Hope you guys are all doing good. I’m fab today; just got home from my valentine’s day dinner with my parents. Abs commented that I was cramping their style but the truth is that they love me too much to let me roast at home (do I have fabulous parents or what? :-D). I hope you all had a fabulous day today and for the singles (moi aussi), I’ll take on the risk of sounding cliché to say that it’s not just about having that special someone to show love to. It’s about loving people wherever you are. I went to my mum’s office today and her staff pooled money and got food for their whole department; pizza, small chops, shawarma, cake, wine etc. I mean those guys were having a ball and the guys all wore red ties. Now, none of them are dating each other and most of them are married but they took the opportunity that the day presented to do something special and celebrate with each other. I thought that was pretty cool.
Well, my favourite part of val’s day is the end. Now, I know what most of you are thinking but it’s not because I want to get over the “single awareness day” which is now another name for val’s day (check out Heather Lindsey’s post on this at http://heatherllindsey.blogspot.com/2013/02/valentines-day-single-awareness-day.html….very interesting read). It’s cos my birthday is on the 15th of February so I start getting those lovely phone calls, sometimes before the clock strikes 12. I love celebrating my birthday because of all the love and good wishes I receive from people. It really does make me feel loved. Since my 22nd birthday though, my appreciation for my birthday has taken a different turn. I guess its cos that’s the year my life changed. I was knocked down really bad when I graduated from my first degree ( I was 21 at the time) because I was absolutely devastated by the fact that I graduated with a 2.2. Now before some of you chop me raw, let me put it in proper context for you; I’m the first child and only girl in my family, my dad is the first child and my grandfather is pretty much the patriarch of the extended family so from the day I was born, a lot was expected of me. I had always performed very well in school; top marks from primary school through to A-levels and I had brothers and cousins looking up to me (I’m my grandfather’s first grandchild). Add in the fact that people from my family are very smart and you can now understand why this was such a big deal to me.
The other areas of my life weren’t grand either; I was worryingly over weight (I had battled this from childhood and carried it all the way through my teens to my early 20s) and you know how kids can be mean in school so I learned to develop this hard exterior. When I told one of my friends that I had been insecure for a long time when we were at A-levels together, she was in shock because I apparently always carried myself with such confidence. It wasn’t real; that was the only way I knew to protect myself so if other people thought I was okay with myself, they would think it useless to attack me about my weight because I seemingly didn’t care). To be honest, I didn’t think much of myself but the one thing I had that was of value was the fact that I was smart and no one could take that away from me; my track record spoke for itself.
So you can imagine what went through my mind when I got my result. It got to a point where I began to consider suicide in a very logical manner (and I’m quite sure that’s scarier than considering it in a loud and hysterical manner). The thoughts going through my mind were “Well, you’re fat and people don’t think you’re pretty. The only thing you had going for you was your intelligence and that’s pretty much gone as far as the world is concerned. There’s really nothing for you to live for so you might as well just end things”. To be fair, I had very supportive friends around me; Dabs, Nicky and Cynth all encouraged me and reminded me that I had finished and I ought to be proud of that but I just didn’t want to hear it cos is sounded patronizing to my ears. Moving back to naij and trying to get a job was torture not just because I had a “not great” result but because I was also confused; I didn’t really know who I was and I had no clue who I wanted or was meant to be. In summary, I was just a confused mess.
That was easily the lowest point in my life so far and each time I reflect on it, I thank God everyday that it happened because I would not be who I am today. It was not easy but in the period of recovery after I moved back to naij, I learned so much about who I am in God and I found such peace and clarity that it’s very difficult for me to remember the state of mind I was in back then. I now understand that my worth is not defined by a piece of paper but by the fact that God thought me precious enough to send His Son to die for. There are times when I read my journal entries from 2010 to 2011 and I marvel at where I was at the start of that period and where I got to at the end (before I went for my Masters degree). The best part is that it gives me so much hope for what God has in store for me in the future. I also learned so much about God and His ways i.e. how He does His things. I feel like I jumped the gun a little so I’ll talk about how I got to the present day. The first thing was I started attending TPH. I was initially attracted to that church because of the choir (like I’ve said a number of times, they are simply amazing) and then the teachings kept resonating with me; it was like fresh cool water to a man dying of acute thirst.
