NEW BEGINNINGS – PART 2

(Author’s note 1: As some of my Kenyan readers might already know, the government is seeking to regulate bloggers. That will definitely have an effect on this blog. I am therefore considering taking somewhat drastic measures in that regard but, a long post first…)

Recently, my thoughts travelled all the way to my childhood and especially as it relates the twenty third Psalm. In that Psalm, David says that because the Lord is His shepherd, He has everything He needs. That he receives the comfort of the Lord in the valley of the shadow of death. As I mentioned in previous blogposts, I grew up in Kajiado County. I grew up on a family farm. For the avoidance of doubt, it was a small scale farm – not a ranch, not a hacienda like they show in telenovelas, just a simple farm where the machines were yours truly and my relatives. In addition to crops we lived in close proximity and harmony with cows, sheep, chicken, dogs, cats and pigs. Holidays, weekends and sometimes school week evenings were spent meeting the needs of the crops and especially the animals. (Many of my ‘friends’ who were born in the eighties have spent the last ten years laughing at me for me being too young and consequently not watching Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo and whatever other old people cartoons there were. Yet, I did not watch cartoons because I was being a good Christian and looking after God’s creation. Hehehe.)

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, on the day I had the near death experience, I ended up in H.D.U. At the point of admission, the effects of disease P and disease HF were very strong. Consequently, I had little to no ability to move my limbs. As a result, I wet my pants and could not attend to my ‘that time of the month.’ Those things sound important now but at that time they were not. It was a race against time to keep me alive. That level of hygiene would not have mattered if I had lost my life. The H.D.U nurses removed my green vest and black shorts and robed me in the hospital gown. Swiftly, they put electrodes on my chest and connected me to the heart monitor, drip and pulse oximeter.

I had just received my first dose of medication but I was still feeling like I was going to die. The oxygen levels in my blood were very low. My body wanted to writhe but there was not enough energy in my muscles to do so. I remember whimpering and asking the nurse to help me. He told me we were waiting for the oxygen which would make me feel better. When he put the nasal cannula and connected me to the oxygen, I felt a bit better. The desire to writhe subsided substantially. I slept for some hours and was woken up for breakfast before the doctors did their rounds.

The doctors barraged me with questions for which I have no recollection as I tried to wrap my mind around what had happened. Yet, in the midst of the activity I was grateful to be breathing without excruciating pain. I was also able to use the toilet and take a bath albeit with supervision from the nurses. Taking that bath turned out to be a wise but not so wise decision. While I felt fresh, it took a toll on my strength which was eventually depleted by visitors asking me all manner of questions about what had happened; questions whose answers I did not have. I began to deteriorate. I could not even get out of the bed and onto a wheelchair. Thankfully, the doctor asked the visitors to leave. As the risk associated with my condition increased, the head nurse decided that I was better off at a place where someone was seeing me every minute as opposed to every ten or fifteen minutes. I was therefore moved to a more specialized section of the H.D.U.

One of my most vivid memories from 1998 is the El Nino rains. I remember holding my grandfather’s hand as we looked at all our crops, damaged by the raging waters. We had done everything to prevent that but the waters were too much. However, we managed to keep the animals safe in their various shelters; got them the necessary vaccines e.tc. Before El Nino, there had been Lanina in 1997 or thereabout. Even then we had gone to great lengths (including getting bowsers on a weekly basis to supply them with water and buying grass for the cows and sheep (despite their milk yields being lower)). No matter the season, the animals had everything they needed.

The nurses in the H.D.U were nothing but spectacular. The dedication and joy in doing their work made an otherwise dreary environment lighter. Being the only conscious patient was a scary thing but the nurses were of great encouragement. They also made sure that I was okay at all times. They helped me with my toilet breaks which were a process – I had to remove the nasal cannula, the electrodes (one by one), the pulse oximeter and the drip. They would then help me get on the wheelchair, take me to the toilet (and watch while I did my business because I could collapse at any moment when I was not on oxygen), take me back to the bed and reconnect all those things.

It therefore follows that it is my testimony that the Lord was indeed my shepherd during that period of time. He led me to a place where I was cared for (I do not have time and space to explain how the earlier events of that day played out to ensure that I was on Ngong Road rather than at home). Further, He ensured that my needs were met. It perhaps seems obvious that since I was in a hospital that my medical needs would be met. Yet, that is not always the case. Many have died in hospitals because disease P was not properly diagnosed. This is more likely to happen to women because of what some researchers have called a gender gap in pain. Further, in this part of the world it is not obvious that if you are in hospital you automatically have access to the necessary expertise, equipment and medicine. And so I say that because the Lord is my shepherd I had everything I needed at that point in time.

Yet, it was while in that environment that I prayed for the first time in my hospital stay. I did not pray so much for myself as for the other people in the H.D.U. As I was the only conscious patient, I saw the anguish in their families when they came to visit and all they could do was look at a person who could not partake in the conversations they would have wanted them to be a part of. The doctors’ assurances that there was improvement did little to alleviate their pain and anxiety. There was also perhaps anger at the other conscious patient who later joined the H.D.U. He had sustained a drunkenness related injury. He was still drunk when he came to the H.D.U. As a consequence, he was making a lot of noise and saying some vulgar stuff. An oddity in the H.D.U, he even had strength to throw kicks at the nurses who were trying to attend to him.

As an adult I like the harvest season that falls around August because groceries are usually cheaper. As a child, I did not like it as much. It meant blistered hands from removing maize seeds from hundreds of cobs; it meant dirty nails from sorting potatoes and for my sometimes clumsy self it meant hitting myself with the rod that was supposed to be hitting the beans that were under a big canvas to remove them from the pods. Predictably it also meant eating more githeri (with no spices whatsoever) than meat, a thing that I sometimes circumvented. Sometimes circumstances would conspire and I would be left home alone on Saturdays (the day when githeri was permanently on the menu).  At such times I would get potatoes from the granary and make fries. I would eat hurriedly and destroy all the evidence (by pouring the used cooking oil in the mini forest on our farm). When asked why the githeri portions looked untouched I would either lie that I ate just a bit or say that I was not hungry all day.

My family likely believed my version of the story and concluded that I am a poor eater (or as they like to say, napenda kucheza na chakula (I like playing with food.) I will explain shortly just how far that is from the truth. But first, let me take you back to the H.D.U. After several tests were done, the doctor recommended that I be given more oxygen than I was receiving at the time. That helped me tremendously. I felt stronger and slept better. Eventually, the doctor decided that I could get off the oxygen and the heart monitor. That I did not collapse immediately after was testament to the fact that I was getting better. However, I was still having some difficulty breathing – especially when I moved from the H.D.U to the normal ward.

In the normal ward I think the ratio is one nurse to five patients. They give you your medicine at the set times and check your vitals every few hours. If you need anything in between you ring the bell and they come. On my first day at the ward, the nurse had to take another of her assigned patients for a long procedure. I therefore did not see her for most of the day. By the time she came it was already past the time for me to get my medicine. I tried to explain to her how I was feeling (I did not know at the time that it was still the low oxygen levels in my blood) but she was too overwhelmed with work. She just gave me my medicine and rushed to attend to her other patients. The night nurse was less overwhelmed. He reassured me and gave me an extra blanket. Yet I was still afraid of sleeping with no continuous supervision. That was the night God told me that I would not die because of XYZ.

As a child I preferred going to graze the animals rather than doing any housework or tending to the crops. It just required getting them to the grazing area and then having lots of time to play in/by the river, do cartwheels and eat lots of wild fruits. The only difficult part was getting them to walk on the right path. The path to the grazing area was on a quarry. Therefore, if you did not guide the animals properly, they could fall and get injured (and I would have received the kind of beating that only African grandparents can give accompanied by reminders of my transgressions for all my days). We therefore carefully guided the animals using sticks and chants that only they understood. Lol.

Yet, as I lay on that bed the Lord was leading me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. God did not just create me and take His leave. He guides me every day. I am more cognizant of His guidance on some days than on other days. On that night, it was the former. He was making it known to me that my path was not going to end that night or in the next couple of days. One of the places my path was leading to was to XYZ. I had not been to XYZ yet and therefore it was not time for me to die. XYZ was a thing that was only between God and I. It had an accompanying image and moment to it. That night when God told me I would not die because of XYZ, He showed me that image and that moment.

Whilst that assurance from the Lord stabilized me mentally and emotionally, I was socially exasperated. Visiting hours became bitter sweet. It was good to have people visiting me. I felt less lonely. Nevertheless, some visitors left me exasperated. They were insisting that that was not the time for me to be a poor eater. I neither had the strength to explain that I have never been a poor eater nor to explain what was happening to my digestive system. In addition to my githeri-fries escapades, I don’t eat much at some relatives’ homes (they employ styles of cooking that are fantastic for them but which elicit feelings of apathy on my part. It is not them. It is me. Lol!). Further, I have almost always been underweight – something I can explain. Before the age of 13, I walked 4 kilometres every day (to get to and from where the school bus dropped and picked me) while carrying a heavy school bag and playing football with the boys at school. Additionally, i was an ardent climber of trees, football and basketball poles and a jumper of fourteen stair steps at a time. From the age of 14, I went to a government boarding high school which simply means I was hungry and under-nourished at any given moment for the four years I spent in Limuru. In campus, I started making my own meals in addition to having sausages rolled in chapatti. Consequently, days of thinness were behind me; until 2015 when I lost lots of weight to a mysterious illness.

But even then, I still took eating very seriously. I still do. There are three restaurants in this city which have managed to hit the mark for me. They have quality food in large quantities. I think when the managers see me they balance tears of joy – they know that the food served to this customer will not go to waste. Hehehe. Now, if you meet me at a business meeting or a gathering of that calibre you will notice that I follow the command in Proverbs 23:1-3 very strictly. However, if you barge into my house at dinner time you will be met by a ‘Do not disturb. Woman at work.’ sign.

Therefore I was not in any way exhibiting poor eater traits at the hospital. Disease P and the medication made it almost impossible for me to eat. The medication made me absolutely nauseous. The smell of any food cooked with oil made me want to puke. Further, disease P had caused me an infection such that anything I ate or drank went out through the back exit. It got so bad that even my intestinal juices started exiting through the back when there was nothing else to be digested. Initially they thought it was just a normal exit from the back. However, when Imodium failed to work they realized it was an infection. When they started treating the infection I was able to drink water, yoghurt and porridge and eat bread and some fruits. Some visitors still thought I was under-eating but the hospital catering staff were so happy when I could eat bread. They had seen me struggle and the day I was able to finish just one slice of bread, they were elated. It took time before I could go back to my previous eating capacity. Some of the medication for disease P caused disease G. As a result I felt like balls of ugali were stuck in my throat making for a difficult swallowing experience.

Another thing that could happen to the animals if they were not guided on the right path is that they could fall to their death.

I remember Friday February 1st 2019. The Lord had already told me that I would not die because of XYZ. However, I was feeling very sick. The feeling of being very close to death that I had had on the first day was very close. The nurses did not know what to do. They had given me all my medicines and my vitals were not alarming. The last thing I remember is the nurse saying that if I did not feel better she would get the I.C.U or H.D.U doctor to examine me. I then closed my eyes and hoped that I would not die. I was not asleep but I was also not awake. I would probably say I was in a trance. There was light in the room and I saw Jesus (please do not ask me what He looked like.) He held my left hand – the one where the I.V injection was. That was a surreal moment. Generally, if anything came close to that hand I would feel a lot of pain. However, I did not feel it when He held my hand. I actually checked to confirm that I still had the I.V injection on my hand and that I was still on the hospital bed. He told me that I would heal. That moment ended and I slept till the nurse came to check my vitals again. They were okay and I felt a rejuvenation that I had not felt since being admitted in hospital.

