Sunday, April 20, 2014

Always With A Smile

Always With A Smile: A Testimony of God's Faithfulness.

"Toujours avec sourire" the nurse exclaimed as I was wheeled back into the ward.

"She has every reason to be. It is amazing how much improvement she has made," replied the physiotherapist pushing me on the wheelchair.

When my specialist proposed a six-minute march test as part of the intensive checkup, one year post lung surgery, several members of the medical team thought that was asking for too much. The lead physiotherapist said, "let her try, she can stop if she can't do it."

Try I did, and I completed 300 meters in the required 6 minutes using one cane, while maintaining oxygen saturation at 99% and a stable heart rate.

"Incroyable! C'est genial," exclaimed the Physiotherapist who conducted the test. “It is incredible,” she kept repeating in French.

It was the fourth and last day of my stay in the hospital. It was exactly one year since I have the life-threatening surgery with the ensuing complications, which resulted in another surgery, this time life-changing. I had to do a battery of tests, examinations and consultations in the course of the four days. they pratically left no cell or system unchecked. It was overwhelming and left me no time for rest.

The good news was that all of them came back with positive results confirming what God had already perfected. Only one indicated a need for improvement in my Calcium and Vitamin D status. The doctor gave me an earful of lecture about the importance of adequate calcium to prevent osteoporosis. "Noted," I responded, my face radiating with a wide smile. She probably was wondering what was funny. “I mean, this is serious business” was written all over her face. What she did not know was that she was giving a Nutrition lecture to a Nutrition Specialist. But more importantly, I was overflowing with exhilarating joy, because this was the only issue that needed attention, it had been one good report after the other.

Why won't I be full of thanks and smile, with all God has done for me and all He delivered me from? I will be an ingrate if I am any less joyful. I know where we were at this time last April but better to say, I know what they later told me was happening at this time. I was not conscious of anything until a month later.

“He that is capable of deep and reflective reasoning will be full of thanks.”

One of the nurses said she was covered with goose pimples watching what I am able to do now and how I have regained my autonomy, and as she heard me giving praise and thanks to God for all He has done in my life. 

But wasn't that what the Bible says:

Matthew 9:8 - following the healing of the paralytic.
"And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men."

Matthew 15:31
"The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel."

Indeed, the doings of God in our lives will cause men to be awestruck, astonished, and amazed such that they will give praise and glory to God on our behalf.

This was not the first time I was going to hear that expression, "Always with a smile or She is always smiling." Through the thick of the storm last year and indeed, throughout my 10-year sojourn on 8CL, the 8th floor ward of HUG (Hopital Universaire de Geneve), this has been the constant remark from the nurses and medical staff that took care of me. It was a constant source of amazement to many of them: "how does anyone in her situation keep smiling?"

I lost count of the number of times I heard them saying to my hearing, “she is always smiling.”  I lost count of the number of times, medical personnel exclaimed with amazement at the remarkable progress I had made and my composure through it all.

Truly, it is by the grace of God that we can keep smiling through the storm. It is because we know that the one Who holds us in the palm of His hands is the same One Who can bid the storm, "peace, be still."

It is also a conscious decision to remind oneself that it is by the mighty hands of God we are kept, day by day, come what may. It comes from that assurance of faith that God will never abandon or forsake or fail us. Yes, we can keep smiling through the storm when God is the hope that we cling to.

We also know that before Jesus was glorified, He was crucified. He suffered the shame of the cross. His glory came out of His sacrificial death. Yet He did not complain. Like a rose, trampled in the ground, He took the fall. He thought of me above all.

And because He rose up again and He lives, I can face tomorrow, all my fears are gone. Life is worthy living and enjoying because Jesus lives. Certainly, with such a glorious hope as this, we can smile come what may and in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves because God’s plans for us remains unchanged.

May the hope that comes with the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ fill your hearts and home with much joy this Easter. May this hope bring you the assurance that the promises of God concerning you shall be fulfilled. 

Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

To Share or Not To Share

In today’s blog post, I want to initiate a discussion, which I hope all my readers will be willing to contribute to. I will pose a number of questions to guide this discussion.

Recently, I planned a surprise party to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. In order to keep the surprise element, I had to do a number of things behind his back, withhold important information and limit what I shared with him.

This was the most difficult part of the process. There were many times that I had engaged in discussions with many of his old friends, especially those he had been out of touch with, in search of information about his days in the university. In my usual practice, I would download my entire day including conversations I had to him at the end of the day, when we are together. But during this period, I had to exercise extreme caution not to share this information with him.

