Sharon’s Smile #ItChangedMyLife

By Bolanle Olosunde
Pain is the single life’s reality that I could never tolerate, accept, or imagine. From the touch of a needle, to the ache on the head, to the throb of a wound or the painful monthly visitor for most ladies. I just hate them all. And somehow, like everyone else, I expect to be protected by my ever-loving God from as much pain as possible. And so, whenever a little hurt interrupts my schedule I look at God to say “Why me? And it felt okay, until I met Sharon.
Sharon was on a planning committee with me for a youth camp in Ilorin. She was in Abuja, I was in Lagos, and we had never met. She was not frequent in the WhatsApp meetings set up for us all to meet, but each time she attended she wanted us to pray, and she was always thankful. It was cool and refreshing, but I must confess that I didn’t really look forward to meeting her. She was pleasant, but there was nothing remarkable about her comments, and I didn’t know anything about her, so there was no love lost, nor expectations. Therefore, days to the camp, when the President of the committee kept saying that she was sick and needed our prayers, I would usually just say ‘it is well’, because as much as I hate pain, I take it for granted to pray about malaria, stomach upsets, or wounds to heal up, and I thought that was it for her too. She will get over it.
Fast forward to the second day of the camp, when I was told she had just flown into Ilorin from Abuja with her mum, and they needed airport pick up. Now, that got my attention. I mean, who comes to a youth camp with their mum on a VIP RIDE? I didn’t need to wait for long, I got my answer within an hour. My dearest Sharon has been travelling across countries, bonding with her mum, writing daily in her diary, building a closer relationship with her God, and visiting the best professionals in medicine because she was fighting cancer.
It shook me to the core, to see her try to stand, walk, and sit. It tore my heart to see how she picked her words, and tried so hard to do everything that came naturally to me. However, it was when she spoke to us all that the tears began to flow down my cheeks. I was lost in the stories of how she had continuously endured pain, but it shocked me more to hear the hope in her voice. She was so determined to win the fight against pain. She spoke about the future with so much confidence, and I melted, but what took me to my knees that night in my room was the way she worshipped God, the manner to which she expressed her undying gratitude and love for the lover of her soul who has preserved her.
That night, my life changed. And I realised very genuinely that my life does not belong to me. The only reason why I can dream, hope, and exist is because God gave me the permission.
We are not entitled to anything; not wealth, not fame, not health, and not even the joy of faith. We have this things because God chose to have mercy on us, and we must never take it for granted. Today, I am full of gratitude because God’s love is a gift, and Sharon, though not here in this world anymore, lives on in my heart, because the light that shined in her heart was bright enough to show me this truth.


P.S.
This marks the end of #ItChangedMyLife as a series but I hope what you read during this month will continue to change your life.
I want to say a huge thanks to every writer, reader and people who took time to drop comments. God bless you guys.
Don’t stay faraway, something else is dropping soon on http://www.lordjoshwrites.com.

