‘And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”‘ Luke 10:41-42
I hear Him calling my name twice as well.
How many can you count? Global problems, good news, to-do’s, to become’s, the Christmas season’s call, etc. Every day has its own.
Martha was going about life the way every hardworking person should. She was cooking, serving, hosting, and taking care of the household. Mary sat and watched. She sat at the feet of Jesus, looking up at him in awe, listening to every word from his mouth. Mary was entranced by wisdom, forsaking the call of duty.
Martha’s frustrations are understandable. I’d feel like that as well until Jesus spoke and broke in pieces the old mold.
“Amongst all the hustle and bustle, Martha, all the well-mannered attempts to be the good hostess, to do well before others, nothing is as important as what Mary is doing.”
Like smoke, everything changes and goes away. One day, you will retire; the kids will grow up and leave; the spouse will no longer be there; the guests will stop coming; someone may take over the side-hustle taking up all your time, etc.
The focus must be on the eternal, the presence of God, from where life flows. A cousin of mine says the peace in that place drowns the noise of many waters. It fazes out the threat of the storms of life.
Martha didn’t feel threatened. She was going about everyday life the same as before. Jesus asked, what is taking your attention? He asked her if she was listening to earthly life when eternal life was in her house? He gave her the answer to a multiple-options question. Only one thing was needed, and her sister had chosen it. Mary had chosen the prepared food for the soul, not minding the earthly preparations meant for the body.
If the bread of life feeds your soul, it overflows to your body and life. When you sit at the feet of the peace giver, you have His peace. In God’s presence is joy, and fear is obliterated like dark clouds when the sun rises.
To chose the good part is to have the light of God shine in and through you, no matter how dark the night. May we all continue to listen, and to hear, that we may live and thrive.
The questions plagued Felicia. They nagged and prodded, and she let them. She knew the Father was trying to get her attention, to shift her perspective. The questions made sense now. They challenged her beliefs and points of view in this time of global confusion and disarray. Was she living as God created her to live? Was this her best life?
She shrugged into her jacket and walked out of the house on her way to the office. Whose work was she doing? The questions kept coming. She didn’t answer, only meditated on the change they would force her to make.
The new normal had started in the physical but continued within her when things stopped making sense. Humans did not know everything, after all. World superpowers were powerless and confused in the face of a pandemic. Businesses could change their modus operandi, even if it were by force. So, she listened to the questions. She allowed the probing queries that would have been trashed in the past, assigning them a priority place. Things had changed.
What was she to do with the questions? It wasn’t the first time such thoughts had assailed her. All through her life, there had been junctions where she had asked herself if there was more? Points in time, when she had looked up and asked if He had created her for a more excellent existence?
Now, she supposed the time had come for answers. She knew within her that she needed to find answers or forever live in the mediocre state in which she existed. Felicia smiled as she drove, mediocre? No one would think of her life as average.
She finished in the top five in her class, from the best business school in the country. She married a man who seemed to be on the up and up. They were building a comfortable life, one filled not necessarily with top luxury but a place of ease. Now, all that wasn’t enough.
While in the office, she wondered if the attendees in her first meeting of the day also dealt with the questions? Had some people figured out answers? How?
“I am a work of art of God in Christ Jesus.” She said to herself as she left the meeting and made for her office, but what did it mean? Work of art, for what? Was her life meant to bring change, or would people stop, look into the portrait of her life and move on, unaffected?
It was at that point that she made the call.
“Hello Felicia, God bless you.” Her Pastor said.
She smiled. “Hello sir, I hope this is not a bad time?”
“No, not at all. How is Frank, and the children?”
“They are fine. Thank you.”
He remained quiet after that, and she was at a loss.
“Is there something bothering you, Felicia?”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Start from where you are comfortable.”
She nodded in agreement. “I have never challenged the way I live, nor my choices, but for some time, they have seemed like less. I don’t know how to put this, but I feel there is more to life than the everyday struggle to attain something or some level.”
He remained quiet.
“Questions about my identity keep harassing me, and I can’t answer them. No, I don’t want to answer them because I fear the change I will make. I also know that not answering means living a life on the surface with no depth. Do I need to make a change to live this life that calls to me?”
She stopped talking, not knowing what else to say. She hoped her Pastor would piece her rantings together and paint a picture.
“God is calling you. He is making you think about your life, the life He created you to live. The challenge is in your flesh. The bible says, when we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. He is drawing you to Him. I know you know all this, so the question is, will you answer?”
“How? I have given my life to God. What else do I need to do?” She said, expecting a list of things to change.
“Go to Him, and ask. Tell Him you are willing to listen. Go in faith and stay there until He answers. Remember, our heavenly Father is willing to give good things to those who ask Him.”
