DEAR COVID-19 BRIDES

Dear COVID-19 Brides,

Let me start by saying to my subscribers and constant readers, this was not the article I intended to write. This was not what I had scheduled for publishing in my planner but like many of us, things are not what we thought they would be. I’m going to try my hardest to be brief, and if you know me, you know not to hold your breath. I wanted to say a few words to the women whose weddings were scheduled during this time. I want to say what you already know partnered with what’s so easy to forget. I want to say what others may not have said because they don’t know you need to hear it. I want to speak love, peace, and understanding over you and I pray you are encouraged.

Disclaimer: I am speaking from a place of experience. This isn’t something born of a researched opinion (like some past updates have been). I didn’t take any polls. I haven’t chatted with hundreds of brides. This is purely coming from the heart of a newlywed who is still coming to terms with what happened less than two weeks from today.

5 weeks ago I had what I thought was my final dress fitting, purchased the flowers for my bridesmaids, and sent my mama’s measurements to our tailor here in Nigeria. 4 weeks ago I was added to an email group notifying me that my flight to the States for my Bridal Shower was cancelled. 3 weeks ago I cancelled my mama’s flight to Nigeria because all airlines were given the order to close, cancelled her dress order, cancelled our food vendors, and cancelled the decorator. 2 weeks ago, I contacted about 250 people and let them know that we would not be having an open ceremony or reception, cancelled my hair and makeup appointments, and waited while my fiancé called the pastors and church elders. 12 days ago, I had my final dress fitting (yes, I got my gown the NIGHT before the wedding) because in a couple weeks time I lost almost 10lbs, my assistant, Patience, did 3 of my maids’ hair. The morning of my wedding, their sister did the other half of their hair and 5 faces of makeup, I did one of my maids and my own hair and makeup, and we just accepted that I didn’t have a long enough veil. 11 days ago, without my mother, brothers, sisters, and friends, I married Ishaku. This past month has been a roller coaster of emotion. Some days I’d cry unbeknownst myself and then stop out of nowhere. Some days I’d fall asleep on the floor in prayer. Some days, I was fine. Most days, I felt like I was in a whirlwind of confusion and fought tirelessly to rest at the foot of the Cross.

So, if this is or was you, take courage, you are not alone.

It’s okay to cry. I know that not all women are emotional beings. I know that not all women feel the need to cry in order to feel relief from unwarranted burdens. This, though, is for those of you who need that. This is me giving you the permission your fiancé may not have known you needed. This is me giving you the permission your family and friends may not have known you needed. This is me officially giving you the permission that YOU may not have known you needed. Go into a place of solitude, and cry if you need to. Mourn the cancellation of a binding covenant. Mourn the joy you and your partner had as the days inched closer. Feel the loss, accept the loss, and move forward as slowly as you need to.

Be encouraged, you don’t owe anyone an apology. This is not your fault. You did not create the Coronavirus outbreak. You did not shut down your city and its businesses. You did not cause the chaos around us all, therefore, you do NOT owe your invitees an apology. Release that burden. Don’t listen to the murmurs. Don’t fold under the pressure of people-pleasing. You know what the most responsible decision is, make it. All of our circumstances are different. Trust your gut and your husband-to-be.

Remember, despite your culture, your family, and your religious beliefs, the wedding is much less important than the marriage. They may crowd you on that day, but think of the days ahead. Will they be an ear when things get tough, when misunderstandings arise, when arguments are brewing? If you decide to cancel the wedding, go to a small, intimate setting, and marry your best friend, do not feel guilty about that. Do not feel guilty about the cancellations. Do not feel guilty about the phone calls or long conversations with loved ones. Celebration with them is beautiful, but you know what else is beautiful? Enduring this pandemic alongside the love of your life.

If you decide to postpone your wedding because the thought of marrying without your loved ones makes you sad, that’s okay, too! Use the time away from your spouse to seek growth in the scriptures. Use the time away from family to rest in silence. Use the time to prepare you heart, mind, spirit, body, and emotions for wifery (it’s a word because I say it is). Read and write. Pray and seek. Eat the cake. Use the time alone to celebrate the fact that the decision you both made is the first hard one (of many to come) and you did it TOGETHER.

How beautiful is that?

Weddings are a great celebration of a life to come, and anytime we feel like the world has snatched greatness from our fingertips, it’s hard to find joy. Thankfully, the world cannot and did not snatch the man you intend to marry. The world did not snatch the beauty of this covenant. The world was shaken, but be reminded that Christ has overcome the world. This may seem like an emotional avalanche but in the grand scheme of His majesty and I’m confident that He will see you through.