I guarded my cell phone as if my life depended on it. It is not unusual for him to pick my phone when it rings and answer it for me or read out incoming text messages to me. It was an edgy, stand-on-the-toes period for me. I felt very bad on a number of occasions that I could not share important information with him. There was once he was worried that he had not heard from his longest friend despite trying to reach him a few times. I had spoken to the friend, and knew what was going on at his end but could not offer any reassurance to my husband as I would have had to explain why I could reach his friend and he could not. Some of our friends had limited contact with him so as not to accidentally divulge information about the event.

There was another occasion when I was alone at home and needed to go out to make arrangements for the venue of the event. At that time, I needed some assistance to get ready if I had to go out. My house is on multiple levels and I required support moving from one level to the other. I had arranged for a friend to take me out. I managed to get ready by myself and went out to meet my friend. It was the first time I would leave the house without any assistance getting ready after a long period of time, and I could not share this joy with him when I spoke to him later in the day. That was difficult.

For some time, communication was strained and tense. I was not spontaneous as I normally would be in sharing information. I was too guarded. I knew he was aware that I was up to something and definitely would plan an event to celebrate his birthday, but I also knew he would wonder how I was going to do it when I could not go out on my own and there was no movement in the family account.

This scenario I described above did not pose any serious threat to our relationship, but this as well as other situations that I have been privy to in the past, got me thinking about the following:

  •  To what extent should a couple withhold information from each other?
  •  Under what circumstances can a couple refrain from sharing information with each other?
  •  How do you maintain openness, transparency and communion in a relationship when a couple keep secrets from each other?
  •  In what ways would withholding information from your spouse provide grounds for lying or sidestepping the truth?
  • How do you tell the truth or share information when you know that it may grieve the person you are in relationship with?
  • How important is information sharing in promoting trust and honesty between a couple?
  • What should you share and what should you not share?
  • When the Bible says that the two shall become one, does this imply sharing everything?
  • Even when our intentions are good and we are trying to protect the other party in the relationship, how would they feel if they eventually find out the truth?
  • What are the things that can erode trust in a relationship?

I have heard that the truth will always come out no matter how long it takes. If this be the case, what good does it serve to withhold the truth from the significant people that we are in relationship with?

Luke 8:17 says “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed (revealed), and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open,” what is the implication of this verse for those in a relationship?

I am not being naive. I know people who have found themselves in very difficult relationships where they have learnt to be guarded in what they share with their spouses as a coping mechanism. Neither am I after proposing an unnecessary argument or debate. However, I believe that there is something to discuss here that we all can learn from and thereby enrich our relationships.

My plan is to pool together salient points from your responses and prepare a blog post on this subject which I pray will help someone at a crossroad of decision making. 

Please do share your thoughts on this subject in the comment box below. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Night A Dream Came True

For many years, my sons and I wanted to do something that would cause his face to light up in amazement, and bring out a wide and bright smile. It was difficult to find any gift that could have this effect, he is not easily dazzled by things. At Christmas, his birthday and at our wedding anniversary, it’s always a headache trying to phantom what gift to give him.

It was about eight years ago that I started thinking about how to celebrate him on his 50th Birthday. I was reflecting on what we had been through over the past years and I wanted an opportunity to appreciate him in a meaningful way. I believed that one must not wait until death before we start eulogizing our loved ones. We need to let them know how much they mean to us and how much we are grateful to God for blessing our lives with them, while they are still able to hear our voices.

At that time, I did not know what the next eight years was going to be like for us. It got to a point that it seemed that I might not be around to see the day come to pass. When I came “back to life” in May, 2013, my dream was rekindled. I wanted to do something to show and tell my husband how much I appreciate him. I wanted to celebrate his steadfastness when the storm was most torrential, his commitment, his dedication, and his selfless love and care for me and for our children.

I stopped working and earning an income since 2007. The burden of my medical expenses had put a huge strain on our finances. Yet my heart longed to see my dream come true: to have a musical night, a night of praise, to celebrate God’s goodness in my husband’s life. By November, I simply could not imagine how it could happen. My beading business was just taking off and that was a lot of investment plus all the medical bills coming in. I was ready to give up on my dream.

That was when my big Sista and dear friend called to ask me what my plans were to celebrate this fine man, God blessed my life with. I shared my dream with her and also told her just how impossible it was looking. She encouraged me to go ahead, start planning, and find out what it was going to cost, while we pray about it. I did.

I wrote to some members of the musical group he led when he was in medical school in Nigeria and continued to be a part off afterwards. I shared my dream with them that I wanted to enact a kind of homecoming and for them to have the opportunity to minister together again in music. They loved the idea and promised to make effort to come. I wrote to his siblings in Nigeria and US, and asked them to be a part of it. They were pleased with the idea.