“What if I can’t hear?”
“He promises in Isaiah 29 that the deaf shall hear and the blind shall see. Ask Him to open your ears and the eyes of your understanding.”
She laughed. “I expected more.”
“More of what, rules? God is available to teach each person by His Spirit. Go to Him and obey when He speaks.”
“Thank you, sir. I am grateful.”
Felicia rang off, knowing she had started on a journey that would change her life. She breathed in and out and welcomed that change, yielding to the Father’s care.
“Do you think what God asks of us is easy?” The man asked as he walked around in the tent, weaving through chairs and tables.
Different scents assailed his nostrils. The aroma of luxury thick in the air, but he refused to be distracted as he listened to the one who gave him utterance.
The people listened, the silence thick. For some, it was a time for a change. For others, just another message.
“It cannot be. Who can stop worrying about life just like that?” He said, continuing as he stared at people, praying their ears would hear. “Who can stop thinking about what they’ll eat, and if not for them, for their families? No, it’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible.”
He walked to the front of the tent, where a table lay with his iPad and reading glasses. He heaved up and sat on the table, next to his things, ignoring the chair set for him, and smiled at the group.
“The eye.” He said, looking around at the well-dressed people who had gathered to listen. “What do you see? What informs the way you live? If you see only this world and what is happening in it, then your eyes are bad.”
“Man of God, what else are we supposed to see?” Someone from the back asked, triggering nervous laughter from around him.
The man smiled as well. “I’m glad you asked.” He said, jumped down, and made his way to the area from where the question had arisen. “God’s word is the lamp for your feet and light for your path; focus on the word.”
He turned back and headed to his table. “The Holy Spirit.”
He sat on the table again and looked at the crowd seated before him. “The overshadowing force is available. He is here right now for whosoever believes. What do I mean by that? When He opens your eyes to the truth in the word of God, it becomes life. You are enabled to live above life here on earth.”
“Is it magic?” The same person asked. More laughter ensued, and this time, they didn’t try to subdue it.
The man shook his head, amidst the noise. “No, that’s the truth. We will never stop worrying or trying to address life on our own until God opens our eyes to the possibilities abundant in His grace. Grace, in my humble definition, is enablement. Our ability to see the truth and live it by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
“How many people can live like that? Didn’t God make it available for certain people?” An older man seated in the middle asked.
“Seek first; make priority; focus first, on God’s kingdom. If that is so, He must have made provision, which would enable us to seek Him and not go crazy. The search for our own needs is enough to make anyone go mad. If you add searching for the kingdom of God as well, we would all bottom out. God had a plan. He gave us His Word and the power that gave it life from the beginning to allow us to soar.”
“What’s it like, this enabled life you speak of?” A well-dressed woman asked from the front row, a half-smile on her lips.
The man smiled back. “I wake up not worrying about tomorrow. I take everything God makes available for me today as part of His grace, in gratitude. Not just the good, but those we humans define as bad as well, because I understand all things are working together for good. You see, if it means focusing on today alone, I do it. God created today, and it is a day for rejoicing. Why rejoice? Jesus died for me and set me free from the power of darkness. I have the light of life and the power to live the God-life here. The overshadowing power of God is available every day to enable me to live above the issues of life.”
“How do you know?” A man asked, standing up. “How are you sure these things are so? When I wake up every day, life remains the same. Same life, same people, same problems. What makes it different?”
The man stood as well. “I believe it. For a long time, the verses in the scriptures remained as head knowledge for me, but now the Holy Spirit illuminates them daily as I hear Him speak. Once enlightened, I choose to live in the truth of the kingdom I cannot see and not wallow in the darkness of the world that I can, my choice. Sir, it is your choice as well.” He said, looking at the man intently, then he looked around the room.
“We can all decide how we live. Filled with the light of life and enabled by God’s Spirit or to continue in the lie painted by the enemy, the God of this world. He can paint various pictures that would seem real but are lies. God allowed it in the life of Job. The pictures were vivid and filled with life, almost to the point where most of us would be consumed by them, but not Job. How many can withstand all that and live?”
Murmurs from the group erupted like a choir singing, and the man smiled and returned to his table-seat.
“Now that you are thinking about it, know this, God is ready and can use anybody here. As a Christian, your life is pointless if all you can see and live for is here on earth. Your priority is the kingdom and your part in it. Don’t be deceived; you cannot mock God. Whatever a man sows that he will also reap.”
Theo invited me to his shed! I screamed in my mind.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d been waiting for an invitation since our church members told me about Theodores Creations.
