Monthly Archives: July 2013

Why God will say “NO”

God says no

The first post I ever posted on this blog was how to pray. It wasn’t a ‘mistake’ that I chose to give a guideline on how to conduct personal prayers when clearly my blog is all about memoirs and personal opinions (the way I see it). It is something I did, to honour the presence of God in my life, because my life-who I am-revolves around Him. My thoughts; the essence of who I am is based on my faith. So when all’s said and done, everything comes down to my relationship with God.

In ‘how to pray’, I mentioned that one shouldn’t expect immediate results as that could dampen one’s faith if a prayer isn’t answered immediately. One crucial fact a person should always have in mind is that God’s answer to our prayers could be YES, WAIT or NO.

In Luke 11: 1-4, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray- The Our Father Prayer. It is basically a prayer that’s short and precise. Then Jesus went ahead to tell them how they should be persistent in their prayer; in Luke 11:5-13 He says to them, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say to him, ‘friend let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house and I don’t have food for him!’

And I suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me!’ The door is already locked and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.

And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and he who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.

Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Jesus teaches us to pray with persistence and with hope. Our prayers will be answered; that’s His promise. One would wonder then, why even after all this-Jesus encouraging people to ask, and they shall receive… would God the Father still deny us some of the things we ask for? Why would God say NO?

God is infinitely wise; He’s omniscient; if He knows whatever one is asking for will bring them harm, He will say NO. He loves us too much to give us things He knows would hurt us.

If one is asking for a problem e.g. an illness, anxiety, financial problems, etc. to be taken away and God knows that in His mysterious ways the particular problem will help one achieve salvation. For instance, in Matthew 26: 39 when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane praying, shortly before He was arrested He threw Himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what You want”.

He was asking God not to allow Him to go through the intense pain and torture He knew awaited Him-it had been written in the scriptures. But even though He is God’s only begotten Son, The Father didn’t grant Him that prayer; because He knew His Son would achieve so much more in death. To date, we celebrate the fact He conquered death; it gives us hope. If He didn’t die, we would be telling an entirely different story.

God will say NO, if one isn’t doing much to make the situation better. If a student is praying for success in their examinations, they should revise; if a farmer is praying for an abundant harvest, he must sow…one should give God something to work with. Our faith must be in sync with our actions.

God will say NO, if one isn’t being persistent in prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray without ceasing; the prayer might not be answered instantly, but eventually it will be. If one wants something, they should pray for it in faith, believing that they will find what they seek. Sometimes it is difficult to hold on, but one should keep the faith. In the bible, the story of Isaac’s birth, Samuel’s birth, Jacob’s marriage to Rachel… this stories are all about faith and persistence…

 

 

My take: Fifty Shades Trilogy

fifty shades

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed….this story was everything I hoped it would be. E.L. James didn’t disappoint.

It’s been a long while since I last watched/read something so intriguing that left me feeling like an addict. The last time I felt this stimulated was a couple of months ago when I watched The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn; Edward Cullen and Bella’s love scenes were so intense; I realized something was missing in my life. I felt like the two were rubbing it in my face I was single and lonely.

As I read about Christian and Ana, I couldn’t help feeling like I was still watching The Twilight Saga. It wasn’t such a coincidence after all; apparently, E. L. James was inspired to write the Fifty Shades Trilogy by the Twilight Series.

One might wonder why I’m taking time to write about a book, which everyone else has written or said something about; why I would waste my time adding similar stuff to an already saturated web, but mine is not just the typical book review; I’m merely trying to see the reality in an amazing fictional story.

I must admit, when I first read Fifty Shades of Grey, I was a bit apprehensive; why would some naïve girl like Ana Steel consider the possibility of hooking up with someone as damaged as Christian Grey? Initially he didn’t want her because he liked her, he only thought she could make a perfect submissive. On the other hand, she was genuinely attracted to him; she even dared to dream about a romantic-hearts and flowers- relationship with him. I would normally refer to it as being over ambitious.

But then, that’s precisely why I got hooked into this trilogy. Ana dared to dream. She saw hope, where there was none. I reckoned if I was Ana, I would have made for the hills the instant Christian showed her the contract. The issue of butt plugs, karabiners, whips, canes…none of that seemed appealing to me. The ‘red room of pain’? I couldn’t stomach it. In my head, erotic experiences were supposed to be fun, not tearful. I hated it that Ana had blisters to nurse after their ‘kinky fuckery’.

As I neared the end of the first book, I couldn’t wait to finish it. I feared that if I read more of Christian I would hate him; but as I started with the second-Fifty Shades Darker- the story became an emotional roller-coaster. Sometimes I was too anxious; I’d never imagined a book could do that to someone.

The storyline sucked me in; I stopped seeing Christian as the sadist he claimed to be and Ana the naïve woman she was. Instead I started seeing to people who had mountains to get rid of before they could finally live the happily-ever-after. I saw a needy man, who was determined to risk his all, so he could keep the love of his life. He knew that by agreeing to let Ana into his life he would be practically turning his back on the only life he had known-being an all-time domineering, control freak.

I saw two people in love, who were willing to make whatever compromises to accommodate the other’s needs. By the time I finished with the second book, I was awed by Christian; only he could make BDSM seem appealing.

