Day 28: Marriage Lessons #28DayChallenge

Finally, I have arrived at the end of this 28-day challenge, and I am so excited I made it to the final day! I’m proud of my persistence and grateful to God for inspiration. To wrap up this journey, I want to share 4 lessons I have learned from 4 years, 4 months, and 4 weeks of marriage (the fifth month will be complete in 2 days 😉). Let’s get on with it…

Lesson 1: Mutual alignment on expectations is critical to success. Everyone has expectations for marriage. Some of our expectations are set deliberately; others are unconsciously acquired from our upbringing, conversations, movies, etc. The more we discuss and agree on our expectations with our spouses, adjusting them where necessary, the healthier our marriages are likely to be. Whether related to sex, finances, homemaking, parenting, or conflict resolution, it is important that you and your spouse know what to expect of each other, and keep to whatever you agreed as much as possible. Most expectations should be discussed before marriage, but there will always be new or gray areas you need to agree on. So, this has to be an ongoing process.

Lesson 2: Building what you imagined takes work you didn’t imagine. I think it is fair to say you cannot know how hard or easy it will be to achieve the marriage of your dreams. Your spouse may get a major career breakthrough that suddenly eases your finances as a couple. You both may have difficulty or delays in having a child (if you want one). There are so many unknowns. The important thing is to be mutually committed to the dream you both believed in when you came together. More importantly, you have to agree on base disciplines that will undergird your lives, and stay consistent with them, as you grow together.

Lesson 3: How people feel (about you) determines how they behave (towards you). Married people are human beings, whose feelings are influenced by so many complex factors. The key is to pay attention to how your spouse feels and find out if you can do anything to make them feel better. This is not only true for women; it’s true for everyone. Whether or not you have a role to play in how they feel (especially for negative emotions), it is important to be sensitive and show understanding, cutting them a slack when they are not at their best. Don’t assume your spouse should “be mature” or “man up”. Emotions drive a lot of our thoughts, actions and lifestyles, and can be overwhelming.

Lesson 4: it’s the little things that make a difference. I thought of calling this lesson “Rome was not built in a day”, but decided it’s better to focus on what we do each day than the Rome we may be trying to build in the future. Love can find expressions in our homes and marriages everyday, if we pay attention. A kind word, a little gift, a gentle touch – they all create moments that make life and relationships count. Do not let your big dreams and ambitions keep you from showing love today or drive you to sacrifice the little things you can do to make your spouse happy today. If you stay consistent, you will find that big successes only count when we have made a habit of showing that we care.

These lessons obviously apply to many areas of our lives as they do to marriage. They all highlight the importance of communication and commitment in building healthy marriages. I pray God will grant you wisdom and grace to build happy homes in Jesus’ name.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share with your friends and also share your comments below. And for those who have followed this 28-day challenge up to this point, I say a big thank you and I wish you a happy new month of May in advance! Stay blessed!

Day 27: Ibukunoluwa #28DayChallenge

Today’s post is for my second son, Samuel Ibukunoluwa. Almost two years ago, I wrote and posted a poem for my first son, Lemuel Ayomide, who was a little over a year old at the time. You can read it here. Now I have written one for Samuel who turns 1 in a few days (whose name Ibukunoluwa means “The Lord’s Blessing”, and who I call Little Lion). It’s been such a joy to watch him and his brother grow, and we are grateful for such gifts from God, and for the privilege of raising them to become wise, courageous men.

IBUKUNOLUWA

The blessing of the Lord that makes rich
And brings no sorrows with it

Planted by the river, your leaves never wither
Instead, your fruits spring forth in season

A bundle of blessings, crafted with precision
You cry, and then laugh, and then cry again

Passionate tears that melt our delicate hearts
Ringing laughter that brightens up our days

As a river floods its banks in the rainy season
So you overwhelmed us on your arrival

From a tiny helpless baby, we watched you grow
Into a fearless toddler, determined to discover

Yet we see you going much farther, becoming
Through knowledge, a mighty man of valor

I hope you enjoyed the poem. I’d like to hear your thoughts about it in the comments. Although it has been quite a stretch for me, but I am finally wrapping up my 28-day challenge tomorrow. So excited about this! Thanks for reading, and I will see you tomorrow!