I’d just moved to Aniocha County, and the people were warm and welcoming. Once I stepped into the local Church, I’d been overwhelmed with love and care. My husband, Onyema, had died in a recent accident in the warehouse where he worked, and city living had seemed too complicated. Onyema, an Aniocha man, didn’t have time to travel home often, so this was my first visit after the wedding ceremony.
His family tried their best to accommodate my son and me, but being barely able to fend for themselves, how could they help? Onyema took care of his parents until his death.
The Church members helped me secure a position in the town’s only secondary school once I asked for help with work. The Principal attended fellowship with me, and we built a relationship over time and discussions on verses drawn from the scriptures. He told me about Theo.
I remember the day he showed me a picture of the mug Theo made him. It was the day his daughter turned sixteen. He’d been scrolling through the images on his phone when I saw a multicolored item and asked him to stop. He smiled as he did and allowed me to examine the mug.
“This is so beautiful, sir. Where did you get such a picture?”
“The mug is in my house.”
I turned to him, eyes wide. “You mean this is not just a picture?”
He smiled as he shook his head. “No, a brother in Christ, Theo, makes these mugs as instructed by God.”
“He must make a lot of money from them.”
He smiled again. “The mugs are not for sale. God instructs Theo with a message for people, which he draws on the mugs and gives the owners. He doesn’t take a penny. Can you see the intricate drawings on the body? It tells a story which he explains to the owner of the mug. No two mugs are the same as God makes no two people the same.”
“That’s such a blessing. It’s as if God is showing everybody who gets a mug that they are special.”
He nodded. “He is. Almost everybody has gotten a mug in Church.”
I snapped to attention. “Which Church? Our Church? You mean he goes to our Church?”
He laughed. “Yes, he does. He is a loner and doesn’t come often, but when he does, he comes bearing gifts.”
“Wow. I’ve never seen him before,” I said, looking out of the window, lost in thought.
I needed a word from God, a message for me. I wasn’t sure about the move or its effects on my son, my little five-year-old. I wasn’t confident if I was working in the will of God or not. There were many questions in my heart.
The Principal touched my hand, and I jerked away.
“I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassed at how lost I must have seemed.
He smiled. “You will meet him one day.” He said.
Six months later, Theo came to Church, and he indeed bore gifts. After the service, we could hear women squealing from outside the building when he presented them with theirs. He didn’t notice me that day, to my utmost disappointment, but I saw the mugs he made. The two cups were as different as day and night, in color and pattern. The way he drew on them was distinct, as well.
Six months later, the Principal called me into his office during break time.
“There has been an odd request from Theo.” He said.
I nodded, sitting upright and forward. Any news about Theo was worth listening to, I thought.
“He called me about five minutes ago and asked for your number. May I forward it to him?”
I sat back in shock. Why would Theo want my number?
“Why does he want my number, sir?”
“I have no idea. As I said, it’s a rather odd request, but be rest assured, he is a good man.”
I nodded. “Please send it to him,” I said.
I sat and watched as the Principal typed my number and sent, and then remembered I’d left my phone in the Teachers’ Hall. I excused myself and rushed to it, and five minutes later, it rang.
“Hello,” I said, a little breathless.
“Hello, my name is Theodore Nwankwo. Am I speaking with Mrs. Umunna?”
“Yes, yes, you are.”
“Are you alright? I hope I didn’t call at a bad time?”
“No, not at all.”
“You may not know me…”
“I know you from Church.”
“Oh, okay.” He said and laughed. A gentle laugh meant for a friend. “Would you consider coming to my Pottery shed tomorrow? I need to show you something.”
“Ah, it’s Saturday, and I can’t go out without my son.”
“Please bring him. I’d be delighted to have you both. How old is he?”
I smiled. “Jay is five years old. What time would be alright?”
“10 am. I hope that’s not too early?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Good. I will send my address now. My house is on the outskirts of town.”
“Okay. We’ll be there tomorrow.”
I was stunned at the invitation. I’d never heard that Theo invited anybody to his workplace. Why me? Was I getting something else?
I informed the Principal of the call, feeling it was the right and safe thing to do, and couldn’t think about anything else until I got to his house.
The taxi driver dropped us off in front of the house and drove away. Jay, my son, and I walked to the gate and rang the bell. Theo came to open it with a big smile. The shock of shocks, shy Jay, went to him without any prodding. Theo was huge, not fat, tall, and broad like he worked with a lot of strength. It seemed like he picked my son up with a finger and threw him in the air. Jay’s squeals of laughter got us to a good start.
He took us around the compound, showing us all the pots he’d made over time, stocked in sheds. Jay ran helter-skelter like a little puppy looking for a bone, and Theo didn’t mind. He took us to his working shed and presented us with snacks and drinks.