The doctors also noticed a marked improvement and advised that I be discharged in a couple of days. That encounter with Jesus was a turnaround in my health. While I didn’t leave the hospital and register for the Spartan Race immediately and while I have had to go to the E.R a couple of times, I have never felt as sick as I did before that encounter. I had walked through a literal valley of the shadow of death but the Lord had comforted me. This song says that the Lord comforts in a way that a human being cannot. That is what that encounter was. The nurses and doctors reassuring me was great and I am so thankful for them (if you have good grades and a lousy attitude towards people please don’t take that career path). Yet, there was something that was so magnificently different about the comfort from the Lord. There are some who are reading this and thinking, ‘What a drama queen!’ Read this story about Serena Williams’s experience with disease P. She has access to the best medical care that money and a good name can buy but she still lives in fear. Therefore I was not just lying in my hospital bed mistrusting the doctors. Further, I believe God meets our needs in various ways – using people – like nurses and doctors and using science – like medicine and tank oxygen. But there are needs that we experience that exist on a level that can’t be met by people or science. That is the need that was met during that encounter.

I think my inclination to grazing animals rather than doing housework as a youngster gave the indication that I am horrible at housework especially cooking. Consequently, I was often told that my future in the institution of marriage was in absolute jeopardy. Now, if a Kikuyu person tells you that you are a bad cook, it is either of two things – firstly, you are such a horrible cook even the skills of overwatering and over-boiling food escape you or secondly you are such a splendid cook, the awesomeness of your skill flies past their palettes. As a teenager I might have very well been in the first category. However, at this moment in time I confidently rate myself in the second category. I don’t consider myself a good cook. I consider myself a kitchen technician given to conducting all kinds of awesome experiments in the kitchen. Lol!!!!

However, my ratings of myself did not stop the questions about whether I was cooking for my husband (two days after leaving hospital) from being swiftly directed my way. I found that to be odd on three levels. Firstly, I was still getting winded and dizzy by taking a walk to the washroom. Cooking was therefore out of the question. Secondly, I find that perspective even at bridal showers to be quite peculiar. There could be something that happens to women when they get married and they no longer feel hungry. (How else do you explain the ‘you should now cook for your husband’? How about you?) Whatever that thing is, it has not happened to me. I still feel hungry and I still enjoy eating. Thirdly, I love my husband. I would therefore not deny him my mad (sometimes literally) and absolutely remarkable kitchen technician skills. Hehehehe!!!

Yet, being home with him was a reminder of the important things in life. God had answered the prayer I had made on the Lancet bed. I had seen my husband again. Being home got me thinking about him even more. Everywhere he would have looked there was either a pink or a DIY thing that would have reminded him of me. I am so glad that he gets not just to see pink utensils, pink soap, pink tissue e.t.c but that he also gets to continually see me and see me alive.

Watching the animals on our farm progenerating was fascinating. Whilst the piglets, lambs, puppies and kittens had no problem suckling from the get go, the calves sometimes needed help. I also remember something else about the calves and lambs as well – in the initial days following their birth, they had difficulty standing and walking. However, over time they would become energetic and very playful.

That has been my journey recovering from disease P. The initial days at home were difficult. I got winded doing simple things like going to the washroom, taking a bath or sometimes even just having a heavy meal.

I remember being scared of being left alone, but I also remember resolving to trust God as I watched my husband finally go back to work.

I remember having to take a nap after walking 100 metres to the closest shop, but I also remember walking for 35 minutes a few months later breathing the morning air with lots of joy.

I remember the first time I went to a place that was more than 10 minutes away from my house. I remember the mixture of joy and anxiety I felt.

I remember the first time I took a matatu – for all the distance that is Aga Khan Hospital to Nakumatt Highridge. I remember how that three minute ride felt like two hours. But I also remember when recently I was stuck in traffic for four hours and my heart and breathing was okay.

I remember when I was denied help because my bag was ‘light’. I remember tears welling up in my eyes because I could not explain that I had disease P and disease HF which made anything heavier than 500g a burden too heavy to bear.

I remember being asked why I was not working. I remember those questions coming at a time when I could not wash dishes and go to the shop on the same day because I felt like collapsing. I remember those questions coming at a time when I was battling the mental fog that came with disease P.

I remember struggling to read a book because of the mental fog. But I also remember the day I finished my first book of the year – six months into the year. I remember the joy I felt when writing a research paper and realizing that I had regained my abilities to analyse and speed read.

I remember going back to the place where I had felt really sick. I remember looking at the stone I had sat on. I remember being at the place where I had collapsed. I remember feeling triumphant. I remember standing there and just soaking in the feeling of being alive.

I remember feeling pain when washing dishes (sometimes I still do) and telling myself that I am not lazy; that it is okay to do things at my pace.

I remember the days when people died from disease P and related illnesses. I remember the anxiety and fear I felt. I remember the days I set my alarm to go off every three hours because I was afraid of dying in my sleep.

I remember the other times God has reassured me in surreal ways. I remember the day the doctor looked at my results and welcomed me back to life.

But I also remember that my faith was questioned…

Twice as a matter of fact. The first person opined that God could have been punishing me for getting married – their reasoning was that if I was walking in God’s will when getting married, He could not have allowed a near death experience twenty four days after I had gotten married. The second person was of the view that I was sinning secretly and God was punishing me publicly – there was no other explanation as to why I could be have disease P and a continuing crutch situation. I felt like Job when he responds to Eliphaz in Job 6:14 saying, ‘One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.’ This was despite explaining that disease P resulted from the negligence of a medical professional who prescribed a certain drug for me. Three days after taking the drug, I informed him that I was feeling unusually dizzy and tired. He said that was nothing to worry about and that if I continued taking the drug the symptoms would go away…

Yet, there is another group of Christians who are not talked about as much – the ones who fund hospitals such as Coptic. On one of my visits there I sat admiring the artwork (the person who did the interior design there is fantastic) and thinking about the paradox of faith. On one hand are people who think all illness is a punishment from God as well as those who have never been very sick but take every opportunity to deride other Christians who seek medical help. On the other hand are people who are driven by their faith to care directly and indirectly for the sick. They either become medical professionals or fund medical institutions. If the Word holds true that Jesus came so that we may have an abundant life, which of these two groups of people are being Christlike?

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, the near death experience got me thinking a lot about life and faith. If you have been on this blog for some time you know that that was not my first near death experience. Depression has ever taken me to the brink of suicide. You can read the story here. At that time I came face to face with God’s compassion, care and kindness. I was like a child getting to know Him and see life through His lens. When I had the near death experience at the beginning of this year, I came face to face with God’s sovereignty. If God had said I would die instead live, there is nothing I could have done about it. I shudder each time I think about it.

You see, I had not just gotten married 24 days before the incident. Exactly two months prior to that date, on 29th November 2018, I had gotten admitted to the bar after a long and difficult journey part of which is chronicled on this blog and part of which would endanger lives if chronicled. One and a half months before I had received news that I had excelled in the course that I was pursuing in European City L. Additionally, the mysterious illness from 2015 had cleared, I was the best I had been since the crutch journey started and Arsenal had a new manager.

Yet, if God had said I would die I could not argue my case against Him using those things. They are good things but they are not eternal things. If my pursuit of them is not guided by God’s leading and an eternal perspective, they are all but empty when the curtain falls on my life. In the Lord’s Prayer, it says that God’s kingdom should come and His will be done on earth. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus talks about the day of judgement. On that day many will approach Him saying that they did stuff in His name but He will deny them because they never did the will of God. Doing things in the name of God and doing the will of God are on different sides of the spectrum. Sometimes doing the latter in a society that prizes the former makes for a lonely ride.

It also makes for a torrid experience if you do not have certain types of results. I explained a bit of that in my last post about why I use crutches. You can read it here. However, I also experienced it with disease P. I felt hurried along. Because faith for many seems to exist on a realm where it is instantaneous and framed in a certain way, I was told ‘You are fine now,’ rather than being asked how I was in the first place. Even when I was asked, I could in most cases not say how I was genuinely feeling. I did not want another lecture on naming and claiming my healing.

Yet, in every step of recovering from disease P, I have known the Lord who is close to the brokenhearted, to those whose spirits are weak. I have known that life ought to be lived and not just in the capitalistic sense. I have known that God renews strength. It has made sense that God described Himself as I AM to the Israelites. He is. He is not one thing to the exclusion of the other. He is!

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian,

#teamkinkyhair #teamchillimango #teamroastmaize

(Author’s note 2: Whilst, the bill seeking to regulate bloggers might not become law, its stated and unstated intents may outlive it in even more unpalatable ways. Consequently, posts on the blog are likely to be few and far in between if any. However, I will continue writing. If you will be interested in more of my writings in the future, please do let me know.)

ASSISTIVE DEVICE Q&A

The second part of my last post, New Beginnings should be ready soon. However, I feel compelled to put out this post. It will sound a bit like a Youtube Q&A or ‘answering your assumptions videos’. While it is yet another post on assistive devices, I hope it will be more informative. In the course of the 3 plus years I have used an assistive device, I have gotten a lot of useful information (especially on independent living) online. I hope this post will be useful to someone.
(CAVEAT: THIS IS PURELY A NARRATION OF MY EXPERIENCE. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE ANY ADVICE THAT CAN BE GOTTEN FROM THE RELEVANT PROFESSIONALS. FURTHER, IT IS NOT THE EXPERIENCE OF EVERY PERSON WHO USES AN ASSISTIVE DEVICE. RESPECT INDIVIDUALITY.)

