In the Calm after the call

     And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12)

 A gentle note to reader 🙂 This post is a follow-on to the one titled “The Call”- so it’s a good idea to read it first if you have not for an easier understanding of this.

The spiral my life was thrust into after the infamous phone call brought more and more questions to fore.I was anxious,confused,hot inside my ears-I was a bag of nerves. I was afraid.

I would like you, dear reader, to go back to your last day of normalcy and the days that followed to answer the questions below.

  1. At the moment of crisis, what really mattered to you?
  2. What urgencies faded into the shadows giving way to what was always important but never urgent?
  3. What is it that you have had to give up or give into because of the circumstances of adversity you now find  yourself under? (For example…Have you had to cut your spending? Did you have to change your diet? Did you have to quit alcohol or smoking? Did you have to resign? Did you have to walk away from a relationship because there was more pain than love? Did you have to say any goodbyes-painful as those were? Did you even have the chance to say goodbye? Did you have that awkward conversation you had been putting off? Did you sign up for a class? Did you have to call in a favor from a sworn enemy? Did you have to move to another place? Did you call up an old relative you last saw three Christmases ago? Did you have to get onto chemotherapy? Did you have to fall to your knees and pray? )
  4. What has changed in your life as a result of the things you may need to give up or give into because of the adversity in your life now?
  5. Who do you really miss? Who has become really important now that your companion choices are slashed by less than half? Who are the people, and things you have had to live without?

In my own experience, I deeply missed my family. Suddenly they were all I wanted to see but could not. I did not miss emails. Not even whats-apps. Seriously. Matter of fact I never returned to face book afterwards. I could not and did not receive or respond to any chat messages for the next two months that followed.

I could not use a mobile phone except under safety instructions. Before all this happened I was always in a hurry to run off to work, always caught the tail end of family parties.  Even though there was always a hot plate waiting for me when I arrived to say bye,I knew my family put up with my endless busyness because family is family.

Now, I could not even arrive late to any family do.

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Adversity has a way of refining our perspective on life. It brings tears to our eyes that have both the power to relieve our weary souls and give us a new perspective on things at once.

At first, the shifting adversity brings can be daunting on the senses, but after a while, things –and people begin to find their new places after the turbulence. Turbulence has a way of reordering the sitting arrangement in your life. It has a way of throwing some people into the back seat and bringing others to the V.I.P reserved area. It separates buddies from brothers and friends from fans because we tend to get the two confused in the safety of normalcy.

Inspite of the storm, pay close attention to these shifts. Throughout the process of adversity, calm will return to different aspects of your life gradually. Take note of where the storms displace or move different people and priorities in your life.  Then respect the new seating plan. Respect what emerges after the calm.

As you read this reflection,there may be people comimg to your memory. All the people who have come to your mind and heart are people who matter to you. They are GOD’s gift to you and you must make time for these people. As you wait in the hallway for your breakthrough-how about you reach out to the ones the LORD brought to remembrance? Practice the overcomer’s habit of making time for the relationships that feed and sustain you. Feed what feeds you, like Bishop TD Jakes says.

So, send a WhatsApp text to your mum to see how she is. Better still, if you can, call her and hear her voice. Consider a face to face meet up with your sister if you last spoke on her birthday if she is one of those you remembered. These relationships will ground you and help you to remain sober if your world is falling apart. Treasure them!

Secondly, after things calmed down abit, I suddenly had so much time for and to myself. What were we going to do in the company of me, myself and I? What games would we play?  It had been such a while! In fact, I don’t even know if we had even ever met, to begin with. I mean we had occasional flings but my life was crowded so I was always on the run to meet and hang with everybody else but me. But now, in this no wi-fi planet, all I had was myself.  Life’s circumstances as sad and terrifying as they were had created a time of solitude that looking back, I am thankful for.

Your circumstances may have drawn you to yourself- or given you very few choices in terms of who you get to spend time with. Either way, the company you are in, including that of your own self, is no accident. GOD is the best events planner I know. He never messes up the guest list. Never.