I Served #ItChangedMyLife

By Kolo-Manma Joana

The year was 2015 and it was a significant year, not only because I became an adult but I was also called to serve – serve Him. I really must confess that if I had a choice,  I would have talked God out of it. Okay, I actually did try to negotiate with Him, but He just would have me serve and nothing else and since I had already pledged an allegiance to always allow His will have the upper hand, I had to give in. That’s how I started to serve as the General Secretary of my fellowship in school.
I need not bore you with the duties of a General Secretary but added to the numerous task of the office of a General Secretary is the task of heading a team that will produce a magazine. (Somebody say magazine! and make sure you put a little respect on it *lol*). At this juncture, I’ll like to say a big kudos to all magazine producers and editors out there, even if it’s a bulletin you get to produce, I give it to you!
First week in office and I’m basking in the euphoria of being the new General Secretary:  The ‘JJC mood.’ I lost count of the number of times I looked through the files handed over to me (mehn, I was so excited!). I promised God I’ll put in my only best to the work. I’ll make sure all letters are well punctuated, if not they will not be printed (I felt I was bad like that), I’ll make sure I write the minutes of all meetings (lol… that’s if I attended all the meetings), I’ll produce a magazine that will make Forbes grow green with envy. You know those promises we make.
I had big plans for the magazine: a rough sketch of its content, how we’ll raise a large sum that will leave something for the next team of editors (taaah…I pray o), the interviewee, you just name it. All was somewhere in my mind and also penned down. (You know they say something about the pen being mightier than the brain.*lol*)
Well, you remember that shoe your Aunty in the Philippines sent to you, which you adored so much but began to pale in significance after sometime, the same started happening to me in the sight of reality.
Although there still was that glimpse of hope that things will go smoothly but the enthusiasm was being whet down by circumstances. Sometimes, a letter which didn’t have a comma at the right place will just pass and I’ll have to console myself by saying that it is not a defect of substance but of technicality. *God help me*
Time to constitute the committee for the magazine came so fast.  I did same and was just as ready to share with them the ‘O’JoHannah’s dream’ for the magazine. Great team I had that worked with me to produce the magazine.
All of a sudden, I noticed that the path I imagined myself work in: paths devoid of stress, pain, disappointments,  tears etc. were all in Wonderland and I sadly wasn’t Alice, nothing near the realities that obtained on the real path.
Need I add that as General Secretary, I had to stand before the fellowship to give the announcement? (Lord, I thought this was just about letter writing!)
Okay, so back to the magazine. I encountered a lot of unplanned and unforeseen circumstances and began to doubt if God was really involved in this, Baby Christian attitude) because somewhere in the corner of my mind I had pictured a smooth ride or a journey where God shows up at every hard turn.
I remember that on two occasions I secretly prayed that the dates on the calendar be on a standstill so that the set date for launching the magazine will be farther away. One particular event stood out and that was with my laptop and phone.  It all got carted away a month to the launching and if you care to know, all the materials for the magazine were in soft copy format. That’s another way to say I lost everything; the laptop and phone went at a very critical stage of the production: editing, proof reading and all.
The second occasion was with one of the companies that was to advertise in the magazine.  We kept going back and forth on the price.  (By the way, I learnt negotiation skills)
As I write, it’s June 2016 and the magazine has been launched. I have also passed the baton of service to another but amidst all, I can look back and say that I have learnt some lessons:

1. Though we always have a plan; how we want things to go such as hoping to have graduated by 23, National Youth service completed at 24, but then ASUU comes with her strike *Gosh* but beyond human factors like ASUU, I have learnt that there is the God factor who always has A WILL and most often it prevails.  Need I say that sometimes our ways do not align with His will.

2. I learnt to depend on God more than ever before. God made me see Him as the only sure, dependable, ‘always got your back’ person and even when things are not smooth, God is at work and I don’t always have to see it.

3. People are not perfect. I learnt to leave room for offences and disappointment. If the person is not able to make up one, create one for him in your mind *winks*. Never expect too much, just hope for the best.
4. That I was a perfectionist and people cannot and will not always see things the way I do. They may not catch the vision. So I learnt to give some allowance (not the ones in clothing though)*lol*.
5. That as a good lawyer, (which I aim to be) I should know how to draft letters and so that was a session-in-training.
6. That there are people out there who have worked on same or something similar to what we are exploring.  Most times, they are willing to share their experiences. I have learnt to stand on the shoulders of Giants. (S/O to Adebayo Okeowo of In His Steps magazine.)
7. I saw another side to myself. It’s amazing how we think we know ourselves only to see an abated side of us spring into life.

I will never have been prepared for the roses of lessons that I picked from the thorns of this experience. Ask me tomorrow if I will have answered that particular call to serve again? I’ll say yes, because it changed my life.

PS. I’m posting this on my old blog because my website (www.lordjoshwrites.com) is down at the moment. The site will be back on July 1st and you can read all the previous episodes of this series. Thanks for your understanding.

