Monthly Archives: October 2013

Children are like clay

clay in potter's hands 2

Children are like clay; the environment moulds them. Naturally when a baby is born, they are without knowledge of the numerous ‘how to’s’.  For instance, when a baby is born, he/she comes into the world, unable to speak. With time, they pick up the words they hear around them, and as they grow they learn to verbalize their emotions. For instance, if a baby is raised in a family where expletives are used a lot, he will use them even when he’s not so sure what they mean.

A conversation I had with my sisters made me realize that most of the things I do are just a slight modification of what I learnt as a kid.

My sisters and I started walking down that familiar road to the past. Our conversation was just a normal one, talking about one of our uncles’ birthday party, which we’ve been invited to. It’s a rare gesture from our relatives because since I can remember we’ve always had a strained relationship with them. I’ve referred to the genesis of that beef in some previous posts.

When we received the invitation, we just said we’d take a rain check. It’s a party which will be held this coming Sunday and honestly it wouldn’t take much effort for us to avail ourselves, but the nature of the relationship we have with them makes it one of those things one has to seriously mull over before jumping on the band wagon.

Earlier in the day I asked mom if she’ll be going but she wasn’t so forthcoming about it. Actually her reply was more like a retort. She, in her own words, felt bothered that we would contemplate going to such a luxurious event when her own mother-our grandma-is admitted in hospital. She got admitted today and the issue has had mom stressed up all day because the doctors said she was seriously ill. She thought we were being insensitive, but truth is we were only trying to distract her so she would atleast stop worrying about her mom too much.

While discussing the issue with my sisters, we started recounting some similar events from the past. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, this beef with our relatives didn’t just start recently; it started when my mom got married to dad. When my cousins and I were born, the beef hadn’t been settled yet; our parents passed the beef down to our generation. We’ve always treated each other with meticulous caution; in most cases it just feels like we’re perfects strangers; we hardly keep in touch during the year, so when we hook up for our annual get-togethers, that’s when we start acquainting ourselves with what others have been up to. Honestly I find that little set-up mind-numbing.

Mom’s reaction didn’t come as a shock to me. Chances are, even if grams wasn’t sick, she would still have found a valid excuse to sit out this party . She’s done that so many times before. While recounting some of those instances, we opened the flood gates to our past and we moved from one thing to another. The conversation made me realize that kids are shaped by their environment; the beliefs I have today, I acquired them as a child; most of the habits I have today, both good and bad, I acquired while still a child. I grew up of course, but what I learnt as a child has stuck. I realized it’s difficult to change the things we learnt as children, because those are some of the first things our minds captured. One would need to undergo major reprogramming to change them.

When we were small, mom made us stay in the house a lot; at the time it felt like the best option given the circumstances, and as we grew up the habit stuck. I’m not very okay with the idea of just staying in, but high chances are if I’m not out on appointments, running errands, etc. I’ll be in the house taking part in some indoor activity. I can’t say it’s boring, but it does feel monotonous at times. The worst part is even when I decide to break the monotony, go out and have fun, I end up feeling like staying in would have been the best option.

I attribute this to the fact that when growing up we were made to believe it was the right thing; from what I’ve realized, it will take a lot of will power to break the wont. This is just one of the many things I still do that I learnt when I was a child.

With this in mind, I’d love to believe that children should be handled with so much care. The lessons we impart to them determine the kind of lives they lead when they grow up. If a child grows in an environment that makes them so afraid, chances are they’ll grow up into fainthearted adults. Ergo, if one wants their child to have some certain qualities, they should instill in them those qualities while they are still small, because when they grow up it becomes difficult to shape them.

Telling the difference

the serenity prayer

Many things happen in life, some pleasant, and some unpleasant. It happens almost naturally, that we’re more inclined to accept the good things that happen but when tragedies strike we ask, why? All through my life I’ve been looking at the negative occurrences from a pessimistic perspective, you know feeling like my life would be better if they didn’t happen; however, lately I’m learning to look at things all differently. I’m acquainting myself with the idea that everything happens only because God wills it that way.

To some people the idea might sound odd, because to them it doesn’t feel right that God would allow some things-the painful ones especially-to happen to us if He really loves us unconditionally like the scriptures tell us. Well thing is, nothing happens without His consent. As I said, this is just a concept I’ve embraced only recently; I wasn’t always like that.

A few months ago I would have gotten all discouraged because something didn’t happen the way I had envisioned it, but I ditched that mentality. However, one question pertaining to this whole idea of accepting everything as God’s will always pops in mind; ‘If really we should accept everything as God’s will, what about those instances when we’re told to fight for the things we love/believe in?’