Day 26: The Father #28DayChallenge

Downstairs, two little boys are screaming at each other, most likely competing for some toy. They are my sons. One of them turns a year old in a few days; the other turned three years old three months ago. Between them; the sheer amount of energy I expend chasing, instructing, shouting, correcting, advising, and explaining is unbelievable. When my second son was born, an older family friend congratulated me on moving from being a father to becoming a referee. I didn’t realize how much work referees do.

It is fair to say I could not have been fully prepared for the rigors of fatherhood. I could have been more prepared though. I could have learned about the ensuing years of distorted sleep and endless worry that would follow the highly popularized infant stage. I was familiar with the troubles of those first few months from being a sibling and a cousin to children born when I was well into my teens and twenties. But the hassles faced by not-so-new parents, I was not familiar with those. Toddlers are the real deal!

There is the constant snuggling, just to keep making body contact, even while sleeping. There is endless peeing and pooing; potty training regression on the birth of a new sibling; tantrums that come out of nowhere; screams that could drive you crazy – these were all features that felt like bugs. “Why are my children like this?” “No, brother, that’s how most children are.” To top it all, it’s almost as if they’re constantly on a mission to injure themselves and my one job is to stop them from doing just that!

I must confess though – it’s been an exciting and insightful run. Watching them grow is like growing all over again myself. And I wasn’t unequipped. The basic trait I needed was willingness to learn; that I had in abundance. I also had some first-hand as well as book knowledge. I’ve picked up the rest on the way. Occasionally, I would wish I could run away, just for a few days. But knowing these days can not be reclaimed is enough motivation to stay in the business. Also, the achievement of a new milestone by either son is a huge perk.

Overall, I feel like couples need a young parents’ crash course before making the decision to have a child (or two) – one that includes an overview of what the next two decades might look like. The education you get once there is a child on the way is often limited to surviving pregnancy and infancy; and even that may not get absorbed because of the excitement of expecting a new baby. I’m just grateful to God for His grace and wisdom. He is the ultimate guide and perfect example of what it means to be a Father.

Day 25: Finish what you started #28DayChallenge

Today is one of those days where my brain feels completely empty as I sit and stare at an empty screen. The allure of an empty page is not strong enough to overcome the exhaustion my mind feels. But the law that governs completion states that “at a minimum, you must make an effort”. Yes, I just made that up. There is no endeavor without its highs and lows, and the challenge to post daily on my blog for this period, combined with my other daily tasks, is no exception. But as I approach the finish line, I remind myself that finishing is worth it.

I sometimes look back over several incomplete tasks or projects I have initiated. While some were abandoned for practical reasons, others reflect an uninformed zeal to start something new. Starting new things can be exciting. But when the fun wears off, do you really have what it takes to carry on and finish up? Is it really worth the resources you have committed? These questions easily lend themselves to our evaluation when the rubber hits the road or obstacles show up. But weren’t they there from the word go?

We all hope to finish projects we started, and if we abandon any, we hope they will be those with minor or no consequences on the course of history or our lives. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference though: life can be random, and history often gets written in hazardous ways. So, our best bet is only to start what we can commit to finishing, and to finish what we have started. The key to finishing is none other than the age-old magic of showing up and embracing the grind, regardless of how one feels.

As you come close to finishing, as your body grows weary and your mind slows down from its initial racing when you started, everything that ever stood against your commitment resurfaces. The doubts, the questions, and the difficulties combine with fatigue and/or boredom to slow you down and put you out. But from the beneath that pressure, you must draw strength again to finish what you started, to complete the last lap and celebrate the unmatched feeling of being a finisher. Even if no one knows it, you have made history!

