Walk with me awhile……

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Please walk with me….

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives. Some lessons are painful, some are painless…but all are priceless.” – Anon E. Moss

There is the familiar story about not knowing contentment in life that has birthed the age old idiom, ‘the grass on the other side always looks greener’ and sometimes we actually and with real intent blur the lines differentiating reality and our fantasies. However life with inevitability brings us around, sometimes dragging us on our butts to acknowledge that there is more to life than positive talk, reciting mantras or forwarding stuff that has a silly condition at the end. Yes, we are saddled with responsibilities every day that we arise but when we align the fact that our being alive today is simply a reaffirmation of the truth that God is not yet through with us then we can truly be grateful for the many blessings we receive (and oft take for granted) or else why are we still here? To live is Christ, to die is gain is a very weighty statement but that is simply truth in its plainest form.

A couple of days ago, I actually felt that I had touched the gold paved cobblestones of heaven because unfortunately the past few days have not just been torrid but have been progressively chronicling a decline in my health. Six months ago, I had a bad fall and sustained significant injuries to my right shoulder (rotator cuff) and just having to deal with myoclonus each day is a full-time career on its own, adding a torn rotator cuff was just adding more to an already overflowing bowl. With the same doggedness that is characteristic with faith, I continue; choosing every day to be thankful for something at the very least. Against what I term my fundamental values, a friend set up a GoFundme campaign because in his words, sometimes we just have to let go and let ‘friends’ and others help. After the dismal campaign ran for a month or two, he had to shut it down as requested by me because we do not decide the paths or channels from where our relief will come from. It is and will always be about His timing – He does make all things beautiful in HIS TIME!

Being the proud father of an amazing daughter, whose life all on its own is simply a testament to God’s sovereignty, I am more than just a soccer dad. Despite the frailties of this body, I tend to want to push the envelope just a tad more. Well, the fall was a result of attempting to push the envelope and even though she bosses and fusses over me, I still know that there are a couple of things I can still do because our children are the best gifts that Heaven has in its store and so I am never going to let a white flag hang from my doorway with regards to issues pertaining to Heaven’s precious gifts. Again, I am a firm advocate of taking care of your body but sometimes it is easier said or written and most times it just goes awry however it is either of two options – Let go entirely and Let God or delude yourself into believing that you have when you truly haven’t.

Well I am still a work-in-progress and tenacity still means loads to me, but ironically where that tenacity is applied also matters. Against plain common sense, a couple of days ago, I dropped my cane in a bid to help her during her training and that was like a culmination of everything bad – the lack of sleep, the rigors of just being fairly active for consecutive days et al. During the night, I was seized with the most severe episode of dystonia – tremors so intense that the king-sized bed was literally absorbing and trying unsuccessfully to contain all that energy, pain so intense that curling into a fetal position did nothing to help, tears of utter helplessness cascading down my cheeks as I prayed believing it was my last along with that scary feeling that I tend to describe as my brain over-heating because as always it was doing the processing and still firing away on all cylinders. I remember telling myself that this was what the end feels like….

….definitely one of the worst storms but from force of habit, I clung to every promise that applies to me – knuckles whitened from clutching hard, I was able to ride out the storm not by my own strength (that really does not mean so much to me anymore) but because my story is yet to be concluded. In retrospect and as I continue the long and difficult task of recuperating, I bear no angst. No hard feelings for those who in their ivory castles feel comfortable and secure. No hard feelings for those who believe that it is a fair trade to copy and paste a prayer as against doing something more tangible. No hard feelings for those whose ignorance make them all the more ludicrous, no feelings of resentment directed to the world because I know that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And even though the furnace be stoked more than usual, I choose to be hurled without a fight into the fires confident that God’s got me; acknowledging that His ways differ from mine and so I know that salvation will come.

Salvation not by my own understanding or standard, but rather salvation as dictated by Him with the end result being that I will emerge at the other end so much better than before the journey through the fires. And whilst the waves billow high and angry, and this vessel gets more battered, I choose to make each moment count. Regardless of the darkness that creeps like a smothering garment blocking out the stars of the night, I know that there is still going to be light once this night is over. And so I hold on, not because of the medication that miraculously never completely runs out (even when the funds do) or the fact that there will always be help raised up on my behalf, but rather because I know that there is that one life that will draw a second wind to continue pressing on just by reading my story. There is that one life that was just about to succumb to the darkness and let the little light be snuffed out, that is why I hold on. For every point I get to on my journey, I learn some more and apply that faith that recognizes not only that He exists but that He is also with me through it all. He is more than the worst of storms and withersoever He leads, I submit.

For as long as this breath courses through my lungs, I choose to be a pineapple, standing tall, wearing a crown and being sweet on the inside. Remember that you cannot start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios!

A cuisine of herbs…..

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Herbal Broth

“Men of genius are admired. Men of wealth envied. Men of power feared, but only men of character are trusted.” – Arthur Friedman

Character is not a gift, far from it. It is the end result of a process, and more often the process is back-ended with loads of trying and very frustrating times. However it is in the process that character is formed and from an engineering or building perspective, forming or forging is tasking on both the smithy or technician as well as the object being worked on.

Children are truly precious and even though I have heard many rueful comments concealing wishes that babies would stay babies, there is no negation of their pricelessness. But alas even at that, those wishes are an aberration in life because change is inevitable. Several years ago, I recall trying to explain to my 4yr old daughter why she needed to eat her veggies. It was both amusing and just a tad annoying seeing her with brows puckered in a frown, assiduously separating the veggies from her meal. A couple of months later, with a hard fought win tucked in my belt, I remember her complaining bitterly that she was outgrowing her fancy shoes because she was eating tomatoes. Today, that’s a memory that she vociferously claims never happened.

