Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beyond The Pain To Life Beyond Imagination

We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness
– Tommy Walker

It was a Sunday morning. We were getting ready for church. I picked up the huge box of cookies my cousin gave me and said to my husband, “I’m taking this to share with the children in church. I dare not eat this alone.”

He laughed and looked up to heaven.

You're our creator, our life sustainer
Deliverer, our comfort, our joy
Throughout the ages You've been our shelter
Our peace in the midst of the storm

“Blessed be God. Do you remember once upon a time, you had to drink Resource Protein and Energy supplements and eat high-energy cookies?”

How can I forget? For many years, I lost weight so rapidly that my doctors placed me on these not-nice-tasting supplements. I was compelled to drink a bottle twice a day. I remembered how often my husband searched the shops for tasty high-protein high-energy snacks. I remembered how difficult it was for me to eat or hold down what I had eaten. I remembered the awful pain in my tummy after eating, which often left me groaning and rolling in pain.

When we walk through life's darkest valleys
We will look back at all You have done
And we will shout, our God is good
And He is the faithful One

I spent time over the past days reflecting on that season in life’s darkest and lonely valley. I remembered how God has been our peace in the midst of the storm. I remembered how God has been turning it all around. In the past fifteen months, I can eat without the fear of pain. I can eat and hold down my food. I have moved from under 50kg to 63kg. I no longer have to use pins to hold my skirts and trousers at the waist. 

Yes, indeed I do remember the work of God’s hands.

It is apt at this turning point in my life to look back into this decade of my life and consider the goodness and mercies God showered on me. Indeed, I see God’s hands turning ashes to beauty. The haggard and strained visage is gone. I am blossoming again in every sphere of my life. God’s mighty hands brought me out of my long winter season and caused my life and strength to spring to life again. It is a brand new season. God is doing a new thing, and it shall yet break forth. In the month of September alone, I stood and shared my story at many places I could not have imagined just a year ago.

As the old year fades away tonight and  new beginning dawns for me on October 1st, I wish I have a thousand tongues to sing the praises of my Lord and King. How I wish I could employ the host of heaven to join me in adoring my Father and God. He is a good Father to me. He is the epitome and definition of a good Father.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my dear Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
Composed by Charles Wesley (1739)

Go Beyond The Pain:
Joseph could have become bitter and remained angry after going through the pain of rejection in the pit, the distress of false accusation in Potiphar's house and the despair of abandonment in the prison. But he looked beyond the pain and considered that all the adversity he endured was God sending him ahead to prepare a posterity for his family (Gen. 45: 7-8).

My life story has several chapters of misery, pain, discomfort, and distress, but it is not a tragedy. God’s grace richly abounding to me empowered me to channel my season of pain and adversity to bring about good in the lives of others. If my story can become a means of inspiring hope and pointing others going through adversity to the Supreme Source of hope, then it is not a story of tragedy but a story of victory. My pain is not in vain. My pain is not purposeless.

I am persuaded that our story of pain and affliction can become a source of encouragement to others if we tap into the grace of God that is abundantly available to us. I believe that our season of affliction and adversity can become a unique opportunity to reach out and touch the lives of people in our community for good. I believe there’s someone waiting at the end of our dark tunnel who can derive comfort from our experience if we refuse to give up on hope, and if we refuse to give in to despair but push through to the end.

I have many friends who have suffered the pain and grief of losing a precious loved one. But they have turned the pain to an opportunity to reach out and bring hope to others going through similar experience or ensure that others do not suffer from the same experience. Someone else can derive comfort and be blessed because of what you have gone through this challenging experience, and you have endured through the keeping grace of God.

Dear Friends, there is absolutely nothing you have gone through or still going through that can go to waste. God is using it all to shape you, mould you, and prepare you for the purpose He ordained for your life. I encourage you to look beyond the pain, and you will see how God is working it together for good. You will see God turning it around not only for your good but for the good of many others waiting at the end of your dark tunnel.