“You didn’t have to go through all this trouble,” I said, amazed at his presentation.
He smiled. “My housekeeper did all this.” He said whispering.
I smiled back. Theo took Jay’s hand, led the boy to a table with brown sheets and colored pencils, and asked him to draw anything he wanted. The happy little boy set to work changing pencils and drawing everything his heart desired.
Theo turned to me and led me to his work table. He pulled out a chair, gestured that I sit, and went to sit in his.
“How has life been since you moved?” He asked.
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t expect the question. “Fine.”
He smiled. “I saw you in a dream. You were looking for help. Help in the dream was a person, and you kept looking for him. For one reason or the other, he kept dodging your efforts. You tried so hard and waited so long until you gave up. I saw you sitting on a chair, slumped into it, more like, with a faraway look. It seemed like you were willing to take anything life presented you with at that point.”
I didn’t know what to say. After one year of living the rural life, I’d acclimatized.
He stood and went to the cupboard behind my chair, opened and closed it. He returned to his seat, and I saw two items in his hands, a big mug and a small one. The cups were beautiful and designed with care. One could see how smooth the finishing was, how trim the bodies, and the glazing came out looking exotic. The drawing on the big mug went from one side and finished on the other.
He lifted it as I looked. I couldn’t get my eyes off it.
“This is your mug. God chose the glaze mixture that made the red and brown color you see. See how the red flows into the patterns, telling a story of their own. What I drew also adds to the story. God asked me to tell you that you are not alone. He is the potter, and you, the clay. He made you, and He will continue to carry you. Jesus shed his blood for you, and it flows through everything that concerns you, cleansing and preparing you. Don’t look for help in anyone or anything else but in Him. May this mug continue to remind you of this message.”
He handed it to me, and I took it with shaking hands, unable to see through my tears. He stood and walked to my side and patted me on the shoulder, like a big brother.
“He has always been by your side. Learn to relate and trust Him, for He is all you need.”
“God bless you,” I said, my voice shaking. “I needed this so much. Not the mug exactly, but a word from God.”
“Now, you must begin to hear Him for yourself. He is near to us all. In Him, we live, move, and have our being. He needs you to seek Him, and you will find Him.”
“Jay,” He said as he turned and called to my son. “Come and see what I made you.”
Jay got down from his chair and rushed over. Theo handed him his mug, and he smiled at me before turning back to Theo. Theo let us watch him molding clay as he got ready to make another mug, and then it was time to go.
My mug is in our room, on top of my work table. It reminds me always of God’s presence in my life.
The potter made the pot himself. He understands its nature, and regardless of the little defects it might have and all it might pass through, it remains a work of art prepared for His glory.
Darkness. Total and all-consuming. Lanre stood still; he couldn’t move any further. The darkness seemed to cause him pain. He was horrified as it tried to engulf his very being. It was all he saw, breathed, tasted, heard, and felt. It appeared to want to extinguish him, making him a part of it. “Father,” He said, crying out. “Are you there?” “Yes, son. Always.” A quiet voice said. The voice spoke with a peace that seemed not to notice the darkness or its effects. It sounded calm. “The darkness, it’s too powerful. I can’t see you.” Lanre said, looking around him. “You know I am with you.” “Why is there such darkness, Father. I want to walk about and see. I want to live in the light and walk in it free and unrestricted.” “Who is your light?” “You, but I can’t see you,” Lanre said, throwing up his hands in the air. “I am light.” “How?” “My word. No matter how powerful the darkness appears, it cannot stop the light.” Lanre knew every word God spoke was true, but he had to ask. “Why am I overwhelmed?” “You are not connected and dependent on me.” “Father, how do I stay connected and dependent?” “Wait on me. Listen to my word. Trust in me, regardless of your circumstances.” Lanre slumped to his knees. “Life is happening, Lord. How do I combat the daily issues I face by waiting?” “Your weakness is your strength. You will find my strength when you are weak.” Lanre bowed his head as the scriptures supporting the word God spoke in his heart, flashed in his mind. The more he thought on them, his struggle ebbed bit by bit, and he could feel relief. The darkness still lingered, but it didn’t seem to be choking him as before. “So, I stay dependent on you?” “Yes.” “What if I can’t hear you when a need arises?” “Do nothing, and wait. You will hear me then, as you hear me now. Seek me, Lanre, not how to rule over your world. With my word, you have victory over life’s battles.” “Yes, Father, but one more thing. How do I move in the darkness?” “At my word.” Lanre nodded. “Please, show me.” He sprung to his feet, listened, and took step after step on the path chosen by His Father. With each word he received, Lanre walked through life, depending daily on God’s Spirit and His grace.
