…first of all, to You!

Featured…first of all, to You!

It seems impossible to love people who hurt and disappoint us, yet there are no other kinds of people.

Frank Andrews

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines friendship as “a state of mutual trust and support between [group of people].” In this day and age where social media has taken over real life friendships and deep connection, we find ourselves caught up with the quantity instead of quality of friends. We are quick to speak instead of lending a listening ear. We give too much or too little in exchange of being lonely or getting hurt. We find ourselves less and less connected in friendships and embracing the “solo” culture. But fact is, we all need friends. Healthy, deep and real relationships.

Building friendships is a lifelong journey and for me, that journey can take a little longer than most people. I am introverted so you do understand when I say I’m a bit slower at warming up to people. I enjoy the company of good friends whether large or small groups. Although I’d say the latter is more of my comfort zone. I’m that girl who wants everyone to be included so much that in my past friendships, I spent years trying to nurture friendships that didn’t exist. I was obliviously giving so much in friendships where the other party just saw me as an acquaintance.

We all have the perfect picture of what our “perfect” friends should be. We’ve all probably picked friends based on status, family name, culture, or influence. Anyone who comes into our lives and does not meet our standards gets kicked off the “friends list.” Some of us have probably also picked someone that didn’t quite fit the ideal expectations but turned out to be the ABSOLUTE realest and just what we needed. For the past several years, I have spent time building and investing in healthy relationships. I have been the most open about meeting new people yet intentional about attracting and developing the right friendships. I’ve come to understand this: Friendship is not about who you know the longest but who walks in your life and takes a seat throughout ALL seasons.

Now let me back up and say, yes, social media has its negative aspect, however, some of my very strong friendships now came from a simple “hello” on social media. So what’s the point I’m trying to drive home with this post? Be open to meeting new people, invest in building healthy friendships, clear your mind from grudges from past hurts – every living being will disappoint and hurt you. Move on. Ain’t nobody said to go back to toxic relationships. By toxic, I mean friends who tear you apart instead of building you up. Those who secretly smile while you’re going through difficult times. Those that occupy your time to their benefit. Walking away from such friendship is the best thing you can do for your emotional and mental health. Everyone that come with you can’t go with you.

I stumbled upon these words years ago and it’s been my prayer ever since: Lord, I do not ask for many friends but for those whose loyalty are first of all to you.

Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

At seventeen years old, I was a high school graduate. I’ve always had big dreams. One of them was to be a doctor by age 22. Between moving to the United States and getting adjusted, I lost several years. In May 2011, I graduated from undergraduate with an associate degree at age 21. During my graduation, a married couple at my church gifted me this Journal (pictured above) and being the scribbler that I am, I immediately started penning what my journey moving forward would be like. Sitting on my little balcony in New Jersey apartment, I started dreaming and thinking of my life after community college.

My ultimate goal was to be a Doctor of Pharmacy. I had several paths outlined that I could take…several colleges I desired to attend and several things I could do to reach my final career destination. I remember praying over my dreams and aspirations out loud and asking God, which way I should take. I also remember hearing a voice whisper softly to me, “take the way I instruct you. Follow my lead and listen. I AM with you.” For the next several months, I took sometime off to grasp the process of applying to pharmacy school.

The greatest poverty is not when you don’t have a dime, it is when you don’t have a dream.

Martin Luther King

I’m a dreamer. I can spend an entire Saturday morning sipping on hot tea, meditating and dreaming about life. I love to draw a mental (and physical) picture of what life would be in the next year or two or even the next decade. I love the sense of relaxation I feel when I’m in deep thoughts plus it cost absolutely nothing to dream. In fact, God invites us to dream great dreams. For me, writing down my dreams and going back years later to see how far I’ve come always bring me a sense of joy and fulfillment. Let’s be real here for a second, sometimes not every bullet point on your dream list will be fulfilled and that is okay. For me, Harding University was not on my list of colleges to attend but God in His infinite wisdom led me to a very small town in Arkansas and years later to my current residence (in the same state) where I’m surrounded by people I love so dearly. God’s way for us might be different than what we envision but make no mistake, it’s always the right path. His plans are perfect beyond your wildest dreams.

Dreams are powerful. Dreams carry meaning. Have you ever heard the phrase, you’re what you believe? Yeah. Dreams are basically our thought process; we attract good things when we have positive thoughts. The opposite is also true – bad thoughts attracts bad energy. Hear me say this: dreams do not just work out. It requires prayers, hard work and some more prayers. I dare you today, to dream the dream God has planned for you. You will be amazed at what he does in and through you. I dare you to also write out those dreams.