In the initial days, I answered the question, ‘What happened to you?’ or as British people would ask, ‘What did you do to yourself?’ with a simple, ‘I tripped.’ I then moved to ‘It is a ligament issue,’ but quickly abandoned it when the follow up question was, ‘So uko na shida ya nyama?’ (Loosely translated as, ‘So you have problems with your flesh?’) Nowadays, the standard reply is, ‘It is a long term issue.’ If the questioner is aggressive and feels entitled to an answer, the answer is a defiant, ‘Something.’ Whilst my answer to that question has changed over time, the suggestions that I have not done enough to get out of the situation have remained. I address some of them here.
1. It is because I have not seen a doctor or I have not seen doctor so and so. Firstly, I just didn’t wake up one day, go buy crutches at KAM pharmacy and start hopping around on them. This situation has been persisting since 2014. In that duration I have seen ten doctors. Two judged me by my voice leading to two misdiagnoses. The others have been pretty good. One has been exceptionally excellent. They’ve given everything to ensure that I am the best I can be. They keep researching and exploring different perspectives to see if there is anything new in their field that could benefit me.
2. I should have more physiotherapy. In the course of five years I have had lots of physiotherapy in the hands of seven physiotherapists. Two were happy to judge me by my voice while milking my pockets dry. A third one was happy to use my voice as an excuse for his incompetence and unrivalled unprofessionalism. The fourth one thought I could not have been in as much pain as I was saying thus injuring me in the process of ‘pushing me to be better.’ The last three have been nothing but spectacular. They’ve given their all, celebrated the small gains (like having all my five toes touching the ground at the same time) and commiserated when I have plateaued.
3. Closely related to the above – unatakiwa kufanya mazoezi (you should exercise). Unbeknownst to many, (with the exception of this year after suffering from disease P), I have been more active since I started using crutches. In 2016, after the first surgery I went swimming for three to four hours every week. In 2017, I walked for at least twenty minutes three to four times a week. In 2018, I upped it. I walked for one hour every day for five days a week. Further, I did these seated workouts (do not try if you are not fit. You will suffer) in addition to swimming. In the first half of 2019, I walked for at least 30 minutes per week as I was recovering from disease P. As I got better in the second half, I moved on to these seated workouts (you can try whatever your fitness level). The issue is therefore not a lack of exercise. I perhaps get more of it than those who suggest that I need it.
4. You should go to Nuga Best. Nuga Best is a Korean Therapy whereby electricity is run through the body using a massage bed or a waistline belt. I tried it and felt very sick afterwards – a fact that i explained to the person who introduced me to it and they understood.However, i later met a Nuga Best salesperson who initially blamed it on my not using the service properly and then switched to saying that my feeling sick was because toxins were leaving my body. However, the reason was that a verifiable medical condition puts me at risk whenever electricity is passed through my body. He didn’t read the contra-indications when making his sales pitch.
5. You should drink soup to strengthen your bones. So far, I have not been diagnosed with any bone problems. My bones are okay. Lol!!! The general societal conception is that assistive devices are for: people with bone problems and old people. There is lack of awareness on other conditions where assistive devices are required. Often if the assistive device user does not have a visible cast or deformity, people think they are faking it. Yet some hidden illness in the autoimmune and neurological categories require continual use of assistive devices. Before jumping into conclusions, educate yourself.
6. It is because you have not been prayed for by so and so. One time, a Nigerian lady told me that I’m not getting well because I was going to church H which was only good for getting husbands. She advised that I visit her church where her pastor could perform a miracle on me. Of course I didn’t go. Further, because we were in a public place, I did not take a piece of my mind and hand it to her. I dislike that trajectory of thought for several reasons. Today I will address two. Firstly, it reduces everything about my personhood to my assistive device. People don’t talk to me. They assume they know what I need. Essentially it is ableism. On that day as has been peculiarly the case on two other occasions when people have sought to pray for me, I had way more debilitating pain in another part of my body. I was in need of prayer. While I am not a fan of the idea that you can only be prayed for by a specific person, I still believe in the power of prayer. So, many times I need it but I cannot voice that need because I am silenced by what kind of prayer people think I need. It grieves my heart. Secondly, there are people who have prayed and continue to pray for me. On a hilarious note though, a lot of them did not pray in the beginning because they thought, ‘Huyu ni Mumbi. Anakuwanga tu na tushida tudogo tudogo. Lol!!!’(This is Mumbi. She often has small small problems.)
7. You should have faith/You are not healed because you do not have faith. Previous rants on the blog have addressed this one. Check this blogpost for more information. But there is yet another angle to faith. James 2:14-19 talks about faith and good deeds. Using the example of a hungry brother or sister, the author argues that if you just tell them to stay warm and eat well and do nothing, your faith is dead. The faith conversation has always been one sided. It has always been about the faith that I do not have. It has never been about the faith of the people telling me being dead.
When I moved to ‘European City L’, I decided that the first church I would check out was Church H. I had also decided that if I went to church H and the first thing I was told was that I needed faith and a miracle, I would turn away. I did not turn away. In fact, it was so good I went twice on some Sundays. The ushers and other members never at any time treated me as a lesser person because of my crutches. They never asked what happened to me, why I was still on crutches after X number of months or if I had been prayed for by Q preacher. Instead, they found out how my week was and proceeded to ensure that I went down the four steps to the auditorium safely and always reserved a comfortable seat for me (every Sunday for a whole year). What made it even more special is that Church H had 8,000 people every Sunday, 2,000 in each service. I was one among thousands but they first of all saw me as a person and then met the needs I had as a person.
My heart crumbled a bit when it was time to move back home; and for justifiable reasons. I was greeted with a lot of, ‘Haiya? Mguu yako haijawahi pona?’(Exclaims! Your leg is not yet well?) I know I am stepping on many toes right now but I believe this is a due indictment. Many church people will pray for a person on a wheelchair to walk miraculously but will never think about how to make their third floor church wheelchair accessible or even accessible to a visually impaired person. (Doesn’t that presuppose that the other parts of the gospel that don’t talk about healing are only for ‘able bodied’ people and hence the differently abled should not hear it?)
It has been more than three years of crutch use but I can sadly count on one hand the number of church going people who have offered to help me with things like – carrying luggage, going up and down stairs, doing housework (it was pretty difficult in the beginning), shopping at the supermarket, going to the market e.tc. Yet, the number of those who have emphasized the points about prayer and faith is numerous. That is the kind of dead faith James talks about. Some people will definitely come at me and say I am just offended but I will use Latin words from my first year in law school – res ipsa loquitur (the facts speak for themselves). One evening, I stood alone at a bus stop after a prayer meeting and I watched everyone drive off. I knew from the depths of my teary heart that this battle is majorly mine. And so while I wait for people to come around, I will not feel undue pressure to go for ‘Christian events’ in places that are largely inaccessible or will cause me major pain.

Conceivably, because I am not the stereotypical crutch user, a lot of people think it could not possibly be as serious as I make it out to be. Here are some of the things that thought process leads them to suggest or say.
1. Kwa nini unabembeleza kidonda mzee? (Why are you babying an old wound?)The people who ask this question have two things in common. Firstly, they are my friends. Secondly, they are cholerics. For that reason I try not to take the question too personally. But the answer is, my situation is ever evolving. What was an issue in 2014 is not the major issue now. I will give a technical explanation towards the end of this post as to why I continue to use a crutch.
2. Kama haikuwa fracture unatakiwa kuwa umepona (If it wasn’t a fracture, you should have recovered.) This is majorly based on the ignorance of other conditions requiring assistive devices as I have discussed above.
3. You are not limping/You don’t look like you are using the crutches/You are walking too fast for a crutch user (the latter was mostly before disease P.) This one is laden with many wrong assumptions. Firstly, a lot people don’t know about proper crutch use. Since it is a support device, you use it on the hand opposite the bad leg and move it in tandem with the bad leg (Surprise? Dr. House was using it all wrong. That probably contributed to him getting real injuries after the show).When using one crutch, that is how I use it. Consequently, I limp less and have better balance. Secondly, the crutch should be adjusted such that the handle is somewhat parallel to your hip bone. If it is higher or lower, your gait is compromised. You limp more and risk developing further injuries. Thirdly, crutch use requires a lot of core and arm strength. That is part of the reason why I try to work out consistently. When my arms and core are strong, the work of using a crutch is distributed throughout my body. Before disease P, this helped me walk pretty fast. Fourthly, is the quality of the crutches; in the first year of using crutches I had the grey ones that just scream ‘mimi ni mgonjwa. Nimetoka hospitali’ (I am sickly. I have just come from hospital.) They were very basic forearm crutches. I have had my current ones for almost 2.5 years including in snowy climate. I don’t seem to limp as much on them because of an ergonomic handle, their lightweight material and a shock absorbing rubber tip. See the technical explanation from a different company here.
Fifthly, part of my physiotherapy has focused on making me have a gait as normal as possible despite using crutches. That is intended to prevent a snowball effect of injuries. Sixthly, I have another assistive device which is not visible to everyone. From time to time, I have a pair of orthoses on. They too help with keeping my gait as normal as possible. Seventhly, most people who make that remark have usually only seen me walk for five minutes. Even without a watch I usually know when I have walked for seven minutes on uneven ground and seventeen minutes on even ground. That is when I begin to feel more pain and if I continue walking limping follows. Eighthly, limping is also a question of footwear. I am now a devoted wearer of brogues, boots and sometimes MaryJanes. Flat shoes and sandals caused me untold agony. When wearing them, I would be limping even before leaving the house.
4. How are you wearing those shoes and using crutches? I get this one a lot when I wear boots and brogues. The common street conception is that if you have a bad leg you should wear flat shoes or sandals. Yet, those are some of the worst shoes for foot problems because they offer minimal support and stability. Crutches have changed how I buy shoes. Even before I try it on, I check whether it has cushioning. This is something that a lot of easily available ladies shoes don’t have which could lead to future back problems.
I often get asked if I miss wearing heels. I DON’T. Oh!! The joy of not feeling any pressure whatsoever to wear heels!!!

Some people are respectful and ask very genuine questions. A lot of those have are logistical and quality of life questions.
1. Do you take public transport in Nairobi? How is it taking public transport in Nairobi? Before I answer, I will start with a story. On the day of our wedding rehearsals I was late and some people were mad at me. Consequently, during the whole rehearsal what I wanted to do was not to rehearse but to sit under a tree and cry my eyes out. All the ‘mad’ people had driven to the venue. They did not appreciate what it had meant for me to take four matatus on a crutch to get there.
So, yes I do take matatus but only when I have to. Consequently, I don’t leave the house fwaaahhh (without cause). When you start using crutches, physiotherapists teach you how to use them properly and safely on stairs, even ground and how to sit and stand. However, no one teaches how to take a matatu. It’s something you learn by yourself. The transport system in Kenya is very inaccessible. If I am using the 14 seaters, I prefer to sit at the front if I will be in the matatu for more than 10 minutes. Consequently, I get late quite often waiting for one where I can sit comfortably. Further, some don’t stop when they see a crutch. The drivers and conductors feel it takes too much time for you to get on and off; time they could be using to drive on the kerb. In the 33 seaters, I prefer to sit at the front as well. It is easier to get on and off. If not, I sit as close to the door as possible. I avoid taking the big buses as much as possible. Firstly, it is pretty difficult to get on and off especially when they are moving. Secondly, the leg room on most of them is awful which translates to a very painful journey. Sometimes, the first boarding step is so high, I need help getting on it. At GPO, the Citi Hoppa guys know me so they help me out when that happens.
My specialization is in Law and Development. I will therefore talk about crossing the road from that angle. When development and the law ‘are not in each other’s business’ and when the law is not mindful of its context, you are bound to have non-pedestrianized cities. Unfortunately, Nairobi despite being the most advanced city in East and Central Africa is awful and unsafe for pedestrians. It is particularly dreadful for differently abled people. Consequently, don’t ask me to meet you on a section of Mombasa Road, Waiyaki Way or Thika Road where there is no footbridge with a ramp. Alternatively, you can organize Uber for me. If not, I won’t come. Thank you!
2. Do you fly? Yes. This has majorly been okay. If you need assistance, you need to notify the airline so that they make the necessary arrangements. The initial times I flew I was not alone so that made the logistics easier. However, when I was alone I notified the airline and they made the necessary arrangements. It is worth noting that while Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines have been great, Kenya Airways was horrid. They did not provide any support whatsoever. I had to take stairs and walk long distances in the airport. Despite my showing up at the counter on two crutches, they still gave me a seat at the very back despite there being empty seats at the front. (Mindboggling? I know). Their witless air hostess hit my bad leg with the food trolley; instead of apologizing she just told me that I should have sat in Business Class. They did not even stow the crutches during take-off and landing. Consequently, I would not recommend Kenya Airways to anyone with mobility issues. It is no wonder that they are making colossal loses.
3. Can I drive? The jury is out there on this one. It is more a question of safety than ability. I need to figure out if my leg (which has limited range of motion) can move enough and in a timely manner between the brakes and accelerator. I also need to figure out if I have enough strength in my leg to push the pedals. If I can’t do those things (which I hope is not the case), I will have to drive an adjusted car using hand controls instead of pedals.
4. Am I always sad? Do I have fun? If you have seen me at church or family gatherings I can forgive you for assuming this. However, my neighbours would probably be like, ‘Kweli? Venye yeye hucheka kwa nguvu.’ (Really? The way she laughs loudly.) When I am in the confines of my house, I laugh without decorum – loudly, from the belly, with tears and lots of panting. I get sad from other things but rarely from the fact that I am on crutches. I can even go for weeks without thinking about them (In the same way people who wear glasses don’t cry each time they have to wear or wipe their glasses). I think the only time I am sad about being on crutches is when people treat me as a lesser person.
I have lots of fun. My idea of fun is not going to the club or any loud places for that matter. I love nature, fine art, historical architecture, the design aspect of fashion, musicals, flower in the farm and other things that make me sound like a mzungu wannabe (to which my dancing nods in agreement). In Nairobi, my ability to enjoy these things is limited by two things: Firstly, they are few and far in between. Secondly, even when I find the few that are far in between, the transport system provides a logistical nightmare. But when the opportunity presents itself, I seize it. I went on a wobbly suspended boardwalk some months back, checked out Francis Imbuga’s memorabilia at National Archives and visited an art exhibition at The Village Mraket. There are of course things I cannot do like equestrian vaulting (I doubt anyone reading this can do it. Lol!!!) But the list of things I can enjoy is extensive.
5. Do you do housework? Yes and no. You will not find me cleaning the roof or slaughtering a cow. Nevertheless, if something can be done seated or standing with the support of one crutch, I will do it with some breaks in between. I have made some adjustments in my house such that the things that need to be done for survival like cooking, bathing and doing dishes are easy to do. I actually wonder why, at seven years of age no one ever told me that onions chopped while seated are as much fit for human consumption as those chopped while standing.
6. Can you work? Yes. This one actually makes me a bit sad. There are people who think that I cannot work well because I use crutches. It would be understandable if I was applying for a kickboxing or judo job. But I am a lawyer. Lawyers sit most of the time. Dear recruiters, I can work :-).