Day 24: The Efficacy of Prayer #28DayChallenge

To pray literally means to make a request or a petition, usually to a higher power. However, the word “prayer” in the Christian sense includes all kinds of communication and interaction with God. Whether we are giving thanks for His goodness to us, praising and worshipping Him for who He is, making requests for ourselves, or interceding on behalf of others, it is all prayer. Prayer also includes just expressing our thoughts or feelings to God, as we see many writers do in the book of Psalms.

The point of this post is to remind you that prayers works, and encourage you to engage in it continuously. The basis of this assertion is two-fold: God is able to answer our prayers, and He is willing to answer them. God’s ability is undisputed, clearly manifested by His works in creation and their sustenance. His willingness to answer is also unquestionable, only limited by His will. God is more eager to answer our prayers than we are to ask Him, but he will not do anything contrary to His Word.

Prayer is a demonstration of faith. If we believe in God, then we will pray. On at least three levels, prayer shows we believe in God. First, it shows that we believe that God exists (Heb. 11:6). Secondly, prayer shows we believe that God has power to answer us. Thirdly, it shows that we believe God is good and kind enough to grant our hearts’ desires. If we lack any of these three persuasions, then our prayer may be ineffective. But if we possess them, then prayer is simply putting our faith to work.

Prayer works in at least two ways. One, in transforming us as we draw closer to God. Two, in granting the desires of our hearts so that we can be full of joy (John 16:24). When we pray, we are interacting with God. That interaction usually makes us more conscious of our own flaws and calls us to a higher standard. He also speaks to our hearts as we pray, impressing thoughts in our minds to direct us. The more we set aside our thoughts, the clearer his voice is to us. Of course, God grants our desires when we pray, and sometimes He leads us to His Word to teach us the right way to pray.

As you come to prayer, it is imperative to ensure there is no obstacle between you and God. This is why we only come to God’s presence through the blood of Jesus, which paid the price for our sins. Through faith, we are declared righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice, and every prayer we offered according to His will produces power and substantial results. Prayer changes lives and produces results. Take some time to pray today (now)!

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b

Day 23: Mastery of Life and Purpose #28DayChallenge

Hello! Thanks for coming by (again). If you’ve taken time to read any of the previous 22 posts on this 28-day journey, I want to say a big “Thank You”. Nothing motivates a writer like knowing there are readers on the other side taking their precious time to stop and read. And if this is the first post in this series or on this blog you’re coming across, I say “Welcome” and “Thank You”!

I want to share a few thoughts today on four areas of our lives where we all need to develop mastery if we are going to fulfill our God-given purpose or even achieve our goals and desires. I chose the word “mastery” because it is associated with repetition and practice. It often also comes with making a lot of mistakes, which are a natural outcome of continuous practice in any field or discipline. The mastery we are looking at today, however, is related to our lives.

The first thing we must master is controlling our thoughts. There are thousands of thoughts that flood our minds each day, and we have to choose which to focus on, develop and act on. There is a risk that we sometimes just dwell on the thoughts that come at us repeatedly. Because anything I allow to dominate my mind dominates my life, I am deliberate about filling my mind with the right thoughts, for example, by reading my Bible every day. Do not permit just any thoughts to occupy your mind. Screen before permitting.

The next thing we must master is our words/speech. The Bible is clear that whoever who can control their tongue can control their life. While our words naturally follow our thoughts, I think of the mouth as a gate that can restrain the wrong thoughts from escaping our lips. We are often better off keeping quiet than chattering thoughtlessly. If you need time before speaking, take your time. There may be times that unplanned speech is necessary: this is why we should only nurture the right thoughts so that foolishness does not proceed from our lips because it does not exist in our minds.

The last two areas we must master are character building and choice of company (friends). These two go hand in glove because the company we keep influence our character, and our character determines the company we keep. Building character requires patience and persistence, and a willingness to learn from others. If you are not convinced about the value of good character, it is easy to expect people to accept you as you are or live as you please. This in turn leads to keeping company with people that are unwilling or unable to correct and challenge you. Without these, there can be no true growth.

