Footprints

For the first time in 4 years, I shall not be able to celebrate Easter in the 40-40 way. For a few minutes, that is the only line I actually could write in this post but I shall try to continue.

When you think about it, it seems pretty childish that missing out on a few hours playing, eating, laughing and dancing can tag at one’s heart so bad, and yet here I am, asking myself many questions. Did they reach safe? Did ‘new people’ join us this time? Will the children have fun? Will they remember this day years from now? I spent the most part of my morning looking at old photos and watching videos with deep sighs. I know later, when the photos from the do start pouring in, I will contemplate flushing my phone down the toilet. (Thankfully, it has been giving me trouble so we shall pretend I was just putting it to rest) Where did all the time go?

For 4 years, the Easter weekend has been transformed into our living, breathing definition of Christ’s love. Out of design, his design, we were led to a mission, a mission to make his children’s lives better. It was indeed Jesus who said, the kingdom of God belongs to the little children. Their presence is blessing enough, but that we are able to make a small difference is a huge plus:

For the first time, in years, I saw many adults in one place sob silently in a gathering that was not a funeral. For the first time, I saw men who had sworn they did not want anything to do with children, run around, get dirty, make funny faces and act even more child-like than the kids themselves. For the very first time, many of us took a step out of our ‘comfortable’ lives, away from family and friends whom we are ‘conditioned’ to love and shared our hearts with new families that we hitherto did not even know. For the first time, Jesus’ death and resurrection was more than just a story, more than a tale which belongs in church or the Bible. It was 40 meaningful days culminating in the greatest of all gifts, love.

That was the Easter weekend of 2012 and we have not stopped since.

If there is a week(end) when I contemplate life and my journey now and the future, it is definitely this one. Even the readings in church, conversations and last thoughts before I go to sleep, change. I am constantly aware of what this season represents for not just me, but the 40-40 family in all its breadth; our choices, our paths, our footprints.

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4 years ago, 40 days brought together people who may not otherwise have met; 4 years later, we do not only have ‘over 40 smiles,’ we have what seems like a lifetime of beautiful memories.

Today, of all days, I celebrate everyone who has kept us going, in your respective ways. You would be surprised how even a simple text message to say “thank you for making the children smile” gives us a little more strength to hold on. The amazing team that holds the fort daily, the volunteers who come in when they can, each and everyone of you who supports with a word of encouragement, or those trips to the mobile money agent :P, the family we have grown which prays for us, our ambassadors all over the world,everybarrreeee, THANK YOU!

It is a great honour to be part of a group of passionate, dynamic people who genuinely believe they can impact the world positively and go a step further to actually do it.

The glory goes back to God who has been with us every step of the way, who has watched us fall so he can pick us up, let us cry and assured us righteous tears are never in vain. He started this work and it is evident that he will continue to see it to his fruition. Truly thankful that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we got an opportunity to do more. While our sacrifice is nowhere near grand, HE who inspired it, sacrificed enough for each of us, for all eternity.

May you remember and meditate on Jesus’ love this Easter.

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A glorious Easter to you and yours.

Xx

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Letter to my little one

Dear baby,

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop calling you that. I know you just moved past toddler stage but it will be a long time before I get over all the transitions.

On this day, 4 years ago, I had you.I want you to know, and always remember that it was one of the best decisions of my life. I didn’t think I was ready and many times I still feel the same, but over time, I have realised there is almost no such thing as ‘ready.’ You were not an ordinary baby, in fact, you were anything but ordinary. Your star began to shine very early and I constantly marvel at the phenomenon that you are. One day you were crawling, the next you were running and then went back to walking; I have never been quite able to keep up.

I love it when you giggle, even better when you laugh. I am sad when I see your tears, I never knew that love could sometimes hurt so bad or make you so happy you feel like you’re going to explode. Anything that can harm you, I want to protect you from, but I am learning that somethings you just need to feel on your own, and I shall not always be able to shield you. You challenge me in ways I can’t explain and keep me on my toes like no one else ever has. By now you know I love you with all that I am, but I will say it again anyway, I love you.

Our journey has been blessed, as I am sure you know, by God and the people around us. Everyone has come around to help me raise you, friends, family and strangers alike. You found favour and because of that, I can sleep soundly knowing you will always have someone. It wasn’t always like that, many people asked me to abandon you, some still do. I don’t get mad at them so much anymore.They don’t see what I see in you, they don’t understand what we have been through. I hope to teach you many things my love, but one of them is that you should not always listen to the crowd just because it’s loud. Most of your grandest joys will come from decisions you made because you felt right, not because everyone was happy with them.

