You know how a single maize seed planted and waters brings many cobs on the stalk and many more seeds? That is what I was thinking about. One small thing lets go of its life and brings forth many more lives and feeds even more. Is that all? Not by a long shot; if you have read my writing for a while you know there are always multiple perspectives. If you are new here, welcome aboard!
I remember many years ago, standing by the grave of my grandmother (Susu), a little, big woman, wondering if this was the end. She was little, only four feet eleven inches tall, but big in her inner strength and ability to raise nine children, run a fifteen-acre farm, support her family and love on others. I remember her purposeful steps, occasionally twinkling eyes, a beautiful smile, her laugh, her steely eyes, her strength of character and her tenacity. Could that really be the end of her? I surely hope not.
It took a while to deal with her death but in time, things began to surface for me, and I wondered how I had never seen them. I have talked about it before how she was harder than me than the rest, how she believed in me even when I did not. On the other hand, she was a sweetheart to me sending for a quarter kilo of meat from 5k away as soon as we arrived so we could have a few special pieces of slow cooked meat with her just before we leave the village. Or how she would send for arrowroot and sugar cane from the farm by the river as soon as I arrived because she knew I loved them.
Losing her was big because the macadamia trees seemed to realise, she was gone and production went down. The mango trees never produced the same, the terraces in the farm seemed lonely and the air of warmth and festivity in homestead dimmed over time. there was no more maize and pigeon peas in a pot in the smoky kitchen or arrowroot and sugar can waiting for me. Even though it took me a long time to really understand, I missed her steely eyes and determination more than anything else.
Sometimes it takes the loss of a loved one to really connect with life and growth.
Going back to the thought of the maize seed, Susu was a seed for my growth. She was the epitome of resilience and the example of grace. Yet I did not understand this until recently; long after she was gone. She planted a seed of self-sacrifice and visible effort. Her seed also included open faith and trust with no excuses living. She was deliberate about who she pushed intuitively knowing who to push and to be softer on. She knew if she just put out the right challenge things would fall into place.
I remember standing by her graveside at her burial dry eyed and strong because that was how I saw her. She had chosen a DNR over a life with health challenges. How could one little lady be so strong and confident to move on to eternity? She knew she had run her race, kept the faith and planted all the seeds her life needed her to put out. She was done and ready to go out strong. She was a seed ready to produce more in its season.
The analogy of seed buried in the ground ready to sprout and produce more than it could above ground rose again recently. The seed may not know it will bring forth previously unknown fruit, in quantities no one ever anticipates but it willingly lays its life down to produce more than itself. Additionally, the side of the seed does not determine the side of new life; consider the size of the mustard seed and the mustard tree. It got me thinking, can every challenge I go through become the fertile ground to build me up?
I did not realise how deeply losing Susu would impact my life until later. I remember times when I could not see the road ahead, I remembered her resilience and I was able to keep going. I remember days when I wanted out of very difficult home and work circumstances when changing my mind about the situation totally altered the situations. I remember days of food shortages or limitations and recalled simple foods she cooked for us in her home.
She was not perfect, but I learnt the pattern of seed and harvest from her.
I must push the thought further to make my life full. I must see more, know more, understand more, and live more. In the search I realised that the other side of the seed is the habits, patterns, and behaviours in my life. They could be making room for me or holding me back.
Might I need to die to procrastination to reach my fullness? Could I attain that business goal by dying to my sleep, or TV or something else? Might my faith walk grown deeper when I plant sacrifice, devotion, and accountability in it? Could I reach my fitness goal by watching what I eat, how I exercise and how much water I drink? Am I being deliberate about my choice and walk?
Something in me must die so that I might find or attain the next level. I must let go of the things that hold me back so that I can rise. Some of the things that hold me back are fear, uncertainty, negative emotions, laziness, negative vibes, experience, past success and strengths. The seed for my future is the fruit of my present. I can no longer hold onto today’s success because it stands in the way of tomorrow’s accomplishments.
Today is the seed I plant for tomorrow’s rising. Tomorrow is the seed for the next day’s rising. Every day, challenge, joy, success, challenge, hope and dream, if the seed for the next place, assignment, place of impact etc.
