Hope

Notes from “Make Your Bed” by Admiral McRaven

My top 3 stories/lessons from the book.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Admiral William McRaven

I hope that you do not feel attacked by the author’s debut maxim because this book is so much more than a person’s bedroom-keeping capabilities. 🤍 The entire book is thought-provoking and filled with interesting stories mostly from the author’s experiences during his SEAL training, all of which helped to develop discipline, resilience, grit and an admirable form of “prideful guts” in him and his colleagues.

Story 1.

As a trainee at the basic SEAL training, the author described how their beds were inspected every morning by an instructor to ensure that the beds were properly made, sheets tucked in, pillows and blankets aligned perfectly. It was their first task of the day and the instructors required the students to get it right!

What stayed with me was that these naval officers-in-training understood that although they were being trained to be strong and tough, there will be so many other things beyond their control. Therefore, this first task, as small and basic as it seemed, was one thing that they could do excellently well which would in turn be a source of pride, motivation, constancy and sometimes comfort for them. So good!

Carry out at least one simple task excellently each day.

Furthermore, the author noted that how well we carry out small tasks is often an indication of our potential success with bigger responsibilities. In essence, a person who is faithful with little will be able to do more.

Story 2.

25 years after his basic SEAL training when the admiral had become a captain in charge of a group of SEALs in his region, he suffered a horrible accident that put him through a surgery and left him incapacitated for about 2 months. During that period with all the physiotherapy and mental/emotional battles required to get him back on his feet, he narrated that it was his wife who stayed by him, supporting him physically and at the same time, encouraging him and reminding him of who he is.

Words of affirmation quieted self-pity; skillful, tender care soothed physical aches. Eventually, he got well.

This story reminds me that we are not meant to do life alone. Throughout life’s journey, we will need somebody else to lean on and to get us through tough patches.

We are made for partnership and community.

Of course, people may hurt or betray us. But we must not close our hearts to love and friendship. We are made for community.

Story 3.

This story sounded familiar when I read this part of the book. I am not sure why; maybe something similar has been acted in a movie I have seen in the past.

As part of their training, the SEAL trainees were told to carry out some exercises in thick mud outdoors for a stretch of several hours. If any one of the students could no longer bear the fatigue, or the bone-shattering cold, or even the taunts of their instructors, they were allowed to quit. They could get out of the mud and just…quit. But Admiral McRaven wrote about how he clung to his colleague who almost quit even though he himself was also very tired and cold. He encouraged the fellow to stay on. And then another colleague of theirs broke into a song which the whole group picked up and began to sing. Somehow, the singing helped them all to find the strength to stay the course until the time allocated for the mud exercise was complete.

This story challenges us to be a beacon of hope for the people around us. Our words and actions should show others that their dreams are possible and worth pursuing.

Be a voice of hope to others.

I believe that there is no better way to inspire others than to live our best, most authentic lives. If you don’t give up, the people looking up to you will more likely choose not to quit as well.

This is one sure way to change the world, one person at a time.


Need I say more? “Make Your Bed” is a very interesting book and I absolutely recommend it. Go find it and enjoy every bit of it! 😊

Hope

Another Year is Dawning – Pre-Birthday Prayer

In this post, I am adapting the popular hymn, “Another year is dawning” to reflect my prayers/ expectations from God as I embark on another annual sojourn.

Another year is dawning

To you dear God, I call.

 

To daily seek Your presence

Keeping in step, day long.

 

To know what’s in my hands,

And exploit every potential.

 

To pause and smell the flowers

Celebrate all wins, both big and small.

 

To dump self-doubt and fears,

And gain new territories and wall.

 

To appreciate life’s mundanities

To expect the phenomenal.

 

To be filled with Godly wisdom

To channel your light onto my world.

 

To give my life for others

And share your love with all.

 

To see myself through Your eyes

As brave, smart, lovely, and enough.

 

Another Year for me has dawned

Another year with You, my Lord.

Words and adaptation: ExcellerBlog.
Hope

Weekly Nuggets #31 – Keep Moving Forward

Ever felt like giving up? Walking away from all the effort already put in? Quitting? You are not alone, and this is a reminder to keep moving forward.