Do you remember those long months,almost two years ago, when we couldn’t sleep, when we felt like the world was coming to an end? My heart ached physically, I could have sworn it was going to jump out of my body. I didn’t want to blame you for my pain and I certainly couldn’t bear to give up on you. I did not want you to see what having you had done to me but the piercing pain often blinded me to all the joy that you brought me. We made it somehow; that is one of the reasons I am certain that God ordained you for me. We have stumbled and fallen so many times since but because of that gut wrenching experience, we were able to learn to celebrate our scars and all the battles they represent. I want you to know, how sorry I am, from the bottom of my heart, for the times that I have looked the other way, for the moments when I was too weak to fight back. I am a work in progress but I am glad that we have experienced all of it together. In future, I know you will remind me that we are more than conquerors, whenever I forget.

I am now just a few years shy of the big 30 and it is as scary as it is exciting. We started out young, I could never have imagined the responsibility that came with the decision I made but time has flown by so fast and I must admit, you continue to surprise me. Do you know how many times I have been asked when I will get you a little sister or brother? Some people are subtle but most (especially elders) are blunt with no remorse. I often have a comeback, but sometimes I just let them be, you know? I am sure by now you know that your mommy can be stubborn and you have taken after her in some ways. You also know that we serve a faithful God and his timing is always perfect. As the years go by, I think about it, more; our family and what it shall look like, how far you will be when the next angel comes into our lives and whether or not the many helping hands that raised you will groom you into adulthood. These thoughts do keep me up at night once in a while, but thankfully, when my human self has over analysed that which it has no control over,it finally gives in to HE who is omniscient who’ll certainly take care of things.

Today marks the continuation of a journey we began 4 years ago during this beautiful season of lent. You have taught me so much! I am stronger and wiser,happier and more fulfilled than I ever imagined. Who knows where I would be without you?

Thank you for your patience and resilience, for your vulnerability and strength, for the chances you took and the dreams you allowed us to chase; Thank you for bringing people together from far and wide, and giving them a chance to give whatever they could offer.Thank you for being flexible, for surviving even when you had nothing and somehow managing to blossom against all odds. You are truly a miracle!

I hope that I have been as kind to you, as you have to me. I pray that I will not let you down and that our fire will continue to burn bright through every storm that comes our way. Years from now when all that we have gone through is a memory, may you look back with a smile, knowing everything I did, every experience, was a reflection of love and all the emotions it comes with.

I haven’t figured out how to commemorate today and I may not even do anything significant to the untrained eye, but in my heart and soul, I celebrate you everyday and look forward to the rest of our lives together.May God continue to be at the centre of your life, and may you always look to him.

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With love from the one whom you knew first, the one who will choose you every time,

me.

Xx

 

Not tomorrow. Today

“Live each day like it’s your last.” Are there human beings that are capable of this? Let’s think about it for a minute. If today was your last day, what would you do? Gather all your loved ones in one room, travel the world in 24 hours, tell that special someone you love them, face your worst fear?
Of course if we look beyond the literal bit, it is basically a reminder that we should live the life we desire because we only get one chance. Unfortunately, being a mortal comes with its shortcomings.
For starters, how quickly we forget!
About a month ago, I made a decision to seek out friends I had not met in a long time. For some of them, it was a case of bad timing, others had been distant and for some, I could not even explain what caused the ‘disappearing acts.’
Each time I noticed I had a free day or clear week, I tried to reach out to at least one. Some sessions had us pick up where we left off and for others, we were reminded why there had been any distance in the first place- we had simply grown into different people. I also accepted that it’s healthy to admit that time changes and people move on. When the time comes, by all means, let go.
Yesterday I met Penny. We had planned this rendezvous for months and something always came up on either end. Last week, I gave her a date and time and mentioned I would be there whether or not showed up. She made it, albeit late and paid for the meal to make up for it. Yaay! *If I had a meal for each time someone kept me waiting, I’d have saved enough for my future daughter’s Ivy league education by now*
As we spoke about life and relationships, we both agreed that platforms like ‘whatsapp’ confuse you into thinking that you have met your friends and spoken to them yet in fact, all you do is chat.
I have chatted with several people almost daily, and we say we are ‘fine,’ only to meet and realise there is so much going on that neither of us actually disclosed. It is much easier to click the ‘dancing lady in red’ emoticon than give a written account of the depression you are going through, don’t you think?
We both admitted that sometimes ‘busy’ did not really mean busy but rather “ I shall not make the time.”
Penny’s solution was that she would cut off everyone she had not seen in 6 months who was ‘comfortable’ chatting online but never available for a face to face.