“All of a sudden, the car turned 180 degrees and kept going.”
“Wow!” The boy in the audience said, lifting his legs off the bed and turning to the storyteller. An aged woman called out the name of Jesus, but the doctor who was checking his patient smiled.
“How did it happen?” The doctor asked, still checking the patient’s IV.
“I don’t know. One minute I was hurtling off a cliff, and the next, it appeared the car had taken control. My eyes were closed the whole time. I opened it expecting to be in the air, falling, but I saw myself back on the road and the cliff behind me.” The man said, with his palms turned up in confusion.
“Hmmm…” The doctor said, still smiling.”Were you drinking before the incident?” He asked, checking things off on the patient’s card.
“No, I was as clear-minded as I am now. I am new to the area and didn’t know there was a cliff there. I was trying to get away.”
“From what? Was someone chasing you?” The boy asked.
“I was getting away from something I’d done.” The man said, looking down.
“What happened next?” The boy asked again. Although he had bandages all over his face muffling his words, it didn’t stop him from sitting on the edge of his bed and giving the man the third-degree.
“I think I passed out from the shock. Next thing I know, I woke up here.” The man said still dazed.
“A couple saw you unconscious in your car at the corner of the mountain road and brought you here. They couldn’t resuscitate you and were worried.”
“May I see them if they return, Doctor?” The patient asked.
“Sure. I’ll advise you to spend the night, and I’ll check on you again tomorrow, but everything seems okay.”
“Thank you.” The patient said to the smiling doctor as he left the ward.
“Do you believe God saved you?” The woman asked, her eyes were wide as she waited for his response.
“I don’t know what else to say. I was racing away from an evil I’d done towards certain death and whispered a prayer for forgiveness. A whisper I cannot recall. I thought I was muttering gibberish at the time, but just before the car flew off the edge, just as I closed my eyes and left the wheel, something happened to that car.”
“Do you think Aliens took control and took you to their Spaceship? Maybe that’s why you can’t remember anything.” The boy said as he left his bed, drawing close to the man.
“Pshew, nonsense. Aliens, please. God saved your life today, sir, and don’t you forget it.” The woman said, a stern look on her face.
“Why? For what reason would God save a person like me?” The man asked, shaking his head.
The old lady smiled.”That’s who He is, the Saviour. We call Him Lord.”
With tears in his eyes. “I did nothing to deserve it, Madam, nothing at all.”
“There is nothing we do to deserve God’s grace. He gives it freely to them that are willing and believe.” She said.
“But I wasn’t willing, and I didn’t believe in Him. So, why?” The man cried.
She was quiet for a little while. “God has plans for you, son. He restored life to you for a reason. Don’t go back to your former life. Spend this new one asking Him why He saved you.”
“God wants you to be a Pastor.” The boy said, nodding his head. A eureka moment for him.
The old lady smiled. “Maybe not, child. God will show him in His time.”
“In a moment, when I thought all lost, God saved me. Now, I am sitting up in a hospital bed and speaking to people? Unbelievable.” The man said, still in shock.
“He restores us all in that way; some stories, not as dramatic as yours. The most important thing is to remember that He has restored so that He will lead. Don’t make the mistake of charting a new life until you’ve heard from Him. Let Him lead and guide you on the path He has chosen.” The aged woman said and lay down.
She did not sleep but kept smiling. It was a smile of understanding. She wasn’t driving off a cliff like him before her experience with the Father. Her life had been careening off the deep end towards destruction after her husband’s death. She had taken to drinking to avoid the endless bills and the banks knocking down her door. She lost everything, and her life, almost, until God came.
She closed her eyes, still smiling, and engaged her Father in thanksgiving for another life.
Nneoma loved God and lived to do His bidding. She understood the flesh stood in the way of walking with God and lived relying on the Holy Spirit for life. She had a relationship with God, not based on anything physical, and God confirmed his word to her in various ways.
Nneoma woke up one morning with a migraine. It started the night before and didn’t allow her continue her night-owl business, not of being a witch, but of doing God’s work. She worked hard on her daily schedule, which boosted her weekly performances, and formed the monthly work she analyzed and checked off for monthly productivity. Not doing tasks was a problem for her.
With the pain playing subtle drums in her head, she prayed for healing and strength for her day. The migraine was still a dull ache behind her left eye, and she had exhausted her last pack of pain relievers and didn’t have time to get a new one. She had meetings from that morning until noon. With a history of such pain, she wasn’t ready for the effects it blossomed to if left unchecked. Not today, she prayed.