Stop.

Close your eyes.

Take 5 deep breaths.

And thank God for them.

I hope this helps. I love you.

Sincerely,

A fellow Bride

Dairy-free Chocolate “Cake”.

Today is Easter Sunday. I’m sure everyone is thinking the same thing, “Man this is weird.” We’re in quarantine, on lock down, or have a stay-at-home order in most places. Initially, I was going to write about what it’s like to experience this sort of global pandemic while living with anxiety, but I decided that instead, I’d put on 90’s gospel (Fred Hammond mostly) and bake a cake. So, here we are.

I haven’t always struggled with lactose, but since I was about 25, my stomach has been saying, “No ma’am.” to anything that has it. After a few years, I decided to stop fighting it. If I’m dying for ice cream, I take Lactaid. If a friend makes a dairy-inclusive dish, I take Lactaid. If I want to make my fiance roll his eyes at my stubbornness, I take Lactaid. As of late, I just don’t want to have to take it so I’ve been researching and implementing healthy alternatives in the kitchen.

I found a few recipes, but none really screamed out at me so I just tried it on my own. This was my first time. I felt bold. Now, if you want to skip all of this step-by step business, Shakiyla-like writer’s voice, and amateur photography, click here for the recipe.

I called it, “cake” with quotes, because the primary ingredient is banana. Most people would call this Chocolate Banana Bread, but after trying it in the round pan, I’m convinced it would serve just as beautifully as a cake.

Here are the ingredients. Aren’t they just precious sitting on the counter like a lil’ family?

Now, here are a few important things to consider with each of these items:

  • the bananas are RIPE. They almost look spoiled. That means they are ready and willing to make some sweet dessert-like-magic
  • I didn’t use flour. I used Wheat Meal. Wheat flour is hard to find here (Jos)
  • That small floral bowl contains the applesauce. It’s probably east to go to Wal-Mart and grab you some but AIN’T NO WAL-MART HERE. I took two medium apples, 1tsp cinnamon, and 3tbs of water, blended it up, and BOOM-applesauce.
  • I used brown sugar instead of white sugar and much less than most recipes.

Now, let’s get to gettin’, shall we? As with most baking recipes, start off by mixing your wet and dry ingredients in two separate bowls. I found one recipe that mixed the sugar with the wet ingredients and I think it really helped to keep that sweet kick subtle and flavorful. Go for it!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups applesauce
  • 2.5 cups mashed bananas
  • a tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar, or sweetener of choice
  • 2 cups wheat meal, wheat flour, oat flour, or any flour substitute that you use for baking
  • a tsp baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • 1/2 cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s, anything is fine)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips if you feelin’ extra sweet today

Go ahead and preheat that oven to 350 degrees.

Your wet ingredients include: bananas (mashed), vanilla, eggs, and applesauce. I used about 7 bananas. I didn’t mashed them as much as most people recommend, but I secretly wanted them to be a bit chunkier in the batter. I like the flavor, and I think once they’re completely settled, it isn’t as “potent.”

Once you’ve gotten the bananas all mashed up to your liking, mix the rest of the wet ingredients in and stir until they are clearly combined.

Now, I’m one of those people who needs to see ends results. If that’s not you, ignore this shot. Truly, if you are a beginner with baking, it helps to see final textures and color for an idea of what methods create what outcome. (Hi, I’m a beginner)

Now, mix the dry ingredients in with your wet ones and again, stir until your soul says stop.

It’s not the most beautiful batter in the world, but baby, once it’s baked and in its Sunday Best, everybody gon want a piece.

I just want to take a minute and recommend that everybody in the world go out and purchase stainless steel measuring cups and spoons. Chile. I’m never going back. Erica got them and truly it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye *Boys 2 Men voice*

Now, I used a 1/2 cup measuring spoon to scoop my batter into the pan. It helped me to feel less prone to spilling but if you don’t have a Master’s degree in clumsy, go ahead and pour it in like a normal person. Bread pans work great. It was absolutely beautiful, but like I said, I really like it as a small cake or stacked cake batter. So, I tried both.

Put them in the oven for about 40 minutes. Poke with a tooth pick until it come out clean, and I recommend taking it out of the pan and putting it on a cooling rack if that’s an option. If you’re feeling real quarantiney, keep it in the pan, let it cook, and grab a fork. No judgemement.