“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King Jnr.

“If you are not moving forward, you are falling back.”

Sam Waterston

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, …press on toward the goal.”

The Bible (Phil. 3: 13-14). Adaptations are mine.

Life is like a bestseller. By the time you get to the end, you will be glad you turned the pages.

Yours truly, ExcellerBlog 😉

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Unknown

Keep moving forward. The light is just around the corner.

🙂
Hope

Reflections on “History – The Perfect Teacher.”

A light-hearted note but I sincerely hope that something in it resonates with you. 🧡

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Funmi’s writing last week here on ExcellerBlog. It literally felt like she was taking us all on a walk down a street in her mind’s kingdom, slowly but surely feeding us with her thought-process. Did you somehow miss last week’s post (History – The Perfect Teacher)? You can read it here.

As I reflected on the core message of that post, two names in the Igbo language jumped out of my memory and clung to my mind. 😃

The names are “Echezona and “Ozoemena”.

As you may know, African names have meanings. For African parents, naming your child is no mean task; it is often an opportunity to probably recall the circumstances of the child’s birth through the name he or she is given, or to express the parent’s state of mind, or the goodwill that the parents hope to bestow on the child’s life.

Now, what do the names Echezona and Ozoemena mean? 😃

Echezona

Echezona is the name that your parents christen you if you were born around a remarkable incidence, one which they always want to remember or to associate you with. Echezona literally means “Do not forget.”

For example, it is possible that just before you were delivered, your kindred recovered a piece of land that had almost been lost in a controversy. Or maybe someone severely offended your parents and they want to keep the offender in mind. (Hopefully not! 😜) Or perhaps, the royal crown finally got rotated back to your extended family at the time of your birth. Or something equally fantastic.

Echezona is what we must all tell our hearts every time lest it goes down the mud-hole of self-pity or despair. Because the heart forgets! The heart forgets God’s benefits. The heart is often ungrateful. It selectively prefers worry or anxiety, and I have no idea why!

That was why the psalmist challenged his own heart thus, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and do not forget all His benefits!” [Psalms 103:2] Bless the Lord oh my soul and echezona His benefits!

I was recently chatting with my husband about this and we were reflecting on how a thanksgiving journal is so helpful and often comes to the rescue in situations like this.

He shared with me how he deliberately makes a record of God’s goodness in his personal life, and brings them up during his prayer time or when he needs a memory juggle. What a precious tip, definitely worth emulating!

History teaches us some things we must echezona in order to stay the course of destiny.

History is empowering.

Ozoemena

Ozoemena is the name that your parents christen you if you were born around the time that they experienced a loss or some misfortune. The direct meaning of the name is “May another of the kind not happen again.” It is your parents’ way of hoping/praying that your arrival will stop the streak of bad occurrences, and cause the good to stay.

May 30th every year is recognized by the Igbo people of Nigeria as the Biafra Day celebration. On that day, amongst the festivities, people remember all the heroes that were lost during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War with the slogan for the Day as “Ozoemena.” Affirming ozoemena is both an expressed hope as well as a collective prayer that such bloodshed and loss of beloved lives will not occur again in the history of the Ibo people.

Ozoemena is like what you say when you have finally had it to your neck with that toxic association or work environment, and you finally walked out of the door for the last time. It’s like you are saying, “No can do! Not me, not ever again. Bye-bye to jati-jati. 🤣

History is powerful. To know it is to empower ourselves. It enables us to either say, “echezona” or “ozoemena” to every new experience.