Mastery in all four areas I have briefly highlighted requires a lot of continuous practice (with many mistakes). More importantly, the journey to gain such mastery is a never-ending one. But if you keep on that journey, you will be prosperous, and your life will be fulfilling! Thanks for coming by and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Remain blessed!

Day 22: Domestic Violence #28DayChallenge

Social media in Nigeria has been abuzz on the subject of domestic violence (DV) for the last few weeks, following the death of a popular gospel singer attributed to domestic violence. I tend to avoid trending topics because I feel most of the conversations around them are not holistic, except those steered by people who were previously invested in that matter. The majority of thoughts, opinions, and reactions tend to be sentimental and focused on getting attention. Still, we are better off having those conversations than not; I just wish the energy would be sustained rather than fade off until the next breaking news.

I am no expert on the subject of psychology, but I imagine domestic violence is perpetrated by two kinds of people: normal people with uncontrolled anger issues and psychopaths whose goal is controlling or oppressing others. Both have something in common: a need to control others, and the inability to address internal frustrations properly. They find an outlet by inflicting physical abuse on others (their partner or dependents). In my imagination, the first kind grows to become the second kind if they remain frustrated and unrestrained.

While anger is a normal human emotion that can be reined in and channeled rightly to drive change, some people choose to express it by physically abusing their partners to demand certain behaviors or find an outlet for their frustrations. This shows they lack the skills to lead themselves and influence others. When we feel overwhelmed or desire outcomes we cannot get from our partners, the key is to get knowledge and develop new skills. Any emotion can be controlled. Most outcomes can be delivered. The first problem is resolving our internal issues, and then getting knowledge and skills.

The role of upbringing in the emergence of the abuser and the abused cannot be understated. That a person feels it is normal to beat up their spouse is strange behavior that is hardly ever learned outside the home. That a person tolerates being beaten or excuses it even once is also often learned at home. Even among people who are known to be violent, there are many whose homes are peaceful because they cannot envision beating their spouses – nothing of the sort existed in the homes in which they were raised.

I find domestic violence difficult to understand because it hardly ever corresponds to boldness or bravery in the abuser. They are often cowards who rely on their victims’ fear and silence to continue to thrive. And this is why I have no question about what someone must do when being abused: walk away while you can and file a report with the local police. An abuser’s power is more psychological than physical and is given to them by those they abuse. It may never seem that simple, but it all boils down to what we permit from others.

I sincerely pray for healing of people who have been or are being abused and also pray that they will be courageous enough to break free from that oppression in Jesus’ name. Amen. We all deserve some dignity.

I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment (if you read this far 😊). Thanks for coming by, and see you in the next post!

Day 21: Let Go, Let God #28DayChallenge

Today I watched my 11-month-old son “hang” from the living room couch because his little legs were too short to reach the ground. Having figured out the right way to get down, he skillfully maneuvered to make the descent. With his body still clinging to the couch, supported by all the strength he could muster in his tiny forearms, he slowly released himself. His goal was to ensure his feet touched ground before letting go. And that was the issue – the ground was too far away.

I could see his feet were just a inch or two from the ground, and that he would land safely if he let go. But he could not see this, and so he would not let go for a while. Eventually, either because he ran out of strength in his arms or felt the tip of his foot touch the ground, he let go and landed without any mishap, just as I knew he would. I wonder how long he would have stayed there if he had the strength or if he never came close enough to the ground for comfort.

Sometimes, our experiences in life mirror my son’s situation, albeit with much higher stakes. You know you need to leave a job; you are frustrated and unproductive and all the advice you have heard and applied is not working. But leaving a job without finding another (or better) one is uncomfortable. Bills don’t pay themselves and you reason it is better to be frustrated than to go hungry. Maybe the stakes for you are different. Maybe it is the prestige of having a job or the little pleasures that your income allows you to afford. Either way, you need your little toe to touch the ground before you make your move.