Here’s our final product. She’s super light and fluffy. I made a small batch of banana “nice” cream to have on the side because what’s cake without ice cream? A mistake.

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at healthy cakery.

Thank you for reading. I pray all is well in this time of confusion. Be encouraged, Jesus rose, and because He didn’t reamain in that grave, there is cause for joyful celebration.

I love you.

I Am Getting Married.

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you know that the last thing I saw manifesting in my future was marriage. Children, yes. Adoption, for sure. But I’d gotten to a point where I was thankfully content in singleness and had grown accustomed to saying, “That’s just not God’s will for my life.” This website has been the most transparent display of my journey with Christ, myself, and service. I’ve published article after article and interview after interview of me boldly saying, “That’s just not God’s will for my life!” I was never saddened or burdened by it- I just felt it was the truth. My past relationships and experiences with love had me convinced that was never supposed to be a part of my story.

In moving to Nigeria, I knew I’d find my purpose in a new light, but I never imagined my Father would send such a loving and gentle spirit to be a part of fulfilling that purpose. On my visit last month, I asked for my mother’s blessing (tears in eyes of course) and with the fullest of hearts, she said yes. It was like the greatest of burdens lifted and life started anew. I will be back in the States in March and my beautiful friends are hosting a Bridal shower in my honor. Please leave a sunflower in the comments if you’d like to be added to the guest list.

The wedding will be in May, which is one of many reasons why we were so insistent on saving and raising money to get my family here. It’s looking as though my mommy will be able to make it, but prayerfully, my brothers can follow sometime in the near future. I’m grateful. God has been so evident in our relationship. We could write a book filled with all that has happened this past year. It was hard and heavy. We’ve watched each other grow, change, and look more and more like Jesus. I can’t wait to watch our ministry blossom for His kingdom.

Toni Morrison taught me years ago that there was beauty in rising in love, rather than falling. Falling denotes a lack of self-control. Falling denotes an accident or even an inconvenience. I did not fall in love with Ishaku. I rose in it and I’m grateful to see that smile as we continue to rise together. #RiseInLove

Nairobi, Kenya

If you could be any wild animal, what would you be? I legitimately asked myself this the entire time I was on the safari in Kenya. Would I want to be as quiet and meek as an elephant or as bold and alert as a lioness? I’m still not sure, but what I am sure of, is that I will be going back to Kenya soon. It was breathtaking. I’ve finally found a bit of time to share images and experiences and I hope you feel like you’re on the African plains with me.

First, here’s a bit of information on the place we visited. It is called Masai Mara National Reserve and it is based in the same general area as the Maasai tribe. The reservation is bigger than anything I expected. “The Maasai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long stretching from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and into Mozambique.” The cultural density in the area makes it that much more supernatural to experience. It was only 2 short days, but it felt like much more. My desire it to engulf each of you, my readers, my people, my friends, into the natural beauty of Kenya and God’s creation.

I think the easiest and most effective way to do this is to take you on this journey as I experienced it; beginning to end.

We took a flight from Nairobi, using Safarilink. It was super comfortable and about a 30 minute flight from the city to the reservation. I’m going to link as much as possible in case anybody is interested in going! The plane dropped us in the middle of nowhere and guess what I did, took a picture, LOL. It was pretty small. I think only about 40 seats, so you felt EVERYTHING, but you saw everything too, so the nausea was well earned.

From the plains, we got into our jeeps and took another 30 minute ride to the camp. On the way, we were able to see a few animals so it was a sweet taste of what was to come.

As tempting as it is to show you every single picture I took, I know that will make for a poorly put together informative blog, but honestly, it needs to happen. There was so much beauty around us. It’s an understatement to say it was overwhelming but there were times when we just sat in silence and stared off into the distance. That’s the power of God’s Creation. It was untouched, unaltered, and in all its greatness around us we couldn’t utter a single word.

The tent was definitely a 21st century one, lol. It was tucked away into a tree, but sturdy enough to keep the baboons at bay. We also were able to pass through the Obama Forest. There, the Obamas visited and planted some of the trees, so that was cool. Yes, yes that is an outside shower. No, I was not bold enough to use it.

Now, let’s head out for our first drive, shall we?

