Tuesday, March 3

Choose to be Happy

"Are you happy?"

Interesting question, isn't it? What's the first thing that comes to your mind if someone were to ask you that? Would you immediately reply with a yes, or would you pause to assess your current mood? Or would you assess your general state of mind, and judge your happiness based on whether you are measuring up to your (or society's expectations)? 

If you were to ask an unemployed graduate if they were happy, what would you expect their response to be? If you were to ask a lady who is single in her thirties that same question, do you expect her to say yes? If you asked a couple who have been married for five years and are still waiting for children "are you happy?" what do you expect their response would be?

I gave that last example for a reason. Someone asked me if I felt sad during the five years of my marriage before I had children, She was genuinely shocked when I said, no I didn't feel sad at all. In fact I was very happy whether I had children or not. She couldn't believe it. She asked me, how did you manage? How could you be happy when something was clearly missing from your life? I told her that my happiness didn't depend on whether I was a mother. My children are here now, and I love them dearly and they do bring me joy. But they are NOT responsible for my happiness.

Human beings in general, learn to postpone our happiness. We think that we will be happy when something in the future occurs. Or when someone else does something to please us. We're always looking ahead as if the happiness we seek is just out of reach, and if only we could grab it, then we will be happy forever, But this is not true. As individuals, we are the ones actually responsible for our own happiness. Real, lasting, happiness is not something that comes from other people, or from possessions, achievements or events, even if they are pleasant. Happiness is a choice, and it comes from within.

I have heard a theory (I can't remember where now) about default happiness level. Apparently each of us has a general level of happiness where we operate. Some people have very high levels such that they seem happy all the time even in the most difficult situations. Some people have low levels, so they seem sad or miserable all the time, regardless of their circumstances.
Events may occur to change your happiness level at a given point in time. Say for example, you finally got that dream job you have been applying for. Of course, your happiness levels will go up. You will be excited, you will be thrilled, you will be proud of your accomplishments, etc. You may even enjoy the benefits that come from the job. But soon, you settle into the job, it fits into your life, and you may even experience that the job comes with new challenges. Given time, your happiness will gradually return to its default level. So the new job gave you a temporary boost in happiness but that won't keep you happy all the time.
Another example is when you get married. Prior to that, perhaps you had been thinking that getting married would solve all your problems and you would finally be happy! So you throw yourself into wedding planning, enjoy all the excitement of being a bride or groom and then the fun of being a newly-wed. But at some point, your life returns to normal, you adjust to your new status, and guess what? Your happiness goes back to its default level.
Third example: you are about to become a first-time mother. This is great news, of course and you are happy. You look forward to the arrival of your baby, you dream about motherhood, you start making plans. You finally get to the end of the waiting period and have your baby! Of course you'll be happy, for it is an awesome experience to become a mother (or father). But guess what? Your happiness level will go up temporarily but will soon come back to their default level.
There are many more examples I could give, such as when you finally go on that dream holiday, or you buy your first brand new car, or you tick a big achievement off your bucket list.
I've heard that even lottery winners experience this. One minute, they are delighted with the news that they've won millions of money. They think they will now finally be happy! But they too are surprised to learn that after the initial euphoria wears off, they are not necessarily happier than they were before the money. They are just richer.

So how do we learn to live a life that is happy regardless of our circumstances? We have to differentiate between events that bring temporary happiness and things that produce long lasting happiness. Then invest more of our time in things that bring lasting happiness, such as a good relationship with God, and with family and friends.

There are some fundamental things that make me happy:
1) I am alive
2) Everyday I am alive for a reason and a purpose
3) I was created for this time and purpose by a wonderful God and Heavenly Father
4) My Heavenly Father loves me 1000% completely, totally, unconditionally. I will never be able to fully understand that love, or exhaust it. He knows me from the inside out, He knows my flaws, my weaknesses, my bad habits, my imperfections, yet He loves me anyway. Such love is empowering and makes me secure.
5) Not only does He love me, He demonstrates this love too! He wants to have a relationship with me, He wants to help me, He cares about every detail of my life and He wants nothing but the absolute VERY best for me. He calls me His precious daughter!
6) I have friends and family that love me and support me.

Those are my happiness parameters. Once those are in place, my happiness is firmly secure. Those are the things that can't change according to the weather, or the economic situation, or the bad news on the TV, or whether I have enough money to pay my bills this month.

So, stop waiting and hoping that something will come along to make you happy one day. No! Decide for yourself now that you are going to be happy. Look into the mirror and affirm yourself. Choose to do things that improve your positive outlook. Encourage yourself by looking at how far you've come and declaring that your future is bright. Soon enough your feelings will catch up with your actions.

(c) Tolulope Popoola

PS: I know it's been a while.

Friday, August 12

Two Becomes Three

Last Sunday, hubby and I went out without the baby for the first time. Of course we've been out with her several times, but this was different. This time, we left her with a childminder and had a proper date where it was just the two of us, and she was not the centre of attention. It felt great, kinda like the old days where we were just a couple and we didn't have to pause mid-conversation to keep checking on a baby. I realised something that I had heard over and over again, but hadn't experienced until now - a couple need to spend time together away from the kids. 

