A gift unmatched

1 Dec

The knock on any car window is commonplace around the Sarit Centre in the Westlands area of Nairobi. Street children, each sniffing PVC glue fumes from a bottle, roam around the area begging for money and sometimes, grabbing it. Like other motorists caught up in that Thursday afternoon traffic jam, our doors where locked and windows rolled up. It’s a wonder no one sizzled in that sweltering heat.

A few young street boys, while kicking each other and dashing around cars, came by a few times. When their hope of getting money was dashed, mumbled a few words and moved onto the next car. 

Our three children and their friends at the backseat of the car all wanted to know why those children where out there in tattered clothes, some staggering, some sleeping on the walkway and others, just staring in space. “Didn’t they have parents, how about food and blankets?” They fired off questions. “Can we lower the windows and chat with them?” These and a barrage of other innocent questions flew off from the back. To some, there where obvious answers, while others where baffling as much. 

The sweltering heat didn’t help much and cries of “Will I really live to see another day? I am hot, I am thirsty, I am hungry, my heart is boiling, my sweat is sour,” was interrupted by one fellow. Like all the others, he wore tattered clothes, had a few flies jogging around his face and of course the bottle. He extended his hand out to beg for money, his lips hanging so low it threatened to abandon his face. 

When he saw the book our kids where craning their necks to read, he joined them from outside the window. With his dirty, soil covered little finger, he slowing started to trace across the window as he followed the story. A smile replaced the sullen face he had presented earlier for money. His teeth shone through his bloodied lips as he conquered every single new word. 

The squabble among the five children at the backseat was how to position the book so the little fellow could read with ease. “Should we open the next page?” They asked him. With a nod of his lice laden head, a reply came, and it was immediately acted upon. Often, he would signal for patience.

When traffic finally opened up, a new debate emerged from the back. “Should we give him the book?” This is a favorite to some at the back. “We might never see him again?” Others reasoned. “How will he know what lays beyond his bottle if we don’t share our book with him? What about hope, this might give him a glimmer of it?” The debate raged on until the mamas where brought into it. 

With the book clasped tightly between his dirty hands, his treasured bottle abandoned by the shrub, the little fellow sat down on the walkway, oblivious to the foot traffic around him. With his stubby fingers, he followed the story as a whole new world seemed to open, right there on the spot associated with theft. 

To the five at the back, making their way home after a fun packed day at the Writer’s club, the smile on the face of another child was the cherry on their cake. The gift of a book made the little fellow peep into a world of possibilities. He shifted his focus from the bottle to the horizon.

The invitation

12 Jul

The invitation has been coming in thick and fast. “Mama,” she says. “Please knit with me!”

“What? Knit what?” I respond with near blindness. I do not know how to knit. I remember once borrowing one of those Dummies book on knitting and tailoring. After weeks of trying to make sense of saddle stitches and backward and forward stitches, I graduated with a massive thunderous migraine. The near cross-eye would have been a bonus.

My husband and a host of other sewing gurus have suffered through my endless questions on the how to this and that. In the end, I still cannot knit or sew unless my very own life depended on it.

What do you do when your eight year old RSVP’s you to this great place in her adventurous journey? I figured, you join the knitting club that meets every month in a gisty hotel.

There is a glitch though, I am nowhere in the region of sixty years old. Most members are also hard of hearing and I soon discover the decibels of both the machines and their owners is not encouraging to me at all. The members, know it all from the types of knitting machines to the many mind boggling types of stitches and fabric. It’s exciting at first but soon, my brain grinds to a painful halt. My eyes get criss-crossed again, and the sweating begins.

I chance on their website and faithfully follow their online tutorials but alas, some skills are learnt better at a certain time in our lives. I am afraid tailoring and it’s conduits give me more headache than it is necessary.

But how do I as a mother encourage my wide-eyed, thread-loving eight year old? I could take her to her aunt who just about sews everything and anything. Or maybe my designer friend who loves and understands these things. Or I could own up to my ignorance and volunteer to learn together with her.

This last option has been the best of them all. My daughter and I have bonded over teeny-weeny and monstrous issues in her life. Eight-year-old problems are real and massive. They can range from why some people have visible hair nostrils yet they are not related to seals to why nearly all mothers love to say no before hearing the whole question.

While my fingers bear obvious signs of needle assault, my heart rejoices at the intimacy that we share. I rejoice at the habits that might have gone unnoticed but came out during our needle work.