And finally the reason why I have to use crutches and other stories.
1. Firstly, what do I use? This can be confusing. One day you see me with this and the next day with something different – I have in my possession orthoses (which are unseen), forearm crutches and a cane. In 2016, I used two crutches. At the beginning of 2017, I used one crutch. From June to November 2017 I used to crutches. Since then, I mostly use one crutch. However, if I am going on very uneven ground, anticipate lots of muscle spasms or pain and I am alone, I will take two forearm crutches. I use the cane at home but I will probably be using it more in other areas in the near future.
2. Why are my crutches decorated? This is the question a lot of people ask with their eyes buy very few have the audacity to ask with their mouths. (If only they knew that the crutches are not only decorated, they have names too. Lol.) While the crutches are not me, they are a large part of my life; even more than my spectacles. As a result, I prefer that they mirror my personality rather than looking gloomy or dreary. (On that note, I am looking for an artist who can paint some nice things on my crutches. Kindly note, if your style is a bit like Rothko’s I will not be commissioning you for this particular work.)
3. Reason number one. The first reason is pain. Since it is invisible and some of it unexplained, it makes for a torrid emotional experience. A lab test will not show the degree of pain I am feeling in my leg. It is just based on my word which is subject to ridicule, doubt and apathy. I have ankle pain and hip pain when at rest and when walking. On my right ankle (on my bad leg), I have medial pain sometimes when at rest and always when walking. I have lateral pain when I walk for more than seventeen minutes. It is the kind of pain that does not respond to painkillers. Further, after about twenty minutes of walking it becomes excruciating. How does the crutch help? It provides support by taking some pressure off my leg. Further, when the pain kicks in it helps me to keep walking without feeling too much pain or feeling like my ankle is crashing in. Additionally, when I need to stand and rest my leg, I can lean on it.
4. Reason number two. As I have mentioned, I have hip issues as well – sometimes more at rest than when walking. I need the crutches for my hips because sometimes my right hip gives way. If I am walking or standing and my hip gives way, it is likely that I will fall to the ground and I won’t be able to get up by myself. The crutches also help with the pain especially when I have to walk long distances. It is actually because of hip pain that I suffer sitting in matatus.
5. Loss of muscle tone (atrophy) and muscle weakness. This generally affects my right leg in the calf and thigh areas (I can’t ‘stunya’ on my right leg. Lol!!!) I have done all kinds of muscle strengthening exercises but for medically unexplained reasons the weakness remains. This affects my ability to walk and stand for long periods of time. It causes pain and limping. Further, it also affects my balance. The crutch therefore helps me keep proper balance and prevent falling over all the time.
6. Muscle spasms. In lay man’s terms this is uncontrollable shaking. I get this on both legs. The weakness on my right leg has meant that my left leg does more work than it is meant to. Consequently and despite gait training, it has suffered a bit. Most times when walking or standing, my legs jerk a bit. However, during physio I have had some very intense muscle spasms. The first time the physiotherapist went from thinking I was joking to being very afraid. In such instances, I am not able to stand or walk. I have to sit until the intensity is less. I consequently use a crutch to keep me balancing when there is jerking and as a mental crutch (hahaha!) to ward off intense spasms.
7. Ankle Instability. This affects both ankles but more the right one. That means I am prone to twisting my leg with each step especially on uneven ground. It happens even when I am on crutches. They however help to stabilize me and I don’t land all my weight on my already not so good ankles.
8. Back pain. I had back problems since my high school days. They were exacerbated by issues in my lower extremities. Therefore, bending is difficult; and so is walking and standing on some days. Some of my weight is transferred from my back to the crutch. The seated workouts in the last couple of weeks have really helped me in this regard.
9. Gait. In addition, to the other things I have mentioned about having a normal gait, the crutch helps me too. When I walk without it, I lean a lot into my right leg because of less muscle tone. I will actually be having more classes on this in the coming weeks.
10. Security. Honestly, the thought of going out without a crutch with all the pain and balance issues is scary. Further, since I cannot run the crutch functions as weapon in the face of danger.
11. Independence. I am often asked if I miss my life before the crutches and honestly, I don’t. This is largely because I remember more of the time when I had the pain and initial stages of muscle weakness but no support and it was difficult. I lived about 200 metres from the bus stop but I used to feel like wailing each time I got to the gate and thought about walking. Walking to and from work was so difficult despite having an ankle brace. The office was about a kilometre and a half from the nearest bus stop. Most people see my crutches as inhibitive but they have actually opened a world of independence that I did not have between 2014 and 2016.
12. It is says I am delicate. Before you think it sounds narcissistic, let me explain. Perhaps because of the loss of muscle tone or for unknown reasons, I feel a lot of pain on my right leg at the slightest impact. For example, if someone steps on me I feel like they just dropped a stone on my leg (may be they weigh several stone after all!). As a result, I usually want people to be a good distance away from it. Moreover, even when I am able to walk fast on my crutches, I am still slow compared to ‘normal’ people (especially the ones on Moi Avenue, Tom Mboya Street and the street where Odeon Cinema is located.) Walking at a certain pace makes the pain from friction in my hips unbearable. The crutch is supposed to say, ‘Huyu ni kama mayai. Mpatie space.’ (This one is as delicate as an egg. Give her space.)
13. Stairs. At the beginning of my crutch journey, stairs did not wear me out as much. They were a bit tiring, constantly unsafe but not excruciatingly painful. Now, they are. When I see more than four steps, I feel like crying. Last month I had to go to the third floor of a building with very steep steps and by time I got to the ground floor on the way back my legs were shaking. I remember getting to the second floor on the way down and wishing I could go on my hands and butt instead; but it was a public staircase.
14. The Peace of God. The stuff I have discussed in this post is a lot and the uncertainty of it all can be unsettling. Because of my personality I am prone to overthink everything and be overly unsettled. Yet, that has not happened in this situation. I have had so much peace it actually boggles my mind. I cannot but believe what Philippians 4:7 says. It has been true in my life that the peace of God surpasses human understanding. Even the understanding of the human recipient of that peace!!!

If there are any questions I have not answered in this very long post, please shoot them in the comments or in a private conversation.
Here are some links to provoke your thoughts further:

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian,

#kinkyhair #roastmaize #chilimango

NEW BEGINNINGS

I was sat in the patient’s chair. He was sat in the doctor’s chair looking at my test results. He was checking the previous test results on his computer. He rubbed his chin and said, ‘Welcome back to life.’ He looked at the results again and repeated the same words. He meant every word. The results surprised and elated him in equal measure. His words and the results bolstered two contrasting realities that have been continually present in the last six months. Firstly, that I almost died. Secondly, that I lived and experienced capacities of healing that were never thought possible. Both are new beginnings in themselves. The first, I never thought of in such terms. The second, a series in many new beginnings that mark the human life.

My life began in a small peri-urban town in Kajiado County. The first of my dreams and aspirations were shaped there. People in Nairobi County would have laughed at them for their sheer ludicrousness. Those in my neighbourhood would have laughed at just how unreasonably big and ‘not accomplishable’ some of them were. In using Maslow’s Hierachy of needs, my dreams were as follows – at the physiological level I wanted to eat more meat (and less thufu (no English translation available) and waru (potatoes)); live in a house with electricity, a flight of stairs and water in the taps; wear clothes bought in town (Nairobi CBD) and eat lots of Nice biscuits with Quencher juice with no adult supervision. At the safety level I wanted – to do well in school and get a job in town (Nairobi CBD); money to buy Cutex; live in a rented house with my own sofa set (where naweza eka miguu juu (i could put my legs up) which was not allowed at home); a colour TV that used electricity and may be one day in the very distant future, a car. At the level of love and belonging I wanted – the adults to take my opinions very seriously (outside of school my other interactions were 90% with adults); a boyfriend (walks away whistling); a younger brother or sister and to be the class prefect. I never thought anything about the esteem level (hizo ni za watu wa Nairobi (that is stuff that only Nairobi people think about). But, I had a very vivid picture of what self-actualization looked like for me – being able to afford ‘chips na chicken ya town’ at the slightest provocation; going to Sarit Centre; shopping at Uchumi; taking a taxi; being on a plane and looking down to see our house (it was on a flight path and i believed i could see it) and ultimately going to Canada and while there – have milk powder, wear nguo za ulaya (clothes from abroad), meet Father Christmas (the words Santa Claus were yet to arrive in Kajiado) and grow long nails.

29th January 2019 was a date in my childhood that I never thought would come (the world was supposed to end in the year 2000 after all). But it is also a day that will remain etched in my memory for a while. If you had told me eight years ago when I started this blog that I would blog about such a day, I would have thought it would be as a fiction writer rather than a memoirist. The day began with a visit to the doctor’s for an incessant pain in my left calf (on my good leg). Orthopedically, nothing was found to be wrong. Physiotherapy was recommended to relax the muscles. It has been five years since I started having frequent physiotherapy. That was the most painful and draining; a fact that I brought to the attention of the therapist. A fact that was not taken very seriously because in the words of my nurse friend, my voice, medical history with crutches and general personality lend themselves highly to the conclusion that I could be a hypochondriac.

Voice and personality notwithstanding, I have achieved all the things on my childhood list of dreams (with the exception of buying a car and becoming class prefect). Some have left me with a bad taste in my mouth – sometimes literally like in the case of milk powder and figuratively like in the case of wearing clothes from Primark. Some have taught me that even what you consider great accomplishments are something not everything in life. In that list is travelling. Some years ago, I went to Canada. I quenched my wanderlust with visits to places like Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario and CN Tower. On my way back home I had a long layover in Dubai and I went to see the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab and all the other touristy places you can see at night. However, a year or a year and a half later I was passing by Yaya Centre. Someone exclaimed that one of the new buildings in the area looked like the Burj Al Arab. It then dawned on me that I had been having such a hard time trying to come up the rough side of the mountain in the preceding months that I had totally forgotten that I had ever been to Canada and Dubai. This was despite having photos and detailed journal entries.

On 29th January, I went from thinking about many things – house furnishings, job applications, a visit to the hair salon e.t.c to just thinking about two things. When the physiotherapy session was done, I was still feeling very drained. I had some yoghurt and sat down for one hour in a bid to feel better. I was trying to convince myself that the therapist was right and I was feeling sick because I had the session on an empty stomach but my mind kept wandering to the question of whether there was a well-equipped clinic near my house.

I left the physiotherapist’s. I had just walked for 50 metres when I started feeling very sick. I was very dizzy, I had difficulty breathing and my vision was becoming blurred. I stood to catch my breath for a minute or two. I continued walking and the symptoms returned with the addition of a very fast heartbeat. I sat on a stone by the roadside. God was telling my Spirit that I was very very sick. My body was telling me that it was not okay at all. From the stone, I considered my options. Across the road from where I was seated was a pharmacy and laboratory. I considered going there to ask for help but I was feeling so sick; it hit me I could collapse while crossing the road and be run over by oncoming cars. The second option was to call a relative or friend. But I ruled that out as well. I didn’t feel they would get there in time to help me (or they would know what to do). I decided to go to hospital. But even on that I had to make a quick decision. Firstly, on the mode of transport. Based on how I was feeling, I decided I did not have time to request and wait for Uber. I would take a matatu. As I walked towards the matatu, I decided I would go to Aga Khan and not Coptic because the former had shorter queues and did not require one to cross the road.