As much as I love my daughter and I enjoy playing with her, I now know that it's necessary for me to take a break from being a mother once in a while, and just be friend and lover to hubby. Being a new parent can be overwhelming, and the past six months have felt like a huge learning curve. And I'm still learning. I spent the first two months in a daze of pain (c-section), sleepless nights, milk and endless nappies. Slowly, baby and I settled into a routine and the nights became bearable. Now she's grown a bit and I can start to contemplate my life getting back to normal - but with a new twist. I guess the right word to use here would be - adjusting. My life has changed and while I'm enjoying it, I have to adjust my expectations, and I have to rearrange my priorities. I now have to juggle more roles and more responsibilities. (Now I feel like a proper grown-up, lol). It's not easy, but I know that I have God's grace to help me every day. 

And speaking of my relationship with God, I feel like I need Him more than ever. It's amazing the sense of responsibility you get when you're faced with a helpless little baby, and it hits you that a lot of what happens to this child depends on you. So who else can I ask for help? I pray to God everyday to make me the best mother I can be to my daughter. I need to get this right, because from experience, the mother-daughter relationship can be a tricky one and I want to have a wonderful relationship with my daughter everyday. I pray to God to help me because if I succeed in everything but fail at being a parent, then it's not worth it. I pray to God for more and more wisdom. I need God's wisdom every single day.

So anyway, the point I was trying to make was that, while being a mother requires a lot of self-sacrifice, one thing I must try to do is to keep my relationship with hubby going. I now know how easy it can be to let things slide when there's a major shift in the dynamics of our relationship. I can see it's not always going to be easy, but I'm sure the benefits will always be worth the effort. After all, it's for the good of the baby too if her parents can model a loving, healthy marriage for her to see!

As always, stay blessed and favoured,

Wednesday, March 30

A New Journey

I've just come to clear the cobwebs from this blog and apologise for the long hiatus.

But there's a reason! I recently started a new journey in my life - my new journey of motherhood!

Thanks everyone, I promise I'll be back soon!


Friday, November 5

Lasting Marriage: Forgiveness

Hi friends! I'm continuing on the theme from my last post - staying together happily in marriage. This post focuses on the next point - which is forgiveness.

The Bible says: "Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you." (Colossians 3:13). This is not a suggestion, but a command, the same way the Bible commands us: "Love each other as I have loved you."(John 13:34). Love and forgiveness go hand-in-hand - because without forgiveness, minor offences become grudges; grudges breed resentment, and resentment breeds hate.

How many of us have ended friendships and relationships because we could not forgive an offence committed by the other party? How many of us know how it feels when we offend someone and in spite of our remorse, they choose not to forgive us but instead end our friendship? I'm sure we have all had similar experiences. But for a married couple to stay together, unforgiveness is not an option. In fact forgiveness should be so much a part of your marriage, that it becomes a habit.

(Before I continue, I must stress here that I'm referring to a marriage where both partners are working towards the good of the relationship, and not engaging in destructive habits like infidelity, pornography or alcohol and substance abuse. In those situations, the course of action to take may be slightly different, as constantly forgiving the other party might not lead them to take positive action to change their behaviour. For a marriage to survive deep-rooted issues such as these, a lot of work has to be done by both parties to repair, rebuild and restore the relationship).

It's been said that no normal, reasonable person goes into marriage with the intention to destroy it and divorce shortly afterwards. The vast majority of us get into marriage with joy and hope and expectations of happiness. Similarly, no reasonable husband or wife wakes up in the morning and decides: I'm going to hurt my spouse today. I don't think anyone deliberately sets out to hurt their friends or spouses. I wrote and earlier post on Mr and Mrs Imperfect, in which I discussed that no matter how kind, loving, caring and generous your partner is, they are still not perfect - none of us are. Each of us still has faults, weaknesses and potentially annoying habits. Sometimes we act selfishly, sometimes we don't pay enough attention to their needs, and we unintentionally hurt our spouse. So when the Bible says "make allowance for each other's faults" it means you should be willing to forgive and overlook offences because you know you are just as fallible, and just as likely to hurt the other person.

"To err is human; to forgive is divine."

So what are the things that stop us from giving forgiveness a chance in our relationships?

Anger - When we've been offended, it's natural to feel negative emotions like anger. But it's how we deal wit the angry feelings that determine if we are right or wrong. The Bible says "“In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Ephesians 4:26). This is because anger gives a foothold to the devil. Anger can cause us to do or say things we would regret later on, things that can completely destroy the love and intimacy in our relationships.

Revenge - The desire to retaliate can also stop us from forgiving. It's easy to go down the slippery slope of "He hurt me, so I must hurt him back" when we've been offended. But seeking revenge is never a way to resolve a hurt, it only makes things worse. It creates a destructive pattern and a vicious cycle of two people constantly scheming to get back at each other, which would ultimately mean the relationship is doomed.

Fear - Sometimes, fear holds us back from forgiving the other person because it feels like we are giving them so much power to hurt us again. Or fear makes us harden our hearts as a defense mechanism so that we will not be vulnerable. But the Bible says that "There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear." (1 John 4:18). If we are going to take a chance on love, we must be willing to remove the fear of getting hurt, and trust that the other person will not take advantage of the fact that we are willing to forgive them.

Guilt - On the other hand, unforgiveness yields guilt because it is essentially a disobedient act. We know that holding a grudge is not something we should be doing, and in the event that we hurt the other person, we expect them to forgive us too. So when we don't forgive, we carry around not only the hurt and pain, but also a burden of guilt.