Don’t fear dying to today, rather fear having no seed for tomorrow.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24
I received the sweetest call recently. It was my sister but the voice on the other end were two of my favourite little people…her little ones. We understand each other pretty well with a translation from my sister. We talk often enough as girls but this call was interesting because it is the little people who orchestrated it.
Little Missy walked up to mummy and said, ‘Call a friend.’ My number was called and of course they recognised my picture and said ‘That is aunty,’ a little confused that she called me and not a friend in their perspective. ‘But she is my friend,’ Mummy replied and they smiled…it made sense to them in that moment and off they went chatting away.
So who are your friends?
I am not talking about people you barely know but are found in common circles. Neither am I talking about workmates or people in your neighbourhood you wave at. Nor drinking or coffee buddies. I am talking about people who will come to your rescue or cry and laugh with you. People who know your roots, paths and destination. You are working to become better and more influential in life.
You respect one another’s faith and ensure it is built. You challenge each other to walk into your ultimate fullness. You dream together, work towards the dream, attain it and dream again. You cheer each other, comfort each other and just have a drink or meal in silence when needed.
How easy is friendship?
True friendship is a work of art like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took Michael Angelo four years of painstaking work to finish this work. Until then, Michael Angelo was better known a sculptor and he was set up at the instigation of two of his artistic rivals, the painter Raphael and the architect Bramante, who totally expected him to fail. He built a scaffolding and started with a painting of Noah and incorporated many stories from the old testament.
What captures my attention is the attention to detail and the commitment to do something he had never done to perfection no matter how long it took. He used the skills he had of bringing inanimate objects to life through sculpture bringing depth, character and emotions to the fore on the ceiling. He adjusted sizes as he went along until he got the right size that still captivates the masses today.
Can we build a work of art?
The simple answer is yes, the long answer is that it takes time. A recent series of conversation has me rethinking friendship. In one, it became clear that we often confuse friends and acquaintances. You cannot call me a friend before you know where I live, what I do for a living, what I believe in and for how long. If you don’t know any of these things about me, you are an acquaintance…no more.
The work of art and cultivation of a relationship is what takes us from acquaintances to friends. It takes time, effort and belief. Time because we hardly share everything about us at once and only do so because of trust. Effort because we will have to commit to conversation, dispute resolution, forgiveness, grace, sharing and much more. Belief because it is foundational that if I don’t have faith that our relationship is worth it then it wont be and I won’t invest in it.
Friendship is rather simple but needs work.
Very often in this age, we are online more than we are in face-to-face conversation and we assume that because we chat and comment on each other’s photos we are friends…hardly. You don’t have to be in the same town or country to build a friendship if you are deliberate and committed. Some of my closest friends are in other counties and time zones and the proof of our friendship continues to be the mutual commitment to make time for each other and to keep the lines of communication open no matter what. Our schedules are different so we have to be deliberate about making time for each other either by text, phone or other means of conversation.
It is about building bridges when one gets hurt and delving deep into our past to find and deal with root of our behaviour. If I have trust issues or fear or rage etc., I must dig deep to uncover the root cause, the real trigger, the foundation that has been built to allow that idea to thrive and control my life. If I am scared of being hurt, I must find the root and deal with it decisively. If I don’t deal with these things, it could scatter our relationship for good.
The clarity of a little one brought me deeper clarity.
Little Missy’s instruction to call a friend had us thinking through what it means to be real friends and truly love each other. It had us thinking about the meaning of friendship and its depth. It brought the depth of the commitment needed, to the surface and allowed us to re-calibrate our friendship.
I am clear who my people are and how much I am willing to give to them.
I am clear that my friends don’t have to look like me
I am clear that I must classify the different people in my life and deal with each one accordingly.
I am clear that common biology or genes do not make us automatic friends…it is built carefully.
I am clear that I will do my part and build my important friendships and live free
I am clear that I am building the foundation of my life one word, conversation, hug, smile and connection at a time
I am clear that every good relationship is worth the effort it takes to build it
When was the last time you asked someone how they are, and they said good, yet you could see it wasn’t so? I can bet it was very recent. What did you do about it? Did you ask again, or did you leave it at that? Did you ask someone else about it or just walk away? Did you pray for them?
I admit it is very easy to say it is well because someone else says they are good but is it all? Is that good enough? Should we just walk away? Should we prod? Should we keep pushing? Should we ask others? What should we do and why is it like this?
I dare say it is because it is above our pay grade.