NB: Congratulations to my non-Igbo-speaking readers! You have just learned two new Igbo sentences/phrases. 😉💛

Guest Writer, Hope

History – The Perfect Teacher

Written by Ms. Funmi M.
History - The Perfect Teacher

The Exceller Blog

My younger self was always intrigued by the stories of childbirth from mothers – the pain, discomfort, lasting ‘deformation’ to the woman’s body and many more serious concerns and experiences. It however left me confused when I see women with their second, third, fourth etc. pregnancy. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Has she forgotten all that she went through? Is this woman okay? Hasn’t she learnt from the past pain she described to me?’ As time went by, I began to see that perhaps the joy of holding that precious one in one’s arm is greater than the pain and discomfort of the past months. Most women seem to treasure the calling to be a helper in bringing up an image barrier of the Creator over the discomfort of a swollen nose and looking weird in family pictures. The pain and struggle of childbirth and rearing is real, but the joy ahead is greater – most women will agree..

I say this as I think about the many lessons that history is meant to teach us and how often we forget the lessons. I am quickly reminded of the journey of the Israelites from slavery of 430 years in Egypt to freedom in the Promise Land. I often wonder how anyone could forget seeing the hand of God as the sea parted ways. I am quick to caution myself not to be too quick to call the Israelites out on this one. Our 21st century world just went through an incredible pandemic, one that our century has never witnessed before, yet, as our cities open up and the mask begins to fade away and turn into waste nuance, we are beginning to leave the painful history behind us and forge ahead. The question remains, what should we do with history?

History is a teacher that we should learn from. A wise woman will study the past and not fall into the same mistake others have fallen into. She will leverage the failure of others and her own mistakes – not dwell on them, but rather, learn from them. I have often wondered how the children of Israel were to survive the aftermath of slavery – 430 years of slavery is a long time: longer than the Chattel slavery. Studying history, Israel was commanded by their King to celebrate their freedom year after year as opposed to nesting over their slavery!

Being a woman in this age seems challenging. The expectations and demands for our time, attention, intellect, looks etc. are countless. How did we get here? As I look into history, I see clearly that there is nothing new under the sun. Talk about the French women of the 17th century that had to spend hours in making their 3ft tall hairstyles and leave it untouched for weeks allowing their head become a home for lice and fleas. Or the 18th century ladies that had their crinoline catch fire multiple times all to follow the appearance expectations set on them. History shows us clearly that the problem is not with our generation or a certain era. As a wise man once said, every generation has its own blind spots. The problem is in the inherent sinful nature of all human beings.

The same history presents the solution clearly to us, it shows us that life is fleeting; we are here today and gone tomorrow. The solution to the inherent problem of human nature is Jesus Christ. We obviously cannot help ourselves. I am a believer that the Bible is the infallible, inspired word of God that clearly presents to us who God is, the world He created, who we are and how to live in this world. It is really that simple. It is a lack of wisdom that makes a man/woman go against the manufacturer’s instruction and again, history has shown us over and over again that it is not in man to direct his path.

Life comes with challenges of different shapes and sizes. As our faces are and our fingerprints are unique, so are our challenges. At times, language does a poor job at expressing our innermost thoughts, struggles and hurt, but we can come to our creator and groan before Him through Jesus Christ. We can sit at His feet in silence yet every word in our hearts is heard.

I pray that you receive grace to learn from history and lay ALL your burdens at His feet.

Shalom!

Hope, Love

“They Must Make Me Happy”… Or Not.

Could we love our loved ones enough to relieve them of the impossible task of always keeping us happy?

Only two persons have the collective ability to ensure our consistent happiness in life and those two person are God and you.

No one else. Not your spouse, parent, child, friend, boss, no one else. Just you and God working together.

Why are our loved ones, even with all their good intentions unable to ensure our sustained happiness?

Because they are humans

  • Humans are characteristically limited in their access to resources. (We don’t have everything we want!) 
  • Humans have limited skills. (We just cannot do everything we wish we could.)
  • Humans have limited ability to focus. (We cannot pay equal attention to EVERYthing we need to, at the same time hence the need to delegate.)
  • Humans have limited access to location. (We just cannot be everywhere we wish we could, at the same time.)
  • Sometimes, humans may have limited interest in meeting a person’s happiness-need. 😒

See? Limited. [I am making a case for your loved ones here. 😁] It is my hope that this understanding will make us less entitled and more thankful whenever our relatives or friends do their best to show us love/kindness.

Why is God capable of ensuring our continuous happiness?