It took very little time for Jonathan (our guide) to start spotting things. He noticed many of the animals, made his team aware, and sped off to get up close. One of the first encounters we had was a group of cheetahs- 5 brothers, they say. They were so in sync and could not care less about the fact that we encircled them to take pictures. Eventually, you start to feel bad-like you’re invading their space, then you get over it because the smallest one yawns and it’s so stinking cute. *I did not use the zoom for these pictures, that’s how close they were to the cars*

We were eagerly watching them prowl on a herd of zebras. They used all of our cars as shield so the zebras had no clue they were behind us. They, soon after, went for the kill and ate. My crew and I weren’t patient enough to watch that, though, and Jonathan saw an elephant, what seemed to be, a million miles away. Pretty soon after, we saw a herd of them and a few giraffes waiting for me to blow them kisses.

Okay, let’s pause for a second. I didn’t formally introduce anybody. Here is my group. We really did have a good time. Standing up in the roof of the jeep, laughing, and learning with our tour guide made the experience even more memorable. If you are considering going to Masaai Mara, ask for Jonathan! He’s wearing his traditional attire. Many of the men in the village still do so. The necklace symbolizes how many wives he has. In his village, polygamy is still very much recognized and praised, but Jonathan is a one woman man.

From left to right: Steve, McKenna, Karen, Jonathan, and me, I’m Shakiyla and the sun was in my eyes.
still with the sun…

Okay, moving on. This was where everybody lost it. Nobody on the tour who had been on a safari had ever seen a leopard this close. He walked under each of our cars. He walked beside them. He sat and stared. It was surreal. Again, I did not use zoom specifically because I wanted to model just how close we were to the game.

Maybe 5 minutes after we all picked our jaws up off the ground (figuratively speaking of course) Jonathan saw a cheetah, again, a million miles away and we were off.

He posed for us.

We rode around for a while and Jonathan talked to us more about what it’s like living in this area. He was so accustomed to being around the animals because for him, it wasn’t a tour, it was just everyday living. The land the reservation is placed on, was protected from big companies wanting to build and destroy, not tribes willing to live peacefully alongside the wild animals which is exactly what they do.

As we headed back to camp to close our first day of the safari, we were gifted with goodbyes from a pride of lions and their cubs.

We ended Day 1 with a beautiful sunset and more giraffe kisses.

The next morning, we were on our way by 6:00a.m. it was pretty chilly, but I couldn’t keep myself from sticking my head out of the window. On this morning we saw hippos, water buffalo, and the remnants of a successful lioness hunt.

This ride was not nearly as long as the other one because we were going to close our afternoon with a visit to the Masaai village. I was able to see all of the things they make and sell by way of the Masaai Reservation, and the authenticity of their compound. They allowed us to go into their homes, sit in their living areas, and ask really intrusive questions. I had to stop and ask Lemayian if he enjoyed it… if he actually liked having strangers in his home regularly or if this was something he sacrificed to provide for his family. I was pretty forward, but he received it beautifully and with kindness. He said, “I really do like it. It gives me the chance to educate outsiders on my people, our lives, and who we are.” It was the most sincere answer. As we entered their home, they welcomed us with traditional song and dance.

I only got a couple of shots of their crafts, because I was too busy asking questions…. surprise surprise…

One of the most captivating things they showed us was the way they make fire. I’m sure, they are able to get matches from the camp we traveled from, but in asking him why they don’t, the chief’s son responded, “What we do works. We don’t have to go looking for easy options. If it works, and ours, why would we change that?” I nodded in agreement because what does one say to that..?

So, they take a piece of softwood and a piece of hard wood. They wedge them together on top of a machete and spin it around in their hands until it begins to heat up. If necessary, they’ll take turns and eventually, smoke will begin to rise. Once it does, they put dry cow manure on top of it to catch flame and it begins to burn. The process took no longer than 3 minutes. I was in complete awe.

We were able to walk around for about an hour more, ask more questions, and see what life was life for them. I felt, in a word, undeserving. I don’t know why I felt that way, but I left with a new sense of admiration for village life and what it entails.

After visiting the Maasai tribe, we headed back to the camp, had lunch, and prepared to head out. I must say, I have never been so struck by Creation. That entire trip I found myself reflecting on how ridiculous it is that I doubt God’s power, the author of all, and I have the audacity to doubt His power. It put much into perspective and helped me to mentally prepare for doing His work confidently, intentionally, and relentlessly. I hope you felt like you were in Kenya, even through pictures alone. My website has only a few goals: make God’s glory known through sharing His creation, make His healing seen through transparency, and make our need for Him evident through authenticity. I pray I have done so.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Quick Morning Coffee

☕️ : One of my favorite past times has always been to study White Supremacy. (fun, right?) God has put me in a place to travel to many cities, states, and countries. I’ve worked at some of the richest schools and some of the most forgotten. I’ve shared a meal with CEOs, beggars, and everyone in between. One thing I’ve found consistent is the silent whisper or overwhelming cry of white supremacy. I have one journal specifically for my findings, analysis, and research on the subject and it’s inevitably ugly face. I change peoples’ names and give a detailed recount of the situations that, even if they don’t see it, are resting upon the feet of their supremacy. It’s probably the most objective of my writings, which is challenging being a Black woman. I do it that way because without multiple perspectives, it’ll just be made to the outside world as complaining or a refusal to see “change” (ironic, right?) One day, those journals will become a book and baby when I tell you God has shown me some things.