Generally, I loved the book, not for the steamy erotic moments-which I must admit were very many- but for their murky journey; the storm they weathered before the sun finally shone on them. It was all about sacrifices. Theirs wasn’t the ordinary love story; it was the epic triumph of love.

Basically, each person has that masochist in them; he/she might not come wielding floggers, leather crops and cuffs, but they inflict pain on others, or take pain inflicted on them stoically.

The novel has sought of given me something to make references to; I know it sounds crazy, but it’s only after reading such a captivating fictional story that I realized, if one truly loves someone, they will gladly sacrifice anything. I knew that already, but reading the story reminded me one can dream and actually live their dream.

Personally I hate caning; I have a history. Teachers in my primary school thought it was the most effective disciplinary measure. Only my palms were subjected to the stinging pain, but watching the boys receive their fair share on their bums gives me an inkling of what a painful experience it could be.

I’ve never considered pain as a possible way of affording me any pleasure; doesn’t matter if it’s caning, lie-on-lap-spanking (that, I deem demeaning on all levels)…anything that inflicts pain on me, I hate. Nonetheless, if I found someone who was willing to sacrifice something significant for me, maybe like Ana, I too would consider the possibility of enduring some pain…I would consider sacrificing something I treasure.

Love is all about making sacrifices.

 

 

God’s will: Seeing through the eyes of Faith

I realize a couple of months have gone by since Easter, but there are a few important points I gathered that I found so helpful. See, there’s this prayer I bumped into (and I say bumped into because I didn’t go looking for it, I just found it): My Jesus, I have travelled your way of the cross. It seems so real and I feel so ashamed. I complain of my sufferings and find obedience to the Father’s Will difficult. My mind bogged down by the poverty, sickness, starvation, greed and hatred in the world. There are many innocent people who suffer so unjustly.

There are those born with physical and mental defects. Do we understand that You continue to carry Your cross in the minds and bodies of each human being? Help me to see the Father’s Will in every incident of my daily life. This is what You did-You saw the Father’s will in Your persecutors, Your enemies and Your pain. You saw a beauty in the cross and embraced it as a desired treasure.

My worldly mind is dulled by injustice and suffering and I lose sight of the glory that is to come. Help me to trust the Father and to realize that there is something great behind the most insignificant suffering. There is someone lifting my cross to fit my shoulders-there is Divine wisdom in all the petty annoyances that irk my soul every day. Teach me the lessons contained in my Cross, the wisdom in its necessity, the beauty of its variety and the fortitude that accompanies even the smallest cross…”

This particular prayer ‘found’ it’s way to me at a very convenient moment; God knew I would need it a few weeks down the line. Last year December I had a dream, and unlike other dreams I always get when I’m deep in slumber, this one didn’t just die. It became a tormenting thought.

Three years ago I made three friends, all from my estate; my skating buddies. They were all guys, who were so different from each other, but I liked them regardless, because I realized each one was unique in their own way. I found one so loquacious, and I appreciated it because if we were together I would never feel bored. He’s basically one of those guys who always have something interesting to say. His downside, I realized, was that he easily gets swayed by other people’s opinions.

The second one was a bit reserved. He’s an introvert but his sense of responsibility awed me. He’s the kinda guy who will stay sober in a party, just to keep an eye on his friends while they drink away, and every so often will remind them not to over indulge. Once, we had a tête-à-tête and as I listened to his long term plan, I felt if he didn’t get derailed he would be every kid’s ideal dad. I was impressed.

The third one was a laid-back guy, fun-loving, an exquisite dancer and a trend setter among his guy friends. Sometimes we would find ourselves alone, sitted somewhere just chatting and I felt he was more like me- quiet or chatty depending on whose company he was in. He was good at everything he did; if he was in his skates, he would give onlookers something amazing to talk about. If he was on the dance floor, he would put his soul in it and from a lady’s perspective, he was quite a charmer.

When I met them the first time, I couldn’t ignore the fact that they were all so breathtaking, but then I reminded myself of that principle I’ve always upheld for the past few years since I left high school; not to have any romantic relationships with my co-workers or neighbours. It’s a decision I made after realizing I wouldn’t always up and leave if a relationship I had at work or in my neighbourhood turned sour. I had no choice but to draw my own boundaries.

The three guys were best friends, and looking at their individual traits, I realized they complimented each other. I always repeated my mantra in my head; however irresistible they appeared, all we could be was friends. That served as my constant restraint. Another reason that made me stick to my mantra was the simple fact that if I bumped into any one of them in the estate, in the company of another lady, I wouldn’t feel a tad jealous. They were just friends.

Whoever said rules were meant to be broken was so right because sometimes I would find myself going against my own mantra and I would find myself flirting. It was a guilty-pleasure. Once we attended a house party, and as we danced to the dance hall tunes, pulling off some risqué moves, the inevitable happened; guy #1 and me got caught up in the party mood and before we knew it we were groping each other, our lips locked in a lustful passion.

It took a while before I came back to my senses.  Later that night I hit the reset button and the next day we went back to being just friends. Complicated friendship.

Of the three guys, I felt more connected to guy #3, but even then, our relationship remained a semblance of Platonicism, marred by the occasional flirting. The way I see it, it is almost impossible to have a platonic relationship with someone you could be attracted to; it takes all the strength one can summon.