There is a grace that is sufficient for every situation that we may find ourselves. Grace is God stooping down to reach out to us at our point of need. He is the God of all grace. After we have suffered for a little while, He will Himself restore us, making us strong, steadfast and firm (1Pet. 5:10). Grace empowers us for victory. We begin to appreciate the import of grace when we are in a dire need of the supernatural ability to live beyond the circumstances and challenges besetting us. It is only the grace of God that can empower us to go beyond the pain of the moment and expectantly look forward to living life beyond imagination.

"Grace abounds like an ever-flowing stream in the valley of adversity."

I have tasted of this GRACE. I can testify of its sufficiency. That is why I can say with confidence and gratitude to God; I am living life to the full again. I am living my dream. I am traveling and talking. My story of over twenty years of being tried in the crucible of affliction has become a testimony touching lives for good. It has become a ministry inspiring hope beyond what I could ever have imagined. It has become an opportunity to enrich lives and galvanize action for amputees and physically challenged persons who do not have access to services that can make life bearable. It is beyond my wildest imagination.

Join me to celebrate life and God's goodness during October (my birth month), by encouraging people around us to GO BEYOND THE PAIN.

Share your story of a season of pain, adversity and challenges, and how God has turned it around for good. Tell us how a difficult season in your life has become an opportunity to reach out and touch the lives of other people for good. Share here on the blog, by email, on the Facebook or twitter.

Please add @Irene Olumese and #GoBeyondThePain to your story when you share on the Facebook or Twitter. That way others can be blessed and encouraged by this one month of #GoBeyondThePain event. 

This blog post includes excerpts from the sermon I preached at HOTRIC, London – Beyond The Pain on Sunday, Sept. 20th and the talk I gave at the Q Commons Talk – Beyond Imagination on Friday, Sept. 25th, 2015. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amazed At What God Is Doing

We are already in the ninth month of 2015. It is not the end of the year yet. But I cannot wait until December 31st to take stock of the events of the year. I look back into the last eight and half months, and I am overwhelmed at what God has done and is doing in my life. Not only in mine but also in the lives of my family members. God is awesome.

The song played in my head as I floated into consciousness in the early hours of Wednesday;

Count your many blessings
Lay them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done
Count your blessings
Lay them one by one
And it would surprise you
what the Lord has done.

I am amazed at how much God has done and what He has done. Counting it all is like counting the sands on the beach, where do I start from?

At the beginning of 2014, the word of God to my family was that “we shall recover all” (1Sam30:8). We stood firm on that promise throughout the year. It was combined with another word that “we shall not see the rain or hear the wind, but our ditches shall be filled with water” (2Kings 3:17). At the end of the year, we had many testimonies of how God followed after His word to fulfil it in our lives. I believed that we carried over these promises into 2015 and received along with it that this is our year of divine establishment. I trusted God for the establishment of His word in our lives, and for us to be established in the centre of His will for us.

I can sing over and over again that I have seen the Lord’s goodness, His mercies and compassion. I have seen His mighty hands working on our behalf. I can testify that God is faithful to His promises. His words are effectual, and they have the power to produce an effect in our lives.

In April, we flagged off the fundraising efforts of the Feet Of Grace Foundation during the Hit The Street For Their Feet Charity Walk. The funds are still coming in. Two amputees received prosthetic limbs. One is doing very well. But Olivet has developed some diabetic ulcers on her second foot making it difficult for her to make maximal use of her prosthetic limb. Do pray along for the healing of the second foot and the grace to bear up under this affliction.

We are getting set to support another amputee who also needs to have her prosthetic limb replaced after using and repairing the current one several times in the last seven years. I am so grateful to all our donors and supporters who have not considered their support an once and for all effort.

The Lord promised me in 2013 that He will give me the Feet of Grace that will take me to places where my natural feet could not take me; places beyond my imagination. He has been doing just exactly what He promised. He opened the doors to me to share my testimony in several places I could never have imagined I would be visiting a few years ago, talk less of speaking there. I shared my testimony in Lagos, Geneva, Zurich, London, Yupaica, Los Angeles and Chicago. And there are still more coming before 2015 is out. The number of kilometres I have covered in this year alone surpasses what I was able to do during the last seven years of my affliction.