I have come across some very fascinating people (pretty sure I am listed under that category in someone else’s journals); a chap who believed water was solely to be used in CPAP machines, humidifiers et al, another who believed bread was created specifically for culling the human race. However one thing that acts as a common factor across all types is that regardless of our perspectives, in order for there to be growth, sometimes we have to make some concessions. Growth in itself is not always that process that we so eagerly await because with growth, there’s always some form of discomfort however yin yang is one of the many attempts at explaining the process. Life consists of many exercises encompassing the need to understand and appropriately apply balancing.

Most often, the largest obstacle to our growth is the image staring back at you when you stand alone in front of a mirror. Ignorance has never been the best of reasons for the mistakes we often make because we are humans however embracing knowledge is setting ourselves free. No matter how hard we battle with the process, we just have to delve deep into that herbal broth because therein lies the very nutrients we need to grow. The more of a struggle we put up, the more exhausted we become and the more of a delay we unknowingly throw in our own journey. Understanding all things is impossible but in order for us to move on, we must embrace hope, trust and faith in The One who we owe everything to.

Right now, it’s quite a struggle for me, because having a sprained shoulder definitely gives me no edge over dystonia. However it has forced me to search out untried ways of reaching my milestones and attaining objectives. In this season, I have had to remind myself that although herbs might be bitter, I had rather look beyond the bitterness and dwell rather on the intrinsic positives that come with ingesting them. Trying to make head of everything at this moment would simply be an exercise in abject futility and so I am yet again reminding myself that waiting might seem pointless but there’s so much more going on that remains unseen. Someday, like the phenomenon of the Chinese bamboo, there would be a visible and significant change in who and what I am today.

Engaging in battles with myself when I so obviously do not have all the answers is not moving on. For there to be a move in the right direction, sometimes we just have to admit that although we have the vision, there’s also the undeniable truth that time and chance happens to everyone. Every life; a piece in the puzzle of God’s masterplan, we each must apply ourselves to the circumstances we find ourselves because in doing that, we do not only recognize divinity but we also positively affect the lives around us. Our positions today are a function of the lives before us and so selflessly we ought to also pay it forward. Ridding ourselves of every bit of resentment and bitterness that we allow build up in the face of opposition is usually a step in the right direction, because failing to do that irreparably hurts us and self-inflicted wounds attest to ignorance, naivety and sometimes just plain old stupidity on our part.

No battles have been won without making room for a retreat when the horns sound. And yes, most battles are won by the side that stays longest in their trenches because sometimes all that is needed is to hunker down when the barrage seems unrelenting and wait for the silence and peace that is the prelude to the joys of victory. In our frenetic lives, we get so enamored with the society’s definition of success that we fail to realize that we are trampling underfoot the very herbs we need for nourishment and growth. And so when we are falling headfirst into the chasm that signals burnout, then we realize the utter folly of our wrong choices. Failure to recognize the need for reassessment, rest and a possible detour is entirely nobody else’s fault but ourselves.

Trying new and unfamiliar ways do not in anyway portend emasculation, rather it is the highly undervalued second opportunity that we so urgently require. Today represents another opportunity to realign ourselves with our purpose, today represents another call to wait in trust because His Promises are true and infallible. Though they tarry, they are in no way having the similitude of or are they denials. With the patience of the lapidarist, a trait that comes with discipline, we must be thankful for what we have before us. And when we start to entertain doubts regarding the safety found in the multitude of counsel, there’s One Counsel that is completely devoid of the slightest of shadows.

Nourishment is not fast food engorgement, and whilst the latter is so easily available, the truth is that the herbal broth (though plain looking and bland tasting) is what is needed to initiate the growth needed to occupy the next season in our lives. For us to grow above and beyond today’s bleakness, there has to be an acceptance that every experience can either be a stepping stone or just another stone in the wall that further shuts out the glimmer of tomorrow’s riches. I choose to make mine a stepping stone and even in the silence of being different, I am thoroughly convinced that when the night seems to embody just weeping, surely joy and growth comes with the morning.

Remember, rather than complain about the thorns among the roses, be thankful for the roses among the thorns!

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Meet Chris….

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Meet Chris

Even as I try to chronicle the significant events that occur in the unceasing challenges of living, especially with dystonia, I still find myself deviating on each post towards something that is particularly pressing and in dire need (hopefully) of one other person besides myself. I mean it really would be something akin to the seer who has built a reputation on her abilities to receive flashes (usually in the oddest of places and times) if every time I posted something, it was entirely about an event that happened to me. That right there is one of the main issues I have with the term ‘blogging’ because with the dynamics of today’s world, quite a significant aspect of our words and actions are a far cry from their intended definition and use however that cannot be a deterrent until I choose to allow it become one.

I literally have already had a few eureka points regarding the absurd difficulties that the simple activity of sleeping has become and though I am yet to fully expound on that subject, it usually features a bit in some of my more recent posts. Now, do I write in order to be understood and accepted? The unequivocal and time-tested answer is NO! because I really am not into, never have for as long as my memories can go back, the whole gamut of being a part of the crowd of pressed bodies on the proverbial ‘band wagon’. Oh, and I still am not of the school of believers that proclaim, ‘if you cannot beat them, then join them!’ because it sort of demystifies the whole point of being yourself in a world that consistently wants to make you someone else. I still maintain that being told ‘you are different!’ is till date one of the best complements an individual can get. However in the light of today’s skewed thinking, abject nonchalance and indifference (craftily concealed with the word; tolerance) I want to emphasize that the difference being referred to is based on the fact that there is just only one of you and that God has lovingly crafted you in His Image and endowed with a unique set of skills, a heart unlike none other, experiences that hone those skills, a personality that is distinct (a mash up of family background, environment and inherited genes) and spiritual gifts.

