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The Gift of Presence

In all seasons, people are important but there’s a heightened in hard times. When tragedy strikes we tend to rally around people and stand closely but once the ‘worst’ is over, we all go back to life.

The most challenging day when you lose a loved one, after the day they die, is the day after the burial. You have been surrounded by people from the day of death to the day of the burial. They visit, sit around, tell stories, and make you laugh and cry as they remember your loved one with you. They cook, clean, shop for you, and fill our house with so much bread and milk you could feed a school. It is a revolving door of entertaining that if you are not careful, you will burn out before the longest day of your life.

On that burial day, a large crowd gathers to help you give a befitting send-off with glowing tributes, soulful songs, sometimes dirges, sermons, processions, lowering of the casket, a handful of soil and then that hollow sound of soil hitting the casket. Ah…it is like a sharp serrated knife stabbed into your heart twisted, pulled out and repeated with every thud as everyone wants to put their contribution in.

Next is to fill the grave with soil, after all, it is dust to dust we go, accompanied by mournful songs because we can’t muster the strength to be joyful. We lay wreaths of flowers and plant single buds so everyone has the chance to pay their last respects and tearfully say goodbye. As this happens the food station opens because we cannot send people home without something little and slowly the mournful sounds turn to quiet laughter and conversation. A pat on the back, a hug, promises to call, sighs of sadness, and everyone quietly slips away back to their homes and off to mind their business.

Evening passes and morning arises with a deep, ten-foot-thick, solid wall of silence. No hooting, no open doors, no people to make you a meal, no questions about how you slept or if you slept…nothing. Everyone is GONE. Where? Back to their lives. They have done their solemn duty after slowing down their lives for some days, now they must go back to make up for the work they missed, the money they didn’t make, the meetings they didn’t attend, they have to get it back.

Oh, it is indeed right that they do but what do we do with our pain now? How do we deal with the reminder that we are no longer whole? Who will check on us daily? Who will cry with us? Who will walk with us? How will we get up in the morning? Who will help us sort through the clothes and belongings? Will we throw or give them away? Will we get overwhelmed in the middle and just give up? Who will help follow the death certificate and benefits? How will we generate income for next month?

I don’t think anyone means to forget the bereaved, rather I think we are consumed by life…our lives. I pray we can be more deliberate about caring for the bereaved. I will be different knowing what I know now from walking down that path. Many people don’t know what to do so let me share a few thoughts:

  • The day after the burial, check in on your friend…a text is likely best, a simple reminder they are loved and thought of
  • In the weeks to come check on them often…call, text
  • Show up and just sot with them, don’t talk a lot, just be there often
  • Hug them as much as they are comfortable with.
  • Less is more, if you don’t know what to say, sit quietly.
  • Do some chores for or with them.
  • Call and if the call is not picked up, don’t keep calling, rather send a message.

Loving people is more powerful when you show up and respond to actual needs not perceived needs. Love is more an action word than a feeling. Love in times of hardship is better expressed by pressure-free physical presence.

black and white quote by Kyesubire that says

Loving people is more powerful when we respond to actual needs.

Past Tense Is So Final

Talking about a loved one in the past tense is very hard. It reminds you that they are gone in the body so we cannot see, feel or hear from them again. I am still unpacking that one because it brings up emotions and sadness many times. 

It is interesting how every loss affects the individual differently. One passing could trigger anger, another tears, another laughter, another relief, and yet another nothing at all.  Yet it is still final.

I remember laughing about how some communities around here grieve. On the eve of the burial, they stay up all night singing, crying, celebrating and remembering the person. At one such event, they made us all laugh saying:

Na simu yake sasa ni mteja (now her phone is not reachable) uuuuuiiiiiwwwwwi.

Na ukimwita hataitika (if you call her she will not answer) uuuuuiiiiiwwwwwi.

Ukimtafuta hautampata (if you look for her you won’t find her) uuuuuiiiiiwwwwwi.

The leader then broke into singing and dancing for 10 minutes after that as people laughed, cried and just began to settle into the reality that this person is indeed gone for good. By the following day, mourners who had stayed up all night had processed some of the grief and were in a better place which was a little perplexing to those arriving in the morning.

There is no easy way to deal with the finality of a sealed grave and the flowers on top. There is no easy way to wake up in the morning and know that a wake-up call or text or silly emoji is not coming. There is nothing that makes the empty room but a full wardrobe better or easier. It is so final…so final.