When I drew up the budget in January 2014, I was crestfallen. It would require nothing short of a miracle to make this come to pass. I had less than 5% of the budget. I knew I could not touch our family account without my husband finding out about the surprise. And honestly, there was no way we could accommodate such an expense at that point of our lives. This was a classic case of “how can this be?”

I was greatly encouraged by my big Sista. She told me to focus on the dream and not give up on it but to trust God to bring it to pass. I remembered the word God gave us at the beginning of the year, “Prepare the ditches, for you shall neither see the rain nor hear the wind, yet the valley shall the filled with water” (2Kings 3:16-17). Also, I knew from experience, that God is God of exponential increase. I had studied much about Him as a God of multiplication. He was able to multiply the oil in a small jar to fill many vessels until there was sufficient to pay off the widow’s debt and there was enough left over for them to feed on. He multiplied 20 loaves of bread to feed 100 sons of prophets and there were some left over. Jesus, also gave thanks to God for 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes, and 5000 men ate without counting the women and children, and there were 12 baskets left over.

The same God is more than able to multiply the little we have to meet our huge vat of needs to the extent that there will be enough left over to live on and bless others with. I committed my dreams and heart desire into God’s hands. I laid all my plans before Him. I knew I have to trust Him every step of the way to make provision not only for the event but for all our needs.

I wrote to some of our close friends and told them what I was planning. The response was overwhelming. Many of them acknowledged that my husband is a selfless giver and it was their pleasure to be a part of appreciating him and appreciating God Who made him such a blessing to many. What God provided through our family and friends was exceedingly more abundant than I could ever dreamt, imagine and ask for. God also raised up a friend who helped me with all the planning and organization. Given my circumstances, I simply could not leave home without giving my husband details about my movement. He usually takes me to wherever I needed to be.

I wanted that night not only to be a night of praise, but to be used by God to bring refreshing, revival and renewal to every relationship that would be represented there. I wanted God’s glory to be on display and for Him to the center of all we would do. I wanted lives to be touched for good. So I went before God with this request.

On Saturday, March 29th, two days after his 50th birthday, my husband and I arrived at the venue and he saw his name on the event board in the hotel reception, he exclaimed; “my name is all over the place.” When we entered the hall and he saw the number of guests there, he was truly amazed but that was not all.

We began to reveal the surprise guests: four old members of the Calvary Love Singers from his days in UCH, Ibadan, came from UK. He was expecting to see two of them but the remaining two were a pleasant surprise. Then we revealed our very dear friend from Ibadan, Nigeria and her sister from US, and that threw him. Lastly, we brought out his junior brother, also from Ibadan. That was the “crème de la crème.” He was astonished. His smile was broad. He was truly wowed. After a long time of waiting and dreaming, we finally dazzled him.

The theme for the Night of Praise was Musical and Blue.

Why Musical?
My husband’s passion for gospel music pales only compared with his passion for God, and perhaps for me J. He loved to minister in music and his commitment to this ministry has not waned since the day I first met him at a Gospel Musical Concert organized by the Calvary Love Singers in Paul Hendricks Hall, UCH, Ibadan in December 1984.

Why Blue?
Blue seemed to describe my husband best.

When hell unfurled its fury
And the stormy blast blew
He was as calm as the blue summer sea
He is solid like the snow-capped mountain
 piercing the clear blue sky
He is deep like the deep blue ocean
When the shutter closes, and the blues creeps in
He is indigo as a moonless night.

I gave him his bass guitar and the night of praise began in earnest with the choir from our church, Tower of Refuge Church International, leading the guests in songs of thanks and praise. Then the old members of C.L.S. did a number of old songs with him. The Itinerant Gospel Ministries choir ministered in songs with one especially composed for us. It shared our testimony and was heart-touching. I was awed.

Our sons, my brother-in-law and I sang together. I read a poem I wrote for my husband; “On My Knees” that will be posted another day. The boys also shared what they learnt from their father, and friends spoke glowingly about him.

All in all, he was very happy and full of smiles. He enjoyed the evening. He felt truly loved and appreciated. He was humbled by the generosity and by the length families and friends went to give him a beautiful celebration.

Needless to say, I was of all women, most grateful to God. Against all the odds, God granted me the desire of my heart and made my dream come true. The dazzling smile on my husband’s face made it all worth the effort. Above all, God was glorified through it.

Another mind-burgling expectation fulfilled just as I wrote in my blog post in February. All praise and thanks be to God.