That company of believers accompanied me on the journey that changed my life. I attended DTI (discipleship training institute) classes and they shed more light on the spirituality of Christianity as opposed to the religiosity. I found that I was free to express myself in singing and worship and there was no judgement whatsoever. I will never forget this time when Pastor Nigel called for people who wanted to give their lives to Christ or recommit themselves to Him to come forward. Now I had been active in the choir for about a year and the choir has a designated seating area in church. I felt the spirit prodding and pushing me to go which I thought was weird because I didn’t feel that I needed to do any of the above. In hindsight, I guess God was testing whether I cared more about what He wanted as opposed to what other people thought about me. I thank God for His grace because I went out at the last minute and I was so sure that a number of people in the choir would ask me why I went forward. I tell you, not a single person asked me anything, it was like I never even went forward. We understand that everyone is at a different level of spiritual maturity and even when we correct each other it’s done in love. How can that not change a life?
God then sent me on my Aston journey; that in itself is a testimony which I will briefly share. At the beginning of 2011, I was still confused as to what Masters degree to pursue and my parents were constantly on my case to go and get a Masters degree to cover my 2.2. I applied for degrees from petroleum economics to publishing (was I confused or what?). Eventually, my degree search took me down the path of international business. The other applications I made came back with rejections so my ego was taking more beatings but I kept pushing, thank God. The more I thought about a Masters degree in IB and researched it, the more appealing it became. I decided to apply to Aston University (encouraged by Abs’ constant prodding, done in love of course). It was the only school I could apply to because it’s a good uni with a good reputation that happens to admit 2.2 candidates and the deadline for submitting applications had not passed. I remember being in the bathroom one random day and saying to God that I did not want to go to that school if that was not what He wanted for me. On a subsequent lovely Sunday evening, I was sitting in the living room with my mother when I had this sense of “rightness” in my spirit (I don’t know how else to explain it). I looked at my mother and I said “Mummy, I’ve gotten the Aston admission”. She asked me if they had contacted me and I said no. She said “Well, my daughter Amen oh! You will get it in Jesus’ name”. I said, “Mummy, that wasn’t me trying to pray, that was me informing you”. She said Amen again and I guess she shrugged it off. The next day in my office, I got the e-mail saying that I had been admitted. I bawled like a baby because it was like a second chance for me.
Now many more testimonies abound since that day in June 2011. I got into Aston Business School and I finished my Masters degree with a distinction. I’ve moved back home again and in an economy where it’s taking a lot of people years to get a good job, I’m getting job offers (Yes, offers not singular but plural i.e. more than one). I’m not saying this to boast because I will tell you for free that none of this is as a result of my abilities. When I tell you that I am a daughter of grace, I do not exaggerate. All the things that have happened to me and that I’ve done are things that don’t really make sense from the world’s viewpoint but I am from above. That’s why I am above all, not by virtue of who I am but by virtue of whose I am. God lifted me from the miry clay of what used to be my life and set my feet upon the solid rock and because of that I am not shaken by what goes on in the world. I know whom I have put my faith in. Don’t get me wrong, I often stumble and fall and that won’t change because at the end of the day I am still flesh until He returns or calls me home. But the beautiful thing is I am not who I used to be; that’s the miracle of God’s way and God’s process. He has taken my life and made it something that is often hard for me to recognize. I now struggle to ensure that I do not take any of these things for granted nor start to think that this was all accomplished in my own strength (still I remind myself to lean on Him for the strength to do so). Jesus never said there wouldn’t be problems in our Christian walk but boy, do I prefer the problems I have today to those I had when I was still lost.
I had this conversation with my aunt once and she told me how she went through her own very trying period. She said that God wants to get our attention and He does that by allowing the thing we value most to be taken away. It’s very painful but the fruit of that pain makes it more than worth it. If you’re out there and you’re going through what you feel is the worst moment of your life, my heart for you is that you turn to God. It might take some time but trust that He does indeed give beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning.
Looool….I really didn’t intend to talk much about my past today but as usual, God has other ideas. So as I turn a year older in a number of minutes, it’s with absolute joy in the knowledge of who I am, whose I am and the fact that I am walking in purpose. God has blessed me with the best friends and family members anyone could ever ask for. I am so grateful for how far God has brought me and thinking about that gives me massive hope for where He is taking me. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be where I am today and that’s what excites me about my future. I can sit and try to think of the greatest thing ever that could happen to me and it still would not match what He wants to do in, for and through me:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”- Ephesians 3: 20-21
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.
So happy birthday to me, happy val’s day to you all and wherever you are, please trust that God has only the best in His heart for you. Dream big people; it can never be bigger than what He has in store.