Whew chile.

Y’all better remember that the Gospel SHATTERS all division, supremacy, inferiority, elitism, and any other power you may THINK you have outside OR inside of Him.

*sips coffee*

Judith’s New Name.

Sundays are generally filled with laughs, reflection, and planning for the week to come. This Sunday was much different, though. This Sunday I was invited to baby “Judith’s” Dedication at church. Why’d I put Judith in quotes? We’ll get there. If you haven’t read my last update Meet Sarah and Judy you should read it before reading this one because it’ll give a much more authentic look at why I’m crying at my computer. Well, the service was a Hausa service, which means that everything was in the local language, Hausa. Initially, I was a bit nervous about a 3-hour service in a language I do not yet understand or speak, but everything about it was beautiful. I loved hearing the children worship in their native tongue. I loved watching the women play their local instruments. I loved hearing the the people behind me singing to the Lord, even if I didn’t know exactly what was being said. When I studied for my Master’s, I wrote many papers on the learning process of bilingual children and often referred to their native language as their “Heart Language.” In the grand scheme of things, that’s exactly what it was for everyone in church today. Sure, most of them knew a good bit of English, but Hausa is the language of their lineage, community, family, and from what I could tell, their hearts. Sarah had been planning to dedicate “Judith” for about a month now, but the dates just weren’t working. The 28th is a special number for me. Not simply because of my birthday, but it was the day I learned that I can truly be loved. It seems silly, but I was ecstatic to spend the 28th of July dedicating this beautiful baby girl to the Lord.

Now for the name…

About a week ago, Sarah wrote me a letter asking me if I’d give her permission to change Judith’s name to Shakiyla. I was stunned. I’ve only known Sarah and her family for 8 months…EIGHT MONTHS, so the thought of her naming her daughter after me was beyond anything that made sense. I hadn’t told anyone but my family, and honestly, I didn’t think she was serious. We talked about it, and she said things that brought me to tears, things about my character in light of Christ, things about the gifts of God she sees in me, and things about my flaws. Yes, my flaws. Sarah is honest and whole-hearted so even reminding me of my imperfections are full of love. She has seen me at my worst and has loved and encouraged me through it. She said things that were a true reflection of who I am because she has taken the time and initiative to see me as more than her boss. She’s welcomed me into her country, her village, and more recently, her home. I’ve tried my hardest to reciprocate that love. I’ve prayed many nights asking God to just show me what I could do to serve her more intimately. I wasn’t sure if I’d done that, but in that moment, she solidified the fact that even in my brokenness, she saw Him, which was my greatest desire. God knows I see Christ in her.

My last blog was the ONLY picture she has of herself smiling, so I cherish it, lol. Also, me and Shakiyla match, AGAIN.

I feel like I need to introduce her again. So, meet baby Shakiyla. She is the sweetest, quietest, and most cuddly little flower child. The kids call her “Shaki Shaki” and I think I may end up calling her “KiKi.” I’m still in awe of the fact that there is a child on this earth named after me. I’m so humbled that she and her husband saw it fitting.

Many days here I question whether or not I’m where I’m supposed to be. I question whether I’m with the people I’m supposed to be with. I question whether or not I heard God clearly when he gave me the specifics of this calling to Nigeria, but today I am confident. I’m confident that He’s building a family for me here. I know I have a long way to go in my personal growth with the Lord and remaining faithful while missing the people I love most gets exhausting. I know there are days when I just give up, but I’m encouraged in the truth that WE ALL WILL. We’re supposed to. We are nothing without the love, patience, provision, and strength of our Father.

She was tired of the foolishness.

Seeing pictures of myself holding a baby is overwhelming. Before coming to Nigeria, I was in a place in my life where I just knew I wouldn’t be a mother. Lately, I’m not so sure.

Thank you for reading. If you haven’t already, please go to my connect page and subscribe and follow. I love sharing this journey with you all. Send kisses to Ki Ki.