In closing, I’ll echo Billy Graham’s words to encourage anyone struggling to realize the path God has for them and for you my friend who is already on that path also to: “Dream great dreams, embrace great principles, renew your hope, but above all, believe in the Christ who alone can give total meaning and an ultimate goal to your life.”

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17:28

  • PRAY IT INTO EXISTENCE
  • WRITE IT INTO EXISTENCE
  • SPEAK IT INTO EXISTENCE

Jozy

Dear Younger Me

If you could see a glimpse of me, right now, in this very moment, you would be so proud. Girl, you made it to the third decade of your life. Congratulations!

I remember how you dreaded entering this new decade not because it’s a bad thing but for the simple fact that adulting is hard. But you my dear, mastered your way to a full-fledge adult. There were some high and exciting moments – you married the love of your life, bought your first home, etcetera – AND many lows. But girl, you’re more brave than you give yourself credit for. Shy? Yes. But that doesn’t make you timid. Respectful? Yes. But that doesn’t make you foolish. Oh the places you’ll go and the heights you will reach with this your resilient attitude is only but time. You have experienced the most betrayals, painful heartbreak, biggest lost but you walked through those fires and allowed yourself to heal inside and out.

You’re 30 years young today. That is 10,950 blessed days on this earth. You’re now entering some of the best years of your life but buckle up these will also be some of the craziest yet. Know that those craziest moments are beautiful stories waiting to be told. They are a good reminder and motivator of your future successes. You’ll have many laughs and many tears but always remembers to carry everything to God in prayers like you always do. Make Jesus the center of your life in all you do and you won’t be disappointed.

Josephine, it is such an exciting feeling to see you emerge into this strong, independent yet humble human who’s life [will] inspire many. Walk in greatness my darling. Cheers to many more decades of life, good health, prosperity, good riddance and everything good from above.

p.s: I love you.


Bright Sun-Shiny Day

Bright Sun-Shiny Day

Today on my way back from work, I noticed the traffic coming into town was unusually light compared to those driving out of town. On a normal day, inbound traffic is heavy but steady especially around the five o’clock rush hour time. Today it was different. It made the ride home feel a little bit relaxing. I turned on the radio as I cruise-controlled my thirty minutes drive home from the “big” city.

I had barely slipped into my “thinking” mood when I saw a metallic grey Honda Civic zig-zag its way from the right lane to the fast lane. I rolled my eyes as I thought how insensitive some motorists can be when switching lanes. Barely 2 minutes passed, I noticed another car, this time, a white BMW with a sporty look drive past me moving as fast as the speed of the light. I switched lanes to the middle lane just to pace myself. Soon, I’ll slip back into my thinking mood.

I casually observed as other drivers drove past me; some more hurriedly than others. I also observed as others took an exit to their final destination or unto a different route.  My thoughts slowly dissipated as one of my favorite songs come on the radio: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone…I can see all obstacles in my way.. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind..it’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sun-shiny day.

I snapped back into reality as the car in front of me abruptly slammed on the breaks. I sat up and stretched out my neck in an effort to see what was happening in front. Everyone began to slow done. Cars in the left lane started going unusually slow.  I looked up again and saw a flashing blue and red light pulled on the side of the road behind a white BMW. Aha! I slowly rested back into my seat seeing what has caused the startle. I looked at the clock…it’s starting to get dark. Five more miles until my exit. I started to speed up a little so I can get home before it gets dark. No matter how hard I stepped on the gas, it felt like I was going at the same pace. I was tired. I just wanted to get home. I wasn’t worried about the possibility of getting pulled over. I just wanted to get home.

This might sound a little abstract but I like to think of life as driving on the highway. So many things happen along the way. We get kicked out of our lane. We get pulled over. We get honked at or we simply have a smooth drive. Sometimes we exit because we have reached our destination or because of unexpected circumstances. One thing to understand is, your journey is different from everyone else. Some people will make it in life by riding on the fast lane and for some of us, we have to move over to the “slow” lane to pace ourselves. And that’s OK! Speeding doesn’t always mean you’ll get to your destination faster, likewise, steering slow does not mean you will never get to your destination – it may cause some delays but it will get you to your destination safer. I have come to understand how important it is to always keep my eyes on the road while occasionally looking in the side and rear view mirrors to prevent dangerous blind spots and keep my car out of the path of reckless driving. Our journey is the most important and should by all means take up all of our focus. We may even need to sometimes drive defensively against all distractions that will pull us further and further away from reaching our destinations.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places – Ephesians 6:12

Not everyone’s success story is a true success. Some are there to distract you from reaching your true potentials. Others are there to make you feel worthless. Believe in yourself and trust God to get you to your destination safely.