Another thing that accomplishing the things on my list taught me is that life continues and that with each accomplishment you are ushered into a new playing field, often bigger than the previous one. I started school in a Kindergarten in the neighbourhood. I did so well that I skipped a class and went on to class one in a school in Nairobi County. Despite really struggling with my aras (letter R), eros (letter L) and especially dabrios (letter W), I finished that year with a clean score of 600/600. I went on to finish primary school as a high flyer with my name in the newspaper and a goat slaughtered in my honour in true Kajiado fashion. In high school and university I experienced new beginnings and accomplishments but the playing fields were different and so were the rules. Yet, it was the time spent studying in ‘European City L’ that opened my eyes to just how small everything i thought big was. Firstly, i met highly accomplished people who did not know that there is a country called Kenya. When they talked about the world, they meant North America, Central and Parts of Latin America, Europe, Asia, Parts of the Middle East, Morocco, Egypt and the Oceania. Sub-Saharan Africa and stories about Africa Rising were totally foreign to them. Consequently, anything i had accomplished in Kenya/Africa did not matter. I had to start afresh and make my voice heard in the loud ‘European City L’.

When I got to Aga Khan I still had to get over the hurdle of being seen as a hypochondriac. The triage nurse was of the view that my dizziness and low blood pressure was because I was dehydrated and it was that time of the month. My ‘that time of the month’ is teenage years old. I consequently know what is normal and what is not. This was not. Luckily, the doctor had the final word. She said that the vitals were not alarming but I looked very sick. She thought it was either disease A or disease P. I told her that I had had disease A several times before and had never felt like that. She felt that this could be an emergency. Consequently, she sent me to some blood tests at Lancet just down the road because they would do it faster.

I was feeling so sick just walking from the clinic to the elevator I decided to take Uber from Prestige Plaza to Lancet because it would drop me just outside the laboratory. At Lancet, I did the tests and waited. While waiting, the symptoms receded. However, God told me that I should not go home. I needed to be admitted. It probably sounded like my mind overthinking but in hindsight I know it was God. Aga Khan was set to close at 6:30p.m. I got the test results at 6:15p.m. I figured that the only way I could get there on time was if I took a nduthi (motorbike). At around 6:17p.m, I was walking towards the nduthi guys stationed at the junction of Ngong Road and 5th Ngong Avenue. No sooner had I started walking than I started to feel very sick. My chest and back were very painful, I had immense difficulty breathing, I was suddenly sweating, my heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my hands making it even difficult to hold my crutch and I was dizzy and wobbly. I was walking next to a ditch. I asked God to help me not to fall in the ditch.

I remember getting to the nduthi guys, one of them telling me sorry, me saying prestige and then holding my head. After that I collapsed. At least physically, that is what happened. Up until that point, I thought that when people talk about seeing a light and having out of body experiences at the point of death, they were engaging in fairy tales. But I had one. I had one where the symptoms suddenly disappeared. I had one where I was at peace leaving everything behind. I had one where I was at a place where I was walking properly without crutches.

For most of my adult Christian life, the concepts of heaven and hell have faded in significance unlike in the 90s. This is so much the case that when I was living in ‘European City L’ and we sang songs about longing for heaven in church, I was initially spooked. Christian doctrines have come up that teach that there is no hell because a good God cannot create such a place. On the other hand there are those who believe that you can do whatever you want and then repent a minute or so before you die. I will not go into the apologetic perspective of these things. But it suffices to say that my near death experience got me asking myself what is at the core of my belief system.

I started regaining consciousness on the Lancet bed. It was on and off. The nduthi guys had taken me there. I could feel my every breath. It was laboured and excruciatingly painful. The people at Lancet tried to look at my test results but none of them could interpret them. They knew it was a race against time. I could not move any of my limbs and my speech was almost non-existent. They only thing I managed to whisper was my phone password and my husband’s name. The receptionist called him and he in turn called my brother who was closer. The Lancet people tried to loosen my clothes and give me sugar but I was not improving. They decided to call an ambulance.

There is a motivational quote that says that you should live each day as if it was your last. I don’t believe any of that now. On your last day, you don’t want to do a thousand things. You come face to face with your frailty. As I was on that bed I knew with immense clarity that I was likely to breathe my last there. Even more astounding was the realization that there was nothing I could do about it – my education, blood and other affiliations, how much money I had or did not have, the unrealized dreams, the plans I have for this continent, how much I can pray, how much I had volunteered in church, how much noise I had made on the internet e.t.c did not matter at that point. They did not even cross my mind. But one person did – my husband. We had just been married all of three weeks. I wanted to see him again. I wanted him to see me again and not in a morgue or in a casket. I choke each time I remember that moment. I asked God for two things – that He would help me to keep breathing and that my husband would see me alive again.

By the time the ambulance arrived, I was conscious. However, I was still in pain, my speech was slurred and I could not move any of my limbs. The St. John first aider did not think it was an emergency because the blood count was okay and I was conscious. She did not know how to interpret the other test results. So instead of rushing me to hospital, she started asking if I was pregnant. I told her it was that time of the month. So she started lecturing me about my eating habits during that time of the month. The Lancet guys tried telling her that I needed to get to the hospital but she said it was okay because I was conscious. She had to ensure there was someone there to pay for the ambulance (surprise? It is not free).

When she confirmed that my brother was already at Coptic, she asked me to go to the ambulance. She asked me to walk to the ambulance despite not being able to move my limbs. Anyway, the Lancet guys carried me to the ambulance. The hospital was about 5-7 minutes away. I hoped I would not die before getting there. I was in the ambulance with a ‘professional’ who just thought I was exaggerating my symptoms and did not administer any form of first aid.

At the hospital I was wheeled to the E.R. There were all the alternative explanations about why I fainted. In my head I was thinking, ‘I have fainted before. This is something else.’ Anyway, the E.R doctor asked everyone to keep quiet and let me explain. And so in between laboured breathing, excruciating pain and hopes that I would survive, I explained what had happened. The doctor said he highly suspected disease P, a potentially fatal condition and also an emergency requiring immediate admission. He immediately ordered a CT Scan to confirm his suspicions.

He was right and I had to be admitted. The pre-admission was a long process and during that process the symptoms were going from bad to worse to bad again and then to worse again. The E.R doctor and the H.D.U doctor kept telling me just how lucky I was to be alive and even conscious at that point. But the E.R nurse did not share that view. She perhaps did not think it was serious. She was slow in doing her work while telling stories with her colleagues up until the point where my vitals began to dip and they had to run with the bed to the H.D.U and hook me up to the machines and to oxygen.

The danger did not pass at that point despite starting on my medication. I was still high risk for disease S or disease HA. Further disease P had also precipitated disease HF. I was moved from the H.D.U section where you are monitored ever 15-20 minutes to where someone can see you every minute. My prayer was still the same – that God would help me to keep breathing and that my husband would see me again.

Disease P is largely not understood by non-medical people. Every time I tell a medic friend that I had disease P, they shudder and always tell me that I am lucky to be alive. One actually exclaimed and said, ‘Uuuwi, disease P is disease P. It is not malaria or the flu.’ Yet most non-medic people see it as probably at the same level as malaria. Consequently, well-meaning people asked me about work, crutches, reading and hearing from God when I was admitted. Meanwhile, I was hoping I would survive each hour and when they would give me the medicine I was hoping to get through each minute. On my third or fourth night, God talked to me. He told me that it was not yet time for me to die because of XYZ. Two days later when the symptoms felt overwhelming, God told me that I would not just live, I would heal. That has kept me for the last six months even when I have had to rush to the E.R at night.

Life after the hospital was a rollercoaster. I was so grateful to see my husband again and for him to see and be with me. I was very glad to be alive while at the same time processing what that meant. I was scared knowing that so many people with disease P don’t make it and reading in the news about three women who had disease P after me but didn’t make it. But I was also so glad about the people who helped me – the nduthi guys, the Lancet guys, the doctors and nurses at Coptic, the people who prayed and visited, the people who texted. Yet, I also thought about the communal but also paradoxically non-communal nature of the so called African life. A few months before, I had been priced in goats, khangas, sodas, sufurias and other non-descript paraphernalia. The number of people who claimed that I was their close kin was large. But when it was time to settle the hospital bill, the numbers were akin to those you can count when checking the mic.

As we were leaving the hospital, I could not escape the thought that that day could have been my funeral. An event that would have been held in my name but would have been devoid of my personality and wishes. An event where people would have said all these things about what I had achieved but even more so about what I could have achieved but after that they would go on without me. It was sobering to understand that while there will never be another me, in the bigger scheme of things, a replacement would be found and even where there would be no replacement, life will actually go on for the living. They would have some sad days but they would also have many happy days.

Being so close to death made me realize that all the things that seemingly matter now will not if death orchestrates a new beginning or if Jesus comes back. I have especially thought hard about what it means to live as a Christian. Jesus said that there are people who did things in His name but will not see the Kingdom of heaven. I can fool everyone with religious piety, blogs about God, attending church and prayer meetings, helping the poor but I cannot fool God. It is definitely counter-cultural to take step back and think about what it means to follow God, what it means to do His will and even what it means to have a pure heart in a culture where even a relationship with God is result oriented. I am examining if I am trying to interpret scripture through the lens of popular culture or I am using scripture as a guide to live in righteousness despite the popular culture. I am also asking myself the question, why scripture?

In January 2011, I attended a Flame concert. All I remember apart from being in white clothes and standing at the front fiercely rapping along is what Flame said. He said that when all is said and done, what will matter is not that we will say we knew Jesus and did stuff for Him, it is that He will say that He knows us and our deeds. That will determine where we will spend eternity. Eternity will be a ‘playing field’ where our opinions will not matter. It will be a place where our rules and standing will not matter. Yet, how we live now will speak for us then. How ought we to live now?

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian,

#kinkyhair #roastmaize #chilimango

 

 

(Authors Note: Last year I had talked about ending the blog. It still crosses my mind from time to time. What I have decided for now is to have two to three posts per year. My goal is to increase not just the length of the posts but the quality of the content as well. I want to put out posts that not only have staying power but are also a genuine expression of God’s heart as I experience it from time to time.)

 

FAITH, SPECTACLES AND OTHER STORIES

#backafteroneyearwithalongpost

I suppose that everyone reading this either wears spectacles or has a sibling, spouse, parent, friend or colleague or at least knows a former classmate who wears spectacles (glasses). I will therefore replace the word crutch with spectacles/glasses as I introduce to you some of the questions and statements that I often encounter.

‘You don’t look like you need those spectacles to see. Your eyes look just fine.’

‘You should stop wearing those glasses. I don’t like how you look in them.’ Or ‘You look more beautiful/handsome without your glasses.’

(Every few months, at every family event e.t.c) ‘You are still wearing spectacles? I thought uliwachana na hizi vitu.’ Followed closely by, ‘The next time I see you, you should have thrown away your spectacles.’

‘You should learn to see without your spectacles.’

We have been socialized to accept spectacles (even make them a fashion/interview statement) but to treat crutches, canes, rollators, hearing aids, white canes e.t.c as a negative spectacle (pun intended). Yet at the most basic level they are all assistive devices. They help the person using them have a better quality of life. They are not about how the person looking at the user feels. Yet, people who wear spectacles are likely to be viewed as intelligent and serious. People using crutches are likely to be viewed as less capable. People using wheelchairs are likely to be viewed as incapable. The visually impaired are likely to be viewed as beggars. People living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are seen as lazy. People living with severe multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy are often termed as bewitched.

There is also the expectation that if you are have an assistive device that is not spectacles, you have to look sick and sad all the time. It has to become some sort of obsession. While all people who use assistive devices have bad days related to their assistive device, it does not become their identity. They have fun, comfortable and fulfilling lives as well. It is often difficult to explain that I am craving roast maize more than I am feeling sad about my situation or that I am morose because of Arsenal being thrashed by Wolves and Leicester (*wails*) rather than the fact that I am using a crutch. It could even be that (as it was when Croatia made it to the World Cup finals) I am balancing tears of immense joy and hyperventilating because of a happenstance so great it summons emotions of such gigantic proportions.