Pay grade in ordinary life is the system of compensation for employment that determines how much people are paid. It determines how much on is paid and therefore how much one has to spend and what they can do. It opens and closes doors for many, creating limits for many.
In my context, pay grade is determined by the closeness of the relationship and the levels of honesty therein. A close relationship has a higher pay grade and deeper levels of connection and community than one with an acquaintance. Why? Work and time have been put into it that has built relationship. Deep connections are formed from long conversations, disagreements, forgiveness and restoration.
Pay grades rise with commitment.
As we get close and build deeper relationships we learn the value of unity and support. We understand that we are as strong as our deepest relationships and weak in the absence of them. We are as stable as our commitments and as weak as our laxity. Pay grade in relationship allows us to ask the hard questions, hold one another to account and comfort our tribe.
Pay grade is important because it tells us who can and cannot ask for things and expect accountability from. It also tells us what to share and what to keep inside as well as how to deal one to another. They are liberating because they are a clear indicator of safe spaces, neutral spaces and no go areas.
Pay grades are about balance.
Balance to keep growing and changing, shifting and making room for others. It is about understanding where you and your tribe are and how far you want to go together. We are the sum total of our closest friends and mentors so choosing the right people and building the connections are super important.
It is difficult to be open and close to everyone that is why there is need to identify the ones you are walking with and how closely. Many have told me it is hard to vulnerable these days and that could be true for some. Why? Past experiences have proven that you can be exposed or shamed because of what you have shared with others or they have been deserted because they did not fit in.
Vulnerability is truly an incredible gift.
The heart of our lives and the depth therein, is really a function of vulnerability and understanding the intricacies of relationships. I have a tribe who can ask any question and get an answer either immediately or when ready. Conversations are tagged and packed awaiting resolution and are never final until truly finalised. There is no judgement no matter what is done or said and there is deep accountability.
Who is in your pay system and who is not? Be sure to choose your partners well and grow together.
I get fascinated by just how complex our local languages are. I am not as multi-lingual as I would like to be (yes, I want to speak many more languages fluently) but there are things that catch my attention about Afrikan languages. These things may be true of other languages but I can only speak of what I know.
A few years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance from America about Kiswahili. She was frustrated because as soon as she understood one word and its meaning she would find out there were at least one other meaning. The bigger challenge was also that many people spoke Kiswahili with a mix of sheng (this word is actually only said by people of a certain age these days). She was so frustrated with the lack of clarity in our language. At first I was offended because how could she be so quick to judge our language then I realised that if I had been raised with only English as my language which is quite straight forward I would be that frustrated. Now that I think about it, the intricacies in the English language are around spellings and not the many meanings. Anyway I digress.
There are complexities in our languages (I am sure non Afrikan languages have them too) that would make others frustrated and in some instances angry; yet that is indeed part of the beauty and gravity of the gift of God in our lives. These complexities filter into sub languages like slang or sheng or lugha ya mtaa depending on where you are from and when you were born.
For instance, Sasa means how are you or now depending on the context and intonation. Tembeacould mean walk or visit. Poameans fine or getting cold in reference to food. There are also instances when a word in one language means is something innocent and in the neighbouring village or language group is a derogatory term. On the other hand, one word had a positive or negative meaning depending on context of use or intonation especially where the languages are very tonal like the Kamba people.
The only way to really understand any language is to learn it. Not just book learning but conversational learning. It is important to understand how to string the words together, how to intone them, how to pause for effect among others. I dare say it would be the same when learning French which has male, female and neutral words.
So what is my point?
There are many sides to each of us and things have different meanings too. Why do I say so? I have been working diligently to be gentle with the teams I lead but have found that being gentle all the time does not work. There are teams who will see my stern side and those I will handle with kid gloves. There are individuals I will call and check on all the time and those who will have to learn to seek information. There are people who will know my happy go lucky cheeky side intimately (yes it is there) and those who will only see glimpses.
So just as my language is God given and unapologetic of making people go through hoops to learn therefore I will be unapologetic of the many facets intricately woven together to make me the special human being I am. This is no excuse to be mean to people and say that is how I am rather it is a call to be true to who I am and how I know our interactions must be. It is a call to make time for the things that matter to me and say no to what is not aligned.