So how can we learn to forgive and let go of these negative emotions? Especially in a situation where you feel the other person has offended you, but they might not even know it! How do you forgive when the other person is not repentant? Forgiveness is not easy, and we definitely need God's grace. We need to think of how much God in His infinite mercy has forgiven us our sins, so we too can extend grace and forgiveness to other people. Forgiveness is a choice that we make even when we don't feel like doing it - we should go ahead and do it anyway. We often find that the positive feelings catch up with our actions later.

I think God made forgiveness a command for many reasons. If it was optional,many of us would not do it, and we would hold grudges and keep getting on each other's nerves - leading to a breakdown of trust, intimacy and openness in our relationships. But if we learn and practice forgiveness, it will relieve us of burdens and open the door for healing to begin. Forgiveness helps us to resolves issues and gives us a fresh page to start over - and that is an essential ingredient for a long lasting happy marriage!

I'll discuss Quality Time in my next post. Stay blessed and favoured!


(Image: womenonthefence.com)

Monday, October 4

Lasting Marriage: Friendship

I don't know about you, but before I got married I loved observing happy couples. I liked it when I saw a couple who looked very comfortable, smiling, joking and playful with each other, regardless of how long they have been married. I've seen enough miserable-looking married couples and I never wanted my marriage to be like those. So whenever I saw a happy couple, it often felt like a breath of fresh air. I would look at them and wonder what makes them tick. I wanted to know what they are doing right that is sustaining their level of friendship and enthusiasm for enjoying each other's company. And I wanted to emulate that in my own life when I got married. I wanted to retain that freshness and excitement in my marriage whether I was a newly-wed or an old married woman at the age of sixty. So I started to ask questions. I observed even more couples. I read loads of good books on the joys of a happy life-long marriage and how to achieve it. I prayed and asked God to help me to be wise. And I listened to advice from people who had got it right.

In other words, I did something very deliberate.

About a week ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is getting married soon. He said he was looking forward to marriage, but dreading the inevitable.

I asked what was inevitable?

He said something like: "You know that after the first two years, everything goes downhill. Love and happiness doesn't last for so long once a couple get married."

I was a bit sad to hear that and I told him: "That's not true. I've been married for five years and I'm happier and more in love with my hubby than ever before, and enjoying my marriage more now, than I was in the earlier years. And I'm sure he will say the same too."

The next thing my friend said was: "Well you know you are not normal, you might just be lucky, so I'm not going to raise my expectations based on your own experience."

I was quite shocked. I thought; is that really what most people think about marriage? That after two years, the joy and happiness fades away and you are left with nothing but a miserable existence? That except for the "lucky few" who somehow stumble into lasting happiness, the rest of us are doomed into living in a boring prison for the rest of our lives? So what happens to the fun and excitement after a while? It goes away and can never be recaptured?

I think that's such a sad and pessimistic view of marriage, and it's not helped by the statistics and things we see around us. Many people have this wrong view of marriage because they are not prepared to see things in a long-term view. We have swallowed the hype of "hollywood romance" and "fairy-tale happily ever after" that lets us believe that once we have fallen in love, the euphoria of the early days will continue endlessly and we would never have to make the effort to keep it going. However the reality is, those feelings of euphoria are terribly unreliable and they tend to come and go. So when the euphoria dies down, Hollywood leads us to believe that we are now doomed to be unhappy forever, unless we can recapture those feelings with a new person.

Nowadays, we have this "throw-away" mentality, that is, if something is broken or not working, we would prefer to throw it away and buy a new one rather than trying to fix it. Sometimes we carry over this attitude into marriage and so when things start getting a bit boring, instead of thinking of creative ways to spice things up and rekindle our romance, we can fall into the trap of thinking that there's nothing we can do, apart from quitting or putting up with it. This mentality is what leads to broken marriages and affairs.

I once saw this status on somebody’s profile on Facebook: If we see a smile on a newly-wed man’s face, we all know why. But if we see a smile on a man who has been married for ten years, we all wonder why.

But let's go back to the original design for marriage. Whose idea was it? Marriage was God's idea. And He designed it to be a long-lasting lifelong and secure commitment where two people become one, until death parts them. So if the world’s view is that two years into the marriage, there is no more fun, excitement, love and happiness, does that mean that God’s plan was for us to live miserably for the rest of our married time on earth? I would say a resounding "NO!". Of course not. It is we who need to re-align ourselves with the truth - marriage is meant to be fun and joyful all the days of our lives. And we need to make sure that we constantly put the effort into our relationships to keep them strong, happy and beautiful. But how?

I'll talk about three important things: friendship, quality time and forgiveness.

Friendship: I know that in these days of social networking, the term "friendship" has taken on different meanings. But I want us to think about friendship in a true sense of mutual trust, closeness, openness, kindness, acceptance, caring and love for each other. Friendship is one of the most basic needs that we have as human beings. We were created to need companionship, support and encouragement from other people. And this is one of the reasons why God ordained marriage in the first place - for companionship. We marry so that we can have at least one person in the world that we can call a friend. 

Now most of us have many acquaintances but very few true friends. But the few friendships we have, we know that we have to nurture them to keep them going. If you have a friend you don't see, you don't speak to, you don't hang out with or keep in touch with, what's going to happen? Sooner or later, that friendship will wither and suffer and probably die a slow death. And it's the same with marriage. 