(Onto more questions.)

‘Are you going to the wedding in spectacles?’

‘What is it like being a married person who wears spectacles?’

(After I got more ergonomically friendly crutches) ‘Why did you get the right size and style of spectacles for your face? You are acting like spectacles are permanent.’

‘You are so young. Why are you wearing glasses?’

‘You are too beautiful to be using glasses.’

 

In reading people’s experiences with ableism, I noticed that people who went from being ‘normal’ to using an assistive device that is not spectacles often experienced some form of shame while using their assistive device in public. This is especially the case when they don’t look ‘sick or disabled or old’. There is a mould and script for using an assistive device. When someone does not conform to the predetermined/pre-existing mould, there is a problem. They either face barriers in trying to live their ‘normal’ life or are called out for trying too hard for a person of ‘their type’ or they are forced to adapt to what is ‘normal’ for everyone (stairs, inaccessible buses, long working hours, e.t.c).

This inevitably leads to isolation of people who don’t fit the norm. I am mildly disabled (so to speak) but after living in ‘European City L’, I realized that in Nairobi I was very isolated. When people look at me, they see something bad, they see despair, they see inability, they see sadness and they project that on me. Consequently, I end up leaving the house less and doing the things I like less. When I go to religious and family gatherings I often want to leave as soon as I get there because I don’t feel like myself at all. Yet being holed up in the house is sometimes upsetting because while I can’t participate in the marathon or go for salsa, I can catch the sunset or play foosball.

(Onto even more questions.)

‘Ulivunjika mguu ukidance juu ya meza kwa bar?’ (Did you break your leg when dancing on top of the table in a bar?)

Ulikuwa umekunywa chupa ngapi venye ulivunjika mguu?’ (How much alcohol had you taken when you broke your leg?)

(When walking through Toi and Gikomba) Mrembo, nani alikuvunja mguu nimtafute nimchape? (Beautiful one, who broke your leg? I need to find them and beat them up.)

Never mind that the smoothies I like do not have an inebriating effect and I didn’t even break my leg in the first place. The first two questions are almost assured if I am wearing shorts or skirts above the knee. People look at me loosely associate my clothing to a loose woman who got injured in her loose endeavours. When I wear shorts below the knee the question is – ‘Ulivunjika mguu ukicheza ball? (Did you break your leg while playing football?’ I guess longer shorts are associated with tomboys.

In Jeremiah 1, the Lord asks Jeremiah what he sees. When he replies, the Lord tells him that he has seen correctly. Further, the Lord explains the meaning of what Jeremiah has seen. The implication of this is the fact that there was a possibility that Jeremiah could have looked and not seen correctly or he could have seen correctly and not understood the meaning of what he saw. Upbringing, culture, socialization, exposure, proclivities, fears, media e.t.c affect how we view every aspect of life. It affects how we see.

In any given situation (not just relating to assistive devices), people see and interpret things differently because of mental, emotional, psychological, cultural and other filters. In the pluralistic world we live in, that is inevitable. If handled well it actually leads to interesting and helpful conversations (I have had several with Uber drivers who are always shocked when they arrive and find the customer is not a child and she has a crutch). However, it becomes difficult when relativism kicks in and people want to view truth only from the confines of their fears, proclivities or filters. Truth ceases to be absolute and becomes what each person thinks it is or should be. People insist on what they see even if it is incorrect or their interpretation of it is not right.

(There are yet more questions.)

‘You are healed in Jesus name! Throw those glasses away!’

‘Oh… You are still wearing glasses. The devil has really oppressed you.’ or ‘This year you should not be wearing glasses. Tell the devil this is your year.’

(On being made to take the stairs to sixth floor because I was prayed for.) ‘Please sit at the back of the room, don’t wear your spectacles but read what is projected on the screen. You were prayed for on Sunday.’

(After a minute of prayer) ‘Move your eyes. Do they feel different?’ (I should prank someone with this and ask if they can see Timbuktu.)

(At prayer meetings and other Christian gatherings) ‘We just can’t be here as Christians and someone is wearing spectacles. We need to pray for them to get healed.’

(Instead of saying hi)’How are your eyes?’ or ‘Bado haujapona?’

(While pointing at the spectacles) ‘Do you know that Jesus died?’

‘You need to have more faith.’ or ‘You need to throw away your spectacles and see in faith.’

(After saying that I didn’t feel any difference after prayer.) ‘We are going to pray for you to have more faith.’ (Scriptures titled ‘Jesus heals in response to faith’ are read.)

Related to the question of truth is that of motives. I actually have to type this in capital letters – I AM NOT AVERSE TO PRAYER. I BELIEVE THAT GOD STILL PERFORMS MIRACLES IN AND THROUGH PEOPLE. What I am against is spiritual showmanship. What gets to me is ableism in the name of performing miracles. Jesus is the truth, the Word (which is also Christ) is truth (See John 1:1-5; 14:6; 17:17). The truth that is the Word provides that the best way to live life is to live in love (See 1 Cor 12:27-31; 13:1-13). This love is patient and kind. This love does not give up, never loses faith and is always hopeful. Consequently, people who claim to do miracles in Jesus’ name or as Jesus did should do so in truth and love.

Sadly, that is rarely the case. There is first of all the assumption that I (or other people who care deeply and pray privately) have not prayed or perhaps we don’t pray as powerfully (*gets directed to the person spitting fire and walking on air*). There is also the discriminatory undertone that you are not a good enough Christian (generally you are not having a good relationship with God) because you are under this affliction (*gasps around the room when there is a testimony from an assistive device user*). Thirdly, they are always done in public in full view of everyone. No calls, text messages or even smoke signals to find out how one is fairing before or after but when you show up everything has to be dropped and all attention diverted to the miracle about to be performed.And when the miracle does not come to pass within one minute, the blame shifts to me and my lack of faith and the hardness of my heart. I hate that part. I absolutely hate it.

Yet, God knows people’s hearts and He is not prisoner to spiritual antics. On two occasions people have asked to pray for me and have started on the healing and faith trajectory and God has corrected them and instructed them on how to pray for me. Psalms 37:23 says that the steps of the righteous are ordered of the Lord. Jesus, according to John 5:19 lived by that principle. He did what He saw the Father do. There are instances in scripture that point to the fact that we don’t always know how to pray (See Romans 8:26; Luke 11:1) but God can help us in that regard. My issue is therefore is not prayer or the belief in miracles. It is that people see through their biases rather than through God’s eyes and His love and they found their prayers on that and i end up feeling more harassed than encouraged.

Jesus said that we will perform miracles but He never at any point said that they would be without love and compassion or they would be of our own initiative without God’s direction (witchcraft and other forms of black magic can achieve that.) Perhaps the reason why we don’t see as many bona fide miracles in our day is because our hearts are not in the right place. They are not aligned to God’s will. We want to heal and raise the dead so that our social ratings can go up or so that we can add it to our list of achievements. We want to heal the sick not because we care about their welfare but because we don’t want to be associated with sick people. (See James 4:3).

Lecrae tweeted that – ‘God is relational not transactional. He wants to walk with you through the pain, not just make it disappear.’ I agree with him because God is described as love (1 John 4:16) and love is described as never giving up, never losing faith, always being hopeful and enduring through all circumstances (1 Cor 13:7). That means in life there will be situations where you will feel like giving up, losing faith, losing hope and not enduring. Sickness and disability are such situations. Yet even then God is not absent. He can be in the miracle as much as in the walk through the pain and difficulty. Therefore, being Godly is not just about instant miracles. It is also about walking with someone through a situation. So, stop the showmanship and begin the walk!

Lastly, is the question of faith. I find the description of faith given in Hebrews 11:1 to be in conflict with the expectations of the people seeking to perform miracles. Faith is described as the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (New Living Translation). However, when people say I don’t have faith because after a minute of prayer nothing has changed; they seem to define faith as the expected result not as the confidence that the healing that is hoped for will actually happen. Further, the view that telling someone that they need to have more faith automatically makes them have more faith is erroneous. Abraham, the father of faith did not receive Isaac two minutes after God had told him he would have a son. He waited many long years but kept believing even when biologically his body and Sarah’s could not be said to have the necessary ability to perform. He was counted as righteous because he did not waver in believing that God is able to do what He promises; not because what was promised came instantly. (See Romans 4:16-25 and Hebrews 11:10-12).

It has been five years of leg situations and three of assistive device usage. I hoped and prayed vehemently that it would not get to the assistive device stage but God opened my eyes to see it as He did. I hoped the assistive device situation would end as soon as it started but then again God opened my eyes to His love and to the fact that He was walking with me at that assistive device pace. Some days, peoples’ voices get to my head and my heart and I feel like I am in this situation because I am weak physically (and hence unable to ‘kick-ass’ at physiotherapy and return to the pitch like Zlatan, Messi or Ronaldo) or I am weak spiritually and not getting to the level where healing happens. But God finds me. In Him, there is room for all of me; the me who uses an assistive device, the me who is weak, the me who is misunderstood, the me who is strong, the me who is confident. There is room for you too – for you who has not been seeing correctly, for you who has had wrong motives and even for you who has been genuinely praying and walking with people…

There is room for everyone!!!

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian,

#kinkyhair #roastmaize #chillimango

This song and this video have been of great encouragement to me. You can check them out.

 

OF GOODBYES AND AN AUTHENTIC EASTER STORY

Well, yes, this is the last post on this blog. More of that at the end (pun intended).

****

Last month, Easter was part of our calendars. I find no other apt way to describe it as this post will hopefully make clear. Experiencing that part of the calendar in a self-declared post-truth society was interesting in both good and bad ways. But, the truth that is God, that is Christ, that is God’s Word does not cease to be, it does not lose its power because someone declared that a certain society is a post-truth society where the existence of God is neither tolerated nor believed. Consequently, the authentic Easter story where Jesus was crucified, where He died and where He rose again still speaks and powerfully so.

The people who witnessed and orchestrated the events that make up the Easter story paint a picture that could have been painted today (even with the trappings of technology). The first was Pilate. As a person in a position of authority, he knew that Jesus was innocent. He was cognizant of the fact that the accusations brought against Jesus were attributable to the Pharisees envy. In deciding to hand Jesus over to be crucified and releasing Barabbas, he did not break the law/rules; he applied the law in the way most convenient for him. Jesus’ blood would not be on his hands; he would not have a riot in his jurisdiction because he gave the crowds what they wanted and the Pharisees would not be pestering him. That an innocent man was condemned die was a non-issue as long as he navigated the situation in a manner that saved his skin. He asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?’ But before Jesus could answer, Pilate had walked away. It was not that truth did not exist or was not verifiable; it was the case that Pilate walked away from the truth and continued in the path of ‘anything goes’ just like many leaders today.

The events that give us the Easter story happened in a Legal System that had norms and laws. The decision to crucify Christ was not made arbitrarily (legalese on fleek. Hehehe). There was a custom which required the leader to release a prisoner of the people’s choice (their crime notwithstanding). It does not require much thought to see that this is problematic. I would argue that the custom had obtained the status of law because the crowds made a demand on it and the Pharisees presented their evidence. (Discussion for another forum). It was based on that law that Barabbas – a murderer and insurrectionist – was released and Jesus – who had been accused falsely – was crucified. The concept of the rule of law has been around for a couple of centuries. It has gained traction in the recent decades, leaving in its trail a series of decisions backed by law. Somewhere along its path, it has created and continuously bolstered the notion that justice is equals to the existence of a law and the making of decisions based on that law. This could not be further from the truth. The law has become a tool used by people to get what they want even though it is unjust. It has become okay to ignore justice as long as there is a law to enforce and defend the enforcement of injustice.