So last year December I had this dream, that guy #3 had moved. It felt like a nightmare. When I woke up, I couldn’t be happier that it had just been a dream, but then an inexplicable ominous feeling engulfed me; it was that of an imminent loss. Ever since, no matter how hard I tried to shake off that feeling it just refused to go away. Whenever we met up I had this thought drumming at the back of my mind that he wouldn’t be around for long.

Funny thing is, he had never mentioned anything about them moving, and two, the idea felt odd because all the houses in the estate are mortgaged so people don’t move often. In my head I pictured how it would happen; my small sister would be the one to notice the empty house, then she would come and tell me about it. It was like a premonition.

In April, that’s when my nightmare came true, exactly as I had pictured it in my head. One might wonder why it felt like a big deal; they’d only moved. Truth is I’m not a big believer in long distance relationships, so at the back of my mind I knew things would change. It wouldn’t be the same again. I wouldn’t see him as often as I used to; maybe I would never see him again.

Our dining room window overlooks their house, so as I stood there looking at the curtainless windows in the distance, petrified that my dream had come true and the fact that my friend had just moved, I remembered the prayer; to see God’s will in everything. I couldn’t understand how it happened; the guy I liked most was precisely the one who had gone, and it hadn’t happened out of the clear blues; I had known it would happen, and no one had told me about it in advance. It felt eerie. I didn’t know what to make of it.

staring out

That morning, as I stared outside in a trance, the past few weeks started replaying in my head. Somehow, whenever we planned to meet up, something would happen, making us cancel. Maybe I was being paranoid, but there was literally, a greater force than us keeping us apart.

The only way I could move on was if I looked at it through the eyes of faith; it was God’s will. It hurt; it felt surreal, but knowing that it was God working calmed me down; there was something great behind the most insignificant suffering.

I reasoned, with the turn things had been taking lately, we would have crossed some boundaries; maybe I would have done something I would have regretted for a long time to come. Possibly I would be ‘dying’ of a broken heart if he had stayed; I liked him more than I was willing to admit, even to myself. Then again, God’s ways are mysterious…

Understanding ‘Maturity’

bullying

I watched an episode of gossip girl-In the realm of the Basses- season two, a few years  ago, where Blair Waldorf was trying to impress members of the Colony Club-an exclusive Upper East Side women’s social group- who she was hosting in her house, in an attempt to gain entrance in the club…  the sophisticated ladies turned out to be snobs; they set a few ground rules, which Blair realized she couldn’t keep as she realized they were literally asking her to turn her back on her friends Chuck Bass and Serena Van Der Woodsen.

According to the colony club ladies, Chuck and Serena were too scandalous for Blair’s good. Their names were splashed on tabloids for all the wrong reasons. So it-the ultimatum- was quite simple, if Miss Waldorf wanted in, she would have to sever ties with her amigos.

Blair really wanted to become a member of the elite group, but she realized she couldn’t ditch her friends for a group of women who seemed old; mature even, but in the real essence were just ‘girls’ who hadn’t graduated from high school-behavioural wise. Even though they were all grown up, Blair realized they were just acting like high school brats. “I thought I was living high school behind, I guess you never do”, she told them.

As I watched that episode I had a few people in mind; those who totally refused to part with their young selves, whose reasoning hadn’t evolved.

This brought me to the realization that maturity is not about boobs getting fuller with advancing age or one growing facial hair…all of nature’s effects that characterize the stage when a child is morphing into an adult; simply put, maturity doesn’t just refer to physical growth; it actually refers to mental growth, which is attributed to God-given wisdom and knowledge.

Knowledge is information acquired through reading mostly…and it’s not something that everyone enjoys because not everyone goes to school/ learning institutions. But with wisdom, anyone can get free access to it, if they will it. Wisdom is enriched by one’s personal experiences or learning from other people’s experiences; wise people learn from those experiences and make the right choices in life based on that.

There are things I see grown-ups doing that remind me of the things I did as a kid or that I saw other kids doing, and I just shake my head. When I was a teenager, I was exposed to so much-people’s characters and all- and it is precisely at that stage that I realized what I wanted to be and what I didn’t want to be. I reckon it’s at this stage when some of life’s important decisions are made, though many people don’t seem to realize that at the time.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but I find it shallow-for lack of a better word-when grown-ups start dissing someone; laughing in their face because of their physical appearance: because they’re too scrawny for their liking, or because their bum’s a little bit saggy, or because they have scars or deformities…I could continue but I bet you get the picture…honestly, I find it juvenile.

I thought some habits fade with time, but apparently, there are some people who insist on clinging on to their puerile selves, because I simply fail to understand how someone in their right mind would tease someone because of their physical appearance…? And I mean the intense ridicule which shatters the victim’s self-confidence.

Perchance I had a different childhood from everyone else, but kids my age indulged in that kind of absurdity-making snide remarks because one’s dad didn’t ride a cool car, or because one’s sense of fashion (if any) left so much to be desired, etc.- when we were teenagers or younger; many seemed to regain their ‘humanity’ right after high school. I would think it’s because that’s when life starts to feel real; new responsibilities…realizing that in life nothing is definite.