At 7 am, Nneoma was out of bed, checked the kids, and made sure they were all ready for online classes. Covid didn’t help with the stress. The nannies, two of them, for her two children, were efficient and on top of their tasks. Nneoma nodded to herself and left to get ready for the day.
At 9 am, she set the kids up with their computers, and went to check on the rest of the house. She spoke to the house-help about cleaning the dirt on her office floor and met with the woman’s sudden attitude. Nneoma rolled her inner eyes, unable to understand how she could deal with a migraine, getting stronger by the hour, and hiked up female emotions at the same time. She got upset.
“Listen, I don’t have time for this. Just get it cleaned now.” She said to the woman with whom she enjoyed an amicable relationship.
“Yes, ma.” The house-help said and went on with her task.
At 10:30 am, Nneoma couldn’t continue working and asked her nanny to run to the pharmacy for the medicine. She got the treatment in twenty minutes, took two tablets, and asked for food. She broke her fast and slept for an hour exhausted, something that never happened to her on weekdays.
At 1 pm, Nneoma felt better, weak, but ready to continue her day. A thought nagged her at the back of her mind. It called to her, seeking an audience, hoping she could hear it above her busy schedule. When she did listen, it asked her if she had done God’s will?
She discarded the thought at first, taking it as the enemy’s ploy to judge her and steal her joy. However, it got her thinking, and as she thought through the events of the day, cracks appeared in her armor. Unable to understand the cause of her mistakes, she called her friend, Funmi, for advice, and a second eye.
“Nne,” Funmi said, after listening to Nneoma’s detailed account. “We are all too busy for our good and led away from our source of help and strength. I see three things I believe I should point out from your story.”
Funmi was the sort of woman who didn’t mince words. She advised in love and moved on, which Nneoma loved about her.
“You are hustling, darling. I know you hate the word, but it’s what you are doing. You need to wait on God for renewal. The work is His, so let His strength take over and perform. You are also walking alone, and you know it never pays for us to do that. Walk in the Spirit, honey. Let the Holy Spirit guide and lead you at all times and in all situations.
“When we walk with the Holy Spirit, we give others what we owe them as God’s children, love. You don’t know what your house-help is passing through, and a kind word may have revealed it to you, regardless of the attitude she put up. No matter what we pass through, we carry the power of God inside of us, enabling us to live above life’s challenges at all times.” Funmi sighed and continued. “I thank God the Holy Spirit drew your attention to these issues so that you can deal with them. May God continue to reveal our mistakes, readying us for His glory.”
“Amen. Thank you, Funmi, and thank God for your life.”
“Papa, warn Ebere. Warn her, or the next time she even looks at me the wrong way…” Chikodi said, panting and shaking her leg, furious, as she stood before her father. He looked up from the book he was reading and watched her, not saying a word. When she calmed down, he set his book on the stool beside him and gestured to the seat beside his. “Sit.” Chikodi strode to the chair and dumped herself on it, frowning still. Her father noticed the action and raised an eyebrow. “What happened this time?” “She took my book without permission, but that’s not the problem. I put all the transport money I saved up for today’s trip in there, and she took everything. She didn’t ask and didn’t apologize when I asked her. She was running her mouth like the tap that she is —” “Chikodi!” Her father said, in a loud and urgent tone. “I’m sorry.” He remained quiet and, after a while, looked at her with a smile. “We both know your little sister and what she can do, don’t we? So, I will focus on you. The last time something like this happened, I asked you to come to me. Why didn’t you?” “She’s always doing things like this, and because she gets away with it, she continues.” “Ahhh, so there are two trouble makers here, your sister and I?” Her tone softened, and she looked down, regretting. “No, I didn’t it mean it that way.” Her father breathed a heavy sigh and shook his head. “Chikodi, you are not like your sister. She doesn’t have what you have, which enables you to live above some of these things.” She sat up. “But, Papa…” “Let me finish.” He said, his tone brooked no argument. “The Christ in you should always come first; anything else is a raging fire ready to consume. Let me paint you a picture of an alternative end to this story. You notice your book is gone, and you find it in her room. You ask for the money and receive an unfavorable response. You are God’s and not your own, and at that point, you step back from the situation and ask for wisdom. That is what being His dwelling place is all about. God has given you all you need to live above and beyond by His grace. Next, you come to me. I pay you back and take the money out of your sister’s pocket funds for the month. The matter ends there. Do you see the difference in both pictures? One ends in a quarrel, and the other in peace.” “But, Papa, how long should we allow this behavior to go on? For how long should I forgive?” She asked, throwing her hands up in frustration. “Good, another point raised. What is true forgiveness? Do you think it’s saying ‘I forgive you’ to another while you harbor the pain in your heart and maybe build walls to protect yourself against a next occurrence? No. True forgiveness is forgiving and forgetting wrong, moving forward with no record of it, and starting on a clean slate with the person. Forgive as your Heavenly Father forgives. You do this for as long