Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Ekwueme: The One Who Says and Does It

I wanted to share a personal journey with you. As some may be aware, I have some health issues that have been better and worse at tImes. In the past decade, I have been to 11 different doctors or health gurus, in hopes of getting better. At my very worst, I was bedridden, covered in sores, reacting all day, exhausted, bloated with stomach pains, freezing all the time, very few things to eat, barely living life. On my better days and in better times, I have still been allergic to many things, but been able to do a lot more, exercise, be involved in activities outside the home, take care of my family. I have vacillated between the 2 extremes back and forth over the years. (More details about that journey under “My Health Journey”) I am currently working with an unconventional doctor and have improved some but since February have seen some regression. It is easy to get discouraged. Especially when you don’t have a full life to distract you.
But often as in times past, the Lord sends me messages of encouragement in different ways. Sometimes I listen to gospel music and in the mix that plays on Apple radio are included some Nigerian worship songs. The first time I heard one I was so overcome with emotion, I got on my knees, and cried. It was interspersed with English and Igbo, but enough for me to understand. At our parish we have quite a large Nigerian community, and others from different parts of Africa like Kenya. Our youngest child’s godfather is also a beloved priest in our life, from Nigeria. Back in January at our choir party, I was able to talk to one of our choir members from Nigeria, shared my interest in the music and asked her the meaning of some words. She translated them for me, shared with me the meaning of her and her children’s names, and recommended some other artists to listen to. I have since fallen in love with and listened to almost exclusively, Nigerian worship music.
At our parish we had a celebration mass in honor of Blessed Cyprian Michael Tansi (a Nigerian priest and monk) because he is one of our parish patron saints due to our large Nigerian community (His feast day is January 20th). The portrait you see in this picture was done by a parishioner and hangs in the narthex. I had the privilege of attending the mass, and was not only touched by the culture beautifully displayed, but immediately felt a connection with him. It was honestly like he was looking at me smiling and saying “Now really, can you still not have faith in Him?” I have gradually been collecting a list of Igbo words to get a translation and recently asked my Nigerian priest friend to share with me the meanings. I cried when I read them. Here are a few of the words and phrases I had collected:

Chinedum mo (God leads me)

Echezokwala (Lord, Please do not forget)

Mma mma Ekele o (All Thanksgiving to you. I thank you!)

Jesus, Ome Kannaya (a replica of the father)

Chukwu neme mma (God Who brings about beauty and goodness always!)

Obata obiye (When he’s involved, things change)

Ihi nemerem ebuka (what you are doing for me is awesome)

Ibe ikwuru ga eme (whatever you say comes to pass)

Ekwueme (The one who says and does it)

Chukwu na gwom’oria le (God that heals my sickness)

Each word/phrase directly speaks to me. I particularly love how in Igbo, 1 word can mean an entire sentence. And I have had the following thoughts.

In heaven we will all understand each other and somehow, will have one universal language.

Every race, language, and person reflects 1 beautiful facet of the image of God.

God loves to surprise us, to show us he is in fact real, and is very much deep in the middle of our suffering, our mess, and our brokenness, with the promise to heal and redeem, in His timing.

I love getting to know a new brother or sister in heaven who can not only inspire me but be there to intercede for me in my needs. I will be talking to Fr. Michael much more often. And don’t be surprised if, God willing, we all make it to heaven, I am dancing and singing with my Nigerian brothers and sisters in the golden streets. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Blessed Cyprian Michael Tansi, pray for us.
Thursday, April 30, 2020

When God is Silent

It has been a temptation for me, not only because of the challenges this quarantine has imposed upon my personal and family life, but because of some major setbacks for my health this past 2 months, to withdraw and feel sorry for myself. But the Holy Spirit keeps putting on my heart that He has things for me to do, and there’s no time for that. Sooo, through a series of recent events, I found a song in my old music, that I wrote in college (pre-kids) I’m sharing it today because it seems appropriate for what a lot of us are going through right now. I hope it blesses you. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Forgiveness and Grace in Family Life

I have seen some funny stuff going around about couples and families fighting more than usual during this time. It made me smile because I realize we are not alone. I have been pushed to my limit, my nerves shot, and lost my cool already on several occasions. So has my husband. So have some of my kids. On one occasion, I left the house to go on a bike ride, to clear my head and cool down. Feeling bad about what I felt like was a “mess” I had left back at my house, as I prayed, I heard the word “Grace” and then “give yourself grace. Give everyone grace.” I forgave myself (sometimes the hardest thing to do) and returned to my house to say “I’m sorry” to the people I had unintentionally hurt. Then as we prayed together in the afternoon, and I mirrored my phone on the T.V. to show the prayer, my 13 yr. old accidentally saw an exchange of apologetic texts going back and forth between my husband and myself. I thought about what my kids are witnessing right now, and rather than despair, that we are not displaying a picture perfect marriage all the time or family life to them, I was comforted, that they are observing what it takes, to keep at it, in relationships, especially, through a difficult time. Forgiveness, and grace, and the ability to say “I’m sorry.” Over. And over again. And to give others grace. To give yourself grace. And ultimately, to put everyone in your family, in God’s hands. He knows this is hard, and He sees the struggle. He is understanding. A priest that has gone on to be with the Lord, but has been a significant influence in my life said one time, “Don’t take yourself too seriously!” And it has been a sort of compass for me. Sometimes our standards are too high, for ourselves, for others, for what we think our life should look like, when we really just need to let go and let God. Be humble, say sorry when you make mistakes, ask God to help you and your family, and trust the rest to Him.