I Did Nothing #ItChangedMyLife

By Ojo Ogbodo

May 13th 2014:
I heard a knock on my door past midnight, it was Seyi and she needed to borrow my phone. She had a dream and needed to talk to her dad but didn’t have airtime, and since everyone knew that I always had airtime, she came to borrow mine. She couldn’t reach him, and I assured her it was just a dream and she was being paranoid even though i didn’t bother to ask what the dream was about. Maybe I should have.
Two days later, Seyi came to my room, she was unusually quiet but I didn’t worry much, I was used to seeing her have mood swings anyways. We talked a little about the weather and about school; she only stayed for a few minutes and then left. “I am going home” she said, and I let her go. Later that evening, I got a text from her saying ‘I lost my dad, he had a stroke yesterday, but he died in the hospital today’. I felt terrible; maybe I should have cared more.
I couldn’t attend the burial; I had professional exams to write. I heard it went fine, but things changed after that. She lost a lot; her dad died, she failed at school that semester, most of her dad’s property was collected by relatives, her mom lost it, what was left of the family was in pieces. I’d often see her post things online about him, and I’ll reply “God is in control”. But I guess what she needed was not to feel alone.
I watched it all unfold; the gradual change. Like when she decided she was going to pay someone to take her final exams for her, when she cut her hair and all I could say was “this is an awesome look”, when she travelled every weekend because she had “someone” to see and I covered for her, when we took shots all nights because we were trying to drown the past. I should have said something when she called me to come help her pick an apartment to rent, because her mom was a pain in the ass, or the nights she kept me up telling me how the world was filled with hypocrisy especially the church, I should have told her then that God was bigger than the so called Christians that warm the pews every Sunday instead of just saying “you have a point…”
Seyi grew to love her pills, she loved how they rattled in her bag, I knew when she started pills, it was Jamal; the guy she was seeing at that time, that introduced her to it and even after they broke up she never stopped. When she started smoking marijuana I knew then she got her supplies from Imran; her friend from way back, when I realised that Seyi didn’t mean soda when she said “coke”. I realised then it was late, she wasn’t Seyi anymore. Then I tried to say something but her words broke my heart “relax Sara, we only live to die anyways, besides it’s too late to turn back now”.
Seyi got sick from a drug overdose, I went to see her in the hospital before her family sent her to rehab in South Africa. Her mother asked me, “you were so close to her why didn’t you say something to us?”.
Sometimes, Seyi would say, “I am not like you Sara” and often I’d reply “we are all different in our own ways”. I should have done more than offer smart quotes. I watched Seyi’s life change and I said nothing, until it was too late.
Now I have learnt to always speak up, to listen more to people and hear the words they don’t say. It has taught me that being a good friend isn’t about being present and being supportive, I have learnt to care. I now understand that people cry out for help in their action but many times we are too carried away to notice. I was selfish, Seyi trusted me and I was not a good friend to her. I didn’t say anything when it was right and #itchangedmylife

PS. I’m posting this on my old blog because my website (www.lordjoshwrites.com) is down at the moment. The site will be back on July 1st and you can read all the previous episodes of this series. Thanks for your understanding.

Road Rage #ItChangedMyLife

By Adebayo Okeowo

It was some minutes past 8pm and I was driving along Tanke road in Ilorin, Nigeria. Sitting right next to me was my younger brother. All of a sudden, our brotherly conversation was rudely and abruptly interrupted when a reckless driver pulled a dangerous stunt while overtaking from my blind side.

I watched as he zoomed off without a hand wave of apology! I was miffed! So I switched moods and changed gears with a resolve to chase after this incredulously rude driver and teach him a lesson or at least force him to apologize. “Who even approved his driver’s license?” was one of the several questions pouring through my mind as I raced after him.

I soon caught up and was now driving parallel to ‘Mr Annoying’. From my car to his, I kept shooting him angry glances and throwing up my fists demanding an apology. To my shock, he brazenly attempted to edge me off the two-lane road by swerving my way. I could not believe his audacity and was definitely more resolute to make him feel sorry. My brother who was right next to me asked me to let it go. But it was already too late for such sensible statements. So I stepped hard on my accelerator and charged after the driver.

As we raced on, we overtook cars, made sharp turns, honked loudly and swerved dangerously. It seemed like a scene out of a Hollywood blockbuster. Except that no cops were chasing us. We were the ones chasing each other. Or more appropriately put, I was doing the chasing.

I continued chasing; making every turn he made, waiting for that moment when he will finally pull over and offer an apology. I tailed him until he drove into a compound and parked. Driving through the gate as well, I parked behind him and we both got out of our cars.

It was time for a showdown!

Before I could utter two words, the young looking driver called out instructions to the security guard to lock the gates! My eyes wanted to pop out! Did he think he could hold us hostage? While I was still in thought, his next words showed his real intent;

‘These guys must be thieves. They have been tailing me for the last five minutes”

Alarm bells and red flags started flying all over the place. This matter had escalated so quickly and I could not believe it. Immediately, my legal knowledge kicked into overdrive as I threatened him by citing the consequences of his actions.  But he would have none of it; he was already planning to make phone calls to the cops.

At that point, it became obvious that no matter the amount of English speeches we gave or sections of the law I cited, the odds seemed stacked against us. The question anyone would have asked us would have been: If indeed you were not tailing him, how did your car end up in his compound?

I was angry for allowing my anger get me into such a fix. I placed a call to my Dad and told him of the situation. Several minutes passed, more threats flew back and forth and eventually when Dad arrived, his intervention ended our ‘hostage’ situation. Needless to say that upon arriving at home that night, Dad held a proper session with me.