Time to my self-forced me to slow down and look deeply into me. Not the casual glance I had become too familiar with. I had to stare into the deep of me and reconnect with myself. Who have you kept waiting all this time? Yourself? Your family? GOD? Into whose company is the adversity drawing you towards?

Most Importantly though, in the chaos and eventual calm that followed, I learned to do something I had started to take for granted.

I learned to pray.

And I began to call on the Name of the LORD again.

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CLOSING PRAYER

WHILE WE WAIT.

Father I thank you for every heart reading this right now. Thank you for their life and thank you for the situation in their life right now. Thank you for loving them so deeply that you sent a word to them even in this season of adversity. We thank you that we are never alone. We thank you that you allow adversity into our lives to strengthen and refine us for your purposes-and never to harm or punish us. Never. We thank you for walking with us through these dark days, for shielding us with your love even during the darkest of nights.

While we wait for you to change our circumstances, we choose to focus on what is good in this season. We thank you for the good habits we picked up and the bad we dropped. We thank you for the relationships you want us to protect and the ones you want us to release. We thank you that we are becoming better vessels for your purposes and glory.We thank you that through our own pain your light will shine through our lives to touch the world around us as we minister the hope that you have ministered to each of us In This Season.

We thank you that we have overcome by your unfailing Love.

In Jesus Name.

Amen.

A bouquet of sunshine…just for you :-)

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On 17th August 2016,  I turned 30. The big and mighty three zero was upon me. I was especially grateful for that year because it was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was the first birthday I celebrated away from my country, family and friends because of some  seemingly tough circumstances the LORD allowed to happen .

Towards the day, I found myself putting off any thoughts that had to do with celebrating my 30th  and actually minimized my expectation of the day. I don’t know if I did not have faith that GOD would make it beautiful in His own special way or if I was just afraid to hope for a memorable day. I did not quite know what to say or ask for. I felt like I should be glad to be alive- and no more. Moreover,in some type of way I run up a high bill that week. I had hoped to have some cash to burn but somehow I did not. I wasn’t starving or anything,I just did not have cash to splash. So I could not even treat myself. As my expectation  took the plunge,I became more and more reluctant  to tell anyone about “my 3.0 mix”- just so I did not get my hopes high- and then I told myself to be ok.

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At about the same time I was avoiding the thought of a great birthday,a friend I made during this season asked me out to dinner-and boy was I glad to dig into some meat -chicken wings and staff. We had a great evening and somehow,in the safety and warmth of her company I blurted out the B word. My friend was so excited,she immediately  told me her own birthday was also around the corner- a few days before mine! She asked how old I would be turning,and the thirty thing just sent her into overdrive. She was super extatic that I told her and refused to let it be an ordinary affair. From then on to the B day,Sarah made plans, finding clever ways to ask me where I wanted to go,what I wanted to do and staff.

I ended my last and started my New years in Prayer. I committed the coming year to GOD. As I lay down to sleep in what were the early hours of my birthday,I felt that it was going to be a great year ahead. I woke up with such joy,gratitude and sudden expectation in my heart. I was so happy.

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My phone begun to buzz and buzzz and buzzzz with messages from friends who were not going to let the distance stop them from showin’  me sum love!

Then, GOD  blew me away . Completely. If you have found yourself in Nairobi in August,you know the cold and grey are no joke.The weather does get moodswings and the sun can just refuse to shine.It gets prickly and  icy and  all. But, on my birthday,I woke up to the most beautiful,sunny Wednesday in a while.  Like a bouquet of sunshine. Exactly. That’s like a summers day in January if you live in England. That made me feel special. I felt like GOD brought the sun out just for me! Sunshine and more sunshine for my 30th.  It shone away and warmed things up for abit! While I did not celebrate my birthday with my friends and family, the Lord still moved to bless me and make me feel very, very special through friends and the weather. He was not restricted by my circumstances. He is GOD and He gave me a 30th hard to beat.75707774166fc090cb7443206aa1c6d9

And Sarah…….Sarah just topped the charts!She held a full blown dinner for me. Wine,fine dining,cake,reserved seating, waiters on call and yet the tables had those cool buzzer thingys…she did not leave anything to chance. Sarah was one of my gifts actually..now that I think about it.