  • God has unlimited access to resources. Why, he created the whole world! The cattle on a thousand hills, the gold in a thousand mines belong to him. Think about it.
  • God is limitlessly skillful and completely capable. Think about the science and art He employed in designing the human body, the yearly seasons, the solar system, the earth, sky and seas. Think about the balance in them all. God can make the seemingly impossible possible.
  • God can be everywhere at the same time. He is omnipresent.
  • God absolutely has your interest at heart. For more on this, check out my previous post.

Is it possible for someone to remain unhappy even though God is actively working to make them happy?

Yes, it is!

This is because God does not impose his will on people.

We have to intentionally open our eyes to the beauty around us and the million little miracles we experience regularly. We have to close our minds to the schemes of the devil to magnify the ugly and to make us think that a corner on our path is the destination. We may also need to let go of the offences from our loved ones and acquaintances.

We have to choose to be happy.

It is like Cody’s father in one of Cocomelon’s episodes sang to him, “You can make your own happiness.”

You can make your own happiness.

We all need to intentionally partner with God to ensure that we are constantly in a state of bliss.

Moreover, this is a command to us Christians. We are charged to walk in the Spirit, and one of the fruit of the Spirit is Joy. Galatians 5: 16-26

It is interesting that the Bible calls it “Joy” and not merely happiness. Joy is deeper than happiness.

Happiness is reactive, it tends to depend on our circumstances and experiences.

Joy is inherent, we can be joyful no matter where we are. Joy is sourced and sustained by the power of God’s spirit working in us. He comforts us when trouble comes. He opens our eyes to the miracles. He steers the people in our lives to take actions that would brighten our day. He gives us hope when things are not quite where we want it. He makes us happy!

The two persons who can ensure our continuous happiness – our joy – are God and we ourselves.

Periodt!

On the flip side of that coin. ☺️

Most of us have, at one time or another, met people who are simply impossible to please; people who you may go out of your way to do all you can to make them happy, but all to no avail.

Here is my word of encouragement, if you ever face such situation:

It is not you. 

“It is not you, it is them.”

See, people are at different stages in their lives. Some are dealing with depression, some are intrinsically negative, some are facing a hard time. They need to heal. They need to get the help they need from God and maybe professionals. And may take some time for the healing and deliverance to be completed. Please remember these and be kind to yourself.

Do we have any responsibility to those in our lives?

Yes, we have a role to play in the lives of our relations, friends, community and even strangers – everyone we are privileged to have in our lives. 1 John 3:18

  • The Bible exhorts us to gently lift those who are down, while paying attention not to get dragged down ourselves in the process. Galatians 6:1
  • We are enjoined to carry others’ burden, to lend a helping hand. Gal 6:2
  • We are encouraged to continually do good to others. But it also says we will reap the result at the proper time. Galatians 6:9 

While we play our part of doing good, there are two things we must do in order to preserve ourselves.

1. Keep in mind that you are human and God is… God: As explained earlier, we as humans are limited. Only God is sovereign. We should do our best to help others, and remember to leave the rest to God. This in itself is an act of faith.

Do your best and leave the rest.

2. Get rid of feelings of guilt: If you are doing all you can, please do not accommodate feelings of guilt if the person is not yet where you want them to be. From personal experience, I can tell how tempting it is to wonder. “Oh, is this my fault in any little way?” I have also learnt to squash that thought. 🧡

Do all the good you can, recommend any help they require and leave them in God’s capable hands in the hope that they will cooperate with Him to secure their joy.

Cheers to joyful living! 🥂

Hope

A Personalized and Intended Path

A message of hope for anyone who needs this reminder. I know I always do!

Your journey was custom-designed by God.

He has a purpose for the path He chose you to walk in.

The entire terrain – the twists and the turns,

The tears and the triumphs,

The dashed hopes and the unexpected miracles.

It is very unconventional

But it is not without cause.

The purpose is to ensure your safe arrival to the destination He has prepared for you –

A lush field surrounded by still waters and overflowing with honey.

Rest your soul, dear one;

The Lord has just the plan to bring You to the expected end.