So today when I easily forgive annoyances by fellow road users, it’s because I have learnt that anger is poisonous. It can eat you up so fast and leave you regretting your actions and words after the phase of your vexation has passed. There is no doubt there are people who still try to ruin your day and your mood with their nasty driving (especially those yellow bus drivers in Lagos, the Matatu drivers in Nairobi and the Taxi drivers of Pretoria). For all of them, I have a singular response:

I hand you over to God!

PS. I’m posting this on my old blog because my website (www.lordjoshwrites.com) is down at the moment. The site will be back on July 1st and you can read all the previous episodes of this series. Thanks for your understanding.

#30DaysOfNovember As We Saw It

You never know sometimes what you can or cannot do until you try it. That’s the story of the #30DaysOfNovember series. So I don’t ramble and make this too long, I’ll go straight to the lessons I learnt from this series.

  1. Listen to people, you cannot always do it on your own.

I love to write and I was so excited about writing 30 episodes all by myself. Looking back now, I know I would have enjoyed it but it could not have been this successful. It was while discussing with PhemieMichael, my MVP graphic artist (and the dude who wrote about girls) that he gave me the awesome idea of involving other people. I don’t know how many times I’ve thanked him for that awesome idea and it’s not enough yet. Listen to people, sometimes you are not as smart as you think.

  1. Sometimes you don’t need the big Sun, you just need beautiful little stars.

I was fortunate to have some established and known writers write on this series but they weren’t the ones who made the series great. They were simply threads in the wonderful tapestry that was the November series. The best movies are not necessarily the ones that star the stars. All you need is a collection of awesome friends and you can do anything.

 

  1. You can do way more than you think.

Some of the writers on this series were writing for the first time. Or publishing their writing for the first time. (One even asked for anonymity. LOL.) But there was no poor write-up because as long as you’re not trying to be Chinua Achebe and you are writing what you know, you too can write. And this doesn’t just apply to writing. You can do a lot more than you think. (On my new website, there will be several opportunities to write. Please don’t shy away.)

  1. Jollof-rice is not as popular as you think and not everybody wants a BellaNaija wedding.

Everybody has an opinion and even when it is not the conventional one, it is good that you stand by your convictions. Maybe you don’t even know what your convictions are, then you might need to run a series for yourself. “My conviction as I see it.” If you don’t know what you believe, you will just run with the crowd, usually into a ditch.

Finally.

  1. Everything changes.

Change is constant, the important thing is realizing the time to make the changes. I have blogged on lordjosh.wordpress.com since June 2013 and it’s been an awesome experience but 2015 appears to be the year of Change (Sai Baba…or not). As from tomorrow I’ll cease to blog here and move to my website www.lordjoshwrites.com. I’m making a commitment to put a great article up at least once every day. (See why I need a lot of writers?) It will be a lot of work but real change only comes when you put in the effort to effect the change. (I’m starting to sound like Obama J )

 

Thanks to everyone who read this series or any other story on this blog, I appreciate you and hope to see you on lordjoshwrites.com tomorrow.  I’ll like to hear from you. What series will you like to write for? What do you think we need to write about? Use the comment section and let’s make this a great bowing out for this blog.

Before I go, I want to say thank you to

Daniel Otabor, Michael Ipinyomi, Victoria Akinwande, Okiki Oladele, Tomi Adesina, Tomi Olakunle, Priscilla Adeboye, Mayowa Gidado, Oreoluwa Abidoye, Jemima Ojapa, Doyin Kugbiyi, Adekunle Adedoyin, Oluwatodimu Jolayemi, Timileyin Ologunde, Patience Lawal, Dolapo Adeniregun, Modupe Fadipe, Sogo Owolabi, Queen Oset, Bukola Omotoso, Bolanle Olosunde, Ife Adeoti-Adeagbo, Emeka Nobis, Femi Iranloye, Damilola Iranloye, Inyene Akpan and Seun Salami.

I sincerely apologise to those who sent me articles that ended up not being featured. I promise they are not slighted or wasted. They will be published.

Thanks for reading #30DaysOfNovember and lordjosh.wordpress.com

Let’s meet again on www.lordjoshwrites.com, go on and subscribe now so you don’t miss anything.

P.S. I’ll be writing twelve Christmas love stories this December. You don’t want to miss it. SUBSCRIBE. Cheers.

 

 

FICTION AS I SEE IT

By Seun Salami

The way I see it, fiction writing is one of the most powerful tools available to man. Yet we are barely scratching the surface. I’ll explain.

Fiction engages our emotions and therefore makes us easy to shape.