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When I got home, I received a phone call, a free spirit I knew had passed on. I was broken. Earlier I had heard of a teenage girl who had lost her life in an accident the same day. I was left thinking about the fleeting nature of life.
As it was approaching 10pm, I received a call from *Lucy.* I am generally ‘afraid’ of night calls so I picked up hesitantly. She asked me for the deceased’s phone number. I went silent for a while. What was happening? Did she know? Was she in denial? I asked Lucy if she had heard the News. She said she had but she did not believe it. She had left her phone at home and needed me to send the number so she could call and speak to her friend. The conversation just became more depressing from hereon.
I did as she asked and she later told me the phone was off. Lucy was mad at herself. They had made plans to meet and it hadn’t happened. In her words “ I meant to check in but you know how you keep postponing because you are tired all the time and think that whatsapp suffices…”
I could feel the agony in her every message and we ended up talking till after midnight. I understood what she meant because she is many of us and if we do not do something about it, this will be the story of our children’s lives too.
This young lady left behind a beautiful son. One of the most recent memories I have of her is that each time I asked about him, the next messages would be several pictures of him. She loved him to bits.
For her family and friends and those that have lost their loved ones, I can only offer prayers and heartfelt condolences and hope that, one day “It will be well…”
We certainly can’t all be in several places at the same time but we can do our best to be there for our loved ones before we have to settle for the paltry, mostly insufficient “RIP.”
This quote stung a bit when I read it last week but that can only be because admittedly, it had some truth to it.
   “Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than  gratitude.”

 

Find time. Make time. Make love. Apologise. Create memories. Travel. Show gratitude. Celebrate life. NOW.
Regrets are inevitable but who says we can’t make love inevitable too?
X

Playing for a friend lost too soon

I remember I was still in bed when a message came through, “Have you heard that Adam passed away?” it read. I got up and began to ask “How, why, when…?

When I logged into facebook, the News was confirmed. I remember being generally livid because the year had barely began and all the deaths that occurred seemed to be of young people. It was totally unfair.

 See I shared a class with Adam. He was one of those people you couldn’t help but notice. Funny, cheeky and enormously care free. Even when he tried to tease me, it was impossible to get mad at him.

 He always had a smart retort and even the teachers secretly grinned as they apprehended him.

There is only so much you can say about loss for it is he who gives that takes away and we have to trust that his timing is right even if we are hurting.

A couple of weeks ago I received a message from Adam’s friend Biko on facebook. I must admit I was a bit shocked even before I read it. I hadn’t heard from him in years and was curious to know what the contents were.

He was interested in the event 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation is hosting tomorrow: “5 Aside UG” I gave him the details and now and again, he kept asking for updates on registration and other requirements.

A few days later, I saw another friend, Tyler share our event poster and add that they were fielding “Team Azarov” (Adam) for the event in his memory. My heart sunk. I had to try hard to swallow the lump in my throat. It was a beautiful gesture that also made me very sad. That is life I guess, bittersweet.

I collected my thoughts and decided there and then that I would pay a small tribute in the best way I could hence the blog.

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Through my ‘research,’ I found out that Biko initiated this idea. This is what he had to say.

Adam left a trail of smiles along his life path so when Tony (another friend) told me of the exhibition Esther had put together with 40 days over 40 smiles, it made sense for us-to celebrate Adam’s life having fun and leaving a few smiles as we did so.

Kaahwa Morris

Adam is someone I met in my first high school year at Aga Khan High School. He was a friend and classmate of my older brother but eventually became one of my friends. I spent time with him during recess whenever I used to go see my brother and as we walked out of school everyday…But man Adam was always fun to be around, hands down. He was always happy, I don’t remember ever seeing him down or quiet.

Rest in Peace Adam, you will always be missed.

“Tyler Himself” who is Morris’ brother said;

Adam was a friend, brother and binding factor in school and after, a person for the people and by far the most social person I have ever known. We miss him now and he still lives within us. Rest in Peace Adam.

 Sigh. Receiving these messages was difficult but typing them is downright heart wrenching.

Team Azarov shall be at Bush Court tomorrow wearing t-shirts with his face as they participate in #5AsideUG.

40 days over 40 smiles is humbled and honoured that they chose to celebrate Adam’s life with us for a cause that is beyond any individual.

May Adam’s soul rest in eternal peace.