I know many couples who work long hours outside of the home, have to raise young kids and look after so many other responsibilities that their marriage inevitably suffers for it. By the time they get home at night, they are too tired to do anything apart from having dinner in front of the TV and falling asleep. If all you do with your husband or wife is see them first thing in the morning on your way out and last thing at night before you sleep, what will that do to your friendship? It will be choked to death! The fact that you live in the same house doesn't mean anything - even enemies can live under the same roof. You have to be very deliberate about talking to them (and not just about who paid the last water bill), listening to them and having fun with them without the distractions of everyday living. Basically, you have to rearrange your priorities so that your marriage doesn’t suffer due to neglect.

Friends never run out of things to say to each other, and it should be the same between husband and wife. Some couples talk to their friends and colleagues at work more than they talk to each other! I heard of a woman who said she’s dreading retirement because she doesn’t know how she'll cope with being at home with her husband all the time. Over the years, they didn’t maintain their friendship and now they don’t have anything to say to each other anymore. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I think it’s very important for couples to keep the lines of communication open all the time. Make conversation an essential part of your day. Talk, talk, talk and keep talking. You can talk about any topic – politics, world affairs, your plans for the future, a book one of you is reading, what happened in the office today – anything. Just don’t let a single day pass by without having an interesting conversation with your spouse. It is surprising how much bonding takes place over a stimulating conversation.

But this sounds easy in theory. In practice, sometimes you have to make hard choices: like you may have to choose between attending a friend’s wedding and spending the only free weekend you’ve got at home with your spouse. Sometimes it may mean missing your favourite TV show and going for a walk/drive/quick meal outside with your spouse instead. It may mean banning the laptop/TV/long telephone calls for a while so that you can enjoy some time together without interruptions. But those little acts add up to something far more rewarding. I think it's better to miss a TV show than have a neglected spouse. That closeness and connection with your spouse will more than make up for the effort you put into maintaining your friendship.

For me, recently I was reminded of an episode. It was a Saturday night, the end of a very busy day. Hubby and I had been out all day running errands, shopping, visiting relatives and all that. We didn’t get home until very late, and we were both tired. As soon as we got in, he wanted to unwind and spend some time gisting with me in the living room before we retired to bed. But as soon as I stepped in, all I saw were the pile of chores I hadn’t done, and I immediately went into the kitchen to start washing the dishes. Hubby called me several times to leave the sink to come and relax with him and I kept saying – give me 5 minutes. In the end, I didn’t stop my chores until the kitchen was spick and span but by then I was too tired to spend any time with him and I just went straight to bed.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realised how selfish my attitude was. The dishes could wait – of course they could. But I had made them a priority, instead of time with my husband. All too easily, I took it for granted that he would still be there no matter what, and that was wrong. If I put myself in his shoes, I would have been quite upset if I wanted to spend time with him but he preferred to devote time to his own chores instead. I have since made a note of this, and resolved that I would re-order my priorities. House chores can wait, hubby comes first.

So to sum up, we have to continually work on keeping the friendship with our spouse alive by making sure we put them first in our minds, with our words and the activities we do together. The rewards are soooo worth it!

That’s all for now, I’ll talk about the other two points in my next post. I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Staying together in marriage is not by accident, and it’s not luck. The harder you work at your marriage, the luckier you get.”

Have a great week!


Monday, April 26

Being Open and Honest

There was once a girl who had a secret about her past. It haunted her day and night, sometimes she cried herself to sleep. She had been dating this wonderful guy at the office for nine months, and she was dreading the day he would find out about this secret. It made her ill with worry and she was often sad and depressed. The weight of the guilt was heavy on her, so much so, that she stopped enjoying the present. She began to dwell in the past, reliving her mistakes over and over, worrying and beating herself up over it.

One day, her manager at work found her crying. He called her and asked her what was wrong. Faced with a person who showed concern about her welfare, she finally told him. She had an eight-year old son that nobody knew about. He lived with her mother in a different town and she saw him once a month. The reason she was so upset was that she regretted her mistakes, but she was worried about what her new boyfriend would say or do when he found out.

Her manager, who was a wise man, asked her a few questions:

Do you regret your past?
She said yes.
Do you wish you could go back in time to do things differently?
She nodded.
Can you actually go back and change things?
She paused for a moment. Then she shook her head.
Is there any way that the mistake would go away?
Do you realise that while you are hung up about the past, your present and future happiness is slipping away?
She paused to reflect on this.
If you cannot change the outcome of your past mistakes, don’t you think it’s time to stop beating yourself up over it?
That had not occurred to her.
If you like this guy and you think he likes you too, the best thing you can do is to be honest with him. That way you will be right with yourself. It is a risk, but the result is that no matter what happens, you have let go of the guilt and fear that is holding you back.

She thanked her manager and left his office. Later that evening, she summoned up the courage to tell her boyfriend about her son. To her surprise, he was not upset. In fact, he was delighted to hear that she had a child because he recently found out that he couldn’t have children. The next weekend, they went to visit her mother together. All her worries, fears and anxieties melted away when she saw her boyfriend and her son getting along so well together. By the time they were leaving, her son was sad to see them go, and he asked when her boyfriend could come and visit again. It was a step forward. She didn't need to worry about her secret anymore.

* * * * *

Now this story is fiction, but I wanted to highlight a few lessons that I’ve learnt recently. One is about dwelling in the past. We all have chapters in our lives that we wish we would erase or re-write. It’s part of life, part of growing up, part of learning who we are. I’ve had to learn to let my past go. I cannot change it, I cannot undo it. And the more I dwelt on it, I found out that it was a heavy burden, sapping my energy, draining the joy of my present, and blocking me from moving on with my future. If this applies to you, I would urge you to take another look at the issue. The past is gone; there is nothing you can do to change what happened. What you can change however, is your attitude. You have to forgive yourself of the mistakes and stop beating yourself over it. You have to deal with the guilt by admitting that you did something wrong, but God will forgive you if you ask Him to. And once you have learnt from the mistake, you can move ahead with your life, knowing that you are a better and wiser person for it.