Comparison is a thief of Joy.

Pray without ceasing.

No such thing as “The One”

No such thing as “The One”

How did you and your significant other meet? How did you know he or she was “the one?” Or you are still figuring it out? How did you fall in love? Was it love at first sight?

 

For me, it was far from love at first sight. I met my husband, CK, in high school. He enrolled in my school in my sophomore year…something about his dad pulled him out of his old high school because he wasn’t performing well. Thankfully, he was able to transfer his credits and start as a second year student. He was quiet and hardly spoke to any girl on campus except to me of course. Me, on the other hand, although shy, had a lot of male friends and admirers. By the end of my senior year, eleven guys would ask me out and my answer would be “no” every single time. Unlike most girls, the last thing on my mind in high school was finding a boyfriend. I was determined to get out of high school with good grades and gain admission to a reputable college to pursue my dreams and aspirations.

I knew nothing about CK except for the fact that he had a great voice and good looks. Although sometimes his lack of style and poor choice of clothes at that time was a real turn off for me.

The high school we attended was faith-based institution. Towards the end of every semester, school administration organize a grand praise and worship gathering. This event was an opportunity for the entire school to come together and worship God in songs and praises. About a week to the event, I asked CK to sing a Solo with me. No, I wasn’t in love with him. And yes, he agreed. To this date, I still don’t know what propelled me to ask him. Probably my outgoing personality at that time? We will never know. Months turned into weeks and weeks into days and soon came time for graduation. As we were moving out of our various campuses to go back home, we discovered that his house was about 30 minutes walking distance from mine. We became very close friends after graduation and the rest is history…..

There is no cinderella story here. No “romantic” beginning here. I met a guy, we became friends and we both fell in love. I remember thanking God for him and in the same breath I asked God to remove him from my life if he’s not the man he has prepared for me.

There is no such thing as the one. Many people go into relationships with expectations: “If I start dating, then I’ll be happy; He/She will solve all my problems and make me happy; everything is going to be perfect once I get married.” Marriage is a good thing. In fact, marriage is a fulfillment of God’s Word in Ephesians 5: 31-32. However, going into marriage, or any relationship for that matter, with a mindset to gain fulfillment from your partner, will leave you disappointed. I get it. I understand. Relationships are painted colorful on the outside, thus making people assume it’s rose-colored glasses, all easy and perfect when you enter into one. Fact is, relationships are hard. They take lots of effort and commitment. In order to find the right person, you equally have to be ready to become the right person. Even the “right person” if treated wrong or not loved right can sure become the wrong person for you.

So here’s my definition of The One: A person created in the image of God, whose loyalty is first of all to God, who sees faults and love regardless, who understands marriage is all or really ALL. A person who does not expect much of you and is willing to see the worst part of you. A person who equally understands and admit that he/she is flawed as well. That you both are a work in progress and together you will build each other up and be there for each other for better AND for worse.

Love is humble. Love is kind. Love is beautiful. Love embraces flaws. Love is patient. Love sees the beauty inside.

Missing The Point

Missing The Point

I am far from perfect. Growing up, I didn’t always have the best life. I recall seeing all the kids in the neighborhood in fine clothes and with the basic “necessities” of childhood. I had an overarching urge to have nice things – nice house, nice clothes, shoes, etcetera. I saw my desires and dreams far beyond my reach. I wanted a nice life and I wanted it now. I wanted the life that my friends had. But, I was missing the point.

As the last child of my parents, I spent part of my childhood with my four siblings in a tiny house. Some of my cousins will occasionally visit, which made the house even more tinnier. I liked the outdoors. I loved to play in the sun and sand. Although anything that crawled on the ground scared the crap out of me.

Father was an accountant with a big cocoa firm industry until he lost his job then he started a corn farm. I helped him with his corn farm. I pulled weeds that were growing and competing for sunlight around the roots of the corn with my tiny hands. On harvest days, after gathering bags for the market, we gathered round a coal pot fire and enjoy a hot meal of cooked or roasted corn.

