bus was hot and dry. The flies were massive and I don’t remember feeling more helpless. My first thought was to ask God why He was punishing me. After spending the next few hours trying to settle in, I was shocked to see my bucket of water had been emptied. Ideally, that’s not a big deal if you are in Lagos where you have a borehole and probably running water. But in a desert place like Yobe where the only water available is from a 33,000 liter capacity tank supplied twice daily, then it’s a big deal. I spent the better part of the evening trying to get the Culprit to replace the water, the last bath I took was in Lagos. After what seemed like an eternity, I got water and had a bath.

The rest of my days in camp were just as challenging. From the fake fire drills, to roommates from hell, punishments in the midnight and bathing in the open, camp was anything but fun. I remember brushing my teeth one morning and the wind blew the spittle towards the person on my right. When she complained, I unapologetically told her to channel her grievance to God because He sent the wind. I slept through all the lectures and didn’t join any groups. I was too fixated on returning home to Lagos that I decided to be numb. I found a routine that worked just fine. So I went through the days and nights without emotion. I think the only time I showed any emotions was when the redeployment list was released and my name was not on it.

Long story short, I survived my three weeks in camp, made a few friends and a lot of enemies, but I survived anyways. And so while for some, the three weeks in camp was the best of their lives, it was the worst for me. I lived in my own space and time. I lived by my own rules and routine, when I could have been absorbed in the space and time I was in.


In life, most of us spend our days trying to reach the end in one piece. We always seem to have it all planned even before we start – when we will leave school and start work, where we will live, when we will start our families and all the tiny details of our lives – forgetting that it each person’s journey has been mapped out by the same Hand that made everything. So when things don’t quite follow our agenda, we feel sad, betrayed, hopeless and lost. The beauty of life isn’t quite getting to the destination, it’s the ride that counts. The unexpected stops, the people who get off so the rest of us can continue on our paths, the ones who join us on our way,  the detours, the speed bumps –  these are the things that make life what it is.

There’s no question that life throws us curve balls, some of them hitting us square in the face and knocking us off our feet so bad that we want to stay down and say ‘woe is me’, but life is too short to stay down for too long.  And except you are Solomon in the Bible whose battles had been fought for him,  we all have our struggles.  Only when we learn to embrace the curves and detours and lose our own maps will we be able to fully absorb the beauty of life. Life itself is not the station, it’s the train ride.

Some days I think that my own life has had too many stops and detours.  But then I know that God is writing a masterpiece, and He only let’s me see one chapter at a time. So the suspense, and the twists and turns are all in the plan, and I’ll enjoy each chapter in the meantime. He doesn’t write boring stories.

I still believe in Happy Endings. Do you?

xoxo