For many, the first few years of their lives are a somewhat clear path; one’s goals feel well-defined, finishing high school being the ultimate goal. After that, life starts to feel daunting at times, because that distinct path vanishes, and it dawns that each decision made counts, and inevitably, for life to continue, many decisions must be made.

I often wonder, one laughs at someone because they are too big, who’s to guarantee them that tomorrow they won’t be walking in those same shoes? One laughs at someone because they are dirt poor, who’s to guarantee them that tomorrow they won’t be waiting around street corners with their arms outstretched, asking for handouts? After all, it’s only a given fact, life is unpredictable.

Why I could be a teetotaller: Part two.

no alcohol

As a kid, one of the things I admired about my dad was that regardless of how much alcohol he had imbibed, he wouldn’t stagger; he always remained collected and he didn’t seem to forget anything he did/said when he was intoxicated.

At one time, we thought he was extremely drunk so when he was seated on the couch dozing off, my sisters and I decided to get to some mischief. We pulled some money from his shirt’s pocket. He only opened his eyes for a few seconds, and we stilled, but he went back to counting sheep.

In the morning, he came straight to us asking for his money back. We were shocked. We had assumed he wouldn’t remember a thing. Meekly, we told him we had spent it. We still had it of course, but we didn’t want to part with it. I bet he read the mischief on our faces and let us get away with it deliberately. He didn’t even scold us. He tried to look stern, but his brown eyes sold him out. There was a trace of amusement in them. That was my sweet dad, ever patient with us.

I had seen some of our neighbours staggering home, and later we would be treated to a ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ show. There was this guy, he was the second born of our neighbour from staying in. To date, he is the most repulsive drunk I’ve ever met. He would walk into his parent’s compound drunk into a stupor. Then he would walk into the house, drag his old dad out, and with a mop handle, he would rain blows on him, he didn’t seem to care where they landed, beating him senseless. It was horrifying. I haven’t the slightest idea why he did that.

His old dad, who we were so fond of, passed on silently one night, sitted on the couch. We were woken up by loud screams which cut through the night, and I remember the first thought that came to mind as I lay in bed was a grim one; the old man had died. We didn’t know for sure what had happened until dawn when mourners started streaming in, and I realized I had been right.

I couldn’t help wondering if the wayward son had gotten the chance to ask for his dad’s forgiveness. I don’t know if it was out of guilt, but soon after his dad’s funeral, our neighbour’s son stopped drinking.

Silently, I found myself looking up to my dad on matters drinking; he managed to remain composed even when he had consumed large amounts of alcohol. Sometimes I even preferred him drunk; he was so lively; so relaxed. We would dance, and occasionally we would do karaoke, and he would record it all on tape.

But with time, and so much pressure from his mom, it all changed. The one person, who had given me hope, that one could drink and still look happy, became the one person I hated to see drunk. Each drop he consumed seemed to drain all his joy, leaving a vicious man in its wake. All he wanted to do was fight.

The roles reversed and it happened that my parents became the ones to treat our neighbours to scenes from Brangelina’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The only noticeable distinction was that there were no firearms involved. Our once happy home became a place I dreaded. Dad would only be my happy dad, until he took alcohol, then he would visibly morph into evil dad, seeing faults with everyone; with everything he laid his eyes on. At times he would challenge mom to fist fights, but she knew better than to oblige.

We would watch from behind closed doors, but when things intensified, we would throw all caution to the wind and run to intervene.

Slowly, as I watched similar things unfold with passing years, I started developing a negative attitude towards alcohol, with the realization that I didn’t want to be like my father. I couldn’t comprehend any of his violent outbursts, but one thing remained evident; when he was sober, he was my happy dad- the one I loved, the caring one, the kind one…

Each time he drank, turning the house upside down, I would calm myself down; all I had to do was wait till morning, and he would be back. Happy dad would be back. I was never disappointed. In the morning, when his head had cleared, he would resume his happy self, looking so innocent and loving.

However, to my displeasure, I noticed that his two shades have become permanently conjoined by alcohol, melding them into one version of him, with his darker side being dominant over his recessive good side, which we rarely catch glimpses of. I’m still in the process of trying to understand him; to assess what I feel for him. Sometimes I feel it’s still love, but at times he leaves me so enraged and I start second guessing myself. It’s a feeling that oscillates between love and hate.

When I look at him-the man he’s become- and the fact that his dad died of alcohol related complications, I feel I have reason enough to be a teetotaller.

Why I could be a teetotaller: Part one

If I say I take alcohol, I would-to some extent- be lying…and if I said I don’t, I know some people who would raise their eyebrows at me. Honestly, I have trouble answering this question. I’m not a teetotaller, but given the circumstances, I could be one. Somehow I seem to have a thing for peripheries; fences if you rather-something I can’t say I’m proud of; but sometimes it is just beyond me-like in social misfits.

To be succinct, I’m a light drinker; a conscious decision I’ve made over the years. I only drink on special occasions-parties mostly-and even so I always try to keep my consumption in check, lest I wake up to horrid revelations of things I said/did when I was under the influence.