I remember dashing to the comic-book sections in supermarkets (malls) as a child whenever I accompanied my mum on grocery runs, and it may sound funny but the whole goal of dashing there was to try and read the latest ‘Archie and friends’ or any of the Marvel comics. Was I usually able to finish the entire comic?….uhmmm not quite, because inasmuch as I still detest shopping till date, I usually ran out of time either because having my mother search for me after she was done never had a happy ending or that there simply was not just enough time and I knew better than to ask if it could be included in the shopping cart each time. And as was and still is the way of life, there will always be a newer version, a newer edition, a newer model and so trying to keep pace with the new editions was simply pointless and is still is. In all truth, trying to keep pace with the technological changes is an exercise that could literally drive one insane regardless of how affluent you may be, how brilliant you maybe or how much invention ideas ricochet in your brain and blood/genes. One of the wisest to have ever walked the earth, King Solomon was conclusive on this subject, “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity” and I do not whole-heartedly put that in based on a whim but based on the actual experiences of a king in the long checkered history of mankind who lacked neither the warmth of feminine companionship or ever faced the bleakness of looking at an empty or rapidly diminishing contents of a bank vault.

I choose to be thankful for every new day regardless of how bad or great the night before was, because I honestly am living my life on the basis of certain fundamental beliefs and so it does me no good if with all the troubles going on, I make the wrong choice of starting each day being grumpy and irritable. I get to suffer the consequences of doing that and not only do I negatively impact myself but I also spread more negativity in a world that is already brimming with so much chaos and unhappiness. Yesterday was one of those days where my resolve to be thankful could actually be embodied. I love driving and so it is not really that great a deal if someone nicely asks me to perform a driving related task – cue in Christopher from Indianapolis! I happened to be around a shopping mall, actually a very large shopping mall and the only interesting place in a new suburb, when I got a text asking me to kindly pick up Christopher from a non-American restaurant and drop him off at his home. I have over the years learned that discernment is a gift because without utilizing that gift, you stand the risk of being a nuisance in the guise of trying to initiate a conversation (even though I usually opt for just being left alone, I now know that concern and care for another can be subtly expressed through a conversation even when I really do not feel like having a conversation).

And so in the course of another good day, I obliged and picked up Christopher and we actually got into a beautiful conversation (not a monologue) – remember, at every point in life, we are either teaching or learning. What really sparked off my interest was the context of the text he sent me, “I am blind which means I will not be able to see your car……” that by itself told a great deal because most times we feign ignorance of reality and believe that we can move on. Acknowledging reality and accepting it as your life are not merely a play of words, they determine whether you react or respond to everyday issues. My interest was not that he was blind or the presence of his cane (I have several canes myself) and being a champion over dystonia, I know that when pity is expressed as a pleasantry either in greeting or introduction, it really irks me because I am simply just living my life and I know that pity parties are not beneficial in anyway to anybody. Of course, I was interested in his story and amusingly when I asked him what his story was (behind every success lies a story), his response was epic, “I am blind!”. So here, kindly permitted by him is his story:

just living my life

At the age of about 18 and on the verge of graduating as a Chemical Engineer from one of the few schools for the exceptionally brilliant in Indiana, he started having headaches and issues with his vision. Those symptoms prompted a routine visit to the hospital where it was discovered that he had a grape/tennis ball sized tumor in his skull and that was literally squishing his brain and therefore prompting all those outward signs – again there is always more to life than meets the eyes.

After the barrage of tests following such an observation, it was inferred that the tumor had started growing when he was 10years old and had continued growing undetected until it had become such a size that it was now literally life- threatening. So of course, he had to undergo a major surgery to get the tumor out but then the damage had already been done – his vision was irreparably compromised. He had to go through the whole 9 yards of disbelief, post-op depression and having to make a choice of either staying down or getting up and learning everything anew – he chose the latter. Due to the major surgery, he missed a year however his younger sister was just a year below him, also studying Chemical Engineering and so they moved in together when he chose not to quit and therefore he had both the essential emotional support and the academic support (note taking, class attendance etc) of his sister. With the added benefits of attending a gifted school, he was able to complete his undergraduate studies and continued right on with his Masters program. As is the case, he had chosen to prove to himself that he would not be a victim however parents would always be parents and therefore he also needed to convince his parents that he was capable and so unknown to his parents, he declined the usual offer of riding with a classmate to a mid-point where his parents would then pick him up. He found his way to the bus station, rode the bus all the way to Indianapolis and took a cab to the house, to the utter surprise of his parents and that effectively alleviated the concerns of his parents. Along the way, he lost his father to cancer, even as he had also decided to push the boundaries further by getting his doctorate.

Unfortunately, his school did not have provisions for running a doctorate program and so he persevered until he was able to get the attention of an alumni who was on the academic staff at Rice University, Houston. Along with her recommendation and his results, he was eventually offered a place in the doctoral program at The Rice University however this was even a much more significant change because it was a completely different city and largely unfamiliar. Nonetheless, he had a distant relative in Houston who he decided to use as an emergency contact but life is nothing without challenges and so because of the move, he had to get documented as being legally blind, obtain the white cane and engage the services of a mobility tutor. With time, he learned how to use the white cane to navigate and move around and so 15years after the major operation to remove the tumor, he sat riding with me, sharing his story with me whilst headed to his own residence where he lives alone, does his laundry and all the other activities related to everyday living. As we swapped stories, he remarked with a wry smile that he does get the same “you are such an inspiration!” but for once (in my case, quite thankfully), we both agreed that all we do as individuals living with disabilities is simply just living our lives as plain and simple as every other person who makes the choice to live does. With a firm handshake, after getting his permission to write about him, I watched him make his way to his home after having an evening out with a friend.

