Gratitude

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I give gratitude to God, my Creator and Sustainer; He who has seen me through my worst and continues to inspire me to do and be my best. I know that this life is nothing but a swinging pendulum of trials and amusement, and that true peace comes from surrendering to a force much greater than myself.

I give gratitude for a restful night; for warm covers, for my family (some who are right next to me, some who are far way).

I give gratitude to love; for the opportunity to love and for the privilege of being loved.

I give gratitude to my beating heart, my curious mind, and my working body.

I give gratitude to YOU. Thank you for taking the time to read my little ramblings, and for encouraging me to continue writing through your comments and ‘likes’.

I realize that this moment-my fingers on the keyboard, my eyes on the screen, the ticking of the clock nearby, the honking of horns outside, MY STEADY BREATHING-this exact moment is nothing short of a miracle.

What are you grateful for today?

 

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5 best romantic relationship tips according to my husband

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(He’s not just a pretty face)

I hear about relationship advice from women almost all the time. From men? Not so much. I decided to ask my husband for his top five pieces of relationship advice. The last one is pure gold.

  1. Be yourself– Don’t pretend to be someone who you aren’t. Celebrate your strengths but learn to embrace your weaknesses. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to show your true self to your partner. True love is based on authenticity, not pretense. This is the only way to have a truly rewarding relationship.
  2. When you so something for your partner, do it out of love-Instead of doing things for your partner with the aim of getting something in return, do them because you love them. Acts of love, no matter how simple or mundane they may be, benefit the receiver BUT they benefit the giver even more. I feel good when I do good unconditionally.
  3. Every once in a while, shake up your routine– If familiarity breeds contempt, then the best antidote to this is to engage in new activities and experiences every so often. Routine is important in establishing security but a break from routine keeps the sparks flying. Travel somewhere new, take your partner to a restaurant that you’ve never been to, go dancing, wear a new outfit to your date, etc. New experiences present an opportunity for you to see your partner in new light, making the relationship more interesting and exciting. They give a relationship extra mileage.
  4. Sex is important, but affection is vital-Great relationships are built on a foundation of great friendship. (At this point he smiles and quips: you can get sex anywhere, but love? That’s hard to find. Ha!) Sexual intimacy is of course important in almost all relationships, but I think that the feelings that you have for each other carry you through thick and thin. Sex is like a fast burning matchstick-quick to light up, quick to burn out. But a affection-a feeling of devotion and tenderness-is the slow-burning log that gives off warmth and light steadily through the darkest night.
  5. Love yourself– This, I believe, is the core of healthy relationships. If you treat yourself right, you will always treat your partner right. If you have issues with self-esteem, you will have behavioral problems which will negatively affect how you connect with your partner. Generally speaking, people who don’t love themselves are challenging to be around: they tend to be unhappier, constantly seeking external validation and affirmation. People who love themselves naturally seem to have a happier disposition and are therefore much more pleasant to be around.

What’s your best romantic relationship advice?

I asked my kids some Big Life Questions…

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I love getting a kid’s perspective on life, so I often chat about this vast topic with my little ones. I recently asked them some Big Life Questions:

What’s the purpose of your life? What’s the reason you are alive?

Sakina (5 years): To go on holidays.

Muhammad (3 years): To fix trucks.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sakina: A mummy.

Muhammad: A grown-up.

If you could ask God for anything, what would you ask Him for?

Sakina: I’d ask Him to give me lots of toys…oh, and to give Muhammad lots of toys too.

Muhammad: I’d ask Him to fix everybody’s car.

I’d love to hear about your stories. What smart things do your little ones say?

3 things I loved this week

1. On Friday night, my local library hosted an acoustic night featuring young, up and coming musicians from the area. The crowd of attendees- a mixture of people of different ages and cultural backgrounds- squeezed into the small area of children’s section. Books, twinkling fairy lights, happy company, and amazing music, ‘SR Library Acoustic Nights’ was the perfect recipe for a perfect evening.

One of the musicians summed up the event so well: “There are a lot of nasty things going on in the world, but there are a lot of lovely ones as well if you look in the right places. This night at the library is one of those lovely things.”

Check out the musician’s online accounts below and send a little love their way.

Tom Heath

Amy Victoria

Changing Colour

2. This vlog of Mombasa, Kenya by talented photographer/videographer, Haytham Bhalo. The aerial views starting from 3:48 are AMAZING. Check out his website for more remarkable shots (like the one below) of the Mombasa life at at www.haythambhalo.com

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3. Our non-profit, Donge La Mombasa Welfare Group, visited an orphanage this weekend. Our team of medical volunteers gave the resident orphans a check up and treated them for parasitic diseases and malnourishment, while our team of volunteer builders helped repair some structural damage on the grounds and built an extension for the kitchen. They also delivered new mattresses, toys, and books. Way to go, team!

A missing child; a lesson in gratitude

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At 7.20am today, my 5 year old daughter went missing.

I was still in bed waiting for 7.30 to make its mark on the clock: the exact time every weekday morning when I wake the kids up to get ready for school. Anwar, my husband, who had woken up earlier to get ready for work, went into their room at 7.20am to see them before he left.

“Good morning, Muhammad! Asalaam aleikum.”

Our 3 year old gave him a mumbled response of acknowledgement.

“Good morning, Sakina! Asalaam aleikum,” Anwar chirped enthusiastically to our daughter.

Silence.