My second son successfully completed his high school education in May and gained admission into a great science and engineering College in Claremont, California. I had the opportunity of accompanying him to support his transition to the college, a desire that eluded me when my first son went to college in 2012. I couldn’t get out of my bed then to see him off. That was painful. But God turned it all around for our good. We didn’t have the opportunity to visit the College selected by my second son before he accepted the offer. The orientation section provided me the opportunity of finding out more about the college where our son will be spending the next four years. The peace of God flooded my heart as I learnt more about the school. I knew without any doubt my son is where God wants him to be.

It has been a year of reconnections. Right from May, I got reconnected with friends from my high school days. It is more than 33 years since I saw most of them. Then in August when I got to California, I met my Sistafriend of over 40 years again. It was pure joy holding her in my arms. We saw each other last in 1987. But we kept in touch over the past years. God worked it out for us to spend a few precious days together catching up on our lives, sharing our testimonies and encouraging one another. Reconnections continued as I met friends from my university days, and finally my Best Lady at my wedding and her family.

I was amazed at the warmth and love we still shared despite the many years of being physically separated. The fellowship was vibrant. The icing on the cake was meeting so many who have been praying for me without knowing me or thinking they would ever get to meet me. They prayed with all fervency as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death in 2013. Their joy is indescribable when they finally saw me alive, well and walking.

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” – John 15:12
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."- John 13:35

I have felt true love showered on me right from the beginning of this year, everywhere I went. Many people going out of their way to make themselves available to God to be used to bless my family and me. Help keeps coming when most needed. I am truly humbled and blessed to be the recipient of this kind of brotherly love.

I wanted to be with Sally's husband and children since the day I heard that the Lord had called her home while I was in a coma in 2013. God gave me that opportunity this month. It was humbling for me to stand on the same altar she once preached from and faced the congregation that is still coming to terms with her absence. I bless God for His grace keeping her husband and children. Her husband testified of God’s sustaining grace flowing towards them each day. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share with them how Sally’s legacy spoke to me about finding and fulfilling the purpose for which God gave me this second chance at life.

Above all else, I am grateful to God for life and for the opportunity to be a vessel He can use. I am grateful for the way He is using the story He is writing of my life to touch lives for good. What God has been doing this year is beyond my imagination—simply amazing.

Upcoming Events:
·       Weekend of Hope and Glory at House On The Rock Church International, London, UK – Sept. 19th – 20th
·       Local Speaker at Geneva Q Commons. Lake Geneva Hotel, Versoix. Geneva – Sept. 25th, 2015 Geneva Q Commons
·       Launching of the InzpireTV. Geneva – Sept 26th, 2015 Inzpire TV Trailer

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Recalibrating In The Season Of Change

I did the catwalk along the aisle between the shelves of shoes without my walking stick in front of the mirror.  With arms spread out, I turned around, paused to rock on my heels, and walked back towards my SistaFriend.

“What are you doing?”

“I am recalibrating,” I answered with a smile.

I wasn't doing the recalibrating myself. It was the hydraulic system in the heel of my prosthetic feet—the Feet of Grace—adjusting the equilibrium to ensure that I maintain balance and stability because of the changes in the height of the heel of the shoes.

The hydraulic system allows me the flexibility of 2cm in the extension of the ankle to ensure that I don't lose balance and fall when there is a change in my height of my heel. This allows me wear shoes with heels 3-5cm high.

It was the last day of the four-day orientation for the parents of the new students admitted to the College. It had been four days of intense activities and information sharing. College administrators were preparing the parents for the change that was about to take place in the dynamics of our relationship with our children who are now Frosh (Freshmen) in the University.

They emphasized the limits of our access to significant information concerning our children’s education and health under the Privacy Protection Act. According to the laws of the land, we could no longer have access to this information once the children turn 18 years old.

Our children are now adults who would be making significant decisions by themselves. Our roles as parents are about to go through a change and take a new dimension. Yes, they are no longer children. They are young adults facing a new life of freedom and independence in the University. They, also, are in a season of change. And we, as parents, have to trust that we have trained them up in a way that will guide them to recalibrate aright.

They asked us to say our goodbyes and leave “our students” in their care, assuring us that they have systems in place to ensure none of them falls off the radar or through the cracks.

I came to California to support my second son as he made his transition to the University. So I said my preliminary goodbyes that afternoon with the intention of seeing him one more time before departing California on my way back home to Switzerland.