Now this might come across as long winded, however I believe that as you read this, you will completely understand that none of us are born as superheroes but our responses when we get knocked to the ground by the storms of life is what defines us. As I pen these words, I know that in each and everyone of us lies the potential to make our lives count for something other than nought. Simply put and borrowing the words from Chris, all we do is just live our lives and if for some reason, you are inspired by that then I dare challenge you to also live your life and inadvertently become an inspiration to someone else..

Remember that with each new day, we must utter these words, “Now thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [which is. precious beyond words]” and as we face every day with its new challenges, be reminded “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human (existence, my words) experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word – He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” To the temptation of seeing the choice to remain a victim of life’s hard knocks as being the better one, the temptation to become a drain to society, the temptation to wallow in self-pity, wrong-doing or selfishness etc, we already have the victory when we choose to acknowledge and accept them. As for me, in addition to walking in these victories, I choose to be thankful if I inspire you whilst remembering that my life is far from being ordinary and not only all about me. We are all inexorably linked one to another, let our lives not be the weak link in the chain of lives that we are part of.

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios

Out on a limb….

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Out on a limb

Every action is preceded by a desire, and without mincing words or trying to fancy paint it, I really wish I could be more determined to more regularly writing. However, there is the inevitable issue of life and its unpredictability, and just having to navigate each day is a victory all by itself. It is another Wednesday; my own personal holiday and suffice me to say that while it is just another day in a week of days, it holds special value to me and along with experiences from the past, I chose long ago to make Wednesday my special day. From the viewpoint of someone who has worked in four continents, I have since realized that acknowledging that our bodies need rest is not a thing of shame because on the flip side, when we fail to acknowledge that, the long mounds of broken bodies littered along the road as we journey through life will definitely remind us that we just might end up as another broken body if we do not apply wisdom and caution.

One of my daily slogans is ‘life is all about moments and it is either we are bold enough to seize them (if we can but recognize them) or we spend the rest of our lives ruing those missed moments.’ Last week, I was at the hospital again for my bi-annual routine check-up and this is really always a big deal because I don’t like hospitals or crowded places at such (it is a proven trigger for a Dystonic episode). Now what makes this particular visit special was that it was to have taken place in the first quarter of the year but when you are confronted by bills of all shapes and sizes, the associated cost of just living a life especially one like mine that is rife with special needs, you need to be very careful about what you bite and chew. In line with the uniqueness of this visit, whenever the reminder popped up on my calendar, it was almost natural to cancel and reschedule whilst believing that the funds for yet another expense would be made available as promised by God. And so, I kept on rescheduling, even when I knew from the warning signs of my body that this was not an event that should be placed in the category of ‘to be done during leisure’. And then there is that niggling voice that keeps on nagging you about the growing changes associated with the journey of one battling dystonia, that I sort of had to belatedly admit to myself that faith is not an easy activity. In the words borrowed from my devotional, it is going out on a limb.

Oh the joy of childhood, when there were no bills to pay, no accounts to balance, no praying for the kids, nigh on zero responsibility save for that of ensuring you came home with an academic result. Not just any result but one that would like a grand jury, justify to my parents that the legacy of good education was properly being bequeathed to me and that I also properly understood that even though as my parents, they were obligated to invest in me but I also had to hold up my own part of the bargain. And so in the summer holidays, during those long trips to my (actually paternally influenced) hometown, there was always that giddy headiness of being free to run around more (just a bit more than was ordinarily allowed). Not that I was allowed to run riot, far from my imagination anyway, but there was just that teeny weeny bit of slack with regards to the daily structured regimen of waking up early, diving straight (still half asleep) into family devotion and then off to the races; daily chores, prepping for school, school itself (and the added but necessary skill of avoiding being bullied by senior students), home (lunch, siesta and homework), preparing the family meal (I was responsible for Wednesdays and Saturdays), more study, night devotion and bedtime (with the regular foray at night into the sitting room to watch the late night movie while everybody was asleep). Childhood was fun and just adds credence to the truth that we should be childlike in our walk with God, not childish but child-like.

Today, I still find it amazing that I have never broken a bone (or maybe I do not remember breaking one) because I still remember how swanky it looked with an arm in a sling or a limb immobilized within a cast. Why the amazement? I was quite the plucky adventurous kid with a daring attitude that almost bordered on insanity – leaping off , balconies and buses just for the fun of it, accepting the dare to roll under dump trucks as they were passing and for my grand finale; almost burning down my high school science laboratory and myself because I was surrounded by all types of acid reagents, no teacher and the curiosity that has killed many cats (after-all Sir Newton, Robert Hooke, Henry Le Chatelier, K.F Braun allowed that curiosity to drive them into becoming science legends). Mine was a childhood that was far from being uneventful, but my dabbling into my memory cauldron is specific: remembering how beautiful life was when the trees bloomed with fruits. I remember learning how to scurry up a tree, adrenaline dousing the pain of the grazes, scratches and the occasional wasp bite just to get out on that limb in order to reach and retrieve the fat juicy mango, guava or Indian almond. The objective was the fruit at the end of that tree limb that was somehow so hidden that attempting to pluck it by hurling stones, twigs et al was an exercise in futility, and regardless of how tiny the limb looked, getting the fruit was all that mattered at that moment in time. Oh, I remember how many times the limb snapped because of my added weight but the stars that swung around in my head after the fall was nothing compared to the fruit in my hand. That was what childhood encompassed; learning how to be street savvy, learning what my interests and dislikes were, learning that each of us is as distinct as the stars in the sky and learning that loyalty, blind trust in God, faith that good will always trounce evil and relationships were values that each person needed to learn in preparation for the life ahead.

