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 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 15: Consistency – the key to Excellence #28DayChallenge

Today’s title speak for itself. In my 30+ years of existence, including several years of academic and professional excellence, I have come to learn that perhaps the single most important element in developing an attitude of excellence is consistency in doing the right things – showing up and committing to actions that produce results.

Excellence means going over and above what is expected. Excellence is doing the work you are expected and then adding a touch that reminds whoever sees the work of who did it. Excellence is a waiter serving with a smile. Excellence is a leader leaving an impeccable example; it is settling for nothing less than the best. Excellence begins with mastery, and then proactive efforts to improve on what we have mastered. But mastery only comes from consistency.

While what constitutes excellence differs from one field to another, the actions that produce it are the same. First, excellence requires knowing what is expected of you and taking the time to (learn to) do it properly. The next step is as an improvement-seeking behaviour. When you find that one person looking for simpler, faster and more efficient ways of achieving the same objectives, then you are dealing with an excellent attitude. Excellence is never stopping until you have exceeded your previous best.

Whether learning to meet expectations or looking to exceed them, a common behaviour required is consistency – in setting learning routines, practicing what you have learnt, continuously making corrections or implementing improvement opportunities. When you repeatedly do things until they become a part of you, getting it right and discovering ways to do it better becomes easier because of practice.

Excellence is only predicated on knowing the right things to do. If you do the wrong tasks well, it is of no use to anyone. So, get knowledge and get training. Being deliberate is also key to excellence. Continuous commitment to action in any field or personal endeavor (including character building) produces mastery. Lastly, there can be no excellence without continuous improvement.

Excellent people know how to look for improvements, seek feedback, refine them, and implement the resulting actions in order to keep getting better at what they do. And they know that they can only remain excellent if they are consistent at what they do. So, what are currently working at consistently?

Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you’ll come by again real soon. Cheers!

Day 14: Stand Tall #28DayChallenge

Seven years stood tall
Though short to be reckoned with
In the final scheme of things
Yet the impact of those years
Reverberated into eternity

Gentle voices called out
Echoing loudly in the darkness
Their message was clear:
“Bring home your honor
Even if you lose everything else”

So you stood like a warrior
Fought with courage for truth
Undaunted in the face of fear
Never one to change allegiance
As you fought through each battle

Now you are boldly standing tall
Like the years through which you came
Unashamed of who you are
Or what time has brought you through
And its impact on posterity

#StandTall

Day 13: Friday, Good? #28DayChallenge

Good Friday. Was it really good? Definitely not for Jesus or his followers, whose long-awaited Messiah was crucified by the authorities. A little search on the internet suggested that the origin of the word “Good” is an old English word which means “Holy”. If this is correct, then it would be more appropriate to think of the day as “holy” or “hallowed” rather than “good”, which has a completely different meaning in modern English. I also learnt that some other languages utilize a more suitable expression for that day, such as the German expression “Karfreitag“, meaning “Sorrowful Friday“.

In the end, though, the day turned out to be good from the Christian viewpoint, but only in hindsight. Knowing that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins and that he eventually resurrected a few days after complements the sobriety of the Holy Friday with the joy of Easter Sunday. The beatings he took secure our healing and his shame open heaven’s door of mercy to us. However, it was not all joy on that first Easter Sunday, seeing as the disciples were confused and distressed at the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the grave. Only Jesus’ eventual appearance allayed their concerns and revived their hope.

Yet the news was not even sufficient to bring hope to the doubting Thomas, who happened to be unavailable at Jesus’ first appearance to his other disciples. He had to see for himself to truly believe. And so, Jesus declares that those who believe his resurrection without seeing Him are blessed. He knew only a few persons would see him before He ascended to heaven, and so the testimony of His witnesses and the faith of future hearers would be equally important.

The onus then lies on us who have believed to share this wonderful news with everyone who would listen- the blessings that the horrors of pain and death Jesus endured confer on us, and the living hope that his resurrection and ascension to heaven provide for us. Because Jesus lives, we too can live – not just in our natural state, but in a renewed, transformed state of heart. Spreading this good news would be appropriate seeing as we have embraced the use of “Good Friday” and even get an official holiday to mark the day.

If you are reading this and have not embraced the good news about Jesus, what are you waiting for? He died for you and me, so we would no longer live in our sins, but receive forgiveness from our sins and have access to God our Maker. Turn from your sins and call on Him right away! And if you do, you can be sure that you will be saved; He never turns anyone away. This is where I take a pause today – we continue this blogging journey tomorrow. Stay blessed!