The finality of death is contrary to the reality that God is in control.

God is the only one who can heal our hearts, dry our tears and calm our fears. It is countered over time and rarely in an instant. I am not sure that time heals, I actually think it cannot. God is the healer and the one who turns all things into good. Right now I may not see it well but I choose to believe that indeed he is the only one able and willing to heal. 

I choose to believe! Even with tears flowing and questions raging…I choose to believe. Even while going through the most unbelievable pain I have ever known and an inexplicable sadness…I choose to believe.

Often, Silence is More Than Golden

People who are well-meaning often say the silliest things in times of grief.

I know you have heard and likely say things to people grieving thinking they are helpful but many times they are not. Some of the most common ones I find strange are:

  • Do not cry…be strong
  • God loved them more so he took them
  • Be strong for your father/mother
  • I am so sorry
  • Make sure you stay united
  • You must talk about it
  • You need to snap out of it

Yes, the statements may make space in some contexts but they are not universally ok. Let me explain a few.

If you know me well enough and you are aware that I come from a close-knit family, taking care of my mother is a given, not an option, so please do not tell me to take care of her…I already am. We are working on a plan that is only visible in the family and you will see the results later on when she is more lively.

I will cry be sure of that; silent tears, wails from my belly, torrents in the watches of the night, wails in the arms of people I know love and uphold me. Nothing you say will stop me because tears cleanse the eyes and the soul by letting out the pain. If you do not like tears, stand back or walk away.

I will talk about it, but you may not be the one I talk to. If we haven’t been close in the last few years, do not expect me to pour my heart out to you. Oh, we can have conversations and I will tell you stories but do not expect the saddest parts to be shared with you. Pray for me as I deal but do not expect it too much.

God loved them so he took them, so are you saying he doesn’t love us? One thing that fascinates me is grief’s irrational nature. Things that would make sense when I wasn’t in this state will trigger visceral reactions while grieving. Faith that made sense when it was all smooth is on the threshing floor now so be careful when approaching.

If you think someone has grieved for too long never, and I say it again, NEVER tell them to snap out of it. In counselling, I learnt that the minimum grieving time is three, yes 3, years. So if three years haven’t passed and I am not spiralling into depression, please step back…I will be fine.

Let us learn to give people space to grieve in whichever way works for them, how they want and according to their personality. I am not one given to crying in public and no, I rarely wail. So If you are a wailer and roller, do not expect me to be like you or judge the depth of my grief. If you cannot see where I get the strength to laugh in this season, do not assume I am alone…there is likely an ecosystem around me that is working to support me.

Bottom line…be careful and sensitive when you speak with the bereaved…you may get sidelined for life.

Live Prepared

We are likely never ready for grief even when it is expected. We often underestimate how deeply we feel and closely we love people until they are gone. Even when we have told them how much we love them, the finality of death is on a level that shocks and shakes us to the core yet it is only one level of grief.

Grief is experienced from the loss of anything that is of value to us. When we lose relationships, actual things, jobs, dreams…anything we have placed a value on, there is a deep measure of grief. It is driven by the perceived finality of the situation at that moment and in the future. Most of the rest a reversible but death is the one that hurts the most and is irreversible.

So if we can never adequately prepare for grief, what can we do? 

We can live life as if we are in our last days…with abandon and absolute commitment. We must say everything we need to say, to whoever we need to say it to and never hold back in our communications. Do not think I am endorsing being mean to people in the way we deal with people; not at all. I mean letting people know how important they are to us and how much we value them.

We enjoy every day to the fullest. Smell the roses, sit in the sun, run in the rain, catch the seeds as they fall, harvest fruits from a tree, and just live life. Enjoy the relationships with a cup of coffee outdoors, a shared bowl of ice cream, a split piece of cake, and an evening by the fire.

We can forgive one another and let go of the drama. I know that a measure of drama adds spice to life but too much drama is tedious and drains our energy. So we must let go of the arrogance, drama, and hardness, then choose to live in a place of brokenness, hang on to the good and let go of the bad and the ugly. Allow people to walk away when they want to even if you may still want them around. 

I choose to work through the grief and pain so that it doesn’t break me. 

Faithfulness and Communication.