Faith is....Doing!

And so today, when it seems as though my responses to life’s challenges are extraordinary, it is just an embellishment of the truth that the best laid plans are those laid by God. I am simply an ordinary bloke in the hands of an extraordinary God, with each day another opportunity to just trust God and get out on that limb. As I got myself ready for my neurologist, I asked (with bated breath) Amanda at the front desk/window, “how much would this consult cost because at the moment, I do not have any insurance?” Her response was matter of factly delivered without even looking up and since the option of paying by check was available, I opted for that, believing that before they cashed the check, I would have the funds ready. I have always maintained that I believe that I’ve got the best neurologist in the world and so as the consult went on, every new change discussed and medication reviewed, I just voiced out how difficult it was getting any form of meaningful medical assistance especially for people living with rare conditions. That was immediately acquiesced by her and then she asked how much I was charged, now that right there is a rarity because most doctors are completely unaware of the fine details of billing. In response to my answer, she said she would go see what could be done because naturally she always wants to know what activities (especially in terms of income)I am engaged in with respect to the symptoms associated with the horrendous fiend known as dystonia. Suffice me to say that as I exited the consulting room and went to get the next appointment date, the bill had been reduced by 45%!!!

Now it is not all about me, however I can only share my own experiences and that moment (the entire consult) was literally me going out on a limb not because I knew I could wheedle some discount but because I am reassured each day that as I long as I remember that the battle’s victory is not defined by the parameters of strength and might, nor is the the race victory defined by the swiftness of feet then I know that His mercies and provisions are there for the asking. Most assuredly, I say that being logical is one of my strengths but when it comes to just waking up each day and living life, I refuse to allow myself be restrained by the limits of logic. As long as I see a need, I am convinced beyond all doubts that there is something I can do; it is not always about the material things you can give rather it is those intangible things that you give when the material is lacking that make the most meaning. Just having the time to listen to someone else going through a storm might just be what is needed to get the bilge pumps turned on and subsequently prevent his vessel from going under. Most times, we fail to admit that we don’t always know the answers, heck we do not even know what the next moment holds for anybody but we can acknowledge that in the effort lies victory and sometimes that victory is right at the end of that limb. All we need do is step out on that limb! You can drive yourself crazy by applying all known theories, calculating the relationship between our body weight (oh remember that also involves getting a scale etc) and the physical traits of the branch but until we stop and put aside the white board, the text books, the calculators, we are just just going to remain at one end engaged in pointless reasoning and failing to realize that we are not even moving. And if we are not moving then how can our steps be guided? If our steps are not guided, then how do we know that we are not just wandering around in tiny circles? Seeing the same things every day and not even aware they are the same things because we are so preoccupied with attempting to solve things using our puny brain and brawn.

Today is another new day, another rare opportunity to make our lives count for something. Staying all swaddled up in the ‘security’ of our comfort zones is not it because remember that the rain falls on both the good and the bad so who says that where you are today and the accompanying luxuries are yours to keep forever? It never ceases to amaze me when I am confronted by ‘experts’ with their fail-safe solutions prattling non-stop and inadvertently gloating also. The neurosurgeon says that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is the answer to dystonia and my follow-up question is have you undergone the procedure? Do you have dystonia? Hold on for just a second and listen because wisdom is not exclusively categorized by how old you are. We do not create, neither do we hold the plans and answers but what we have are a pair of hands and a pair of ears and my self recommendation each day that I am blessed to see is that I ensure that I use what I have been blessed with to bless just one other person. Remember that it is impossible to change the world we live in at once but we can start that change by beginning with ourselves and letting others see that change because whether you choose to admit or not, someone is watching you. Be less of a talker and more of a doer because doers evoke change and everyone needs some respite from a world that has suddenly been besieged by a horde of talkers who have completed murdered their ability to listen. Kindly stop!….and just get out on that limb, that is the very least you owe yourself.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris II……

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Debris

After the storm

“The tides of life are a beauty to behold on a cool spring evening but remember that like many of the elements of life, the mysteries of life can either be utterly devastating or be a panacea for some”-Ryan CC. It has been no intentional act of mine to take a summer break but in the light of recent events, I have been stretched in more ways than one and the frustration of realizing and accepting that there is so little I can do in the face of the many needs is quite a sore experience. Relieving quite a few people who were severe victims of the hurricanes has been an exercise with mixed feelings. Mixed because there are so many layers to life and when you unknowingly choose to disregard that fact, then sometimes the reminder can be quite traumatic. It is in times like these that you understand that sometimes not speaking is more of a solution suitable to circumstances rather than going full steam in expressing your regrets. A simple phone call to check on how another is doing means so much more than asking what the cost of restoration might be, wisdom is absolutely essential.