For instance, there’s this prog I watched last week; it was a Mexican telenovela to be precise. One of the two lead couples found out they could be related. They were devastated; I doubt any two people in love would be pleased to learn they had the same blood flowing in their veins because they shared a father. The lady was most affected. Distraught, she went and married her best friend, who had always been in love with her, eager to move on with her life; she didn’t want to hold on to a love that was forbidden.

In the panicky mode she was in, she reasoned that would be the best solution; her boyfriend wouldn’t pursue her if she was another man’s wife. Apparently, she loved her boyfriend too much to get intimate with her new husband; she and her best friend had a mutual understanding that sexual intimacy would be off limits.

I couldn’t help shaking my head at her irrationality. She didn’t even care to fight for her love; she willingly accepted the painful fact that she couldn’t spend her life with the man she loved because providence had put an impenetrable barrier between them. Naturally, one of the major characteristics of soaps is that there’s just too much scheming; this one was no exception.

It turned out that the two lovers weren’t really related; they guy’s ex-girlfriend had conspired with the owner of the lab, where the two had a DNA test, to have the results altered. The test had come out positive and that had had driven the young miss into her best friend’s arms. As I watched her I wondered, if she hadn’t been too quick to accept the results, she could have suggested they have another test in a different lab just to be sure; sometimes it’s good to have doubts.

In life we’re faced with such situations; at a crossroads, wondering if we should accept everything as God’s will, or fight for the things/people we love. In my opinion, it’s difficult to actually tell the difference. However, I believe with patience and prayers, God will reveal to us what’s right.

Journey to the past

live life to the fullest

I’ve been trying to retrace my steps with anxiety; I wanted to get a clear insight into how/when it started. As I took my journey back to the past, I realized that the first time I suffered an anxiety attack I was twelve, while in boarding school. It was dark, in the middle of the night. Everyone was asleep, but somehow I couldn’t sleep. I can’t remember what I was thinking exactly, but I started breathing fast as my heartbeat rose. Slowly, as the hours passed, a dull ache developed in my chest. I felt like I had been running for hours.

I’m thinking whatever was going on in my mind that night was nothing pleasant; I know this because most of my thoughts while I was in boarding school revolved around me transferring to a day school near my home. I was never really comfortable staying away from home. I constantly worried about mom an awful lot; if she was doing okay, because everytime I went back home on holidays my small sister would tell me how she and dad had fought.

I was young at the time, but I remember feeling like our (my sisters and I) presence kind of eased the situation because we would stop them from getting into frequent fights. I always worried that maybe dad would hurt mom so bad…it was horrible.

That night I never slept; I tossed and turned in bed, clutching on to my chest. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and that also had me all worried. At day break I went to the sick bay. We didn’t have a dispensary in the school because there was a mission hospital adjacent to the school. The matron who was on duty that day gave me painkillers for my chest pain; they (matrons) only treated minor ailments: headaches, stomachaches sore throats, coughs that didn’t seem severe…

Normally if one was feeling unwell they would go for their morning, afternoon and evening dose of whatever medication (students weren’t allowed to be in possession of any medication). If whatever ailment didn’t subside after three days, they would ask one to visit the hospital on the fourth day.

The pain in my chest seemed to worsen with each day. On the fourth day I was referred to hospital. After our daily morning assembly that day, everyone who had been referred to the hospital, myself included, waited outside the headmistress’ office so she could give us permission to leave the school compound.  

Eventually I found myself sitted in front of a doctor, telling him how I was feeling. “My heart is beating faster than usual, and my chest pains a lot.” I don’t even remember if I underwent any tests, but I was diagnosed with ‘heart skip’. I didn’t dwell much on the diagnosis; all my mind registered was that I was suffering from a heart condition.

Subsequently, when I went back to school, I pulled out of every activity which I considered strenuous; all games and the weekly manual cleaning didn’t survive the cut. I have always been a sporty person, so I felt a sense of great loss descend upon me when I sat out of a P.E lesson later that day, because I was ‘sick’.

After being diagnosed with ‘heart skip’, the remaining part of that term felt quite miserable. I couldn’t run around the school compound. I couldn’t take part in the games I loved. My life just felt mundane. I was living like ‘Jill’; all work and no play. Nonetheless, all those precautions I took didn’t help my ‘condition’ much. In any case, it seemed to worsen. When I finished my prescription the situation hadn’t improved; I went back for review.

That term I went to the hospital so many times, the headmistress-a distant relative-nicknamed me a hospital tourist; even so, she didn’t bar me from seeking treatment. After two reviews and more medication, nothing had changed; I even felt much worse.

When schools closed, mom came to pick me up. She was incensed, that no one had cared to tell her I was unwell. She couldn’t do much at the time though; there were no teachers around as they had all retreated to their quarters. Early the next morning she took me to our family doctor, who had my chest X-rayed. It didn’t reveal anything. Mom asked about my earlier diagnosis-heart skip- but the doctor said there was no such thing in the medical field. Apparently the pills I’d been taking were just vitamin pills.