I love you.

Meet Sarah and Judy.

Looking at my website, I noticed it had been over a year since I’ve posted in the “Meet a Friend” section. The purpose of my creating that page, as stated, was to shed light on some of the most compelling and impactful people I know. Without further ado- meet Sarah:

Most of my professional life I’ve been told, “Don’t make friends with the people you work with, for, or who work for you.” For a long time, I obliged. In my mind, it made sense to just keep all things professional. Keep my distance. Pay them. Make my money. Do my job. Go home. Thankfully, that stopped early on. For 5 years I worked in home health where for 10-13 hours I was in the same house with my co-worker, and now sister, Alexis. We were responsible for the lives of 8 men. How can you not build a relationship? Eventually, she was the husband and I was the wife, lol. Sometimes we switched. I couldn’t imagine life without, Lex. I’ve cried, prayed, and laughed more than I could count. After receiving my Bachelor’s, I moved on to teach high school English where I met Cary. We were the dynamic duo (at least to our kids) If Cary had a young lady in his class who just needed “mama for a minute” he came knocking on my door, took over my class, and I went on down to his room. I was able to do the same. He was my backbone in education and is now my backbone in life. I know, I’m supposed to be introducing Sarah and Judith, but it’s important to understand that early on, I was nervous about building a relationship outside of anything professional, then, through reminders of people like Alexis and Cary, God said otherwise.

From the moment I landed in Nigeria, Sarah has been a sweet breath of fresh air. Her gentleness reminded me that it’s okay to be gentle. Her boldness reminded me of the beauty in balance. There are certain people in your life who you just gravitate toward, Sarah was that for me. After about 4 months, I found myself telling her about my hysterectomy. It was like the words just fell out of my mouth and she immediately caught them and reminded me of the maternity she’d seen from the moment I got here, “No surgery can change that, Aunty” she said.

Y’all already know what I did next, so I’m not going there. Well, during that same time, she and her husband got pregnant, and to be honest-it hurt. I know that sounds silly and selfish, but that’s my truth. It hurt. I sat on the counter in the kitchen and she sat across from me and asked how I felt. “How do I feel?” How do I feel about the fact that 6 months post-op, prime menopausal, and settling into a new life, country, and culture, having to watch you be pregnant? How do I feel?

“I feel ridiculed by God.”

I told her that, and she sat in it for a moment. Silently. That silence will forever be in my heart. I know she was praying. I felt her communing (even without words) with the Lord right in front of me and I immediately thanked God for placing her there. Sarah reminded me where I was. She reminded me that I am surrounded by children who would kill to be loved-she reminded me about adoption-she reminded me about being in her daughter’s life- but most importantly, she reminded me that my identity was not, and should never be in child-bearing.

I know many of you are probably like, “LAWD, SHAKIYLA, LET IT GO!” I feel like I’ve talked about it in every post in the past year, but imagine having an image of who you want to be. Imagine cultivating that for 10+ years. Imagine finally establishing a sense of “identity” then leaving it on a hospital table never to be felt again. It’s hard. It’s exhausting, but it’s my story and I’m accepting it.

Well, Sarah had baby Judith, and I’ve decided to call her “Judy.” Their village is about a 30 minute walk from my house, and so I drove, LOL. She was so thankful to have me visit, but honestly I was even more so to have been invited. Everyone was welcoming and loving. Sarah made lunch and I held on tight to Judy. YES WE MATCH. I’m a nanny. I came to Nigeria to work at a high school, ended up at a college, and am closing in on month seven with a God-child. It has been interesting, to say the least, but I couldn’t imagine life here without having felt the warmness of Sarah.

I know this isn’t a typical “Let me encourage you” article, but honestly, that’s not why I do these. These are to show appreciation for those beams of light in my life. They are to remind us of how to love, serve, and be a reflection of God. These have little to do with who I am, and more to do with the people I aspire to mirror in my daily desire to be better, show better, and love better.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

There’s Hope.

I was finally able to go downtown under the bridge and get some shots of the new mural. There’s so much hurt happening right now. Every time I read a blog or website in Jos, its focus is murder, tribal wars, political disarray, and constant attacks. I decided I didn’t want that to be my post today. Sure, I could talk about the things that have been happening-the things that are hard to come to terms with- but this beauty deserves just as much of a platform.