In a previous piece, The Essence of Faithfulness, Ruth’s life taught us that we all receive a gift that we must work on faithfully and bear fruit to attain our calling and assignment on earth. Faithfulness is foundational because it attracts the resources needed for the assigned task, weaves in the connections needed to live and thrive, and provides stability to our walk. 

We are created for community life thus we thrive through faithfulness to the call and consistent communication. Communication is the impartation or exchange of information through a medium, which can be written, spoken, or in any other form. Effective communication is designed around the needs of the recipients and listeners so that they can truly connect to and interpret what the speaker is saying. 

For this conversation, we will explore three levels of essential communication.

God: I used to see God as the guy sitting up there waiting to hit me on the head for everything I did that he did not like. I have since learned that he isn’t like that at all. He is the creator of the universe, Father, and lover of all. He is our source, strong tower, shield, and defence. He loves us and is always speaking words of life to us with the hope that we will listen and then guide us. His words do not return to him void but accomplish all He determined they would (Isaiah 55:11).

He does not withhold from us but provides ways to connect to us. I searched high and low for the perfect way to connect with God. In the search, I found there are several ways to reach him. We connect to God through prayer, the Scripture, the spoken word from his servants, His promises (the ones He has given you as part of your journey), and His blueprint. When God gives us a word, he supports it with a plan and people to bring it to work, His Blueprint. Our conversations with God are a response to his love.

Self: We are all created in God’s image and likeness: his beloved. However, do we understand what that means? Do we see ourselves as worthy of his love and love ourselves fully? Do we accept ourselves as we are? How do we speak to ourselves? 

I am reminded of Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This reality is foundational for every person on earth. We all speak to ourselves based on how we perceive ourselves. We respond to the image in the mirror based on our inner truth. However, is it aligned with whom God says we are and are becoming? 

If we are negative to ourselves, we will speak negatively and out of line for our calling. To be faithful to God’s call on our lives means we must be true to how we deal without ourselves. Be faithful to the word of God for who you are and speak to yourself in the right tone; full of love.

Others: Scripture tells us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 12:31). This means that I cannot be faithful to a friendship with someone else if I am not faithful to my relationship with myself and God. My relationships will be unstable if we are not communicating well with others. How I engage with others is frequently premised on my personal self-awareness and self-confidence levels. 

Which of the three levels of communication do you find challenging? Are you in good stead in all of them or is there one that is a struggle? I have learned that I can only work on what I acknowledge. My previous poor self-communication had significantly affected how I spoke to myself and in turn, impacted how I expected people to deal with and treat me. I choose to work on communication in my journey to consistent faithfulness.


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Prayer for your week

May God reveal more of Himself to and through you.

May His favour, grace and glory be revealed in your growth and prosperity.

May the Lord hear your prayers and respond promptly.

May His blessings be over you and all you have and own.

May you never lack and never want.

May the compassionate Father of lights who gives without a shadow of turning, give you more than you ask for.

May His blessings over you never run dry.

May God be God in all that concerns you.

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God has built need into life.

God has built need into life: for our supply is in Him ~ Rev Tom Otieno.

We are in some of the most challenging times we have ever seen in our generation. I saw my parents navigate hard times and always sort it out. However, we are now in the front seat.

I learned early not to ask for help and to make do with what I had. I heard that it is honourable to suffer through things and persevere. We get applauded as strong when we do not ask for help. In fact, the less we need support, the stronger we are thought to be. Eventually, we lose the ability to ask for help and the capacity to respond to requests. In time we create unhealthy independence and pride that is detrimental in the long run.

We are shamed, castigated, or bullied for failing to meet our needs or asking for help. We appear weak if we can not do something or meet society’s standards because asking for help more than once is frowned on. Seeing people shamed or bullied because of asking for help has led to fear that keeps us silent. So, we learn to hold back and find ways to cope in silence and struggle.

God is my source, supply chain and the holder of the access keys to all resources. God allocates how said resources get to me and works through men. When I do not or cannot ask for help, my supply or access to resources is restricted.

I must learn to ask God for direction on the season and supply, be patient to ask how I will access the provision and who is the supply line. For instance, if I need to talk to the head of a large corporation, I need to speak to the office to book the appointment. I would also need favour with the personal or executive assistant to get time in the schedule and finally show up ahead of time and engage well during the meeting.

I am not saying we depend on people and ask them all the time; no! The truth is, I must be conscious that God speaks a word and then works through people. I must listen carefully to what he is saying.

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Faith is Knowing

Faith is knowing that God is on the throne and in control.