Why do I write? I write because I am hopeful that maybe just one person, whether you are going through your own storm or not; will find some strength and hope to persevere  through their storms. There are so many learning points, so many peculiarities in the experiences I have had and am still having on my life’s journey. Being a parent, I always say, is not a task for everybody most especially the ill-disciplined and those who lack self-control, because in order to give, you first of all must know what giving is and also have something to give. It is so easy to stand in your cozy den beneath the sturdy roof of your house, looking out the window and feeling some degree of pity for those struggling through the rains, battling with gusts of winds and more often struggling to keep an umbrella open while lugging your bag or briefcase around. It does not usually require an academic degree to empathize (for most people), but neither is a degree required to see a need and do something about it to the best of your abilities. It is your response or reaction when you are in the middle of your storm that to a very large extent lays out the default pattern for your choices and responses to the lives that you have been privileged to be amongst.

Taking a drive through the city, it is clear that we are on a long road to recovery after surviving Harvey and I am so grateful to see the resilience of the human spirit and the bonds of compassion that marks us as human beings . I use the word ‘surviving’ because it is about living and not about the ability to make or lose wealth. That is one of the many abilities we each have but again the degree to which it is used varies from individual to individual. It is on the basis of this that I always emphasize that just listening to someone going through tough times is always a first step in the right direction. I have all about lost everything that once mattered to me, and so that poignancy can be quite heart wrenching however the truth remains that just as synonyms and antonyms exist in words, there are always two sides to everything in life. Our definition of ourselves is usually marked by the side we choose to stand or the stance we choose to take, that is something that we either do ourselves or we are compelled to do and I wholeheartedly assure you that the latter option comes with more pain and grief.

Driving through the city, I am dismayed by the huge mounds of debris that line the lawns of homes, seen items that occupied opulent homes now confined to the anonymity of black trash bags; I have been into homes and seen the abject sorrow on faces as home owners still try to comprehend the devastation that they face. I have heard the sorrow come across in waves as friends relate their gut wrenching tales of having just enough time to grab their kids and evacuate the homes that they built through honest means. I can totally relate with that because my first house building exercise was in my late teens and I know the time and effort that went into it. I also recollect vividly the satisfaction washing over me when the house was built, the rush of joy that accompanied the utterance of the words, “Finally, it is ready!”. Regardless of how high you climb, there is always the risk of a fall but does that mean because of the fear of falling, we should not climb? Far from it, however knowing that with a climb, comes the risk of falling, we must endeavor to be careful in our climbs. Ensuring that we leave a kind word with those we climb past because they just might be the same ones who will act as a buffer when you fall. Remember to pause in today’s harried pace, and help someone along because although we each have our own paths, there will always be some intermingling with the lives of others and what we do when those situations occur is very significant.

Debris2

Clearing Debris

And because I have also been opportuned to have lost everything of material worth, I also understand the anguish that often comes with that loss. On the other hand, I have known the realization that losing it all does not translate to losing me but if I were to focus more on the pain of losing what was so painstakingly put together then I just may as well be in a court of law hearing the judgement of “life imprisonment without the option of parole” meted out to me. The cruel truth is that we so often define ourselves by what we ‘create’ (totally erroneous because everything we have is a gift from God, Our Creator) that we completely lose sight of the fact that we are all on a journey and no matter how detailed your trip planning was, you can never factor in the unpredictable events that characterize life. By our own flawed reasoning, we so often confine our lives to the tangible and give no room to the intangible, that it takes only an act of significant value to compel us to reevaluate our priorities. In the same manner, despite our skill in logical thinking and acute analytical reasoning, when the unpredictable happens and we are forced to watch in abject dismay as losses pile up, we become like the stalk of corn that is blown in any direction the wind chooses except we have our roots deeply planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I have learned that as long as you focus on the debris in the aftermath of a storm, you will be unable to see the new opportunities that lie just ahead. The debris after some storms are so highly stacked that it takes only a concerted effort with winded breaths to navigate through the debris so that we can catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. Nonetheless, our navigation skills amount to zilch when we steadfastly allow ignorance and lack of vision to reign because the subsequent result is there can be no joy or satisfaction that comes from fulfillment when we are not even moving. No matter how much you love your earthly possessions, when the rot sets in and the mold spreads, when the air around you can no longer be taken in, then you must clean house or else your life tale will be told specifically to the foolish to enable them gain some knowledge. After every storm, you must clean house – get all the debris out, rip out the sheetrock, get rid of that heirloom because until you do that, you will remain stuck in an island of decay, illness and death. For those who unwittingly find themselves on such islands, a note of warning – life and growth do not exist there!

I can say that things will never be the same again because they will not but guess what, you will be different because life’s processes either kill you or make you stronger, if you choose right. Your wellbeing is not a function of the amount of insurance claims you turn in, the efficiency of the insuring company or the amount of subsidies you are entitled to. Your wellbeing rather, is a function of the foundation upon which your life is built in and where your trust is, and there is no better foundation than a foundation of faith, faith in an infallible God who has got nothing but the very best of you. You are an image created in His Likeness and ultimately for His Pleasure and it is Him alone that everything else is subject to. It is okay to grieve but why grieve if you understand and acknowledge that for there to be a beginning, there must be an end. Grieving ceaselessly over the end keeps you rooted in a spot and as long as you stay rooted, you will not move on to the beginning of better things. It is in the middle of your storms that your foundations are tested and so it is wise to be sure of your foundation because when the storm hits (and it will surely hit), you will either crumble like a pack of ornately designed cards or stand tall and strong amidst debris but with peace and faith that can never be washed away by a storm.

Remember that the treasures that count for eternity can neither be found in the tangible aspect of the world we live in but are irrefutably located in the intangible aspect of life, so it is best to choose what treasures you seek and whilst you seek, take into cognizance that it will be foolhardy not to consider a suitable storage place too.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris….