as you have breath and stand before the throne-room of God.” “How do I do that?” She asked, looking confused. “All things are possible to them that believe. Ask God for help with your anger and frustration as you lay each incident at His feet. Draw strength from His love for you. If you remember the incident after the day it occurs, don’t let its memories fester and grow. Banish those thoughts to the waste bin. You’ve dealt with them before God.” “Papa, you know how she is,” Chikodi said, laying back to rest in the chair, as if in defeat. “The bible states that Jesus knew the heart of man, did it stop Him from performing miracles to help them, or going to the cross to die for people who chose a thief over Him? Remember that the heart of every man is in the hands of God, and he can turn it any way He likes. Pray for your sister, as I do, and expect a change in her.” Chikodi nodded and stood. Her actions sudden, as if she remembered something. “Papa, I need the money now. I need to go soon.” The father nodded and removed his wallet from his shirt. “How much is it?” “Five thousand Naira, Papa.” “Here, take this and use the balance for something you like.” She counted the money and smiled as her eyes lit up. “Thank you, Papa. I’m grateful.” He smiled. “Go, and don’t be late. Take care on the way.” “Yes, Papa.” She said as she ran out of the room. The man stood and walked to the door of the room. “Ebere, Chidiebere!” “Yes, Papa.” “Come here.” He said, walked back to sit, and waited for his errant child.
A man dressed in metal armor raced into the center of the grounds of a block of flats. “It is time.” He said shouting, and laughed with joy. He looked up into the sky and ran out again. All the house residents could hear the commotion happening out on the streets, and most came out to their balconies to see what was happening. Earlier, people moved about in the six flats, going about their day to day tasks, as they always did. On the second floor lived an entrepreneur, and next to her, a publishing company. Two families occupied the first floor, one with no child, on the left, and another with two children, on the right. The ground floor housed a shop and a family with one child. The grandmother bathed the child, a one-year-old boy, on the verandah outside the house, enjoying the child’s squeals of laughter. All the occupants were living their lives. One day spilling into the next, from morning to evening, and night until morning. Not so that day. A group of three ran out of their houses to join the crowd and were clothed in the same silver armor once they left the gate. They stopped shocked, laughed, and continued on their way. It seemed like they had gone mad. The three were the entrepreneur, an editor from the publishing house, and the children’s mother from the first floor. Next, the residents watched as the baby’s mother, from the ground floor, rushed to the gate carrying her child. She was changing him as fast as she could. Both received the armor as she raced out of the compound. The grandmother screamed for her grandchild as she ran after them, but stopped at the gate. She was almost hysterical as she called her son’s phone over and over, with no response. The people who remained looked on, some with fear, and others with pity. They wondered at the powers which possessed the minds of the people running out to join the crowd of absolute chaos. The covering with armor wasn’t visible to the natural eye, and the people on the streets seemed to them in disarray. An older man stepped out of the house and walked to the gate. His steps were swift and sure. On seeing him, the grandmother barred him from leaving the house with her body. “Director, where are you going?” She asked. “To join the army.” “What army? This band of mad people?” “They may look mad, but God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise.” “My daughter-in-law joined them with her baby!” The grandmother said, almost screaming in anguish as she pointed to the crowd. “Help me find them and bring them home, please.” She said, kneeling before the man. He strode to her side and helped her up. “The best you can do is to join us. God is here to change things, to dwell with us, be in us, and to work through us.” “No.” She said, extracting her arm from him. “My God does not work among misfits. Just bring those two back for me, please.” The man shook his head as he walked to the gate. Once there, he was clothed in armor, as well. He understood what God was doing and turned to the woman and everybody else in the compound. “It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.” He said and joined the crowd moving forward. The second married woman on the first floor strolled down to the ground floor and joined the old lady. “Can you imagine this?” The grandmother asked, still shocked. “Don’t mind them. When it is time for God to manifest, the whole world will know about it, not just a sick few.” “Madam, if God wants to work, He tells His own.” The shopkeeper said, walked past and out of the gates, taking her position. “And you are one of them?” The lady asked, calling after her and laughing. “I don’t think this is a joke. What if it’s real?” Another editor asked, stepping close to the women and looking worried. “Well, why are you waiting? Join them and find out.” The lady said, gesticulating with almost every part of her body, and in doing so, showed her frustrations. The Editor kept quiet, deciding to keep his thoughts to himself. “Look at them, and for what?” The grandmother asked, spitting out her words in disdain and shaking her head. “We run like mighty men, marching in formation, and we do not break ranks.” An apprentice editor said, running past his boss, and into the streets with the crowd, joining the body of Christ. The people left behind remained blinded. They chose the world they could see and touch over the eternal.