Methinks Aly’s alter-ego would be a stripper, dancing on bars; maybe one day I’ll get myself drunk enough to do that. I’m not particularly big on dutch courage, but it’s something I imagine I would do when intoxicated. But so far, I must admit, the most I’ve ever drank was a few glasses of wine, which tampered with the ground level, I came so close to staggering.

wine

Funny thing is, with the way I started out, one would have thought me and alcohol would be best buddies. I’ve been given a few pointers on matters drinking: not to mix drinks, to drink when I’ve eaten, to take lots of water, by my old man, but even with this in my mind I refrain from alcohol consumption. I’m thankful that this far, I’ve come I have managed to not over-indulge.

When I’m out with friends they often ask why I don’t like getting drunk, and I simply tell them it’s because I like being in control of my actions. Truth is, there’s more to it than that; I fear that I could turn out like my dad; moreover, looking at my paternal side, drinking seems like a genetic thing; no one’s a certified alcoholic so far, but…it’s not a culture I would want to extend into our lineage.

My dad has always been drinking since I was born. At first he would do two bottles tops, but over the years he has managed to become a full-blown drinker. Recently I declared him an alcoholic. I didn’t tell it to his face upfront; I merely alluded to it in a four-paged text, pointing out that I felt we had become so detached, because he hardly spares any time for us; if he’s not buried in his work at the office, he’s somewhere drinking his wits away.

One might argue that since I’m all grown I should give the man a break, but deep in my heart, I know I will never be too old to be my father’s daughter.

Apparently, he never let me forget that text; not that I would wish to, because I still have it saved in my phone. I thought it was sweet when I sent it, still do, but he managed to misconstrue it and subsequently went on to fight about it. He was so furious; he constantly said he would snap my neck because I had called him an alcoholic. I knew he loved me too much to do such a thing, but when inebriated, I didn’t trust him. I kept my distance.

My sisters and I were introduced to alcohol at a very tender age. I was around seven at the time. But we were only drinking for the heck of it, sipping on it, straight from the mug; not because we relished the taste, but because daddy was drinking it; it was cool.

Everytime my small sister saw my dad drinking she would bring her sippy cup and dad would pour her a little of his bottle’s contents and in a single gulp, she would dispose it off in her tummy, then she would ask for more. But dad always had a sweet way of turning her down. We were afraid she would become an addict but somehow she made different decisions along the way and now she hardly drinks.

Once when we were small, around the same time, I recall this one night; dad was out drinking, then he came home late at night. He opened another beer and I’m guessing he had taken enough that day because soon after he had poured it into the glass, he stood, leaving it barely touched.

It was a Saturday, and we were watching a movie; mom was already asleep. We were alone in the living room. At first we thought he had gone to the bathroom, but after a long while we realized he had gone to bed.

Mischievously, we drained the glass, then sipped the beer straight from the bottle in turns, until the bottle was empty. I don’t know why, but we went to bed feeling like heroes; like we had slain enemies on the battlefield.

The next morning, as we prepared for church, we couldn’t help gloating about our achievement; how we had ‘emptied’ dad’s bottle. He just grinned, while mom just watched us speechless …but she didn’t seem mad. They found it amusing.

I thought it was amusing too, but over the years, as I watched my dad morph from the fun loving man he was into a cold, violent and distant stranger, I realized I wanted to be different.

I SURRENDER

A few days ago, this past Sunday, something remarkable happened; something rare. When I walked into the church through one of the side entrances, I realized I was like fifteen minutes late, and I felt guilty about it because I had woken up early but was feeling too lazy to get out of bed. I was entirely to blame.

As I tried to find a seat in my favourite spot, second pew from the altar, I realized there was no space, so I walked to the first pew, which was almost empty. I couldn’t shake off this feeling that everyone would notice I’d walked in late, and I must admit, the thought made me feel pretty uneasy, but it didn’t last long…after sitting through the readings we rose to sing and the guilty conscience faded as I sang my heart out.

As I listened to the priest, the popular hymn, ‘I surrender’ came to mind. It was after a brief soul searching that made me so aware of the fact that I often feel disappointed because I try to manipulate things so they turn out the way I want them to. I wasn’t too happy about it, and as I looked up at the image of the crucified Christ nailed on the huge cross fixed on the wall, penitent, the only words that came to mind were, I surrender.surrender

As the offertory procession took their gifts to the altar, a young lady, who seemed like she was in her early twenties scurried to the altar. She particularly caught my attention because as opposed to the other offertory bearers, who walked gracefully, she took quick, short steps, as if afraid she would get there late. I surmised that either she hadn’t planned on it; it was a last minute decision, or maybe she had considered it earlier but had developed cold feet and was rushing before her courage waned. The other thing that got me all curious was that she didn’t have any offertory, just a tiny swaddled baby in her arms.

Those in front of her handed their offertory, one after the other, to the priest, who in turn passed them to the altar boys. Eventually, the young lady’s turn came. She placed her baby in the priest’s outstretched arms. Subsequently, he turned to face the enormous crucifix, his back to the congregation. With his gaze fixed intently on it, he held the baby aloft, in complete surrender, and at that moment the story of Hannah-Samuel’s mother-came to mind.

1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah made a solemn promise: “Lord Almighty, look at me, your servant! See, my trouble and remember me! Don’t forget me! If you give me a son, I promise that I will dedicate him to you for his whole life…”

As the magnitude of that gesture dawned on me, tears welled up in my eyes. She was offering her child to God; surrendering the baby to His holy will; to bless, to guide, to do with as He pleased.