What this means is that compelling fiction has the same effect on the human mind that a true event does. A well written fictional account of a woman losing her baby will most likely generate the same reaction – compassion, and even tears – as a true account of such an ordeal would.

This makes the morality or otherwise of fiction equally critical because it has been proven time and time again that the human mind does not have the ability to distinguish between fiction and reality.

Fiction helps us understand other people. It promotes a deep probity that cuts across religious and political creeds. Through the eyes of fiction, we can see what others are about, where they’ve been and intend to be and what they are capable of. We see the world through the eyes of fiction because much of what we call fiction is simply knowledge rubbing shoulders with imagination. It is the coming together of our life’s experiences, lessons, and fantasies, blended together by creativity.

More to that is the fact that studies have also shown that we drop our intellectual guards when we read fiction but when we read non-fiction (self-help) books, our shields go up and we are ready to argue true or false, right or wrong. The human mind absorbs fiction faster than other art forms.

With fiction, we are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape. It is a powerful tool.

What this means for writers, is that we can decide what message we want to shape the minds of our readers with. We can decide what issues we want them to focus on, and take seriously. We can take on issues and bring them to the fore with our writing. We can set the agenda.

But to do this effectively, we must first be in love with fiction, and reading is the best way to do this. Read the kind of fiction you want to write and see yourself improve piece after piece. There are many things no one will teach you about fiction writing and many more things no one will give you permission to do with your writing, but reading wide does that for you. It releases you. It broadens your horizon and puts you in a good place to make your own contribution to the world of literature.          

That said, find someone you respect who can critique your work before the whole world begins to. Someone who is not afraid to tell you that your work sucks, if it does, and you need to go back to the writing board.

If you can, please write something every day. If not, write as much as you can and as consistently as you can. You only get better at writing by writing.

Finally, don’t let anything – or anyone – come between you and your writing. I once read somewhere that for true writers, nothing comes between them and their art, not even love. And there is some truth in that, because this – fiction writing – for them, is love.

 

‘Seun Salami is a writer and editor. He serves as Head of Publishing at Bookvine Publishers in Lagos and is the author of two short story collections and a novella. He is working on his first novel. He currently divides his time between Lagos and Vancouver. He is on Twitter/Instagram: @SeunWrites

 

JUNE’S DREAM AS I SEE IT #30DaysOfNovember

By Inyene Akpan

I was on a train going back home from a weekend away with friends. It was a long ride and I was tired already but something kept me going. Or should I say someone kept me going. He was the only reason I knew I could last the remaining two hours of the ride. He was as cute as they came. Like me, he was sitting alone. I should probably have gone to talk to him. Who am I kidding? I sighed and returned to my book.

“Mind a cup of tea?”

I looked up and saw him standing beside me. What should I say? I couldn’t form the words.

“Want the tea?” He asked again.

“I’m June.” I said and collected the cup.

He sat opposite me and for a few awkward seconds I stared at my book and took steady sips on the piping hot cup of diabetes.

“I have that book too.” He said.

I looked up. “Really? You’re a network engineer?”

Yeah, I was reading a school book, the journey was that boring.

“Well yeah, I am.” He replied.

“Nice.” I said and returned to my book.

“So, what’s your opinion on the recent improvement in the tech market?” He asked.

Woohoo! We were in my territory now.

“I would say it is a well-timed…” I started to pour from my cup that runneth over.

***

We talked on and on until we arrived at the train station.

“Do you mind if we had lunch sometime? It would really be nice to have some of these intriguing discussions over a good meal.” He said.

I was putting together the right words to express my almost embarrassing joy at the request when he added.

“I could invite my wife if you don’t mind. You could bring a date too, we’ll have a double date sort of thing.”

I thought the earth stood still for a while. I could feel the torrential downpour that was about to disgrace and ruin my one hour of an oshewa inspired makeup. I am one of those people who express all negative feelings with buckets of water cascading down my face.

Something stranger then happened. I felt tap on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and looked at the ‘tapper’. It was him. I looked in front of me, he wasn’t there.

“Sorry, are you sleeping because you’re tired or you’re just as bored as I am?”

Sleeping? I sat up. I had been sleeping? It was a dream?

“Want a cup of tea?” He asked.

No way. Cup of tea, hours of talk, followed by a revelation that he was married? Not again. Boredom was better than disappointment.

“I’m fine, thanks.” I said.

“Are you sure?” He asked again. Beaming his all too familiar smile. Darn, my dream was accurate.

I tried to look at his ring finger but it was hidden behind the cup. Should I take the risk?

Why was I fussing so much? It was just a dream.

“I’m June.” I said and collected the cup.