Mama on the other hand, although, she comes from a royal family, loved to work. She had a produce business. She was always up as early as four in the morning to wash and scrub her carrots and other vegetables. Oh how I loved to snack on those carrots! Her vegetables were always green and fresh. I loved how she was particular with arranging her veggies on the tray for sale in the market – she always put the carrots and cucumbers in a circle near the edges of her slightly curved tray and the cabbage, green and red bell peppers and the other veggies in the middle. I remember thinking those were the most fresh looking colorful vegetables I’ve ever seen!

Mornings were my least favorite time of the day as my first chore was to sweep the 400 sqft. backyard. The only thing that motivated me was that I got to display my “artistic” nature. The zig-zag pattern I painted on the floor with the tip of the broom awakened my imaginary creative skills. No one dares walk on my beautifully orchestrated art. By noon, the leaves of the gigantic neem tree that sits in the middle of the yard would fill the entire backyard and render my art pointless. Yeah… Very few things seemed pointless to me at that time. Having nice shoes wasn’t one of them. But I had the gift of life. I had a family. I was surrounded by the people who loved me most. Yet I was missing the point.

Very often we are caught up in wanting more that we miss the point. I was that person. To say the least, I missed out on father letting go his mansion and his properties due to family dispute, so I can be safe. I missed out on mother waking up very early in the morning so my snack a.k.a carrots will be ready to take to school. I missed out on enjoying the moment because I was busy focusing on the things that were insignificant at the time. We all at some point in our lives want something more than we have. Most people get a sense of satisfaction from doing better than others. We want that friend’s clothes, or that neighbor’s car or the brother’s life and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the moment we start focusing on that desire instead of what we have, we miss out on a great deal of what we can achieve with the “little” we have.

Everyone’s journey in life is different. No two persons look or think exactly alike – not even twins. Thus, no one will have a life just like your’s. Believe in your uniqueness and inner abilities. Believe that you are wonderfully and perfectly made in God’s image. 

I found my path and I’m glad I started looking more at my strengths rather than my weakness. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me – II Corithians 12:9

Letter To My Husband

Dear Husband

Dear Husband,

It took weeks to write this. Not because I can not think of a million wonderful things to say about you, but because writing it all out seem unfathomable. Just yesterday, you cleaned up after I finished preparing dinner. The other day you cleaned the bathroom, mobbed the floors, ran errands on your day off. You stayed up all night weeks ago while I was sick and vulnerable to attend to my every need and request.

You bring lunch to my work during my busiest days because you know how I am with work – I hardly stop to eat. And oh how you make me feel EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You constantly remind me of how beautiful I am even when I feel miserable.

See, I told you! It is hard to put to words how much of a wonderful person you’re! For 2 years, you have diligently and joyfully done all these things and much more without any complaint -none at all.

Yeah, I know we’ve only been in this for 2 years. As many concur, that’s probably not enough years to brag about. In fact I stumbled on an article just the other day that predicted that most marriages chances of failing in the first 2 years is high and even highest at 5 years.

Contrary to popular beliefs and studies, I believe the strength of our marriage is not based on the number of years we spend together but most importantly on God’s GRACE, our mutual love and respect for each other. You see, God’s grace is a breath of fresh air. An undeserved favor given to us freely by a merciful God. After over a decade of being together, we’re indeed a living proof that HIS Grace wins every time! I have no doubt we will thrive because of the perfect example you set every day and even more so, now, as the head of our home. For we know whom we have believed and we are convinced that he is able to guard what we have entrusted in Him until that day. – 2 Timothy 1:12. With God’s help, we have broken barriers, we beat distance and we have conquered mountains that others said could not be climbed. Let me just say this, when you put God first in all you do, things end well. But also, your positive outlook on everything, BLOWS my mind completely! ——Everything looks great to you. Everything sounds great to you. Everyday is a great day for you. And you feel great everyday!

I cannot find reasons why you give so much; why you love so much; why you keep such great and positive attitude. I hope in the years to come, I feel half as great as you feel every morning. I may not share much about our relationship on social media (which we have actually come to know, less is more 😉) but know that I hold a part of you in my heart everywhere I am. Thank you for loving me. ALL OF ME!

So on our anniversary, this is my prayer for you as we get ready to work through year 3 together:

May the Lord guide and keep you

May His favor never leave you

May the good Lord lift you beyond measures

May you be an example to our sons & daughters

May your positive energy never go unnoticed

Be blessed, my love.

Faithfully Yours,

Mrs. Ottopah