“Sakina, Sakina, where are you?”

Another echo of silence.

I heard the shake of duvet covers and a rustle of slight movements across the bedroom floor. The bathroom door opened and closed. I sat up in bed, concerned.

Anwar came into our room. His face looked all of a sudden tired, a sharp contrast to his upbeat mood from just a few minutes ago. I looked into his eyes and heard the question that I had just asked myself: “Where is Sakina?”

Worried, I shot out of bed and ran into the children’s bedroom. I lifted the rumpled duvet cover off Sakina’s bed. Nothing was underneath. I did the same for Muhammad’s bed. Still nothing. Anwar and I looked at each other again, confused by the alteration of events in our otherwise normal and ordinary daily schedule. We both ran downstairs, checking the nooks and crannies of our sitting room, then our dining room, then our kitchen, then our store room. I opened the front door. It was cold and dark; not the kind of environment that my princesss-y daughter would venture out into, but I  called out her name anyway.  There was still no Sakina.

By now, my entire body was trembling and my heart was beating so hard, I had to let out a loud breath of air just to calm myself down. I looked over to Anwar as we stood at the foot of the stairs and I could tell that he was about to be sick. We ran back upstairs to check again.

A thunderbolt of instinct suddenly hit me. I walked to the shower room and peeked behind the door.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA” we heard the familiar peals of laughter coming from behind the door. “I tricked you!”

At 7.30 am, we found our daughter.

Anwar and I collapsed into a relieved heap beside the laundry. We hugged and scolded Sakina simultaneously, making her cry from confusion. She was not expecting this kind of end to her game. We were not expecting this kind of morning.

As we picked ourselves up and resumed with our normal schedule, I realised what a blessing ‘ordinary’ is. In an instance, everything can change and what once once ‘boring’ will seem priceless. I was reminded of this couple who lost their son to meningitis recently. In less than 24 hours, their 5 year old son went from being a vibrant boy to a corpse.  He was taken ill one evening and by morning, he was dead. I cannot even begin to imagine the magnitude of grief that family is going through and what they would give to have ‘ordinary’ back into their life again.

We may be creatures of exploration and new discoveries, always going after the glitter of new experiences, but our ordinary, un-glamorous, every day lives are what give life meaning. Look around at the mundane and give gratitude for them; those things that you see everyday that sometimes becomes invisible are the very things that you will one day miss.

 

 

 

 

 

Loving thyself and why this matters to your work

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I read an interesting blog post that argued that in order to be an artist- whether it be through visual arts, or writing, or music, etc- you need a healthy dose of narcissism.

This concept struck as curious because we often associate narcissism with ugliness: quite the opposite from the more socially acceptable character of self-doubt (which many confuse for humility). But as I thought deeper about this, the more I realized that we all have the ability to create, but we don’t, because we are often the victims of our own ideals of perfection. I can’t tell you how many times I have shamed myself into not writing because I think that I am not good enough, or that the sentences that I write are pathetic compared to others. I create excuses of not having enough time, or not being inspired, or being too tired to think when in reality, it’s nothing but my self doubt taking over the show.

When I first started living with my husband, Anwar, I was taken aback by how self-assured he was. A keen hobbyist in taarab music, he loves nothing better than to sing for an online audience through Facebook live and Youtube and then to re-watch his videos and smile with himself.  I often joke that he is his biggest fan-boy.   Anwar’s father-Juma Bhalo- a well known musician in Kenya,  was the epitome of musical excellence in the taarab genre. My husband was profoundly influenced by his father and although he emulates his music, he will be the first one to tell you that he will never be as good as his father.

Anwar makes beautiful music but sometimes he sings off key and sometimes he doesn’t get the notes right on the keyboard. Sometimes people tell him that “your father, Juma Bhalo is better”. And rarely does his daily work schedule allow for enough time to practice and perfect his technique.  Does this realization temper his enthusiasm for singing? No. If anything, it releases him from the angst of perfection that afflicts so many artists, thus allowing him to express himself with the joyful authenticity often associated with children at play.

There is a particular video on his Youtube channel that I used to find highly amusing in the beginning of our relationship. In it, he is smartly suited up, fingers resting lightly on the keyboard, hair gelled up, and his mega-watt smile ready to dazzle his audience. Before he starts singing, he says (in Kiswahili), with an cheeky expression on his face:

“Asalaam Aleikum. My name is Anwar Bhalo. I know that I am not really a singer but I sing to make myself happy. As long as singing makes me happy, why shouldn’t I sing? Maybe someone out there will feel as happy as I do listening to my singing. For me, this is enough.”

We will never be smart enough, skinny enough, good enough, …etc as long as we compare ourselves with others. In the race to out-do each other, especially in this Instagram world of perfection, we have lost our authentic voices.

In a frank article about originality vs. authenticity, Elizabeth Gilbert asserts that “whatever it is that you dream of doing (creating, traveling, loving, inventing, transforming) just do it. Don’t worry if you’re the 100th person to do it. Just do it, anyhow, and be sure that you bring the highest purity of intention to your pursuit. Act from a place of your deepest authenticity, and the rest of it will take care of itself.”

What are your fears when it comes to creating art? What’s holding you back back from authentic self-expression? What would you do if you believed that you are enough as you are?

Meditations on joy

“In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”
—Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tuscon

*I took this picture during one of my daily walks recently. I give gratitude to  nature for reminding me time and time again of the privilege of being alive.*