We laughed all evening,took photos,chatted away…and I went home feeling super loved and super special.  Sigh.

My 30th will always be a reminder of GODs love for me- and His taste in fine,fine restaurants😄 – and bouquets of sunshine- For free, by the way. For free.

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Adversity has a way of  making you develop very thick skin and in trying to be so strong we lose the vulnerability of emotion that keeps us human and able to connect to people (Hebrews 4:15). In all the coping and getting on its so easy to get accustomed to the feelings of struggle that we forget the feeling of vulnerability and the need to feel appreciated,valued,celebrated,special! I thought I needed to suck it up,wear my boxing gloves and get through the day-but GOD knew I really really really needed to be reminded of what its like to feel special-in a positive way. And He met that need beyond my wildest expectations. I learnt the importance of expectation no matter how silly it may seem. In the abyss of chaos or pain or grief and disappointment,expectation becomes an act of worship as it exalts who GOD is above what ever contradictions we may be experiencing in our circumstances.

SELAH

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While we strengthen our ability to persevere and finish strong,it is important to remain human in your situation. When you feel discouraged,find someone to pray with.

Always tell the LORD how you sincerely feel. Do not act tough if you do not need to. Around trusted people its okay to say when the climb feels very steep. And while GOD can use adversity to separate us from people who were not productive to our purpose,He can also use it to align us with new people who will fuel and support us in different ways so that  we dont break under weight of adversity. Be open to these people.

Third,with GOD on your side,never lose your sense of expectation on anything. No matter how tough,keep your expectation of GOD high. Its the only way to pray big and receive big. Away from home, away from friends and from very close family- GOD still blessed me in a big big way. I was in solitude but not alone. For the days when I needed to feel loved and special,He caused the right people to celebrate that moment with me. And perhaps that was their purpose in my story! No matter how hopeless the situation may seem,do not lose your sense of expectation. Do not be blinded by the temporary nature of adversity . GOD can throw in a sunny day in the winter!!!! Expect GOD to bless you. Expect GOD to be good to you. Expect Him to comfort you. Expect Him to be gracious towards you always-because He is. DO NOT LOSE YOUR EXPECTATION. And He promises-our expectation shall not be in vain.

What are you expecting GOD to do for you in spite of your temporary adversity?

PS. If its yo birthday today and you have not exactly been cruisin’ lately, cheer up. Ask GOD to amaze you today and watch Him do so! He longs to be gracious to you. (Try asking for snow if you are reading this from a blazing hot Kampala city😎) #Shout Outs

Proverbs 23:18:  For Ssssuurely there is an expected end,your expectation shall not be cut off.

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The Call

One phone call. If I  knew one phone call would change everything I had become too accustomed to, I would have never answered my cell that Saturday. It was a very busy day (of course) and I had missed so many phone calls (of course)except that one call from a number I did not even recognize.

And what news that strange number came bearing!  Very briefly, the caller warned me to flee for my life as some powerful unhappy people wanted me dead- and if I did not act fast, they would have their bond.That was my last phone call and the very last time I was seen in public. I went from public figure to political fugitive just like that.

*Pause the creepy music soundtrack*

So. In one of my nine lives, I have been a pro-democracy activist. Yes. The ones who are big on social justice with shirts and caps for each cause-and some more. And I would get my family to wear the shirts too. I do care about Country, and the bulk of my career has been in the NGO sector doing work to promote governance reform. I really believe GODs magic wand yanked my head for this thing because I enjoy making a difference in people’s lives and governance reform is a fantastic way to do so. In 2016 Uganda went to the polls and as a pro-democracy youth activist, I was in the press and most media alongside other change makers speaking about the concerns and issues that could jeopardize the electoral process.

We were the ones crying out saying “prepare ye the way for the elections-get the voters register in check-remove the dead for ghosts cannot vote! clean up, clean up say we the register and protect the right of the people to free and fair elections.

I was also an election observer during the actual polling process and let’s just say I saw things my eyes were “not supposed to see”-and some people were not too happy. And some people just take out people they are not happy with because they have guns and all that. Yip.

