G’BYE ZANZIBAR

I’m writing this post like I wrote the first, sitting at the jetty bar, watching the sun make her deliberate way down to the sea. For some reason I’m close to tears, in a good way. I’m grateful. For this week, for the things I have been told and the things I have been reminded of. It has only been a week, but it has been enough.

I’m watching the sun do what she does every evening, and watching the sea gracefully receive her. I watch the birds skim over the waves, the white one, the 5 Black ones and the last one that always gets left behind. All listening to a clock that they might not always be aware of, one that says nonetheless when it is time.

This week was perfect. I planned to explore Zanzibar and I did, but I also spent time doing absolutely nothing and remembering how it feels to pause. Sometimes we rush about so busily doing so many things, that we miss life. So I paused; I did nothing. I slept early and woke up late; I ate new dishes, had evening cocktails and took long luxurious baths in the middle of the day. I didn’t check my email at every minute, didn’t fuss, didn’t stress, didn’t talk on the phone, did nothing I didn’t have…or want to.

And it was good.

I decided on this trip after a malaria attack that scared the living daylights out of me. Scared me because I am one of the healthiest people I know. I spent 3 days in bed sleeping, partly because I was unable to get out of bed. Weirdly though, my appetite was fine. I went back to work to hear how good I looked. I know it was malaria, my test results showed malaria, but I also know I was exhausted and that my body quite simply, shut down.

On this trip I’ve, without effort, found my thought processes arranging and assessing – all I did last year in life, work and love, all I need to work on this year, things I need to change, things I need to upgrade, goals and so on.

Things have popped to the surface, other things have disappeared and I can feel that again I am in a cycle of evolution that will see me better, stronger, wiser and more capable.

I had a funny experience on Monday. Now, 2 days before, on Saturday, I had missed an opportunity to see the dolphins on our ocean safari. So I asked God if He could pretty please, give me some dolphins. Fast forward to Monday, I asked the guide as we rode the boat to Prison Island, if dolphins came the route we were taking, he said “No, but who knows”. I accepted that I had missed my chance and forgot about it. On my way back from Prison Island (pictures soon), I was chilling in the boat, lulled into semi hypnosis by the movement of the waves, when the boat operator pointed at something with a shout.

Dolphins

Jumping, flipping, crossing from one side of the boat to the other. They’d disappear for a while and then, just as we were getting all settled in, they’d flip again and jump and play. The guide looked at me and said “You’re the luckiest person. I have never, in all my years of touring, seen those dolphins so close and so many. They don’t even come to this side of the sea; I have never seen them here.”

We have a Father who hears our silliest, smallest prayers. And who delights to give us these pleasures to make our lives beautiful. If He would send dolphins off their route to answer His daughter’s prayer, what won’t He give me if it is His will?

I’m grateful

I’m grateful for this trip, that I took it and that I could afford it. It’s not a blessing I take for granted, God’s grace in my life in all its different manifestations.

I’m grateful that I got to watch the sun set, got to learn that no matter how dramatic life gets, that there are certain things that will never change, that all our worry is as futile as trying to stop the waves of the sea, that sometimes our “only me” way of thinking stops us from noticing the vastness of the world we live in. I’m grateful that I got to explore and experience things I’ve never done before. I’m grateful for the promise of possibility.

Watching the sun set this evening, with my heart so full that I feel I need to cry to ease the pressure, I accept again that I will always be the one who feels things maybe a bit too deeply, who is more sensitive than people think, whose heart is easily full…I know that it means that I will feel hurts that others will ignore, and that I will agonize over decisions that should be easy, that sometimes my heart will speak before my head. But I will also be the one to fall in love with the fading hues of the sunset, or the waves as they travel on endless journeys, or with dolphins who take the time to say Hello.

I got what I came here for. I’m full. I’m ready to go back home.

SAFARI BLUE

So yesterday I went on this ocean safari yes, going to look at dolphins and stuff. And guys I have to confess I fulfilled every stereotype of behaviour that we’ve seen on DPs. Because everyone shows up in bikinis and slippers, and Arit shows up in ankara pants, toting her tab. But at least the pants were blue. And I already knew I wouldn’t be snorkelling – I had no swimsuit plus I have refused to learn to swim properly. I had one plan – sit in the boat, take pictures, enjoy the breeze, look at the sea and just enjoy. And well, I carried it out. We went off on a long drive from the resort to the beach. It was interesting seeing Zanzibar. Didn’t take a lot of pictures though.

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Then after about half an hour, we turned unto this lane

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A bit more driving and we arrived at the beach

Dhows in the distance

  Dhows in the distance

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It was low tide and I had a sinking feeling when I realised we would have to walk all the way out to those boats. The beach was full of eager people waiting to head out and go. And then our guide for the day showed up

Zahidi

Zahidi

Pretty chilled out dude. He pointed out our boat and we headed out into the water. I have no pictures because I was too busy trying to avoid stepping on sea urchins and clutching the knapsack of the guy in front of me to keep from drowning. The water got to my waist.