Another lesson I’ve learnt is sharing my burdens. Some of us pretend that we’ve got it all together, and we don’t need help. We give people an illusion that we have no problems, no weaknesses and no struggles. Yet, we are crumbling under the weight of problems on the inside. We need to stop trying to pretend like we know-it-all and be humble enough to ask for help when we are struggling. Nobody is perfect, nobody knows everything. If you ask for help, it doesn’t make you a weak person; it makes you a wise person.

And finally: honesty. I’ve been told that honesty is the best policy, but sometimes I’m still surprised by the truth in it. I find that, when I come clean and admit my mistakes, people don’t judge me half as bad as I judge myself. Sometimes I’ve been struggling with an issue for months, and finally when I discuss it with hubby, the problem seems to shrink in size to almost nothing. I’ve realised that it’s okay to admit to yourself and your husband that you have weaknesses, fears, doubts and struggles. That’s what is meant by “naked and not ashamed”. You should be comfortable enough with each other to share each other’s struggles, and find solutions together. That’s why he or she is there to support you.

Sometimes I feel quite silly for trying to bear my struggles alone. I think that sometimes, the last person we listen to is our spouse. When we have a problem, we assume we can pray about, or share with a friend, or seek help elsewhere. All of which are good, but they can also be tactics to try and cover up who we are with our spouse. It’s a slippery road; once you start hiding things from your spouse or significant other, you start building a wall between you. And the longer it goes on, the higher that wall becomes. When all we need can just simply be: come clean; admit we have a weakness and we can then work together to find a solution as a couple.

If we reflect on these things, we find that it is fear and pride that holds us back. Fear blows our issues out of proportion, such that, in our minds, we feel we are going to get judged by everyone else. Pride prevents us from admitting that we are not perfect, and we need other people to help us. But what sweet relief we get; when we do confront our fears and swallow our pride. We find peace.

Stay blessed and favoured!


Thursday, December 31

End of 2009

Wow, 2009 is almost over! Did the year fly by quickly or what? Can anyone believe that all the hype about entering the new millennium was actually TEN years ago? Soon it will be 2010 and another decade will begin. Time flies, they say, and it seems like it is spinning even faster nowadays.

This time last year I was looking forward to the year 2009 with hope and expectations. I had a long list of hopes , dreams and ambitions. I had a list of prayer requests and petitions that I placed before God to help me achieve by the end of the year. Now it's the last day of the year, and I am really grateful to God. Nope, I didn't get everything on my wish-list. But I have gained so many wonderful things in this past year, and I have received so many blessings from God, that I cannot but be grateful.

I'm thankful to God for my blessings. I have been overwhelmed many times when I think about how good God has been to me. I can't list them all but I can mention a few:

I'm thankful for my family: mum, dad, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, etc. Sure, once in a while somebody gets on my nerves but I know I love them, and I cannot do without them.

I'm thankful for the simple joys of peaceful sleep. I have slept and woken up everyday in the last 365 days.

I'm thankful to God for meeting all my needs. I never had to go hungry or beg for anything in 2009.

I'm thankful for the good times that I enjoyed, and the not-so-good times where God was my strength and hope.

I'm thankful for laughter and fun in my life. There are too many sad and lonely people in the world today.

I'm thankful to God for adding another year to my life. I celebrated a birthday in perfect health, surrounded by good friends and family.

I'm thankful to God for the many wonderful new friends I made this year. Especially my fellow bloggers who have become my friends and sisters. Aloted, Believer, Writefreak, Nolimit, Diamond Hawk, GoodNaijaGirl and more. And to my writing mentors: Abidemi Sanusi and Dr Tade.

I'm thankful for another peaceful, happy and fulfilling year of marriage. I know I am so blessed and privileged to share my life with a man that makes me happy, believes in me, loves me, supports me and wants the best for me.

I'm thankful because I'm older and wiser now, than I was a year ago.

I'm thankful for protection and safety. I went through 2009 without any accidents - amazing.

I'm thankful for the trips around Europe I enjoyed during the year.

I'm thankful for the progress I made with my work this year. And the opportunities I have to explore further in the coming months.

I'm thankful to my co-writers on our blog series: Latifa, Jaycee, Icepick, Flourishing Florida, Diamond Hawk, Ayodele, Writefreak and Rayo. Thanks for believing in my idea and working with me.

I'm thankful because I've moved closer to God this year.

I'm also thankful for the many lessons I've learnt this year:

I've learnt to depend on God more than ever

I've learnt that respecting my husband is the key to a peaceful marriage

I've learnt to be more patient

I've learnt to appreciate the important things in life

I've learnt not to compare myself with anybody

I've learnt that I should choose carefully whose opinions I take on board

I've learnt to receive criticism graciously

I've learnt that a positive attitude wins in the end, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

I've learnt that pride and sacrificial love are not compatible.

I've learnt to be humble and content with what, who and where I am at the moment.

In 2010:

I want to be completely in tune with where God wants me to be, what God wants me to do and at His perfect timing.

I want to be more and more like Jesus everyday.

I want to achieve my potential with my writing.

I want to become a better wife, sister, daughter and friend.