Faith is knowing that God never changes so I can stand on his promises

Faith is knowing that God is in control and able to overturn everything

Faith is knowing that God is reliable no matter what


I stand on the word of God because it is reliable.

I stand on the word of God because it does not change

I stand on the word of God because He has proven it

I stand on the word of God because His word is Yea and amen

Sometimes healing is unexpected.

It is interesting that finding random inspiration from conversations has become my forte these days.

A dear friend asked me why I love control so much. And I was totally miffed for a moment, but he kept asking the question until I had to process what he was saying. It was not a formal accusation as I had thought at first, it was a genuine issue. It was clear that I did not know how to be the one taking orders or the one being questioned. I only knew how to be the lead, the first, the front…the one. It also became clear that my inability to be led was because of a very deep-seated fear of letting go and losing control.

I stepped into an exceedingly difficult classroom for a few weeks.

The curriculum was remarkably simple: give full authority over a certain situation to someone else.

The first few days…I had panic attacks and deep anxiety. I caught feelings when my lead would not answer my questions. I waited for instruction on some matters until the end of the final hour and just before I despaired the response came. I gave up the right to plan the activities and simply waited for them to decide and give instructions. I sat in the corner silently many times during conversations because I needed to learn to listen and hear what others were saying. I learnt to be still and unbothered with the things of life, focused on and driven by the truth of who I am and the purpose for which I came to this world.

My lead was significantly younger than me, so I had to acknowledge and let go of many biases I was completely unaware of before the fact. I had to learn to listen to what the person is saying and not judge them by their age. I had to trust that they knew what we were doing and where we were going even if I could not see it. I had to understand that even when they did not respond to questions or comments, it was not being mean…it was just life. I had to let go of the bias that I am the only one who knows where I want or need to go so, I must captain my ship.

I learnt that I listened to answer not to respond. I learned that I was not the best communicator around. I learned that I had so many preconceptions in my mind that clouded the realities of life and tainted my worldview. I discovered I was disrespectful and brash in certain situations. I was dismissive of people who I did not think had much to say or who had failed me in the past. I learnt that I loved absolute control meaning I had never learnt to trust people who lead me making it impossible to lead me. Finally, I discovered I was disobedient, and it was very costly in my life.

Over the weeks we worked together, I learnt many things as follows:

  • There is absolute beauty in obedience, submission and following the lead of a worthy leader.
  • A worthy leader inspires others to follow them because leadership is influence.
  • I do not have to have full control or even any control in relationships built on trust and love.
  • Submission and obedience are a response to love and security.
  • I will do anything for any leader who proves themselves worthy of their title.
  • I loved the feeling of being covered, defended, and protected from the elements of life.
  • I knew love, concern, and care like I had not experienced in a while.
  • I received healing of my mind, body and should because I was simply doing what I needed to do not what e everyone else has not done

Healing comes from some of the most unexpected places, but I have learnt that is the best kind of healing because it sinks to the depths of our souls and if allowed, it will percolate there until it is fully in the bloodstream and there is nothing that can be done to remove it from my life. This was only the start of a journey and I celebrate the steps I have taken to get here, and the steps being taken in the days to come.

Healing has a way of sneaking up on us and changing our whole internal infrastructure making us sweeter, softer, gentler, happier, and more gracious in our love for and dealing with life. Have you found healing in an interesting place? Please share with us in the comment section.

Healed by your touch

Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

I was focused on doing life

I was looking for the success I wanted

I had no time to stop and sit with people

Then I met you and everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

I could feel your eyes follow me around

I could sense your interest in me

I could feel the watching over me

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

It was never very big things

It was never overt gestures

It was never fancy words or places

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

You held my hand and I instantly calmed

You held my hand and peace descended

You held my hand and my mind stopped racing

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

Your gaze was direct and never wavered

Your eyes challenged me to be honest and true

Your look was playful and stern

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

I learnt that a smile could be felt

I understood that a smile could speak volumes

I believed that a smile changes everything

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

You hugged me and I lost my breath

You hugged me and my words failed for a second

You hugged me and held on tight

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

You hugged me and my world righted

You hugged my and my heart healed

You hugged me and I found my home

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch

Your touch rearranged my life

Your touch transformed my perspectives

Your touch was my gift from heaven

Your touch was my healing

When I met you everything changed


Until you, I never knew the healing power of touch