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This was the journey out to the boats for some of the other groups

Safely on the boat, we set off

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Goodbye dry land

Goodbye dry land

Jan - the kind gentleman who let me clutch his knapsack on the journey in

Jan – the kind gentleman who let me clutch his knapsack on the journey in

We passed these guys on the way

We passed these guys on the way

Out in the open sea

Out in the open sea

We finally got to this place in the middle of the sea. Most people donned flippers and masks to go snorkelling, I arranged my feet under me and enjoyed the scenery

Sea vegetation

Sea vegetation

The fish are usually fed slivers of coconut, so once they see hands in the water, the swim right over

The fish are usually fed slivers of coconut, so once they see hands in the water, they swim right over

Then we got to drink some coconut water after the strenuous work of (in my case, doing nothing).

Then we got to drink some coconut water after the strenuous work of (in my case, doing nothing).

I was about to join all the other tourists to squeal about eating the soft coconut flesh till I remembered I’d eaten this stuff in my village before. So I respected myself and ate quietly

That is real coral...dead though.

That is real coral…dead though.

More coral, according to our guide, Zanzibar is made from coral

More coral, according to our guide, Zanzibar is made from coral

These people were on hand to sing for us as we arrived an island for lunch

These people were on hand to sing for us as we arrived an island for lunch

These guys sang so enthusiastically, and then they got into a rendition of Flavour’s Ash…song. I have it recorded. I tell you Flavour never hesperred this remix to his song. After lunch – seafood and island fruit, we got back into the boat and headed off to this haunting place surrounded by mangrove and coral

Mangrove river

Mangrove river

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Some people wey no dey tire got out to swim, I, as was to be expected, chilled in the boat. Heading back in, we made our way back to shore by sail and guys, it was lovely. My inner Oron girl came to the fore and I couldn’t help enjoying the sway of the waves as it lifted our boat and carried it to its destination. Half an hour of eating pineapples, laughing and just feeling blessed. Sadly my battery had died by this time so no more pictures. Also evidence of my inner Oron girl, I didn’t need time to get my land legs back. I got off the boat and walked like I hadn’t been on water all day. Didn’t think it was weird until another lady who’d done the tour told me that it took her hours for her feet to settle.

Anyway, I’m off for another tour tomorrow. I’ll make sure my camera is fully charged. Ciao or like they say here, Ahsante sana

DAY 2…

Picture credit to a very nice South African lady whose name I don't remember

Picture credit to a very nice South African lady whose name I don’t remember

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Attempting a smile

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Late evening…

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Silhouettes

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Little cat beggar

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Sunset approaching

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Boat approaching

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I love this jetty bar…

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Make person no sink ontop the matter

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Setting back off

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She starts to dip

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Still blazing though…

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Going…

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Going…

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Gone

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The hotel from the jetty

TRUST THE PROCESS 1 – SEEDTIME AND HARVEST

A few years ago, I got heavily into debt. It started out small and before I knew it, it was a lifestyle. Have a Need? I’d pray, then search my mind for someone that “God” might possibly direct me to ask. I enjoyed good relationships with a number of people and I borrowed from almost all of them.  Before I knew it, I was in trouble. One day in church, the pastor pointed at the section where I was sitting and said ” there’s someone on that side, you’re heavily in debt, on the verge of disgrace. God is going to come through for you” I burst into tears of both shame and relief…I knew it was me.

As I made my way home, I could practically see my testimony in church the next week. How I was sitting at home, and I got a sudden mysterious credit alert. Or how all my debtors suddenly all called to forgive my debt. Or how someone just called out of the blue to give me the exact amount I needed. I was relieved and excited.

None of that happened…I spent the next 2 years paying off that debt and yet, God did come through for me. He used that process, the eye opening process of calculating exactly how much I owed, the calls one by one to let my creditors know when they could expect their money, the relief when 2 forgave my debt, the resentment and then unhappiness when one creditor cut me off…it took that entire process to teach me the lessons about finance that now define my life.

Why do we run away from the process? Why do we try to avoid the very lessons that God prepares to teach us the lessons we need? We want it now, the ready made solution, the overnight miracle…and though there are quite a few of us that will wake up one day with an unexpected solution to a problem, guys, for many of us, that will not happen because the very thing we’re running away from is the very thing you need to grow to become what you need.

Every guy since you’ve been 18 has dumped you…you’re 31 and single. You’re resentful and angry. What is your process? You’ve tried 5 million businesses, they all fail, people have stopped picking your calls because they don’t want to hear about another hare brained scheme. You’re confused. What is your process?