So help me God.

Now I'm counting down to 2010........................!!!

Happy New Year to everyone! May 2010 be the best year ever in all aspects of our lives!

Wednesday, November 11

Understand Me

Relationships are based on love, trust, communication and understanding. This is more so important in marriage, where two people (who are NOT mind readers) try to know and understand each other better everyday. I’m going to talk about how listening and learning can really help couples to understand each other better.

First, what is understanding? Here’s what I think: understanding is the act of seeking to know somebody, accepting who they are, putting yourself in their shoes, listening without jumping to conclusions, keeping an open mind and asking, instead of assuming.

I think, like most things in a relationship, listening to understand someone begins spontaneously, but as time goes on, it has to be nurtured. When we first start dating, we actively seek to know more and more about the other person: who they are now, where they are coming from, and where they are going in future. We spend time to piece lots of information together, to form a picture in our minds about the person. But this picture is never complete. As much as we think we know someone, there is always something more to be discovered, and no matter how predictable somebody is, they can still reveal something about themselves that can surprise you.

So how can you understand another person better? It’s a learning process and one of the first things you need to adopt is: the right attitude. I’m sure you would have heard couples say in frustration: “I just don’t understand him!” or “She’s impossible, how can anyone ever understand her?”

I say the right attitude, because that determines whether you are open and receptive, or you
have already made up your mind that understanding that person is impossible. If you say or think the words “I can’t” , you are already admitting defeat. You are literally saying, “I’m not going to understand this person, so I’ll just give up and stop trying”. However, if you decide to put in the effort into really knowing the other person, you’ll find that with time, it becomes easier everyday. So that even when you are having a conflict, you can still seek to understand where the other person is coming from – what they are saying, what they are not saying, how they are feeling and what they need.

Here are some tips on understanding that I’ve picked up form reading:

Create an atmosphere of acceptance: Don’t jump in and criticise what your partner is saying. It is easy to counter someone every time they try to open up, such that they stop trying to reveal their innermost thoughts. Don’t jump into conclusions either, if they are still expressing something. If what they are saying doesn’t quite add up to you at first, you may need to hear it again before it begins to make sense. Women often have no problems opening up to their partners, but they often try to censor what they want their partners to open up to them about. For example, we don’t often want to hear our partners telling us that they struggle with temptation in the workplace, that they are scared of death, that they have self-confidence problems, etc. So if the man tries to open up once and we dismiss those topics, he is not likely to bring them up again. Which is sad, because a man really needs his wife to support him in his areas of weakness. But if she doesn’t listen, she can’t understand, and she can’t help him.

Listen without interrupting: When you are having a conversation, allow your partner to finish their train of thought, and their sentences. Resist the temptation to jump in and finish their sentences or hijack the floor. You may miss something crucial if you are not paying attention. Your body language also speaks volumes. It will be obvious if you are more interested in the TV, than in the conversation. Don’t try to hurry the speaker up by nodding and butting in when they are mid-sentence.
It is said that most women are quicker with forming words and sentences than men. So in a conversation between them, a woman is usually two or three sentences ahead in her mind, while the guy is still trying to answer the first question. That’s why when you ask a little girl a question, she replies immediately, and if you ask a boy the same age, he is slightly slower to answer, and sometimes his mother or his sister jumps in and answers for him. That’s also why women tend to win verbal arguments.
It can easily become a bad habit when a wife assumes she already knows what her husband is going to say, so she jumps in and speaks for him, even when they are in public. I find myself guilty of it sometimes, speaking for hubby even when he’s on the phone! I have to remind myself to hush as he is perfectly able to have his own conversations.

Keep an Open Mind: Don’t say things like “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard” or “What did you expect?” when you partner tells you something about themselves. Comments like that, even though they may mean nothing to the speaker, may sound judgemental to the hearer. Negative comments put them on their guard. If they express their hurt over something you said, don’t brush it off by saying things like “You’re just too sensitive”, they have a right to be upset if you have genuinely hurt them.

Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes: The other person, no matter how much you know and love them, is still different from you in many regards. That means you may find yourself sitting at two opposite ends of an argument once in a while, and neither party wants to budge. If they express something, don’t just dismiss it, listen and try to imagine where they are coming from. A common example of this is when a husband hears the following words from his wife: “You spend too much time at work!” and he immediately becomes defensive, saying “But I have to work to meet our needs….”. If he is really putting himself in his wife’s shoes, he will see that she is not saying she doesn’t want him to work. She just misses having him around and is asking for a bit more of his time.

If You Are Unsure, Ask. Never Assume: Verify that you have heard and understood something. Instead of guessing, ask again, until you are sure. Repeat what they have said back to them and say, “If I understand you correctly, you are saying….?” Or “Let me see if I’ve got this right, do you mean…?” This way, you are checking that what you heard is the same thing as what they meant to say. So many arguments can be avoided if we stop to double check that we’ve got the information right, before we proceed with our actions.

Don’t Dismiss an Opinion: Because it is different from one you hold, doesn’t mean it is any less valid. Our opinions are made up of our experiences, which make up who we are. Dismissing someone’s opinion without giving it a thought is like throwing away their thoughts and their mind. Instead, validate their perceptions, thoughts and feelings. They are as valid as yours.