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The baby is 2 :)

Time check: 10.55pm.
It was on this night two years ago that I made an independent decision to have my first child.
I didn’t give it much thought then. It was one of those impulsive things that felt right.
I didn’t think to plan.When the idea crept into my mind,I thought “Why not?  I am here and I am ready”
The next day, I got busy.
The baby needed a home and several caretakers.
I needed to book them in advance,they would certainly make the time.
This home was facebook, the caretakers were my friends+family and the baby…well you know
40 days over 40 smiles Foundation.

Whereas I can’t compress this entire journey into a blog post, I can attempt to make some ‘loud’ observations.
You win some you lose some
That first Easter weekend,we visited two orphanages.
Friday had about 35  friends of mine present as did Saturday.Along the way some have dropped and others have joined in.I have extensive experience in what it means to have people in your life for a season and a reason.
I have some insight about those who will be with me for a lifetime but this journey has given me enough wisdom to know that even those can change with time.
Love and loss
My first heartbreak occured during these two years.I didn’t lose my knight in shining armour-even worse, I lost angels whose broken wings I wasn’t done fixing.
I think of and dream about them. The simple yet most beautiful part of it all is that I kept their memory far from anyone’s reach but my own-deep down in my heart.

Not all that glitters is gold
The team does all it can to spread the word,locally and internationally. We don’t do it for fame or fortune but sometimes we do it too well-albeit unknowingly.
The outcome?
Some organisations don’t want to work with us because we are “rich enough” others would love to associate with us when it is convenient and walk away when it doesn’t benefit them.
Individuals claim responsibility for successes they didn’t contribute to and tiptoe to the back seat when things go wrong.C’est la vie

Everybody is somebody
Over 60% of our biggest donors are friends of friends,random acquaintances and curious observers.
The lady who eavesdrops on a conversation shows more support than the friend who has seen you at rock bottom.
Bittersweet but also plain amazing
Start small

No one envisioned two years. I know at the time my eyes were set on just a successful Easter weekend. After it happened, we got to thinking and look where we are now.
We are not a household name like coca cola but we are who we are, the best change agents we can be. You haven’t seen our label? We produce t.shirts, wrist bands, mirrors and so much more- order now 😉
Small minds discuss people
Without meaning to stereotype, a good number of people in this country spend valuable time discussing/analysing none issues with the sole purpose of destroying what others have built.

Before they even know what you are about, they want to bring you down.It’s not good enough-what are their ulterior motives?-I can do better-That car must have been bought using the charity’s money- That was my idea,how did they steal it?-The list goes on. It gets ‘funny’ after a while. Your life is made a lot more interesting than it actually is.

uhm,how about we each water our own side of the fence?

Hope even in its false form can be exactly what one needs
There have been days when a project has stalled or the account is dry. In your anguish,you mention it to a person or two. They assure you that they will carry your load for you. You sleep better,dream more and wait patiently.
After weeks you realise the promises may not materialise. You also quickly notice that this hope kept you going nonetheless. Silver linings 🙂
Growth finds you
You can plan your entire life,doesn’t mean it will go according to your expectations.
No job,literature or school prepared me for the experiences thus far. None of them could have molded me to this extent either.
It is a phoenix situation-several times over. Cheers to being reborn.

Patience pays

On this one, I could go on for days on end. I have been tested more times than I can count. I thought I was a gracefully patient person till I learnt that I just hadn’t been pushed hard enough. Now I am just learning all over again, that people change, things fail, mistakes happen. Nonetheless, you get up, show up and work.

Never lose your sense of purpose
It’s been 730 days since that first facebook post which I unearthed >>> “During Lent, as you fast or choose to stay away from certain treats, I urge you to save up a little so we can share Easter with the less fortunate.
We shall bake cakes, buy toys and get clothes to distribute at orphanages and paediatric units of hospitals.
Let us join hands and give all we can:-)”

We have several ‘anniversaries- The day the page was opened, the first Easter weekend when we spread love to those children, the day we got registered.I maintain this one as the most special to my heart. A simple thought grew into a great revolution that is only beginning to bloom.
Long days and sleepless nights have surfaced since-ridicule,disappointment and betrayal often cause palpitations but the victories,little thank yous,compliments from ‘strangers,’ innocent hugs and special bonds bring deep satisfaction that no one can take away from you.

There are people I have never met, others are barely speak to and acquaintances that have shared their love and resources-
A large pool of friends and family who have supported at different stages and continue to be with us
A team that has seen the good bad and ugly but still stuck around against all odds
The overall master who brought us this far and continues to go before us.
All these combined have culminated into 40-40 at 2 years- my baby, my reason to get up everyday, my source of pain and comfort but most of all-MY PURPOSE.

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