I hope this sets the stage for bigger discussions about babies and boys, marriage, career and a host of other things that will definitely creep up in her blessed life journey.

The invitation into your little girl’s private space might have come and gone. Sometimes, our little girls just want mama to sit on the floor and comb a doll’s hair. Or wash the baby and feed her before gently laying her to sleep.

This is the invitation, bond over it and help her experience God’s nurturing side through you.

Have you sent your RSVP? I would love to hear what your experience has been (or has not been) in the comment section below.

Why now?

16 Feb

Our daughter’s heart was shattered like a glass vase falling on a concrete floor. She has been inconsolable since. Our son would rather not talk about it because ‘it changes nothing’ and our youngest misses all the hard-covered story books and Bob books.

Late last year, the only homeschoolers resource center that we have been members of since our homeschooling journey began, three years ago, shut their doors to over 100 families.

We are eternally grateful for the wonderful service we received each time we visited the resource centre. A whole new world of learning was cast open before our children’s eyes. To be honest, math started making some form of sense to me.

My family is aware that the annual subscription we paid was highly subsidized. You opened your doors to us and in a way, taught my husband and I to appreciate our roles as parents.

Even though some of the books are available in bookshops, the truth is most homeschooling families cannot afford to buy them.

As a family, we understand your need to end your service to us, we are still saddened.

This had been our lifeline, there was a degree of confidence it injected in our learning.

When I yo-yoed in my decision to educate our kids at home, I drove to the resource centre. There would be a family there with a verse from the Bible or an experience that affirmed our decision to homeschool.

Sometimes, after consuming copious amounts of books, we would all spread out on the mats and share a meal together in the open grounds.

I remember our eight-year old borrowing the Apologia Creation Series. For the next six months, all we heard in the house was astronomy-related. Her love for the planets and their ways became our language. We sat out some nights to appreciate constellations and await the coming of the comets (thank God none appeared).

Any guest to our home either answered a quiz on the planets and actively listened to a story or two about them. We made a chandelier of the planets and hung it in her room. To this day, she has never forgotten the lessons in that astronomy book.

There where about seven copies of My Father’s Dragon at the resource centre. They all bear our son’s name. We read them until they ceased to produce any literary juice to me.

The new world in The Story of the World by Susan Bauer would never have come alive to us had we not faithfully read it as a family. That girl Tarak is very popular with our son. We hunted a few lizards and named some.

Closing down the only resource centre that serves many homeschoolers in this country seems brutal. Our daughter, like many other homeschooled children, will now face the dilemma of ‘what next’, to which most parents have no answer to.

Some might argue that the national library is available for all to use. Indeed it is. We have endured endless questions on why the kids are not in School, why are they in the library during class hours. Why are they not in school uniforms? They are free to visit the library after school hours or on weekends. You cannot borrow more than two books. When do they do their homework? Why are borrowing an autobiography during the school week? We do not always have the thick skin to endure this.

The peace of mind that a library offers to homeschoolers is unmatched. It is a lifeline and heartbeat to our learning.

For now, we continue to soothe the aching hearts and sobbing children in our midst believing that the author of our faith is aware of our dilemma.

Mama lessons from Nehemiah

22 Jan

I am beginning to find some similarities between Nehemiah, the cup bearer to king Artaxerxes and what a mama needs to do.

He went about with a sullen face, weighed down by the burdens of the Israelite. This was despite the fact thst such behavior could have easily cost him his life.

The cries and anguish of his kinsmen hurt him deeply. However, his response to their plight is where I am drawing my lessons from.

Sometimes the wall of discipline breaks down in my home. The gates to my children’s hearts and learning does get shaken every now and then by impatience and fatigue.

The secret that I am learning is to know who my provider is and in many ways respond like Nehemiah did.

First he prayed (Neh 1:5-11). He was contrite and sincere in his prayer to God. I need to do the same for my children. It is now obvious to me that I need divine guidance to be a good mama.

Nehemiah then planned (Neh 2:2-8). My children need to know that there is a plan to their day of learning. Of course, there is room for the occasional impromptu visit to the park.

Now that we are certain about being at home and homeschooling, we can act like Nehemiah did in (Neh 2:9-12). I have got to confront the situation and begin to rebuild whatever it is.

Our six year old has discovered an interesting way of communication. He whines and hunches his back only to let out a wasp like sound. His mouth stretches to unimaginable propotions and then the calling begins. Mama, mama, mama. While I enjoy the sound of my children calling me, this sometimes drives me up the wall.