It could also be a relationship you need to walk away from, one that is full of deceit and mistrust or violence and oppression. You’ve spoken to your partner and they are either unrepentant or repeatedly making false promises to change. You know your life, your health (mental or physical), and your future are at risk. But you are hopeful that you can salvage this one, or you are scared of being alone and facing the stigma and shame that comes with the choice you need to make. You’re looking for a soft landing – a situation that makes the decision easier.

I invite you to take your destiny in your hands and trust God for strength to pull through. I invite you to let go. No journey worth the while has ever started without unknown risks. The uncertainties in our lives are part of what makes life worth living. If your commit your fears to God and make those bold choices, you will find a new reality on the other side. If you don’t let go, you will never see what God can do. The key is to commit your ways to Him, telling Him your fears and trusting He has your back. You will land with two feet on solid ground, becoming even better in the process. May you never lack the strength to let go!

Thanks for coming by today. See you in the next post!

P.S. : I had hoped to write a very short post today. But look where we are 🙂

Day 20: Earth Day Haikus #28DayChallenge

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Every year, April 22 is set aside in support of environmental protection. As you can imagine, this provides an opportunity to initiate conversations about the environmental impact of human activities, climate change, sustainability and related topics. It remains important that we limit the damage we do to our environment, and possibly reverse them. So I chose to write four Haikus to commemorate this special day. Whatever you do, always consider the environment! Thanks for taking the time to read, and see you in the next post!

He who plants a tree
Urged on by its future sway
May have saved a life

The ice melts away
Threatened by increasing heat
From our atmosphere

A race against time
As the earth turns upside down
To save what remains

It rose on the West
A bizarre day for the Sun
And set on the East

Day 19: Persistence #28DayChallenge

For the last two weeks, schools have been on holiday. The weighty implication of this fact could not be more obvious to me than it has recently. This is thanks to my hyperactive 3-year-old who has to constantly be engaged, failing which no one in the house will get any rest. His preferred activity is to watch YouTube Kids channels themed around emergency services and heavy machinery i.e. police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, excavators, backhoes, dump trucks, concrete mixers…the list is endless. Naturally, his best channel is Blippi*.

The other uniqueness of the holidays are his sporadic requests for specific food items of his preference. And it is the (mis)timing of those requests, whether to watch TV or eat something, that crystallizes the trait of which I am now writing. He makes a request, and because neither myself or my wife are immediately willing or able to grant his request, we ask him to wait. In another minute or two, my son will repeat the request in the exact same words, almost as though it were a fresh request.

If his request is not granted, he does not throw tantrums or get upset, he just waits a little while and then repeats it. The idea of denial does not exist in his childish mind – his focus is on tabling his request till it is granted. Even when we carefully explain that he cannot have what he wants or that it is not yet time, he goes away for a while and then returns to repeat the request. It has taken a lot of emotional fortitude for us to stand our ground against such importunity, especially when we do not intend to grant the requests.

In other instances, especially when either of us is just trying to complete a task before attending to him, we have sometimes had to shelve our tasks to give him what he wants. He literally just wears you out with his repeated, placid demands. Even now, that voice gently rings in my ears. It reminds me of the parable Jesus tells in Luke chapter 18 of the persistent widow and the unjust judge. The judge eventually gives the widow what she wants, not because he is good, but because she is persistent.

That story is a lesson to us, that in prayer, we need persistence to demonstrate commitment to the things we pray for. If an uncaring judge was moved by a widow’s importunity, how much more will a just God grant our requests when we table them repeatedly before Him? This trait does not only apply in prayer. In pursuing our deepest dreams, we cannot afford to quickly give up when we fail or encounter obstacles. No dream worth pursuing comes easy. We learn from our experiences and recommit to a cause of action. History has proven that the persistent always make a dent by their repeated knocking.

Thanks for taking the time to read…I’ll see you in the next blog post!

P.S. Blippi is a character created and played by an American YouTuber named Stevin John, with various channels exploring educational and adventurous themes.