Bible verses about divinely customized life-paths.

“O LORD, I know that the path of life of a man is not in himself; It is not within the limited ability of man even one at his best to choose and direct his steps in life.” Jeremiah 10:23 AMP

“My times are in Your hands…” Psalms 31:15a

“The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalms 32:8

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

PS. I had written up an article about the just concluded Father’s Day but last minute, I decided to share this thought with you all instead. I hope that you will be encouraged by this thought – that your unique experiences are doing the priceless task of bringing you to your place of great glory. Sounds like cliché, but there really is a reason for the season. 😉 🤗

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Bible Studies, Hope

Balancing Faith and Mental Health (Excerpts)

This post contains my notes from the talk on "Balancing Faith and Mental Health" which was delivered by Pastor Yinka Dada, MD during the just concluded Light Up Canada Conference. To watch the entire event, including other talks delivered by other seasoned ministers, please visit the RCCGCANADA YouTube Channel. I love me some exposition on mental health! If you're like me in this way, please keep scrolling! 🙂 My extras are in italics. 😉

“Jesus and Therapy”

Faith and mental health can coexist. People of faith can experience issues with their mental health. Some examples of people in the Bible who had issues with their mental health include Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Jonah (Jonah 4:8) and David (Psalms 42:5-6).

I feel that fellow christians should really let this sink in, because sometimes, we like to act tough, or probably live in denial. I like the growing awareness that is being invested in the area of mental health. For me, this validates the recently increasingly popular quote – Jesus and Therapy)

Silence is golden

Silence can be golden, especially when comforting people. The speaker advised that rather than providing your speculations or unsure opinions to loved ones who are hurting, maybe try keeping shut, and just being there. (Hmm, imagine if Job’s friends had heeded this advice?)

Do not use spirituality to cover up things. Seek relevant knowledge.

Humans are tripartite beings consisting of spirit, soul and body. Sadly, we christians are fond of taking care of our spirits (by cultivating our relationship with God) but we must also take care of our souls (the seat of our emotions) as well as our bodies (using exercise, good food, etc.). Life is in seasons. As you grow older, you will need to take better care of your body.

Like yourself. Be comfortable in your own skin.

Possible Causes of Mental Ill-health

  1. Chemical imbalance in the brain. Lower levels of neurotransmitters can cause symptoms (like feelings of emptiness, sadness, etc.)
  2. Anatomy or physiology.
  3. Environment (where you were nurtured).
  4. Infections.
  5. Priorities.
  6. Losses. (Take time to mourn your losses. Another usual recommendation for dealing with losses is “Write down everything you have lost, go somewhere and burn the paper. Heal.”)
  7. Conflicts (such as in the family).
  8. Un-forgiveness (this blocks one’s pipes) and Bitterness (Please let go and let God.)

How to promote one’s mental health

Self-care is not selfish.

  1. Self-care: Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is unique to each person. Invest in yourself. Exercise. Read books. Practice endurance. Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences, and learnings. Keeping journal is not old-school. It is in fact therapeutic. Be organized. Put some structures in place in your life. Do what you enjoy. Keep serving others.
  2. Self-Awareness: Have a clear perception of your personality including your strength, weaknesses, beliefs, thoughts, motivation and emotions. This helps you to understand how others perceive you. Have a healthy self-image and self-confidence. Like yourself. Psalms 139:13-14 Practice saying about yourself, “This girl/guy is beautiful/handsome. I look good, the way I have been framed.”
    • Be comfortable in your own skin.
    • Know who you are.
    • Know your habits.
    • Know the triggers of your emotions.
    • Everyone is unique and should be celebrated. Celebrate yourself.
    • Set realistic goals with tasks one at a time.
    • Do not internalize setbacks.
  3. Socialization: Have and nurture positive relationships. Do not isolate yourself. Through research, socialization helps us become healthier and happier. Luke 8:1-3
  4. Seek professional help: Seek the help of physicians, counsellor, psychologists, psychiatrist, social worker. Professional help is especially required for christians because many of us hardly ever open up.
  5. Supplication: Cultivate a deeper communion with God. Be vulnerable, avoid cover-ups. Isaiah 26:3.