Let’s start with the name, The Secretariat Junction Flyover Bridge…..short and sweet, right? We parked on the side street, and walked (but really ran) across to get some close-ups. I’m not sure who painted. I’m not sure why they painted. All I know is that it is a breathtakingly beautiful image of the different tribes and all things that make Jos special. I am in NO way a photographer, but I hope these pictures make you smile like they made me. First, here is what the bridge looked like when I first got here

(in November):

This is what it looks like now (May 2019):

I find much peace and power in finding the silver lining; especially in things outside of my control (basically everything). These simple paintings helped start my week on a much better foot than the former ended. I’m passing it on to you.

Wherever you are in life. In whatever trial. Overcoming whatever obstacle. Breaking free of whatever bondage, make sure you stop to find your silver lining. If it’s seemingly impossible, do what these artists did and CREATE one.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

If you follow me on Facebook, I shared a video of a couple of boys we got to see dancing, too! My upload took much too long, here.

The Women of Hope and Batik Fabric

So much has happened in the past few weeks. Initially, I planned to talk about some of those things, but this day was too sweet not to share first. I think sometimes we glorify our hurt. We give it an unwarranted, undeserved pedestal, and stare at it from a distance in self-pity. It’s as if we’ve grown so accustomed to it, that we prefer it over the freedom that comes with letting go. I met some of the most beautiful women, and they are teaching me the necessity of relinquishing the hurt from my past. I left so full of love and encouragement.

Each of them is HIV positive and in Nigerian society, and most societies alike, they are deemed outcasts and ignored. Poverty runs ramped in women combating such a social stigma, but these women have a light at the end of the tunnel. They all have special artistry skills and use those skills to support themselves and their families. Some of them sew, make dolls, make stuffed animals, tapestry, blankets, clothes, shoes etc. On this day, though, I was focused primarily on the women who create the Batik (bah-teek) fabric.

Let’s have a quick “History Lesson” lol. Batik is a special sort of printing that is made by boiling wax, using stamps or other locally made tools, and creating a wax-resistant “print” in the fabric before dyeing. Some people draw pictures and make images, all with the heated wax. There are so many different ways to create the fabric, and it is extremely time consuming, meticulous work. For centuries, different nations have been creating their own special form of Batik art, and for centuries they have turned heads. Personally, I’ve gotten Batik from Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana, but there are many other places that have their own style of Batik fabric-making. The places I’ve been able to look more into include, but are not limited to, Indonesia, Australia, Egypt, The Philippines, India, Malaysia, and China. As you’ve already seen, I love all things Nigeria, so that’s where I’m focusing in on here.

This is a short video I made (for all my visual and audible learners) that simplifies the process (as much as I could), but this article will be a much more detailed look at the work that is necessary to create this breathtaking fabric.

I will explain and show images of each of the three methods the ladies taught me. Just getting this footage of a mini-preview took over 2 hours, so I KNOW the actual creation of these products takes much longer.

The first, is the Stamp Method.

The women started with a large pot of boiling wax, it took about 30 minutes to completely liquefy. They’d created some “stamps” to be dipped into the wax, and used to make the fabric design. These stamps are a pretty durable foam material that the women cut and carve to get a desired look. This too, takes much time, but they are able to wash and re-use them. Once the wax is boiled, the stamps are dipped and placed on the 100% cotton fabric. They stressed the importance of using 100% cotton. They said the most other fabrics “are not as fine.”

The next step in the stamp method is to mix HCl acid, WARM water, and the dye of choice. The ladies had on face masks and gloves because the chemicals were strong. They emphasized the use of warm water rather than hot or cold, because you don’t want the wax to melt, then the print wouldn’t emboss, and you don’t want it to harden, then it’ll be harder to melt off once dry. SO. MUCH PRECISION.

Finally, the fabric is laid out to dry. Once completely dry, it is dipped in hot water to remove the wax, and left out to dry once more before ironing, selling, or sewing.

The second is the Jollof Method. The Jollof method is much easier. The ladies simply scrunch the fabric up on the ground outside, and pour over it the colors the buyer has asked for. In the video and these pictures, they used purple and red. The fabric is left out for a while, then right before it is completely dry, they open it up. It was absolutely gorgeous. This one is washed and ironed before selling.

The last method I was able to watch was the Broom Method. It, too, was pretty simple. The ladies took handmade brooms, dipped them in the boiled wax, and “sprayed” it all over the cotton fabric. The same steps of dipping and dyeing that are used in the stamp method, were used here.