My second and last child has spread his wings and flown off the nest. I knew without a doubt a new season of change is upon me.

With change comes the need to recalibrate—adjust to the new definition of normal.

My SistaFriend understood what it feels to walk away leaving your once-a-child behind and face a season of change that comes with it. She was waiting for me with an agenda. First, she deposited me in the salon for a manicure. Next on the agenda was the trip to the shoe warehouse. Needless to say, we didn't talk much about our adult children as we scoured the aisles for shoes that met my specifications.

I used to collect shoes. I shared that story in Once Upon A Time Of Feet And Painted Toenails. With the amputation of my legs came a season of change. I had to give away my high-heeled shoes and started looking broad-heeled shoes for the Feet Of Grace. I learnt to adjust to these new parameters that now guide my shoes selection.

Change comes to us in different ways at different times and phases of our lives. In the season of change, we are required to make adjustments to maintain stability and equilibrium.

My season of change:
I am familiar with change. I have been through several seasons of change. But change is taking place again in different spheres of my life. I said goodbye to my son on Sunday evening. He walked away hurriedly without looking back for the next program on his orientation agenda. He was excited about his new college life. I drove away knowing my role as a nurturer had ended. He is going to take care of himself henceforth.

The following day, I got on the plane to depart California. It was the first time I was traveling alone without any member of my family or a friend since October 2007. It felt strange to sit beside a complete stranger and to have no meaningful conversation except occasional courtesies for almost seven hours. It marked the beginning of a new season different from what I had become accustomed to, and a re-entry into an independent life. I knew there would be more of such travels as the Feet of Grace takes on its assignments.

The flight to Chicago provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the life I have shared with my husband and sons so far. My heart overflowed with gratitude to God for the blessing they have been to me. They bore with me the burden of the storms of the last eight years without once complaining. I am of all women most blessed to have these three men in my life.

In another ten days, I will be back in the air again, this time on the last leg of my return journey home with my husband and an empty nest waiting for me at the other end. My husband and I will begin a new phase in our lives as empty nesters. We will need to recalibrate so that we can fit well into this new life.

I pondered on the areas where we would need to make adjustments as I flew over the drought affected mountainous landscape from Ontario to San Francisco. I knew for sure that we must make every effort to prevent drought in our relationship and family life in this season of change. We must keep our relationship fresh, vital and flourishing.


One area that will require attention and negotiation across the board is COMMUNICATION.  

Managing Communications Across Different Time Zones:
In the last couple of weeks, we found ourselves in different time zones with fourteen hours apart. That required some concerted effort and negotiations to ensure that all the four of us can communicate with each other even if not all together at the same time. The school suggested that we negotiate a communication plan with our children. There's wisdom in that counsel if someone is going to sleep when the other is just waking up on the other side of the world.

Managing without significant persons:
Sooner than later, the day is going to come that I will actually be alone at home. I will have to lock the door by myself that night and go up two flights of stairs to my bedroom, activate the alarm and go to sleep. I have never had to do that since we moved into our home in Geneva twelve years ago. But I had a good practice living alone in Cairo for almost eighteen months in between. So I am very sure by the grace of God I will recalibrate correctly and adjust in the season too.

The chorus of the song, “My Life Is In Your Hands” by Kirk Franklin came to my heart as I pondered on my season of change:

I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands.

With Jesus, you can make it
With Jesus, you can stand
No matter what may come your way
Your life is in His hands.

Some changes give us notice and time to prepare. Some changes come unannounced and unexpected. Some are painful and devastating. Some are part of growth and life. Whatever kind of changes you may be faced with, you need to know what does not change when everything changes.

God is unchanging.

That's why we cannot be consumed or destroyed in the season of change.

What are the changes going on in your life in this season? What do you have to do to recalibrate and adjust to your new definition of normal? In which areas do you have to negotiate with significant people in your life so you can maintain stability?

Whatever your story may be, I want to assure you that God is mindful of you in this season of change. I want to encourage you to commit your cares, anxiety and concerns to Him. He cares about you where you are right now. You can depend on Him for counsel and guidance, so you are able to maintain stability in your new season.