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Sometimes it just seems like our lives are a kitchen sink filled to the brim with clutter- dirty dishes, dirty mugs, used and discarded cutlery. And a few inches above, a window cracked slightly open but with the sill in dire need of attention. More often than not, we do not even realize how cluttered we are until we are desperately in need of a clean plate for a meal that we so longingly crave, as pang upon pang of hunger hits us. Sometimes, we are confronted by circumstances that, had we been given an option, we would not even want to imagine it.

It has been about a week since Hurricane Harvey and although I’m careful not to write about trending issues, (life is more than a carpeted runway in a fashion show) this was a life transforming event for many. The very things that we want to know, in retrospect, have no benefit to us in the long run. Humanity is often clouded by hastily taken decisions, bordering on sentiments that have no lasting power and like the wisps of smoke from an extinguished camp fire, we watch helplessly as the smoke dissipates into the air. We long for the warmth of the fire after it’s put out and usually we are oblivious to the fact that right at the edge of darkness, a pair of feral eyes glinting in the dark is the only evidence that we have been spared from more than just the loss of the campfire.

In my opinion, it comes across as a slight blend of annoyance and irritation when in the aftermath of a storm, someone comes across and without tact, utters the following words beginning with “if I were you…..”. How on earth could you ever be me? That statement in itself is tantamount to ridiculing the order of existence. We are all individuals of unique capabilities and purposes, and therefore flaunting your naivety is not by any standard, a measure of intelligence. To this day, I recall how destructive a storm can be but amidst the storm, there can also be a peace that trounces the storm. In my sessions of encouragement, I usually reiterate how life transforming some events can be. Considering the transformation is probably going to be the content of the next post however how we deal with the transformation tells more about us than we care to share.

Summoning up courage to see the positive in the transformation, a transformation that we all must face in one form or another, is best experienced. It is easy to be cheerful when our bellies bulge with the cuisine of our preference, when our pockets sag with the weight of gaudy trinkets and gold sovereigns. It is easy to encourage another when there are no ruffles in our every day lives but what happens when the very things we inadvertently and often unwittingly depend on is taken away? When our brains freeze in distress and panic and the usual praise songs seem like a burden of irritation? Can we at that point, realize that clearing out debris from another’s house is way different from clearing the debris from our own homes. How effusive our condolences are when the mourning is another’s but the true definition of your values is seen in the nudity of our fundamental beliefs.

Driving around town and seeing streets constricted by the debris and unsalvageable items left in the wake of H.Harvey is yet another learning point. There is no rejoicing over that, neither should there be any guilt that nothing of yours was lost. The basic tenets of life are in full display in the aftermath of the storm. I see the sadness in the eyes of those who have been forced to lose houses, cars, antique pieces. I hear the hollow echo in their words as many struggle to come to terms with the fact that the house that has been in the family for generations has been reduced to rubble. The desperation that comes with the knowledge that there’s so much the insurance companies can do…..then is when the question should be asked, “where have you stored your treasures?” The transient treasures of this world lose value in the face of catastrophic events like receiving a diagnosis of an incurable medical condition. Nonetheless, it is not what we do with our blessings that is the real test, rather it is what we do when the blessings are taken away?

I recall purchasing my very first cellphone, a Motorola Accompli – I had scoured through newspapers waiting for that discount to be published. And when I added up the dimes and nickels, my joy knew no bounds as I pushed open the phone dealership to finally lay my hands on my dream phone. It had taken a significant portion of a year and almost all of my savings, but it was all worth it because now I has dreamt, woken up and achieved the dream. My moment of truth came as I was crossing the street with my new phone cradled under my arm…..”what would happen if my dream phone suddenly fell from my hands, and despite my best efforts, meet its untimely demise on the tarred road?” Shattered with no hope of being put back together, what would I do? That was the defining moment in my life because there and then, I realized that we are each responsible for the extent our blessings hold sway over our lives. That moment of truth shaped my life and regardless of how cruel this might sound, we need to clean out the debris and loss from the storms we encounter.

It’s not ungodly to be saddened by the loss of what we built with our hands but have we taken time to realize that its rebuildable stuff thats been lost and not our hands. There is no sense in battling the undertanding that till we let go of the old, we might never receive the new. It is only when we let go of what we have in our hands, that God can actually use it. And who can better the old but the manufacturer Himself? There is no insurmountable grief, no helpless battle instead there will always be you and I who have, for some unfathomable reason, refused to just let go. And till we let go, we will simply sink further into the bog. Behind every debris is not just grief and loss but there is also open space to truly delight in. Embracing the fact that we are able to trust One who has never and will never hold back the very best for us. We might not see the best as we look at the clutter in our lives but we must look beyond to enable us receive that which will always be His best for us. It is not about us putting the puzzle together, it is more of letting go and letting Him and even if we do not understand now, there will come a time and place where the fullness of knowledge will come upon us.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

The Abacus Path….

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Counting

Count your blessings

The abacus? Oh yes and there are many more from where that came – the hourglass, a logarithm chart, a pair of protractors and dividers, map reading with a twine and a rule. It’s usually funny when in the midst of a discussion with millennials, I refer to a word synonymous with my growing-up days and I am confronted with a look of utter bewilderment, on other occasions it could be a look of utter pity. As time passes by unfailingly, there are those times when we wish for some events in the past so that we correct them in the light of today’s world events. However time once spent can never be recovered and so with each new day comes opportunities to create new and better memories. There is really no gain in seeking to bask in the glories of the past, rather live in the present and utilize the experiences of the past. There will always be the memories to cling to and for those bad ones, their poignancy is gradually lost with time, Affirming the truth that as voyagers, we must make something of what life hands us.