Guys I learned. In that period I learned. I realised I had no business eating out and being one of those onigbeses constantly being called out on twitter. I learned that before I took out my expenses money I had to pay off that month’s bill or it would become impossible. I lost a relationship with a mentor who was trying to teach me how to diversify income but whose purpose in my eyes, was as a pocket. I learned responsibility. I learned prudence. I learned all I needed to learn.

I learned that sometimes, what you need is not “a seed”. One of the things I owed was a pledge I had made in church. I couldn’t afford it, I had no income. But I made it and waited for God to supply the money I would use to pay the seed. He didn’t. Sometimes guys, throwing money at the altar won’t cut it.

I realised that, while faith will often defy logic, it is not irresponsible. I learned that God will honour faith, but not foolishness. There are times when you get a clear word from God  – this money you’ve set aside, it’s for Me. And you know it is. But how many of us go up to the altar, not a dime in our pocket, in the full assurance that money we don’t have and have no chance of getting will somehow be given to us to pay a seed we did not receive a word to sow. If God asks you to pay a monetary seed, brethren be assured He will give you the money, but if He has not spoken to you…well…

How many of you have borrowed to sow a seed? How many of us understand what a seed is?

It’s not money. It’s something you invest that yields a return. And while sometimes your seed is cash, many many times, your seed has nothing to do with money.

You’re believing God for a car. They announce car dedication, you go up the aisle, drop a “seed” in the basket. Go outside and lay your hands on the car and ask God to acknowledge your seed. Then your cab guy calls to tell you he has arrived and you hop in and drive off, past the church members waiting fruitlessly for a cab.

You’re trusting God for a promotion, and so you sow a “seed”. But 5pm on the dot your bag is packed and you’re ready to go.

Sometimes your seed is not a seed.

You know what I realised this morning, I have always, no matter where I have worked, had at least one, many times more than one person that has taken the responsibility of teaching and mentoring me. Always. Might it be tied to the fact that everywhere I go, I make it a duty to teach the people who work with me? So that as I am sowing into people’s lives I am also reaping from others?

Evaluate your seed.

You’re out of school and need a job, you walk to church and put in some money, believing for that miracle job that will elevate you to family rockstar. Past the office where you can volunteer to work to build work experience and where God has placed someone who will one day offer you a higher position that will lead to another position that will lead you to rockstar status.

My sister teased me once, she said that my answer to everything was “How much is it?” And so it was. I had gotten so used to throwing money at stuff that I had stopped working on things. Let me paint us a picture. You have one junior friend who you know isn’t in great circumstances. One day, junior comes to you and says “Senior, I need school fees for this year. Please, let me wash your clothes for a week and then you’ll help me” So you agree. Next, Junior needs books and so cleans your house for a week. By Junior’s 4th or 5th visit, you’re thinking as you watch Junior come up your driveway “What does he want this time?”

We kinda treat God like those old pumps where you had to pour a little water in first before water would come out. Don’t we? Because giving money for something we need frees us from working on it, frees us from learning, from stretching, from the painful processes associated with growth.

Guys, our lives should be a constant process of sowing – everything we have and we are should be a seed. A daily taking up of the cross and following, a daily death to self in order to awake to Him. When we are asked to be a living sacrifice, we become a daily seed – living our lives for the sole process of giving to Him. And as we do, He takes our seeds and provides us a harvest, sometimes totally without our knowledge.

Remember that piece in the Bible where Jesus is telling some guy “You fed me when hungry, clothed me when naked, visited me in prison” And dude is like “Huh, Lord, when was that? Cos I don’t remember”. When your life becomes a seed, giving to Christ through the people that you serve becomes a way of life so much a part of you that it stops being about what you need, and starts becoming about what you can give.

So when you wake up one day and some random person out of the blue has called you for a job you didn’t apply for, you have no clue that it was the harvest from the woman who came to apply for cleaner in your office, who was looking for a 25,000 a month job, but who you recommended for 35,000 Office Assistant because you took the time to evaluate her and realised that she had the skills and temperament for the job.

Or the harvest for working night after night, after everyone else had gone, doing your bit and then extra, treating the company like your own.

Or the harvest for that lady who lost her husband and whose children you offered to pay school fees for, despite your lack, because you knew she didn’t have a job.

Or the harvest for that friend of yours who you happened to refer to that other friend of yours who was looking for someone for his office.

And when you give the testimony in church, you have no seed to tie it to, because your life, day by day, is a seed, a gift to the one who sowed His life for you.

And then Person B ties into the testimony with a hefty sum of money, and when God shows that job paying below minimum wage to start off with, Person B has no clue that God is showing them the farm into which they must sow. And so they turn the job down.