Pilate and the legal system were joined by the Crowds. They had the numbers and they leveraged on that to stubbornly yell ‘Crucify Him.’ Pilate asked them what crime Jesus had committed but they just yelled, ‘Crucify Him’. He said that he did not find Jesus guilty of any of the accusations brought against Him but they yelled all the more that He be crucified. They even said that they and their children would take responsibility for Jesus’ death. In the age of the internet and social media, the crowds are always yelling. They demand rights based on unjust laws/trends. They don’t back up their calls for whatever they want. They just ‘make noise’ and demand their rights. Reasoning is not part of their strategy. Finding out if their demands are well-founded is not part of their cause. Theirs is a yelling for the meeting of their demands which should be met NOW!

The crowds, Pilate and the legal system were not the only ones straying from the truth. The Soldiers joined that bandwagon. They were not the ultimate carriers of authority in the land. They were also not civilians. They had some measure of authority which they used to please themselves. They stripped Jesus, mocked Him, ridiculed His authority and spat on Him. All this while Jesus said nothing. They were face to face with the fullness of truth, redemption, wisdom, mercy and love but all they did was mock. During the Easter weekend Stephen Colbert put out a cartoon that was not only disgusting, vulgar and disturbing but also blasphemous and an absolute mockery of God and of Christ. (It is a sickening read. I couldn’t quite get to the end of the transcription). I don’t even know what to think about Colbert’s proclamation that he is a Catholic or ‘the fun fact’ that he teaches/taught Sunday School. The mockery continues on movies and other television staples and it was recently paraded at the Met Gala 2018 with the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

Like the soldiers, these people have some measure of authority (celebrity status blah blah) coupled with the visibility that the internet and media in general gives. Further, because there is no forceful retaliation of the kind that they expect, they have an unnecessarily bloated view of their power. And they use that power to mock, ridicule and taunt. They use that power to influence collective psyche’s in the way of falsehood and mockery; in the way where what they desire to say goes; in the way where truth is claimed not to exist.

The accusers who opened up that field of mockery were the Pharisees. After having Jesus arrested they tried to find false witnesses to testify against him but even then coherence in their accusations was lacking. When Jesus told the High Priest the truth about who He was – that He was the Messiah, the High Priest could not handle it. He was so furious he tore his robe (the significance of this and the curtain in the Temple tearing is a study for another day). The Pharisees were supposed to be well versed in God’s law. However, Jesus had called them out (e.g in Matthew 15) for placing their traditions above God’s commandments. In calling for Jesus to be crucified, they wanted to maintain the status quo – where they were an elite class that people listened to. They were ready to forget about God’s commandments in order to defend that status quo, mentioning God only when it was convenient. They were so invested in their own interests, they accused Jesus of blasphemy when He spoke the truth. They did not stop to think about what Jesus meant when He said, ‘If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I am speaking the truth, why are you beating me?’ (John 18:23).

I cannot help but think about the institutionalization of the church. While there is need for coherence in administrative, financial and other matters, those things have been upheld above God. People – church leaders and members alike – are so invested in the prestige, image and advancement of their institutions that they would defend that over the truth. Traditions of institutions have become more important than the Gospel of Christ. Truth has been ignored, exchanged for lies just so that the institution can fit in with the times. When truth is expressed, people who claim to be ‘practicing Christians’, ‘spiritual’, ‘religious’ or whatever other fashionable terms are there to describe ones relationship with the institutionalized church are up in arms talking about not being judgemental, modern/contemporary Christianity blah blah…

There were others – Peter, John, the other disciples, the women, Joseph of Arimathea, but I will begin my conclusion with what the Centurion said. (Incidentally, the play at church on Easter Sunday told the story from His perspective). He had just overseen Jesus’ execution. This was probably not the first execution he was overseeing. It was all part of his job description. After the earth had quaked and Jesus died, the Centurion exclaimed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Some sceptics would argue that he was confused in that moment because of the earthquake but I think if that was the case he could have uttered something about saving himself or escaping from the scene. But he spoke the truth. You see, the truth that is in God, is in Christ, is His Word can not only be revealed, but it is also knowable and understandable. Other people had rejected, mocked and understated the truth but that did not change the fact that it was still the truth and as was demonstrated by the Centurion that it was knowable.

The question then would be what does the truth of Jesus being the Son of God (in some places He says I AM) mean for the world today? That statement is the difference between Jesus just being another historical figure and Him being our Saviour. If He is just another historical figure, the injustice, mockery, institutionalized church will just be happenings in a world beaming with happenstances and historical and non-historical events. If He is just a historical figure there will be no urgency for the importance and absoluteness of truth to be given primacy. But if He is the Son of God, if His blood was shed so that our sins would be forgiven, then the injustice, the mockery, the placing of traditions above Christ will be counted against those who have taken it upon themselves to walk on that path. If He is the Son of God, if He is the truth, the way and the life, those who reject Him and the truth that is embodied in Him will not escape hell and God’s judgement.

As I take an indefinite hiatus from blogging (which might eventually be permanent), I leave on a sobering note. When Jesus the Son of God returns, will I go to heaven with Him? Will you who is reading this go to heaven with Him? Because God is Sovereign over all, you will not have the option to choose a ‘different universe’. You will either go to heaven or to hell. Jesus is the way to heaven, will you choose Him? Will you choose the truth that is embodied in Him?

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian

#teamkinkyhair #teamroastmaize #teamchillimango

Scripture References

Matthew 26:57-67; 27:11-31; 27:45-56

Mark 14:53-65; 15:1-20; 15:33-41

Luke 22:66-71; 23:1-23; 23:44-49

John 14:6; 18:19-24; 18:28-40; 19:1-16

Hebrews 12:18-29

 

(Finally, thank you to all the people who have read this blog over the years. I am referring to all of you silent readers who never comment. Thank you for journeying with me through difficult seasons; through rants and through the continuous journey of getting to know God more. I know I didn’t finish my salvation story series. If you want to hear more about it, we can talk about it over some roast maize. I ‘anikad’ (put myself out there) in this post and this post. But I believe the purpose of this blog would never have been accomplished without those two posts. Kwa hayo machache, tunafunga kituo after seven years and 90 posts. It’s been real/Cheers/Kwaheri/Niuguo/Bye 🙂 )

Again

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian

#teamkinkyhair #teamroastmaize #teamchillimango

 

MY (end of year) SALVATION (party) STORY -3

#longpostscontinue

2010 ended on a good note. I joined law school albeit a month after everyone else.

In the preceding months, I was caught up between trying to get the University of Nairobi to attend to my request and wondering whether I had actually heard God about taking that path when I faced difficulty. Consequently, I had not prepared to join law school in any way. When my request was processed I bought exercise books, pens and showed up in class the next Monday. I sat somewhere by myself (I would be surprised if I went around talking to people I didn’t know). Everyone else knew that I was new. Plus I had white braids so I wasn’t exactly invisible. But that was not enough for the Contracts Law lecturer.

He probably looked at his class list and thought, ‘Oh. Here is someone with a different registration number. Let me ask her a question.’ His timing could not have been worse. He read out my name and everyone in class was wondering, ‘Who dat?’. I was startled. I was not expecting him to do that. Further, I am very slow writer. When the lecturer pauses in class I am that student who is filling in 500 gaps in their notes. So, there I was, meticulously filling in the gaps in notes that I didn’t understand when I heard my name being called out. I raised my hand as the class stared. ‘Mumbi, tell us the difference between signature and execution?’

Like so many other people she was confident as a child but as life unfolded she lost that confidence. As standards of ‘good enough’ kept shifting, she found herself in a continuous cycle of worry and anxiety; always wanting people to identify her as the ‘good enough’ one. This weighed more heavily on her after the bouts of depression. She therefore dreaded any occurrences which would have the likelihood of denting her confidence. But then the lecturer orchestrated such an occurrence and he did so in front of a 100 plus cocky first year law students (they are quite cocky before the first exams. Hehehe.)

‘The difference between signature and…’ No sooner had I started answering the question than the whole class erupted in laughter. And they, led by the lecturer had a good laugh. I attempted to answer the question three times but I could not get past the first three words because the class just erupted in raucous laughter. The lecturer laughed so hard he had to hold on to the podium. For those who have not had the great opportunity to talk to me, let me clarify that they were not laughing at my answer (which they would not let me complete anyway). They were laughing at my voice. That was the beginning of five years of lecturers calling out my name (or referring to me using terms like – ‘you with the mango juice’, ‘you with the purple thing in your hair’, ‘sister’ ‘my friend’) and proceeding to react to my voice. On that particular occasion, the lecturer requested that I answer the question in the next class to stop all the laughing. I didn’t even know the answer anyway. This gave me time to go find out the difference between signature and execution.

I thought the lecturer had forgotten but that was the first thing he asked when he came to the next class. He requested that I go answer the question next to him in front of the class as he giggled away and the class to clapped at my brilliant answer. In the context of my confidence not being dented, that experience ended very well. In the context of cocky first year male students asking me to be their girlfriend, it complicated my life.

****

In 2010, she also discovered the anchor scripture for the title of this blog. When she first read Isaiah 61:3, she was overwhelmed.

Not just her face, but her heart, her very being/They were unveiled in front of this mirror of a special kind/The kind that is designed for people like her/The kind that shows both the ugly and the beautiful/The kind that is designed by one who sees the ashes, the mourning, the despair in their ugliest form/The kind that is held in His hands/Those hands which craft and design the infallible beauty, joy, praise and righteousness/Those strong hands that take those magnificently crafted things and place them in her shaky, delicate hands…

 

At the beginning of 2011, I was feeling a bit depressed, probably overwhelmed by an intense degree that I was not adequately prepared for but I prayed to God and that passed after two weeks or so. Around that time, there was a trend among Christian youth about telling their stories. Some of it was inspired by this. With each passing day, I was not only sure that I had experienced depression but that God had scooped me out of it each time. He had made me more aware of who He is and who I am in Him – not entirely but in very reassuring ways. The scriptures were not just words in a book. The life that is in them was real for me. When I prayed, I knew that God was there and He was hearing me. But none of this was enough for the ‘fire spitting, demon chasing, anointing oil squelching in shoes’ people. They said I was moping about my past while God had a great future for me. They had positioned themselves as those closer to God than the rest of us ‘mere mortals’. I therefore thought there was some truth in what they were saying. In hindsight I can confidently say that their pontifications were less truth and more an expression of chauvinism – both male and belief.

It hurt that her testimony was not good enough. She decided not to tell it but to just live her life knowing and treasuring what God had done for her. She found comfort in Luke 7:47. It is the conclusion of a story of a woman whose sins have been forgiven. The last part of that scripture says that to whom much is forgiven he loves much. She is the only one who knew just how close she had come to death when God found her. There is a despair and helplessness that can’t be fully described. She knew what her life was like when that defined her. She knew what her life was like when it lifted. She knew that God had lifted it. That can never be taken from her ‘hata kama testimony haitoshi bei.’ (even if the testimony does not meet the required threshold).

****

Three other things happened in 2011. Firstly, I got a teddy bear called Ashley to always remind me of Isaiah 61:3. (I see y’all teddy bear haters rolling your eyes. The eyes are yours so go ahead and roll them. Hehehe.) Secondly, I did a more useful thing and deleted my Facebook account. It was not helping my quest to live a life not shackled by depression. There was always something that made someone’s life perfect that was out of reach in my life or there was someone who thought that being Facebook friends made them my chaperone. It was dragging me to this hole where I measured my life against other people’s achievements rather than who God says I am and the path He has ordained for me. Honestly, as long as you live in a society you will feel that pressure at one time or other. Facebook just made it worse for me. While I don’t have entire control over whom I interact with on a day to day basis, I had control on whether to have a Facebook account that was draining my life or not. (Further when your aunts and grand aunts send you friend requests you know it is time to leave). Several years after making that decision some founders at Facebook have finally admitted that it is tailored to exploit human weakness/vulnerability.