It is the beginning of a new month and the last couple of days have been truly horrendous especially with the summer because heat is a dystonic episode. Again I am reminded that with every hello, there is a corresponding goodbye and so I write this piece in dedication to two unique individuals that I have truly been blessed to encounter. There is truly, for me, no greater satisfying endeavor as learning how to count each day’s blessing because the contrary option would be to give in to the chronic pain that has become synonymous with most neurological diseases. And most assuredly, these villains are ready to pile on more strain to an already over strained system and so instead of conceding, I choose to focus on the benefits of each new day. In the course of my many interactions, I have been blessed to rejoice with those rejoicing and comfort those going through adverse times. No greater examples readily comes to mind other than David Moreau & Dan Gearhart.

David Moreau was an exceptional individual, describing himself as the ‘Tip of the Spear’ at MS Warriors of Hope. Despite his valiant battle with Multiple Sclerosis, he always was eager to share another’s burden. With a love for life, he loved to give when and wherever needed. With his catchy statement,”I am not chronically ill, I am medically fascinating” a statement in essence that just bore testimony to a life based on a resolute faith in God. His last post on social media was at 6am CST, August 1st: “OMG…woke up to increasing pain in my chest, this hurts so bad!” and despite being given the all clear by the ER personnel, he succumbed not to the dreaded MS hug but to a heart attack. A heart that was the source of so much joy and inspiration, he was truly inspiring and now he has gotten the victory over the MS that threatened to bully him into submission. For in the bosom of God, there is no pain, no illness, no sorrow. “Farewell brother, you have run your race and finished strong. Now I am more committed to paying forward every blessing I receive!”

Dan Gearhart is a Parkinson’s Disease warrior but despite that, he is currently one of two major combatants in another battle that ensues. Life all by itself is not the ideal standard for fairness, however what defines a man as a champion is learning to navigate life’s choppy waters and never cease rowing. A father of 3 adorable kids, he just got to see them after 65 days of deprivation and is currently striving to ensure that he remains the loving father to his kids despite being ejected from his home. In all honesty, I understand the added strain of being kicked while you are down because I didn’t get to see my own daughter in a period of 42 months, where dystonia was labelled as a mental illness interfering with my role as a father. However that is in the past, because it is futile to be confined to the past when there is the present to live in and make something of. Today, she is with me and it is just an amazing testament to the faithfulness of God, new blessings with each new day. It is unimaginably cruel when your medical challenges are used as a cudgel to bludgeon you repeatedly however true strength is defined by the number of times you get up after being knocked to the ground. Wars are long and hard but victory is not achieved by sheer brawn but by the application of wisdom and the support of allies.

In the course of my own journey, I have learned that today’s achievements were yesterday’s dreams and so in like fashion, our achievements of today should be the stepping stone for those coming behind us. Learning to number each day’s blessing is a more worthy venture than collating the number of times I wince from the discomfort that is peculiar to dystonia. Despite not arriving at a stalemate with my knees and my back, I am careful in my choice to focus and help another rather than focus on the chronic pain that every little movement causes. Even after the boisterous laughter, I choose to smile through the pain and when the groans become too much to muffle, I still press on. Refusing to be restrained by the clinging tendrils of huge trees and the darkness of the forest, I press on towards the glimmer of day knowing that the slight glimmer marks the end of this foray in the forest. From past experiences, I know that it is not about how gigantic the challenge is but rather the assurance of victory by faith. It is not about my dependence on medication or the flamboyance of some medical expert (David was in the ER prior to his demise!) but rather on my acknowledging that victory has already been won.

Today, I am yet a witness to the birth of a new day and already I choose to celebrate with friends whose birthdays are today. I choose to celebrate David’s victory over MS rather than wallow in the misery of ignorance. I choose to stand with Dan in his fight for his kids: praying that his strength does not wane and his faith not be relinquished in the face of so many daunting foes. Sending a letter to Governor Butch Otter and Lawrence Wasden to prevent calumny and injustice from reigning is an action that I am committed to, because as long as you are able to discern a need, there will be provision for that need to be met. In my journey, I have learned how to nurture that little glow of hope even when the night is at its darkest because I know that the dawn will soon come and so I better not get entangled and hopelessly stuck in the hostile and marshy territory of this neurological nightmare. I have learned that with each significant hit to my FICO, there is more room to display the significant rise when the time comes because I am confident that someday change will surely come.

It is best that each day is begun with the counting of the day’s blessings or else chaos and hopelessness might just seize that opportunity to reign unchecked. There are experiences that truly cannot be shared through words and so I choose not to devote energies towards trying to make people understand what an average day looks like. Once a need is discerned and there is no action supporting that discernment then it is foolhardy to believe that we are not living selfishly. I want to do something when there is a need and that want will usher in supplies. Without denigrating the lives around us, let the choices we make begin by counting the blessings of each new day and when you do, you will find enough to give to someone truly in need. No man is an island unto himself and with that in mind, I live each day eager to assist another even if we are both marooned on the same island. No better reward exists than standing alongside a friend and helping them along in their darkest times, that is part of the reason that explains our present location and were I to nonchalantly take each day’s gifts for granted then it would be foolhardy of me to expect more tomorrow. It is in the little that faithfulness is born and nurtured, so that when the little becomes large, we will be clear headed enough to do the appropriate thing.

Today is another new day, what better time than now to pause and count your blessings. ‘Shout to the Lord, all the earth’ is not an option, it requires full participation and so if there are doubts that still reside within your heart, be diligent enough to rid yourself of them and truly count your blessings – name them one by one if need be and it will really surprise you what God is continually doing in your favor. ‘What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!