I just stared at her in admiration as the priest turned around to put the baby back in her arms. There were some whispered murmurs from the rest of the congregation and even though I couldn’t make out what they were saying, I imagined that like I, they too had been completely taken aback by that noble gesture.

Coincidentally, during thanksgiving, the lively choir sang the hymn, “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give…” Gladly, I sang along, thinking it was too much of a coincidence; it was all about surrendering.

 

 

Mama used scare tactics!

Last week I asked my mom if she had read any of the posts that I’ve posted on this blog so far; she just smiled apologetically, “I haven’t, but I intend to read each one of them.”

“I don’t know how it happened, but you seem to be the leading lady in most of my stories”, I teased. “So you should read them”.

“Sure I will,” she assured me. I smiled at her. That little talk gave me a lot to think about; how did it happen that I’m always talking about her? Then it hit me; I’m talking about incidents that have happened in my life, and she’s been a major part of my life…she has almost everything to do with the person I am today; she used whatever ways she found suitable to instill good morals in my sisters and I.  We didn’t always find her ways appealing, but we complied and even if though I know we weren’t the best of kids, she reminds us constantly that she’s proud of us.

Basically, most children think their moms are the best; I am no exception. Most of the valuable lessons I’ve learnt in life have either been taught to me by her or by learning from her experiences. Some of the things I remember are a few scary stories she told us: When my sisters and I were young, she told us this story about a guy who had stolen his neighbour’s radio. Before long the guy’s hand, ended up paralyzed, and so did his entire right side. Absent-minded, he would mutter, “I stole a radio”. For a kid with an active imagination, that story freaked me out. screaming child

Again, she told us of a story about a woman, who owned a large maize field. One day the heavens opened, and as the rain hit the ground, it flattened all the maize plants. Later, when the rain had subsided, she went to assess the damages made. “What idiot, did this to my maize field?” she gaped, horrified, as her eyes wandered across the vast field, taking in the depressing sight of her destroyed crops. No sooner had the last word escaped her mouth than a forceful blow landed on her cheek, deforming her face permanently as her jaw dislocated. Like many of the scary stories my mom had told, this one sent the proverbial chill running down my spine.

I couldn’t help shuddering at the thought of receiving an ‘Almighty’ slap. This story helped me to be optimistic; I didn’t want to harbor negative thoughts about things that were clearly beyond my control. So if I was walking under the blistering sun and I couldn’t take the heat anymore, I would remember to not curse.

Early this year I watched the movie, ‘Ted’, where Ted and John-his thunder buddy-were singing the ‘fuck you thunder’ song… the ‘Almighty’s slap’ instantly popped in my head. I thought the two were well…brave. I imagined them being struck by lightning, or being slapped, like the unfortunate lady. Chilling thought.

When I remember the stories my mom told to keep us in check, I laugh at times; they worked just perfectly… as I think about them now, I don’t find them horrifying as I did back then…

If there’s anything those stories taught us was that picking up money on the streets was wrong; Mama told us a story about a woman; she was walking to work in the morning, when she bumped into some money. She couldn’t resist the urge, so she took it and put it in her leather bag which had some of her personal belonging.

Later that day, while she was in bed at night, she heard something hissing…with her heart pounding, she traced the noise to her bag. Carefully, she walked closer and when she looked inside, there was a huge ‘reptilia’ coiled, where she had placed the money she had collected earlier in the day. Instinctively, she let out a loud scream that woke her husband, who had been deep in slumber.

He rushed to her rescue and luckily he managed to get rid of it, unharmed. As the two lay in bed after the scary ordeal, the woman told her husband how she had picked up money earlier in the day; they couldn’t understand how the snake had ended up in her bag, and she had also realized the money was missing. “That’s why you shouldn’t take money that doesn’t belong to you”, her husband had reproached her.

Needless to say, that horrifying story saw to it that neither of my sisters nor I picked up money lying on the ground, if none of us had dropped it. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but we frequently bumped into money; the thought of finding reptilia slithering or coiled up in our bags squashed any temptations of picking it up.

As years passed, I understood it was wrong to take things that someone else had dropped; things that didn’t belong to us and that little concept applied not only to money, but to everything else. Mama’s scare tactics worked. She knew how to manipulate our way of thinking. I bet in the silent depths of her mind she knew physical punishments weren’t always effective, but a little scary thought would keep a mischievous kid grounded.

Now that we’re all grown, I’m glad my mom nurtured us the best way she knew how, but at the same time I can’t help but feel that the scare tactics only made us prone to fear. They made our minds hyperactive. I understand the concept behind each story, but I want to believe there were better ways of bringing the point across without necessarily freaking us out.

 

SOCIAL MISFITS

loner

Some people feel they don’t fit in the society for various reasons; because they can’t seem to fit completely in one particular group; always teetering on the borders. For instance, there are those born in mixed race families, so they end up feeling like misfits; hermits of some sought because they can’t identify with one side entirely; because they are too white to be black and too black to be white.

I can only relate to that only too well, but for an entirely different reason; that is how my extended family makes me feel; like a misfit. As I’ve mentioned in two previous stories: the only good thing my granma ever did, and family get-togethers, my father’s family is considered affluent, and my mom’s on the other side happens to be a relatively humble one.