The next term I went back to school, I resumed all the activities I had ditched the previous term. Life felt normal once more. The knowledge that I wasn’t really sick psyched me up and all the chest pain became history.

 

 

Faith is…

faith can move mountains

Faith is like a seed; you water it, nourish it, and wait for it to grow. Things that pertain to faith shouldn’t be rushed. Like the seed; one doesn’t plant and wait for it to grow overnight. Sometimes, in unfortunate circumstances, the seed will be infested by pests and at times it could die undeveloped.

What is faith really?

A certain man found he was suffering from cancer. He was so bitter about it, because he felt God had disappointed him; He had let him down. This man said he was a believer; there’s not a Sunday that he failed to go to church; he took part in all church activities, when he married the first thing he did was to take his wife to church. Basically, he had been living a life most Christians would consider the perfect life of a true believer. Did he believe in God? Many would say he did. Did he have faith in God? Some would argue he had, but that would be debatable; he had little faith.

So what is faith? True faith is believing in God, even when one feels like things couldn’t get worse. True faith is seeing God’s hand in everything; seeing God’s hand in that illness, in that poverty, in the mistreatment at work by honchos. True faith is not just about believing in God when things are all hunky dory, but even in those instances we feel miserable and weary.

True faith is believing that God is the master and we are the servants; allowing His will to reign; accepting that all that happens, happens because He wills it, and believing that He does it for a greater purpose. Loving God and trusting in Him, even when our prayers go unanswered. Embracing that cancer (literally or figuratively), and believing that God allowed it. That is faith.

Christians from all walks of life learn to recite “Our Lord’s prayer” at some point:

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be Thy name,

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven…

When we say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” it means we’re allowing God to do whatever He pleases. True faith means accepting His will; being at peace with whatever He lets happen to us. It sounds like such a task right? Accepting things we don’t feel okay with and stuff? But that’s the true definition of faith; accepting it, good or bad; embracing it all, because we understand that He only intends for us to be happy.

Strength comes from faith; if you’ve been praying incessantly, asking God to grant you the strength to accomplish something, now you have the answer. Just believe in God; nourish your faith, and the strength will come.

 

Lord, protect me from my friends

“Lord, protect me from my friends, because I know who my enemies are.”

This is a prayer I see people post a lot on social media. It makes so much sense. We all know who our enemies are, but with all the beautiful masks our ‘friends’ hide behind, it becomes difficult to tell the real friends from the fake ones; most of the people we regard as friends are just wolves masquerading as sheep (pardon me for the expression; I just thought it perfectly describes frenemies).

Naturally, friends come in different sizes and colours; it just becomes difficult to tell who’s real and who’s not. Some friends will only stick around when everything’s okay, but the instant things start going downhill, they start vanishing one by one, as if by magic. At the end of the day one finds themselves alone, without a shoulder to lean on.

It’s during these low moments in our lives that we get to really know who our real friends are…that’s what I used to think, until I realized there’s another bunch of friends, who delight at other people’s woes. They seem helpful when one is going through that dark phase. If one is hungry, they’ll be more than happy to offer them food. We love them more, because they stood by us when everything had gone awry, when everyone else ditched us.

Again, it becomes difficult to tell the fake from the real friends, because some of these friends who stay with us during the storm disappear as soon as it abates. I never understood it as a child; I thought everyone who sticks around during tough times automatically passes the true friend test. It’s only now, when I’m all grown that it’s all starting to look different from what I’d perceived earlier.

Apparently, not all friends delight at one’s success; it sounds somewhat evil when I say it, but it’s as true as the sky is blue. These are those friends who only like it when they are helping with temporary things, but hate it when someone finds a long term solution to their problem. They’ll be so quick to let one hitch a ride with them, but when one buys their own car they vanish, and when one bumps into them occasionally on the streets they’ll be in a foul mood, even though they try to hide it behind a plastic smile.

They just like to see someone dependent on them; I guess knowing someone is entirely at their mercy gives them some false feeling of power…so they know if they want to hurt/frustrate you they’ll just withhold the aid.

Then there are those friends who act all sweet and loving in one’s presence, but the minute they get out of one’s sight they spread all kinds of malicious gossip. They will snatch one’s boyfriend; go behind them so one loses that promotion at work.

The worst thing about these fake friends- frenemies if you rather- is that we allow them into our inner circles, so they know us inside out; they know our Achilles’ heels, so it becomes easy for them to carry out whatever evil schemes they have up their sleeves.