Observe: This is something you will always have to do if you want to understand somebody more and more. Watch, listen and learn: what things makes them happy, what things make them sad? What things are they really passionate about? How do they react when they are frustrated? How do they spend their money? What are their hobbies and interests? Etc, etc. Just as you are never 100% predictable, and you learn something new about yourself everyday, it’s the same thing with your partner. Even after you think you’ve got somebody sussed out, they can still surprise you, so you keep learning something new about them! It makes married life fun and interesting, it would be boring otherwise! I remember someone saying to me that her parents who have been married for 35 years, still discover new things about each other. Hmmm….

By nature, we human beings are incredibly complex, and we can always keep learning and changing. So even if you think you won’t change, most likely your partner will! So the quest to continue to understand each other should not stop at any stage. Understanding deepens our knowledge of each other, and knowledge deepens our love for each other.

As always, stay blessed and favoured!

Tuesday, September 8

Respect Experiment

As I said in my previous post, I had been reading the Love and Respect book and I had learnt a few truths about the importance of showing my husband respect. The book is based on the premise of this scripture in Ephesians 5 v 33 where Paul said: "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." The writer of the book practically promised that the best way to get my husband to love me was to show him respect. A good promise right? So I decided to conduct a little experiment of my own to see if the principle worked..... yep I decided to be the guinea pig!

In the book, it is called "The Respect Test" and there are a lot of tips for wives on how to start showing your husband respect. Most of the tips can be personalised, so after a quick glance through the tips, I came up with my own list:

  • Look out for the accusatory or nagging tone when you are asking him to do something
  • Appreciate his dislikes, don't force him to do or eat stuff he doesn't like
  • Don't argue over the TV programmes he wants to watch. If you want to watch something else, ask nicely
  • Appreciate everything good about him. Tell him often how much you appreciate who he is and what he does
  • Have his meals ready when he gets home
  • Listen and consider his ideas and opinions, even if you don't always agree

Okay, so I had my list and my watchword which goes something like this: Is what I'm about to say or do going to come across as disrespectful to my husband? and I was good to go. I was still a bit cynical about the whole thing and at some point I wondered if I was being a bit hypocritical, like I was putting up a false pretense. I didn't say anything to hubby about my experiment (obviously), but I prayed about it and asked God to help me. As I started to work through my list, it wasn't actually as hard as I had imagined! Most of it was a change in attitude: doing the right thing at the right time, knowing when to speak and when to be quiet, showing him positivity and letting go of my desire to "control" him. And I found out that once I took the first step and made the right move, the feelings caught up with me soon.

Okay, now to the results:

After one week, hubby must have noticed something was different, cos he suddenly asked me one day: "Babe, you've been very nice to me lately, what's going on?"
I smiled and said nothing, but in my mind, I was like "Oh my goodness, it must be working!"
That was very encouraging, so I decided to step it up a notch. By week two, there was a noticeable change about him. He was much happier, he was a lot more relaxed, he smiled a lot more. More importantly, he wanted to spend more and more time with me! Previously hubby had never kept me company in the kitchen while I was cooking, but that week, he actually came to gist with me while I was doing my chores! This was something I had been trying to get him to do forever!
By the third week, he was positively glowing. He was so sweet, he couldn't do enough for me. We had a short break to Germany and throughout the trip, he didn't say no to whatever I asked for! When we got back, he commented on how happy he was and he actually thanked me for making him so happy!

I was totally amazed at this. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted up. So all along, I didn't need to nag to get my views heard. I didn't need any of those power struggles. I realised that indeed as a woman, my strength is not in trying to control or manipulate my husband or try to bend him to fit my ideals. All I have to do is to let go of my pride and respect him and then he would do anything to please me! (Talk about several lightbulb moments in those three weeks, lol). Honestly, I can say that those three weeks were the best weeks of our marriage up to that point.

But of course, I had to go and ruin it, lol. After we got back from our trip to Germany, I did something that hubby said I shouldn't do. I knew he was annoyed, but more than that, because I now understood him a lot more, I could sense that he felt upset because I had disrespected him. I could feel him withdrawing and I knew that if I didn't make amends, we would lose the lovely rapport we had been enjoying in the past few weeks.

So as soon as I had the opportunity, I apologised to him and I made sure I used the words "I'm sorry I disrespected you" when I was speaking. As soon I said it, I could literally see the tension between us evaporate! I knew then, that the word "respect" truly resonates with a man in the way it doesn't resonate with a woman. That was all he needed to hear and I promise you, now that I know I will never let go of that precious knowledge!

Okay, so my experiment went very well, praise the Lord! Of course I have only talked about half of the book. Apart from respect, it also focuses on what husbands have to do to show love to their wives. So I'm going to recommend that hubby reads the book too, hopefully we can read it together and discuss the ideas in it so that we get the full benefits of the topics discussed. And I would recommend it to everyone reading my blog as well. Respect and Submission are not politically correct topics nowadays and I would not have believed it for myself if I hadn't seen that it works! So I would encourage you ladies, to try it out for yourself and see how such a simple thing can transform your relationship. I am not perfect at it yet, because I am only human, but I will continue to practice respect and by God's grace, continue to reap the rewards!

Helpful Links:

Stay blessed and favoured


Wednesday, August 19


It's been a while! Sorry if it seems like I abandoned this blog for so long. I'm just constantly juggling many things on my plate.

Hubby and I recently celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary! I thank God for my journey beyond the aisle, I've grown so much, learnt a lot, matured a lot and gained wisdom in the past four years. And I'm still learning something everyday. I'm so full of joy and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with hubby cos it's shaping up to be a great adventure! (The beauty of walking with God is that He is present in every area of your life, so you can be sure He will guide you in every step of the way).