Based on this, my paternal relatives find us too poor to mingle with, and my maternal relatives deem us too rich to be considered a part of them. Social quandary! I attribute the latter to unadulterated ignorance…

I always feel unlucky when I think about my relatives because seldom do they give me something good to relish. Sometimes I feel that maybe I’m too critical, then again I realize if it were so, I would be smoldering with unalloyed odium. They work me up with rage effortlessly.

Last year my mom spent the better part of her account’s contents funding the construction of her mom’s house. She was accomplishing one of her childhood dreams; to build her mom a decent house. With the help of one of her older sisters, she found an architect who would head the construction. They agreed that since my mom couldn’t travel regularly to ‘keep tabs’, her sister would do it. If the architect needed anything, my aunt would cater to it.

It was smooth sailing at first…the architect faithfully kept my mom informed, but then things started to go awry; her two brothers, who live on the same compound, started putting up blockades, taking my mom two steps back with each one she took. Somehow, they had assumed my mom was trying to grab a piece of land indirectly; so she could claim the house when granma dies.

What? I couldn’t hide my astonishment as I heard the reason for their callous actions.

While the construction was underway, my mom would receive calls while at work, that one of her brothers had sent someone to demolish the house; once, my cousin-one of my uncles’ firstborn son- was incarcerated for similar charges. He had knocked down part of the brick wall. The police in-charge of the case called to ask my mom if she was willing to press charges but as it turned out, my cousin admitted he was remorseful, so my mom asked that he be released.

When my mom called to tell me what was happening, the first thought that came to mind was a phrase I’d read earlier, ‘someone shook my family tree and a few nuts fell off’. I simply couldn’t comprehend why someone would do that to their own blood. They were making her incur costs she had not budgeted for.

I bet he–my cousin-was indeed contrite because after that unprecedented brush with the law, he willingly offered to be my mom’s personal informant. He didn’t mind if it was his dad he was ratting out; he would just keep my mom posted.

After lots of unnecessary squabble, the house was ready for my grams to move in by Christmas. She was elated. Seeing her mom so happy helped my mom a lot; it made her feel that all the trouble she had encountered was all worth it. My mom made it evidently clear that she wasn’t laying any claims to the house; it was theirs to do with as they pleased…she wasn’t interested in the land either…

Shortly after the Christmas festivities, my mom’s younger brother, who is a subsistence farmer, rung her, to inform her he’d enrolled his eldest son into an expensive private school. My mom was perplexed, “How do you intend to pay for it?” she asked him.

Flagrantly, he told her he was hoping she would pay eighty percent of the total fee each year for the next four years. “What?” My mom couldn’t believe her ears. Her brother went on to tell her how he was hoping that since she had offered to build their mother a house, she could also afford him that little favour. The word ‘opportunist’ came to me in flashing neon lights.

I hated myself for entertaining such distasteful thoughts, but he wasn’t giving me much to work with…

I could only see faults with that arrangement; firstly, he had enrolled his son without making prior arrangements with my mom, who he expected would be the major ‘benefactor’. Secondly, he was taking advantage of her benevolence. Who does that? She had barely recovered the money she had spent on the construction…

She was distraught; if she told him she couldn’t, he would assume she was just being parsimonious … “He clearly doesn’t have your best interests at heart,” I comforted her. “If he did, he would have had the courtesy to atleast consult you before embarking on this issue”. It was the best I could come up with at the moment.

There was just malice written all over it; he was one of those trying to bring the house down when it was under construction, and I even remembered a few outrageous expletives he had hurled at her when she asked him why he was erecting roadblocks, and now this? I couldn’t help but feel he was scorning her.

With so much difficulty, my mom mastered the courage to tell him she couldn’t fulfill his request. He was none-too-pleased about it.

It is things such as this that make me feel lost…what exactly should one do to be at peace with both spheres? For one to not feel like their hanging on to the edges of two different worlds? Lazily, my curiosity piqued, I often find myself wondering if all families are as screwed up as mine… then like an answer to my own question, I remember, I have met some really happy functional ones…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ONLY GOOD THING MY GRANMA EVER DID- she birthed my father

Most of the people I know, me included have one principal desire; to love and be loved. It feels good especially, if the people one refers to as family love them; if that family stands by one’s side during tribulations…but what happens if that same family is the root cause of one’s misery? Where does one turn?

The other day I posted on fb that the only good thing my granma ever did is she birthed my father. I received a couple of ‘lols’… it was one of those numerous moments when I say something serious but people assume I’m just nuts…I didn’t mind it though, I actually felt good that they saw the humorous side of my lamentation. So ‘what would make someone say that about their granny?’ one might ask…

Aplenty! Reasons aplenty…

For starters, my paternal granma doesn’t love my siblings and me, and if she does, then she definitely has a very funny way of showing it. One might be tempted to think I’m just a love-deprived person trying to seek attention but honestly, that’s just so far from it. If I’m writing about this, it is because this little fact has had an unmitigated impact on my life, and my family of course; it is an issue that goes way back in time, back to when my parents were in their early twenties; it has defined the course of the relations my family and me have with our extended paternal family.