In short, I was able to spend hours in awe and silence while watching and listening to their stories. I was gifted with the ability to not say a word, but listen and learn lessons that life taught them. They work hard. They are thankful, but things get tough when sells are down. The Batik women, and all of the Women of Hope are a sweet reminder of faithfulness and God’s grace. If you’d like to purchase any of their items, visit the website below. This website is a collection of the 10 African countries Rafiki assists in supporting women all over the continent. I encourage you to take a look and support if possible.

https://store.rafikifoundation.org/women-of-hope.html

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Acha Pudding.

Here’s a quick recipe I think is among my top 3 favorite Nigerian dishes. One of my University-level students made it for me to try, then I asked about a recipe and realized it’s not hard at all. She has consistently brought me random Nigerian dishes, and I love the time we get to spend together at the table as they giggle while curiously go forth. The students are teaching me so much more than they realize. I’m able to see them as people, and not just numbers on a role sheet, or grades in an excel file. There’s is such depth in education, but that’s another article in itself.

The dish is called Acha pudding. The main ingredient, and in most cases, one of 3 ingredients, is Acha or Fonio grains. They are pretty popular grains in West and Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re tiny, smaller than quinoa, and cook down with various liquids to create practically any dish! I’ve been on this kick with researching the health benefits of everything I eat, primarily grains. I think it started when I was first diagnosed, and it has become somewhat a habit.

Okay, so this is what they look like. Despite my elephant hands, I think you can tell how tiny these super grains are.

I’ve read a few articles on the grain itself, and the most common response is, “very little goes a long way!” Most people can feed a groupof 16-24 with only 2-3 cups. TWO TO THREE CUPS. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but that’s a lot of mouths being fed. Research shows that the average household size in Nigeria is 6 people, so imagine the naira (money) being saved if this was the starch for a meal rather than something as expensive as rice.

We walked right into the market, and grabbed a huge bag for about
₦ 1000 ($2.80).

Now, there are PLENTY of health benefits listed, but I’ll only share a few. If you want to know more, there are hundreds of articles where people talk about the amino acids, methionine, and origins of acha (fonio), we’re not doing that today, friends. I’m sorry if I let my science folks down.

Health Benefits (a few)

My favorite are the digestive benefits. I think anytime I can eat a meal that will not leave me so full I want to die, or unbearably bloated- it’s a plus. Like most healthy grains, fonio is loaded with fiber and as such, it rids your digestive tract of toxic waste. It’s also gluten free. That doesn’t mean much to me, but for some, that’s the selling point so there ya go! I’m finding that more people are developing a gluten allergy than I’ve ever seen, so anytime I can recommend, I will. I’ve heard about the challenges that come with finding delicious, affordable foods that aren’t gluten-filled.

It is also a great source of energy. Most people here (Central Nigeria) eat acha pudding for breakfast, which makes complete sense because you can literally feel the boost of energy hit you in the face. It’s like another form of Oatmeal. Obviously, it isn’t but that’s the best way I can describe it. It actually reminds me of Cream of Wheat, too. I feel like I’m just typing out loud. Is that a thing? Like, thinking out loud-but with my fingertips? This is what happens when you write without outlining, kids. OUTLINE. What in the English teacher is happening? This is a mess. LOL. MOVING ON….

I cooked it down with skim milk (because lactose intolerance), honey, and it took about 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes. I thought I would be able to just pop it on the stove for a bit like oatmeal, but this is a much more dense grain and apparently she needs a bit more attention. You want it to be smooth, rather than “gritty”, the consistency is much like quinoa. If you’ve never had quinoa, that’s not helpful at all…

Here’s the recipe we used:

Acha Pudding

Ingredients

1 c Acha (Fonio)
4 cups of milk. (Any milk is fine, but again, I'm lactose intolerant so
I've used soy, almond, and coconut and they've all worked fine)
1 dash of salt (I always lol at this measurement) 
1 tbsp raw honey
& fruit of your choice. (The first time I had it, I didn't add fruit,
the second time I added bananas, and the third time I added mango.)

Instructions
1. Rinse the acha (just like rice, I can't believe there are people in this world who
don't rinse their rice)
2. Add the acha and the milk in a medium/large pot and stir
continuously for 30-40 minutes. 
3. Once the grains are tender, it's finished!
4. Add whatever toppings you'd like. 

I know this wasn’t the most traditional recipe article, but none of my recipes ever are. I have such a strong love for “author’s voice,” that I refuse to compromise. Also, I wanted to share a bit more of my food adventures while I indulge the beauty of Nigeria and her culture.

Thanks for reading.

I love you.

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