Okay, on to the topic of today: RESPECT. For our anniversary present, my sister gave us this book: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and told us it was highly recommended reading for married couples. So a few days later, I thought I should glance through it to see if it was any good. And wow! Before I knew it I had read the whole book from cover to cover. And I can definitely say that it opened my eyes in a way that I hadn't imagined before.

Basically the book is based on the premise of this scripture in Ephesians 5 v 22 - 33 where Paul was talking to married couples in the church. The main focus is on verse 33 where Paul said: "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." The author talks about why Paul had to ask husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Shouldn't love and respect come naturally to us? The answer is: not really. Let's face it, it's quite easy to take someone for granted and stop appreciating them when they are no longer new to you. Soon, a crazy cycle develops in the relationship where wives don't feel loved, so they stop respecting their husbands, and husbands don't feel respected so they stop showing their wives love! This vicious cycle goes on and on until someone consciously breaks the cycle by stepping up and deciding to sow what the other person really needs.

The major eye-opener for me in the book was how much men desire respect from their wives. I remember during our marriage prep classes, I was told over and over again, the importance of respect and submission. Even on our wedding day, the preacher mentioned it again that respect way the way to get my husband to love me more. But somehow it didn't really click to me how and why respect was such a big deal to men. I used to wonder why, how come when the guy was toasting me back in the day, respect was not an issue, but once we get married it becomes an important ingredient. Now I know it's much more important to men than it is to women.

According to the book, men derive their sense of value from how much people (especially their spouse) shows them respect. Showing a man respect conveys the message that you cherish him, value him, honour him and esteem him above everything else. Paul gave that command to the church because women need love from their husbands just as much as men need respect from their wives. When a woman receives love from her husband, she is happy and she will do anything to please him. In the same way, when a man receives respect from his wife, he is happy and he will do anything to please her. And it flows in a circle, if a woman respects her husband unconditionally, her husband will love her too unconditionally. Note that Paul did not command women to love their husbands. He knew that it is easy for a woman to love a man, but it is a lot harder to show him respect. In fact, a woman can be so loving to her husband, that she does not realise she is being disrespectful to him!

That's all well and good, in theory. In reality, things can be a bit more complicated. I think there is a basic fear in me (and most wives) that men might take advantage of this principle of submission and respect. We worry: if I submit and respect this man unconditionally, will he not abuse that power? If he knows that I will not argue with him, will he not see that as an opportunity to bully me? Will he not start looking down on me? Can I completely trust him to make wise decisions if I allow him to always have the final say? Will I not lose some of my personality and turn into a weakling who doesn't have a mind of her own? And by the way nowadays is there not a notion of 50-50 and we are both equal before God? The bible and some chapters of the book provided my answers. In a Christian marriage wives are called to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, trusting God to guide the man to lead wisely. And men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Men have a far greater responsibility to provide, protect and even die for their wives if need be. Wives just have to submit to their headship and respect them in return. If wives can take the first step of submitting, we can win over our husbands without a struggle. You can get what you want (love) by giving him what he wants (respect).

As I read, I thought to myself a few times: have I been unknowingly disrespectful to hubby? I would have rated myself as quite a respectful wife because I don't think I'm rude to anybody, talk less of my husband. I recognise him as the head of our home, even though we don't always agree on everything. So how can I be even more respectful? Perhaps I just wasn't showing it enough? Thankfully there were illustrations in the book that I could relate to and adapt. For example, I could be unaware that my facial expressions and tone of voice when I'm talking to him is disrespectful, even when I don't mean to be. I can be dismissive of his requests and opinions sometimes, and if he doesn't complain, I don't take them seriously. I can choose to ignore his advice and do things my own way, but expect him to bail me out when I get into trouble. Perhaps I'm too quick to judge when he does something I feel is out of line. Or I can be well-meaning in my quest to correct him when we disagree, but it comes across as harsh criticism, etc etc. (There are many more subtle or subconscious ways women disrespect their husbands but these are some I recognised in myself).

By the time I finished reading the book, I thought it was very eye-opening and I was inclined to try out some of the advice in it, but I was still not too sure if it was true how men felt about respect. So I decided to ask a friend of mine some questions. He is the most laid-back guy I know, who would never try to bully his partner. So I figured that if the respect thing works for him, then it could work for every guy. I told him about the book I had just read and asked him if it was true that men desired respect a lot more than love. Surprisingly he said yes! He explained that most men feel that they he can get love from almost any woman if they say and do the right things she wants. But a man knows that not every woman can respect him, so he is particularly drawn to the woman who shows him the most respect. (I was quite shocked at this, to be honest!). I also asked him if a man had to choose between love and respect, which one would he go for: and he said he would definitely choose respect all the way. It doesn't mean love is not important to a man, but men tend to take a woman's love for granted once they are married (cos after all, she must have loved him to agree to marry him), but he cannot take respect for granted.

After that interesting conversation, I decided to take the plunge and go the extra mile to show my husband respect. I figured, I didn't have anything to lose - if it works, great and if it doesn't, I will discard the book, no harm done. So I took on one of the recommended steps for wives in the book, which is - ask yourself before you take any action: is what I'm about to say or do going to come across as disrespectful to my husband?

I tried this for three weeks and I was thrilled at the results! Will continue this gist in my next post.

PS: I would like to ask any guys reading this post to please add their views and comments. Is respect really at the top of the list of what men want?
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