Basically, my mom comes from a humble background. Her dad died when she was so small, she hardly remembers his face, leaving her mother to be the sole provider of the family. She was a small-scale farmer, so she only made enough money from selling her farm produce, coffee mainly. When my father fell in love with my mother, he took her home to his mother so she could give them her blessings.

Unfortunately, my mom’s humble background had her at a disadvantage; my granma didn’t seem impressed one bit that her son was marrying a poor farmer’s daughter; he could do better. This was the root of all the tribulations my family and I have encountered so far. I hate it when my mom recounts how it happened because the memories perceptibly aggravate her; she always tells it, her voice forlorn; and one can clearly tell it’s something that pains her a lot.

When my dad took her home, his mother showed them manifestly that she wasn’t pleased; she took to treating my mom like a hand, as opposed to a guest in every sense of the word; she was just a nobody, not good enough for her son. Neither my mom nor dad seemed to mind her indiscretion, as they were madly in love. She remained persistent; she never stopped reprimanding my dad for his ‘poor’ choice.

Later, when I was only six months old, my big sister was slightly over two years of age, my dad finally bowed to pressure and he and my mom parted ways. She went back to her home. It was only after his big brother’s intervention that the two reconciled.

He found a place of their own and they moved from his mother’s. However, in spite of the distance they had put, his mother still managed to get to him. This happened during occasional get-togethers which were held at her ranch. Only my dad and his three siblings attended them. I was just starting to learn how to spell my name then, but I realized I didn’t like it one bit when my dad spent a few nights at his mother’s, because he would leave elated and come home tense, picking fights with my mother. It was horrible.

Sometimes it would be so bad, my mom would threaten to leave; but afterwards, when the storm had abated, she would hug us tightly, telling us she would stay, only for our sake. For the better part of my childhood, I remember vividly, the tormenting dreams I used to have; my mom leaving. I would watch helplessly, crying, begging her not to leave…then I’d wake up.

These dreams made me loathe my dad’s violent outbursts, because I was afraid one of them would see my mom leave. It became obvious, everytime my dad went to his mom’s, he would come back a vicious man; cold. His mother’s castigation was eating at him, slowly by slowly, turning him into a feelingless human. She wanted him to leave my mom; marry someone of a higher social status.

Once my mom told us of an argument she and her brother-in-law had; impudently he blurted out, “My mom doesn’t even like you!”

When we were small, my sisters and I never visited our granma. The first time we went to her home I was fourteen, and we went there because the entire family was meeting there for the occasional get-togethers. She seemed pleased to see us all- cousins, uncles and aunts; my dad, his siblings and their families.

We spent two days there. We travelled back to our respective homes on Christmas Eve. Before leaving, she had her help pack up some fruits and vegetables from her vast farm as a token of her appreciation that we had visited her. She gave three of her children and somehow, managed to leave my dad out. I didn’t seem to mind it- it was just food-but then later on it hit me; it’s the thought that counts; she had brazenly shown my parents she still didn’t approve of their union. Obviously my mom was piqued; when was she going to accept that she was now a part of her family? granny

The other time we went there we were with the rest of the family; usual get-together. My parents were both in absentia. They had deliberately chosen to sit that one out. My sisters and I had only agreed to go so it didn’t seem like we were ejecting ourselves from the rest of the family, but if it was worth it? I think not. We only made more unpleasant memories.

The third time we visited her was three years ago; she was sick and we only wanted to check up on her. That was the first and only time-so far-my sisters and I went there on our own volition. She was happy to see us, though she couldn’t resist inserting her side comments into our conversations, which sadly, made me realize she only favoured the person with the deepest pockets.

At the time, my big sister, who models part time, had plans of travelling out of the country. My granma had gotten wind of the interesting news and was- in my opinion- trying to warm herself into my sister’s heart so she could invite her over when she was settled. I couldn’t help feeling amused as I watched the thrill in her eyes as she pictured herself flying overseas; she was like a teenager in love.

After spending three days there, we left. The next time we saw her again she had only made a detour as she visited her second born’s first wife; we live only a few blocks apart. As usual, it was unpleasant, and I wondered why she had bothered to come.

I can’t say I hate her, because that would be too strong a word; but I can’t also say I love her, because then I would be lying, even to myself. I have no fond memories of her whatsoever; I didn’t even get to call her granma; she wouldn’t let us. Even her children-my dad and his siblings- call her by her first name…

It just makes me wonder, why wouldn’t she want to be called mom or granma? But then again, she doesn’t act like one either. When my sisters and I were small, we were always tense around her when she decided to pass by when visiting one of her other children; we didn’t know what to call her and her first name was out of question; it felt preposterous, blasphemous even.

After so many years of silent agony, when I was eighteen, we decided to call her ‘granma’ and let the chips fall where they may. We felt we were done sugar-coating her old age. Apparently it’s a family thing because last I checked, even her sister didn’t like that word so much.

I have tried so hard to think of any good thing my granma has ever done for either one of my family members or me but I found absolutely nothing. All I see are tears and intense pain; She has made our lives miserable, just because she couldn’t stand the idea that her daughter-in-law was a poor farmer’s daughter…and she made no effort to get to know my mom as a person; I know she would have loved her; but she didn’t bring extra wealth to her family, to her that is all that mattered.

If ever I found myself thanking her for something, it would be only for the primary fact that she birthed my father.