Like Nehemiah, I am learning to walk to where my son is and to confront the whining with a lesson in communication. ‘Son, breath in,” I might say. “Now, open your mouth and talk to me. Stand up straight and look into my eyes, that’s it.

The support of others is paramount to our homeschooling journey. I don’t know everything. The study of physics always intimidated me. However, to some members in our writers club, physics is like taking a walk. In (2:12-18), he sought support(community) and the work carried on faster.

Interestingly, Nehemiah just like mamas, faced opposition in his quest to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. We face fatigue, unsupportive relatives and friends, financial constraints, lack of resources, brain lock and sometimes sickness. Do we cave in or do we march on?

Nehemiah was ridiculed, laughed at and his efforts undermined. He experienced squabbles among the workers, like I do with our kids, while some people where determined to distract the builders.
In all this, love, compassion and integrity shone through.

My response to my children’s cries for attention should not always be met by aloofness. Take it to The Lord in prayer.

Like Nehemiah, I can chose to rise above all these and be counted for training our children in the way of truth. And then trust The Lord to do his part in their lives.

Do not sweat the small stuff

14 Dec

What a year that was! It was definitely more fulfilling than the previous one. Our children laughed more, played more and learnt a whole lot more. I consciously tackled motherhood with love and patience.

It seemed like our children got away with a lot of mischief but nah, I let their creator take over. He did a splendid job with their hearts.

Our homeschooling experience was for the most part fun and exciting. I watched our daughter own her learning and raise the bar for herself. She whipped up some amazing meals and wrote a mind-boggling story.

I slept less and my knees are callous from all the pleading and needs I laid at the Lord’s feet on behalf of my kids.

I think in general I was a more pleasant person to myself and family. So when Christmas came and passed, Mary (yes, she of ordinary belongings and
upbringing) filled my mind a lot.

Her life seemed filled with mundane chores. She spent her time nurturing and looking after her child. She did it with her head held high.

She did not sweat the small stuff but got on with the work of raising a child of promise. Mary loved her son immensely and I bet spent sleepless nights worrying about his well being.

They attended parties together (wedding at Cana) and wept together as well. Jesus was a child of promise.

I am raising children of promise. There is a purpose to their being in my life. They deserve my presence and time and that is what they will get.

This year, no sweating the small stuff. Quite frankly, they do take up too much time.

Realizing Life

25 Nov

Great for family and friends-re blogged

adoptingjames

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The holiday season seems to come at us faster and faster every year. I feel like we just put away the 4th of July fireworks and now I’ve got pumpkin ice cream in my freezer and Egg Nog in my fridge.

The dust hasn’t even settled on the rolls of wrapping paper from last year.

Having just turned a new decade, no one needs to remind me how quickly time flies. But I still need the reminder.

As you gather around the Thanksgiving table with your family next week – whether you like them or not – I want to challenge you to really take the time to relax, and breathe. Enjoy your families, regardless of the circumstances. One day Uncle Fred or Grandma or Dad aren’t going to be sitting at that seat, and you’ll miss them.

If you feel that the holiday season has become mundane, soak…

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Who are you?

22 Nov

This morning, we sat around the table and the question of ‘who are you’ came up. The word of God seems to bring a calming sense to our daily learning. Sometimes we sing it loud in unimaginable keys, other days we memorize or draw it out.

Of late though, everybody seems to have an opinion which the rest of us must listen to. And so it was that the first chapter of the Gospel of John sent my children talking about who they are.

It seems a few people had an opinion as to who John was. “Are you Elijah?” they asked. “No,” John replied. “Are you the prophet, the coming Christ perhaps?” they persisted to which John replied in the negative.

“Who are you?” I asked our four year old daughter. She rattled off her full names and age before settling down to, “I am beautiful on the inside and then the outside.” She lisped her way through, “I love eating with my family, I love mama and daddy.”

The two oldest children dwelt on their heritage. “I am a son of God,” our son said. “Then I am a Kimunya, which means I treat my sisters with love and tackle them gently.”

Echoes of ‘I am a daughter of God, I am a girl who loves mathematics, I can’t say the same about writing’ filled the air.
But this lesson was double edged, it pierced through their little hearts as much as it did mine.

When our children are clear on who they are, sprinkled with doses of affirmation, encouragement, hugs and a sense of belonging, then ownership happens.

Now mama does not have to be a constant drizzle from dawn to dusk because the children get it, who they are is hinged on their maker.