Thirdly, I did a very useful thing – I started this blog. Why? I don’t have a cause and effect answer. As I stated in the first part of this series, I found solace in creative writing in the depth of depression in high school. When God turned my life around, I decided to try pick up writing again. I wrote two or three liners in my journal (I know it is hard to believe based on the length of these recent posts). There was such a thing as notes on Facebook. I decided to write one. I would not call it the most creative piece of writing I have ever done but it was genuine and heartfelt. There were so many comments coming in that my cheap phone crashed for a bit. I put out a few notes before I deleted my account. One friend asked me where I downloaded the notes from. He didn’t think Mumbi was more than a doll with an interesting voice. In the Nairobi Christian colloquialism of the day she was ‘small sizz’.

Luckily, I had other better friends who kept asking me to start a blog. One actually offered to post my writings on her blog before I could get around to starting mine. She did so for a couple of months. One day in August, I decided that I was going to start my own blog. The one thing that was a constant in my writing was that God gives beauty for ashes. I wanted to capture that in the web address. However, there are a plethora of beauty for ashes blogs out there so several of the addresses I keyed in were rejected. I finally conjured up ashesbeautified and it went through. I didn’t even bother to think further about it. My love for pink and butterflies informed the theme and bam! this blog was born. (I apologize to those who have been reading this blog for a while. The pink and butterflies were awesome but the font was horrible. Sorry for the strain caused to your eyes.)

The story will continue… again!

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian

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MY (end of year) SALVATION (party) STORY – 2

#anotherlongpostalert

Being in a Kenyan government boarding high school, the last moments in school were often punctuated by pieces of advice beginning like this, ‘You know the world out there…’ ‘You are now starting life out there…’ ‘Be careful when you go out there…’ When I left high school, I cared less about all the ‘out there’ advice. I just wanted to burn my books in peace. But the year 2009 came and I was ‘out there’. Compared to boarding school, ‘out there’ can be all kinds of perilous. But there is another kind of unspoken peril. No one tells you just how much you DO NOT KNOW about yourself and about your perceptions of life when you leave high school. The fact that you can acquire a national identification card and a driver’s licence does not really improve your wisdom levels about life.

And so there was Mumbi, fresh out of high school; under the impression that all there was to know about life was within her grasp. Yet, she knew so little if anything at all. She had been transplanted from death to life; from a context devoid of hope to one beaming with immense hope. Yet, the lens through which she looked at life had been clouded by her experience from the past few years. She knew that God was; that He had given her peace, joy and good grades. Yet, she didn’t know that His power was not limited to that. There was so much more healing (or deliverance to be more politically correct) and peace and joy that He could bring to her life. She didn’t know that in Him, she belonged; in Him she was accepted without having to prove her worth.

I grew up on a farm and I remember when calves and kids were in their formative weeks, they were so enamoured by free space. They would just be jumping around. That is how I was. I was enamoured not just by the free time that I had but by the freedom to experience life. I attended lots concerts; some in places that I would not even think of visiting now. I was rightfully unwrapping this life that depression had previously denied me. But I was unwrapping it in a world that wanted to clip that very life; in a world that wanted to stain that very life with some of its seemingly indelible ink. Yet, in my naivety God protected me. One time, I was supposed to meet some guy I had befriended on Facebook. I tried calling him seven times but he was not picking up. I got so angry I went home. That could have ended up as a sexual assault story. This guy used a pseudonym on Facebook, just had one photo with a hat covering his entire face and his Facebook friends just seemed to be female.

Joining Kubamba Krew that year was one another way in which God kept me from wasting my life. And there was a song for it 😉. I met all kinds of people at Kubamba Krew – great people, weird people and team mafisi (hyenas/people who prey on others). But therein I served the Lord in my youth. I had a place to expend all my time and energy.

Psalms 40:2 sums up that year for me. I can say of the Lord that He had scooped me out of the miry clay, set my foot on a rock and steadied me as I went along. I got to know Him and me more as we went along.

****

At the beginning of 2010, I didn’t make any resolutions. However, God told me that in 2010, the battle would be His. I miss that Mumbi. She took that word and was unfazed. And the battles did come. First, several high school classmates and relatives joined the university under the self-sponsored programme (SSP). At that time people on the SSP could join earlier than the government sponsored students. As I have mentioned many times on this blog, I come from a very Kikuyu household. I was feeling the pressure of being at home ‘doing nothing’ while others were advancing their lives in school. My family was also feeling the pressure of my not being in school and of my grades not translating into money. Volunteering for Kubamba Krew counted for nothing. I applied for several jobs that I didn’t get.

And then a bigger battle came. I had applied to study psychology at the university. That did not go down well with the family. Actually, it did not even start going anywhere, leave alone down. It was everyone against me with their ‘you will not waste your grades’ tagline. I told them rather defiantly that God had told me to study psychology. It did not help that I had moved to a church that they popularly referred to as ‘kanisa ya usiku’. Their logical conclusion was that I was in a cult and that God could not tell me to disobey my elders because older people are always right (Ha!). I am stubborn, strong-willed and opinionated just like the rest of my family. Consequently, there was an impasse. They wanted me to study medicine, medicine, medicine, actuarial science, medicine, medicine and in the very far distance law.

The sight of blood makes Mumbi dizzy and sometimes just being in a hospital makes her feel sick. God has not given her the grace to view in close proximity parts of people’s bodies that are always clothed. At certain points in time, she is extremely sensitive to smells which are characteristic of hospitals. And, she doesn’t like touching other human beings who are not the significant other or babies. In Kenyanese they say – she said all that to say, she could not have studied medicine. There is a high chance that taking that path would have driven her back into the depression pit that she was so valiantly trying to escape. The only information she had about actuarial science was from high school teachers. They said it was marketable and equated it to the probability topic in Maths class. After calculus, that was the absolute worst topic in high school Maths class. She didn’t know what she liked then but she was sure that actuarial science did not tickle the fantasies she knew very little about.

Before I talk about law, let me tell the Daystar University story. If you know my sense of style, the length of dresses I like, the long sleeves I do not like, not forgetting the hair, you can go ahead and laugh at the fact that I tried joining Daystar University. I applied for a scholarship to study Psychology at the University of the saintly ones. I got all the required documents including a statement from my pastor saying that I was saved. The only question I remember from the scholarship interview is, ‘What would you do if you died and found out that God is not real?’ I was 18 when they asked me that question. I have almost ten years of experience of being 18. I still don’t know the answer to that question. Actually, what ability does a dead person have to do anything concerning the existence of God?

Let us just say I was not their preferred candidate. I should actually go and thank them for their decision. It set my life on the right path even though I didn’t think so then. My desire to study psychology was very simple. Depression had messed my life; brought me extremely close to taking my own life. I didn’t want that to happen again. If I studied psychology (I thought), I could prevent it from happening to me and to other people. God had told me about my future but I interpreted it using the lens of depression. I had experienced Him but my mind was not completely renewed. My standards about life were largely influenced by the depression experience. I listened to Chris Hart and Dr. Frank Njenga as often as I could. I wanted to be like them. I thought I could become like Dr. Frank by studying psychology and not having to bother my very delicate self with the uncomfortable study of medicine. (I am still an admirer of his thought process).

****

I was determined not to change my mind. My family was determined that if there was any mind that would change, it would be mine. Honestly, these were very lonely times. Despite not knowing God fully, I held on to Him and His word. He had said that the battle belonged to Him and I took Him at His Word. I didn’t even know what that scripture really meant but I believed the one who said it.

****

One day, I was in the kitchen preparing dinner with my mum. I remember it so vividly. We were preparing ugali, sukuma wiki and chicken. I was doing the chicken and I was standing close to the bin. A loud voice said, ‘Put Isaac on the altar. He will not die before God provides the ram.’ I was startled and looked towards the side where the voice had come from. The voice said again rather audibly, ‘Put Isaac on the altar. He will not die before God provides the ram.’ I looked at my mum to see if she had heard the voice. She had not. That was the first time God had spoken to me in a loud voice while I was awake. It might actually be the only time that I consciously remember.

I know that instruction sounds strange but I knew what it meant. I knew in my heart, with no doubt whatsoever that God had asked me to lay down the desire to become a psychologist. I also knew that He wanted me to study law. Later on He told me that He would give me a child called Samuel (in reference to law). Samuel, the Lord said, would grow up in an evil place but he would be a minister of truth and righteousness. That is why I have a very famous pink teddy bear called Sam. (I can see y’all having that ‘All along I suspected that this girl was weird’ moment. Hehehe). I sat on this revelation for a week before telling my family. When I eventually told them, they did not take their sisal skirts out and do a ceremonious dance. They just said that it was better. Their real desire was for me to study medicine. (I wonder if they are reading this and feeling uncomfortable).

Yet, the battle was still yet to rage. By the time I changed my mind, it was too late to change courses as per the Joint Admissions Board’s regulations. I had been called to study psychology at Kenyatta University. I applied to switch to law at the same university. My application was promptly declined. I decided to apply for an inter-university transfer and a course change – from psychology at Kenyatta University to law at the University of Nairobi. This was despite the fact the time to make such changes was the year before. Crazy? I know. The only thing I had to bank on was the voice of God I had heard in the kitchen. I had so much faith I sent the University of Nairobi a letter by post requesting the changes. If you know the University of Nairobi you are allowed to laugh, fall off your seat, laugh some more, rub your belly, think about that statement again and then laugh some more.

****

And then what Mumbi least expected happened. She found herself in the depression hole again. She couldn’t understand it. Here she was, hearing God, serving in church, relating with people, volunteering at Kubamba Krew, basically doing all the right things. But that feeling of hopelessness and helplessness was quickly sneaking up on her. She was also very scared. She didn’t want to have another manic episode. She didn’t want to be at that place of wanting to end her life. She also felt she had an image to protect. In her mind, she had built this life where people did not know her as a sad, confused person and she could not imagine losing that life. She was unsure about where God who had given her this life that she was unwrapping according to all the rules she knew was. None of the Christians she had met by then conceived a church where people would have problems like depression. She tried explaining her predicament to some good Christians but they did not help. They dismissed it as teenage worry.

I honestly didn’t know what to do. I just hoped that each day would be better than the previous one. One Sunday, there was a prophet in church. He had been coming for about three or so weeks. I had never experienced the prophetic before and I thought prophetic people were very spooky. *cough cough* Consequently, I avoided being close to this person and I even avoided eye contact. And then guess what? He called me to the front of the church. The first thing he said was, ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ At that point I, Mumbi Esther Gathoni (then C.E. Mumbi Gathoni) broke down and cried loudly in front of the whole church. I was not brought up to show such emotion (or any emotion for that matter) in public so I was trying to halt the crying but it was not complying.

After being startled by her voice he said several other things but that first statement reached to her innermost. You see, depression made her feel NOT BEAUTIFUL inside and outside. It made her feel like she had absolutely no value. When the prophet said that she was beautiful, she knew that that was from God. Only God knew just how ugly depression made her feel. She could not even bare to look at herself in the mirror. And yet again God had met her at her point of need. When she got home, she knew that that period of depression was over. Psalms 30:11-12 was actually happening to her. She felt this urge to dance and dance she did. The Lord had turned her sorrow to joy.

I would continue to experience overflowing joy. A week after that church service, I was at AFLEWO with some friends. Somewhere in the middle of the night God visited some of us with joy. We laughed continuously for about an hour and a half. Initially people thought it was funny. And then they thought it was weird. And then they were exasperated. We were interrupting their worship experience. This great joy continued for some months. I would laugh for five or so minutes at things that were remotely funny. Some days I would laugh so hard my friends would be holding my hand so that I wouldn’t fall from laughter on the streets of Nairobi or we would stop somewhere for me to get a good laugh. Hehehe.

To be continued… again…

Her Royal Highness, Mumbi Gathoni, Duchess of Kiserian

#teamkinkyhair #teamroastmaize #teamchillimango