*Play that creepy music sound again so that we proceed*

Suddenly, I felt like there were guns pointed at me and all I cared for.  I have never been more terrified in my life.

I was advised to turn my phone off because it was being used to track me. You hear of weapons of mass destruction!  I had no access to my bank account, could not use my ATM in case my transactions were being tracked. And just like that,  darkness fell upon the land of Helenatopia.

No more Whatsapp messages.

No more emails.

No more phonecalls- not even to family.

No more missed phone calls.

It was 1993 again.

My dear friend sent someone to pick me up and as I was being taken to a safe place, my journey began. My life was in danger and suddenly, my own country was no longer safe.

21st February  2016 was my last day of normalcy as I had come to know it at the time.

21st February 2016 was the very first day of what this blog is about:- the unexpected, the unforeseen, the unimagined- name it. I mean who gets exiled in this day and era…like really…who gets exiled in 2016?!

My answer came through one phone call from a strange number.

SELAH

  • What was the last day before your storm like? Where were you? With whom? What were you doing? What normal did the adversity disrupt?
  • How did the news break- a text? A breakup note? A call to say she could not pretend anymore? An email from the doctor to say the test results were back? What event significantly marks the crossover moment from sanity to turbulence unprecedented?

 

PRAYER. 

Dear LORD………

……..

…….

..

.err..

mmmhh..

?

Aaahh.

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When it is all over….

 

hurdles-track-race-competition-159745.jpegYes. The title of this post is not if-but when it is all over because it will come to an end. Whatever has stolen your sunshine or turned you blue with sadness-whatever it is will soon come to an end. It shall pass. It is going to be alright.  And while we wait for that day to break,I invite you to enjoy-yes,enjoy this season of anguish and seemingly difficult circumstances in your life. Until the door that lets in the sunshine swings open,let’s make the most of the Hallway we have for a waiting room. Never waste a life experience!

If anybody had told me how between February – September 2016 I would  find my self exiled-away from family,friends, fans and foes, I would have laughed. Sure,those things happen-but to other people.  Never thought of myself as refugee material. Not Me! me who every body knew! Me who was now a Media personality! Me with so much going for me! Me, until one phone call pressed the pause button on me life.

This particular blog is a memoir and recount of the exile experience I had and how the LORD made it beautiful. I will also include other related stories from different chapters of my life  and how I have been able to overcome by the unending love and grace of GOD. From the vantage point where I now stand,I see what the LORD had been doing by either intervening in certain situations or allowing things to happen the way they did. It was love-very deep love guiding me all the way. Through every mistake,every tear,every heartache-Love had -and still has a very strong hold on me.And love has a fierce grip on you too.

This is ,therefore  my tribute  GOD, the Love of my Life-from whom I found all meaning and purpose for adversity-and by who I overcame.   It is also especially dedicated to ANY ONE who finds themselves in a situation that feels like their final scene on the stage of life. I hope by reading these writings and prayers your faith,hope and strength will rise again-and again-and again so that you run your race to completion.  I hope you will re discover a loving Father who is with you through it all and in doing so find yourself again.

 Written rather personally, each chapter or section begins with a particular moment in my journey. These short recounts serve to set a context for you to relate to. More importantly, the recounts are followed by some questions for your own reflection. I use the word SELAH (which the Psalmist used to mean Pause and reflect) to bring these moments to your attention. Please do so! Thinking about these questions  will help you to unpack your own experience and squeeze the juice out of it. That juice is your fuel for life. It is wisdom that  lies hidden in your adversity- a gift that will sustain you even after your sun is turned back on. I encourage you to have a notebook where you write your own reflections when you read as this will help you think better and transform your own perspectives on whatever it is that has you down cast.

My experience is only a guide and I am sure there are so many experiences out there that could exemplify these lessons even better. Maximize your own experience through this journey.   I promise it will be worthwhile when we finish 🙂

We will  then close each post with an optional prayer for you.

I also include different pictures,songs,quotes,links to information and staff that really strengthened me during this season. Feel free to look at these resources if you want to 🙂

I hope we journey to the end-or at least until your strength is renewed.

Welcome to the first of many writings from my heart to yours.

Helena.