As a kid, I was really trusting; I thought people who were good to me were my friends, but in these few years I’ve lived, relatively speaking, I’ve gotten my fair share of fake friends, who’ve turned me into a real skeptic. I’ve learned to be wary. I know they could show their fangs anytime.So even though I smile at them, at the back of my head I know I should be on my guard.

When it comes to the business of making friends, I know not everyone who smiles at me is my friend, and not everyone who scowls at me is my enemy; it could just be because they’re offended by something I did. I know that sometimes the people we consider our closest friends could be our greatest enemies. It’s just that time reveals them when the damage has been done, unfortunately.

fake friends

Burning churches

burning church

Lately I’m seeing an abominable trend; whenever there are religious differences between people from different faiths, places of worship get torched. This has me all worried; when did it become okay for people to set ablaze places of worship as retaliation? I’m a Christian, but I’ve read about other religions; I haven’t come across any religion that teaches its people to disregard other religions; that teaches people to be impious.

Growing up, I was taught that the church is a holy zone; it’s the house of God. As I mentioned in a previous post, petty issues like talking in church were forbidden. It just came naturally; whenever I set foot in the church I was supposed to observe silence, to show respect to God. No one told me it was particularly a sin, but it felt wrong doing otherwise. That was just petty chatting; now we’re talking about people setting the same buildings on fire.

Honestly, I’ve never stepped into a Hindu temple, but I respect it as the Hindus’ place of worship; I’ve never stepped into a mosque, but I respect it as the Muslims’ place of worship; I’ve never been to a synagogue either, but I respect it as the Jews’ place of worship. I respect those places as much as I respect my own church.

One thing I know is that we can’t all be Christians; we can’t all be Muslims; we can’t all be Hindus; we can’t all be Jews… Each one of us is entitled to make their own choice; to choose the faith they want to profess. It’s impossible to force something as sensitive as faith down one’s throat. Now with that in mind, I believe we should respect other people’s choices, and strive to co-exist peacefully. We don’t all have to share a common faith to embrace peace.

God is revered as The Almighty; He can wipe out the world’s population in an instant. Nothing is impossible to Him. If He can do that, why then isn’t everyone a believer? He would have made everyone believe in Him, but He didn’t; because He respects our choices; they do come with consequences, but He respects them. He gave us free will, to make our own decisions.

In the bible, the one incident I remember seeing Jesus really angry was when He found people selling their wares in the church (Matthew 21:12). He threw them out. That makes me wonder, if He was that angry because people had turned His Father’s house into a market, into a hideout for thieves, what does He feel when He sees people burning churches up?

My two cents worth on the matter; burning up churches is unadulterated sacrilege. Anyone who sets churches on fire or destroys places of worship isn’t just waging war against mankind, but against God.

Take it to the Lord in prayer

When you feel like things are seriously going out of hand, just look heavenwards; God has the solution to all your problems. Of the things I’m quite familiar with, anxiety probably tops the list because it’s there when I’m asleep, in my dreams (some of them), it walks with me everywhere I go…anxiety is like my shadow. When I’m making decisions I feel anxious thoughts creeping up on me…I just find it unnerving. However with my anxiety came a good thing; it made me so aware of God’s presence, in my life, in the air around me…He’s everywhere.

So while anxiety torments me dreadfully, I find comfort in God. Recently, this song came to mind; mom was going through some difficult moment at work and when I saw how troubled she seemed, I realized I couldn’t help her personally, but from experience I knew God would; so I told her to take it all to the Lord in prayer. Those words reminded me of the ‘What a friend we have in Jesus song, and as I sang it I pondered on each word; I found it immensely comforting.

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear,

What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer,

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry,

Everything to God in prayer.

When I read those lyrics, word for word, I saw many people; myself included; people who worry through their troubles instead of taking everything to God in prayer. We forfeit peace when we worry, because worrying leads to more worrying. We bear needless pain, because sometimes, caught up in the situation, it just doesn’t occur to us that God is there to help us; that each one of us has the privilege to take his/her worries to Him in prayer.

To most of us, worrying comes almost naturally. Take me for instance; when there’s something going on in my life, the first thing that happens is worrying. ‘What will happen now? What if…’ it’s in the midst of worrying that I remind myself to call on God.

I realized there are so many people struggling with anxiety. If I say I found something that keeps my anxiety in check, one would expect it would be some medical relief; I tried that at some point but the thing with such medication is that when it runs out one finds themselves in the same old place; worrying incessantly.

I needed a long term relief.

From experience, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with anxiety is to seek God’s help; trust that He will come through for you. It also helps to take part in things that make one happy; it’s only by embracing happiness that we can be in that perfect state of mind to know what God really wants us to do; what’s really right. During anxious moments, very little seems to put one at ease; that’s why it’s imperative for one to hold on to that thing, however small, that makes them happy…and above all, to trust in God.

take it to the Lord in prayer