Let me issue a disclaimer again – I have nothing against giving money in church. Sometimes that indeed is what is asked. My point is this, we need to go beyond the giving of money to the real sowing, the surrendering of ourselves to be vessels here on earth. We need to understand that even when we give money, many times the seed is not the money itself, but the sacrifice. The yielding. We need to open our minds to the understanding that a seed is not something you give God for Himself, but something you give Him to work with so that He can give back to you, and always, beyond a doubt, the best seed that you can give God, is you. We need to stop trying to escape the process of growth, the painful, stretching process of investing into something that pays off into a harvest that lasts a lifetime.

Some years ago, I had a bad breakup, I dedicated one year of my life to being single. I would not have called it a seed, except in that year, God opened my eyes to all the mistakes I had been making in my relationships. I ended that year a different person than I started it, the lessons will stay with me all my life.

I struggled with a lack of victory in many areas. And God led me to invest 10 minutes in the morning and 10 at night to praying in tongues. Just 10. And it started a process of metamorphosis that still amazes me till today with how much is changing within me.

I learned that God will not give me shortcuts simply because I want to avoid the complications of the mess I left on the road. I learned that the process itself is a seed in itself, reaping a harvest far beyond my imaginations. I learnt that the best seed I can sow is the giving of my life to Him, yielding to His learning, pouring myself out as He did – it’s a sharing of my time, my money, my work, my sweat…it’s a complete surrender. I am learning to die daily like Paul – to give mine for His, trusting that He is able to take my mortal seed and give me an immortal harvest.

I’m not there yet, but it’s a process, and I’m growing

And sometimes guys, the harvest takes forever to show, and you wait, and wonder, and worry. You don’t know what else to do. Sometimes dear friend, the waiting itself is the process. But as sure as there is a God in Heaven, your harvest will come.

BIRTHDAY LOVE

This post is for Susan Anyogo, let me start off by saying that. Her birthday message to me specifically requested a blog post and I was honoured and humbled by her appreciation of my writing.

I have just celebrated another birthday and guys, my heart is just too full of gratitude to God for another day, another year and another chance to celebrate it. It also made me think back to some of my most wonderful birthdays and why.

My 17th birthday, I planned a bash for about 30 people. Over 80 people came to my house, half of them had no clue who the celebrant was. They had fun, enough so that my aunty had to turn off the music at 8pm and send everyone home. Celebrations are important, and yes it is nice to be celebrated, but when someone walks by you with no clue that you are the person they are there to celebrate, there is wahala.

My 18th on the other hand was very laidback. What made it special was a visit from a cousin that I had only met on one other occasion. She came by and we cooked all day and then proceeded to eat all we had cooked. I haven’t seen her since then, but it was a day full of love or laughter.

It might have been this birthday or the next that had me make what I think was my best cake ever, a lemon cake so light and fluffy that I think it could have taken wing. Delicately scented with lemon zest, and both sweet and tangy. It was perfect

My 19th birthday had me make this giant paint bucket of the most delicious! zobo which I stored in my deep freezer. That zobo guaranteed me visitors for the rest of the week, was it by accident that all of them “mysteriously” knew I had zobo in the house. I think not!

My 21st saw 3 gifts from my mum – all of them valuable, but also so significant that I think I will always carry them everywhere I go.

The birthdays kinda stop being about the years then, but other memories take their place.

One birthday had my boo at the time take me to a restaurant I’d only ever dreamed of visiting. It was a great sacrifice because said boo was broke, but I will never remember the almost magical feeling of that night – it was a celebration of love and possibility.

And another birthday reminds me of the argument just before, when that boo wanted to buy me a gift that I thought too expensive, and my realisation that I didn’t know how to receive things of value.

This birthday will count on this list for 2 reasons. It’s the first time I have received a word from God for my year on my birthday. Now a few years ago I needed some heavy guidance, and so on the 31st of December I went to church and asked for His help. He gave me one word that guided my year and gave me all the answers I needed. And ever since I got that expo, every 31st sees me ready for a word. And I get one. However, it never occurred to me to ask for one for my birthday, and Abba being who He is, He gave me one. A birthday present that I believe will be the definition of my coming year.

The word was Unapologetic. A word fitting because many times I have felt like I needed to apologize, for God’s blessings, for the things He asks of me, decisions I need to make…and Abba, knowing that this is one thing I need to let go of, has asked me to stop. To stop excusing His blessings and diminishing them, to stop acting like other people’s opinions matter more than His. To stop feeling like this path I walk is another’s that I mistakenly found myself on. I sense a year of great changes guys, a year of awesome changes, and some surprising, maybe strange ones. But I know that the One who carries me, who has carried me, well, He will carry me through this year, in style – His way.

The second thing is that there is something I have wanted to do for my birthday every year, but it has never been possible. This year, finally, I will start off another first in my life that I have long dreamt of. It’s a surprise now o! But I will share later…when it is time

Anyway guys, time to go now. But talk soon. God bless and thank you for all the birthday love