Do not isolate yourself. Socialize.

I find these recommendations by Pastor Dada very relevant. Personally, I have an ever-increasing list of self-care items – unique activities that I utilize to care for my soul and body. How does a feel-good movie or a motivational book sound?! 💃🏽 I have shared a bunch of these in previous posts. (Please see below for related posts). Additionally, I like the idea of setting up structures and routines in my life, in areas where I can do so. I find that it brings a sense of order to my days/weeks; plus it is rather therapeutic. For instance, fellow parents, do you also have specific times when you begin bedtime routines; or the days when you prep meals/ do laundry; or specific meals you eat on some days in the week? 🙂 The other big thing for me is sometimes being vulnerable to God and a trusted few. But remember, you gotta trust the “few” because humans… humans can sometimes wag their tongues or turn mean. Wisdom is the rule of thumb.

I pray, dear reader, that God will keep your mind in perfect peace. I pray that every raging storm in your life ceases. I pray that you get lifting from every weight, relief from every discomfort, victory from all oppressions, joy in every way, and double for your troubles in Jesus’ name, Amen!

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Hope

Choose: God, you and posterity. 🤍

Choose God, choose you, choose posterity.

Choose Posterity

Choose to add value that outlives you.

Choose to invest into those whom you have preceded.

Choose to spend quality time with children.

Choose You

Choose to care for yourself as you care for others.

Choose your peace over being considered right.

Choose your progress in spite of hurdles.

Choose God

Choose pleasing God over self-indulgence.

Choose honouring God over your fears.

Choose praising God over despair.

Hope

Representation Matters

Representation matters. This two-word sentence is a very loaded one. 

It is the cause that countless charitable organizations, government policies and equity-seeking groups strive for.

It is a war that has been fought the world over, across generations and somehow, is still on today.

It is a need we all feel, albeit subconsciously.

A male nurse in certain countries may be acutely aware that he is in a female dominated profession.

A woman of colour in senior management could be conscious that she is the only one at that level, and could rightly attribute her experience to the fact.

Someone may wonder whether they are the only weird folks in the room, or if anyone else enjoys their cucumber with peanut butter. Lol.

There is something about finding someone else who is like you.

I acknowledge that everyone should thrive against the tide and seek to excel even in a space where they are different. There is a place for that.

In truth, diversity is beautiful because there is something special that each mind brings to the table.

In addition to this, there is an extra fuel that comes from having someone like you also present.

Representation validates you, and what you stand for.

Imagine being a fresh Chemistry graduate who recently started working in communications. You are in a dilemma – Chemistry “gets you” but Comms come easy to you “like breathing”. Then, during your first month at the job, you learn that one of the top officials was actually a Physics graduate at first! Do you know what that simple knowledge would do to your mind? It emboldens you and opens your eyes to countless possibilities.

Representation empowers you. 

This is the case of iron sharpening iron. Imagine that during an informal conversation with someone from work one day, you affirm that you are a Christian and that faith drives your life. Do you know how much easier your choices, work ethic and general outlook will make sense to that individual? Then think how pleasantly surprising it would be to know that the fellow also shares your faith, or is curious about it! 🙂

Representation requires courage.

It takes a considerable amount of strength to own up to our beliefs and/or quirks. It is way easier to mask like the rest of the world. Shout out to all those who have contributed efforts and resources to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

Story Time

There were 5 sisters in the Bible who diverted from the norm and summoned courage to ensure that their late father’s name and legacy were not buried and forgotten. The story is in Numbers 27:1-11. The sisters’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah, and their dad’s name Zelophehad. Their father died, and because he had only daughters and no sons, there was no one to take over his property/inheritance. The ladies came to Moses their leader to respectfully argue that their father needed representation within their family clan. Moses sought God’s will on the issue, and God sided with Zelophehad’s daughters. 🙂

I pray that we will find the courage to identify as our most positively authentic selves, and in so doing validate others who may be looking up to us along the way.