It is a demand of myself to understand that No is a full sentence and does not have to be explained if something is in contravention with my values. I have to be careful to speak my language right that I may be understood therefore I must live my life right to become all God has seen in me and accomplish the task that brought me to this earth.
Arise beloved of the Father aware that you are made perfect for His plan
Understand no one can make you feel unworthy unless for some reason you already think you are
Know that every twist and turn in you is a blessing and design feature not a flaw
The many sides of you are a blessing to make you unique and exciting to meet so be still
Above all, understand that there is only one of you so be the best version of yourself…unapologetically
You know how a song just changes your perspectives?
This week I found a rendition of Sinach’s Way Maker by The Pentecostals of Alexandria in an arrangement by Harvest Music Live that spoke to me. I was in the middle of an assignment, a little tired but determined to keep going because of an upcoming submission timeline when it came on. The internal sense of discord was so high I needed to re-calibrate, so I stopped to listen keenly and really allow it to speak to me.
It isn’t a new song, but it was the first time I heard this version and it was exactly what I needed in that moment. The most spectacular part of the song was the bridge towards the end…wow! It stopped me mid-thought and I had to go back a little bit…
Even when I don’t see it, You’re working; Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working; You never stop, You never stop working.
Life has to be all about TRUST.
There was pressure all around me and my loved ones. Many are working through loss of different things; job, relationships, faith, hope etc, and a rise in fear. My work is intense and seemed to be more than I could stand and I had to stop. As I sat listening, I saw how high my internal pressure was even though it had not been evident. There was so much going on internally that I was not thinking about. So I took a deep breath and began dealing.
It got me thinking about those around me who are struggling with their faith; those who followed a clear instruction from God but life seems to have gone down the drain and God walked away; those who couldn’t see the hand of God in their situation let alone recognise His presence in their lives. There are also those who wonder if He still exists and if He is interested in their lives.
Is the big guy upstairs still interested and in charge?
One of my friend asked that recently. Very often we doubt God’s interest and power when we are in challenging situations because of how we are raised. We were taught that when God is in control everything works and we are never under pressure. We are also told that when things are going ‘of the rails’ we are living in sin and rebellion but alas. Now we find ourselves in places that must make us rethink. Is God really the one allowing us to go through all this drama? Does he even care?
The questions are boundless. If He cares, why would He allow my business to fail? Why would He allow my father to pass? Why would He allow my partner to lose his job? Why is my child unwell? How come there is so much trouble in the world? Where is God in the middle of this sickness? Why has he allowed this?
God does different things every time and we must get used to that.
Most of us lose trust and become uncomfortable with life when we don’t understand things. Our natural perspective is to see and believe. Our most comfortable place is absolute sight and confidence but is that even true of life? Does everything always go to plan? Do we always know what is going on and how to respond? Are we always sure of the plan? I dare to say no!
I am yet to find anyone who knows exactly what God is doing all the time. I know many who receive revelation every moment that changes their responses and aligns them to the realities of heaven. It is interesting to watch them interact with life through understanding and insight beyond many. I pray many more of us get to that place of grace and strength.
I must find my way and build my tent at that place of divine connection.
The part of the song that caught and held my attention was the words ‘even when I don’t see‘…stop and think about that for a bit. He is in charge even when I do not think He is available. His presence is not defined by whether or not I feel or see Him. It is not determined by how clear my senses are. His presence is there, every day, every moment, every breath, every thought. He is all around and in me even when I do not feel it.
If I can be sure of the love of my partner even when we are fighting, why can’t I be sure that God is in control no matter what? If I can have faith that my work will bear fruit how can I doubt God and His abilities. If I don’t worry about my next breath, step or thought surely I can learn to trust He who put all these things in place.
There are things beyond me that cannot be fixed by work and declarations.
I must be grounded in something more than myself to remain focused and accomplish the fullness of my life. I must find a deeper source of strength and faith than myself. So, I choose to shift my eyes to He who know it all and even when I do not feel or see it, He is at work. He is leading the way. He knows what I need and when I need it.
So I fix my eyes on He who knows the end from the beginning, who understands the path He has set for me. The one who orchestrates my life including sending help at the right moment. The one who opens and shuts doors as He knows will work for me, who makes my life worth every breath and protects the impact my life is designed to produce.
Even when I don’t feel or see it, He’s working, He never stops working.