Cara sat up on her bed, the scraping sound of a chair on the floor alerting her to the movement in the dining room on the ground floor. She slid her legs from the bed, slipped into her slippers and made her way out of her room. She tiptoed to the exit leading to the lower part of the house.
She knew who the person sitting in the dining room would be, her granny, and she wanted to be with her. Once she exited the door leading to the staircase, the smell of cinnamon hit her. A brief memory of cinnamon-flavored pancakes wafted through her mind in a flash, making her smile—memories made with granny.
She made her way downstairs, knowing granny knew of her descent, but the old lady kept her head down as she read her bible. The electric bulbs were off, and white scented candles filled the room, giving it an other-worldly feel. One candle stood in its small silver holder on the dining table, giving granny direct light.
Cara smiled again at her granny’s habits, as she made her way to the dining table, moved a chair out, and sat next to her. Granny lifted her head and smiled, a smile of love and appreciation. Cara could never get enough of that smile, she smiled back, and none of them said a word for a while.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Granny asked.
“Not yet. I work late into the night. It will take time to adjust to rural life.”
“You should sleep, Cara-Mama, your body deserves it.”
“And you, Mama-Cara, doesn’t your body deserve it too?”Cara said, and they smiled at the pet names they had given each other years back.
“I started a nightly habit after I retired from teaching. When I can’t sleep, I come out here, light my candles, and seek God’s face. He always has a word for me. I sleep till late in the morning and start my day refreshed.”
Cara took her granny’s hand in hers and squeezed. “How are you doing? Be honest.”
Her granny squeezed right back. “I am fine.” She said, smiling.
“How do you do it? How do you stay strong after such a loss? I want to understand, no, I need to, granny. I want to know you don’t show a strong face in the day and cry yourself to sleep at night. It also keeps me up.”
Her granny smiled and bent her head to an angle, thinking. “I will read something for you.” She said and flipped through her bible. She settled on a page.
“It’s from the book of Isaiah, chapter 26, and verse 4:
Trust in the Lord forever, For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength.’
“Cara, this verse has carried me through storms, oh, great ones. Storms that toppled me and bled me dry. Storms that exhausted me and left me empty, almost dead. Storms that threatened to take my very life, but you know who stood steady by me through them? The Lord.
“When your grandfather died, He stood next to me like the rock of Gibraltar, unshaken. So I knew I would stand again. When the farm went bankrupt, and I almost lost everything my husband built, the Lord stood next to me, and we weathered that hurricane together. Now, even now…”
Cara saw tears for the first time drop from her granny’s eyes, and her tears, like servants being called upon by a master, were summoned.
“Now that my son is dead, the Lord is standing by me. He is upholding me, and telling me everything will be alright. You ask how I do it? I don’t. I rely on the strength of my heavenly father and yours as well.” She looked at Cara with an intensity that shook her grand-daughter, squeezing her hand tight for emphasis.
“If I leave you nothing else, child, learn to go to Him at all times. Learn to trust and wait for Him. There will be times of pain and anguish that would threaten to take your very breath, turn to Him. Hardships will come, the ones caused by you and the ones nobody will understand, turn to Him. For without Him, you will not be able to navigate life effectively. Some people will go through what I’ve gone through and come away scarred, but in all things, God has held me up in righteousness.”
Granny let go of Cara and smiled, wiping her tears. “That’s how I’ve survived and will continue to until He calls me home.”
“How? How do you know He is there?”
Granny smiled. “I learned to listen long ago. To hear and to obey. It took time and experience, painful ones, but now I am sure of His presence as I can see your face. Don’t waste time pursuing things, Cara. Pursue Him, and He will show you the life He created you for.”
Cara nodded, cleaning her face, and needing more to reassure the woman than to understand.”Do you need a study partner?” She asked, smiling.
“Of course, and tomorrow, I will make you the cinnamon pancakes you love so much.”
“Granny, they were my favorites at 12. I need to watch my weight.”
“Nonsense, not here,” Granny said, smiling as she looked at Cara. Her appreciation of the young woman showing again, as her eyes narrowed on Cara’s facial features, inspecting each one with affection. “Thank you, Cara, for coming here. For taking time out of your schedule to visit Mama-Cara. God bless you, child.”
Cara smiled as she stood and walked to her granny’s chair, where she lowered her forehead, touching her granny’s. A symbol of affection developed from long ago.