God and Life

We are all falling for the three temptations

I remember reading about the temptations of Jesus as a child. I was lost and did not understand why these temptations were such a big deal. OK… Jesus had fasted for 40 days and was at the tail-end of his fast when Satan came and asked him to turn some stones into bread. He refused. Like anyone would or should. I mean, who wants to eat stony bread? What was the big deal about that? Yes, I understood Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days, and he indeed had the power to turn stones into edible bread, but he did not use his power. Still, it just did not make any sense to my young mind. Jesus was in the wilderness. Why didn’t the devil ask him to turn the air to water considering he was probably parched with thirst?

For a long time, the three temptations remained that part of the bible I just did not understand. Don’t get me wrong, I understood Jesus was modeling a resistance to temptation but questions I could not stop asking myself were: “why did the devil choose those specific temptations? Why didn’t he pick something else? Why didn’t he say ‘hey, you’re the son of God right? Why don’t you turn these stones into piles of gold?” I mean, the devil could have asked anything of Jesus, but he specifically asked for three things – three things I did not understand until recently.

I had given up on understanding the three temptations. I had accepted that the lesson to be learned from these temptations was simply the fact that we would all face temptation and we had to resist. But recently, I had an epiphany. I was reading Luke 4 for the umpteenth time, not seeking any kind of understanding, just reading because I wanted to read my bible and it seemed like a good place to read when suddenly, the fog cleared.

The three temptations are not meaningless. They were not pulled out of a hat. They were specific and focused on life as we would come to live it. Don’t roll your eyes yet. Please read my musings on these temptations.

Temptation #1: “If you are the son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread”

This temptation is one that we commonly face today without us realizing it. Very often, we are tempted to turn the stones around us into bread, and more often than not, we do! But what are these stones and how are we mere mortals turning them into bread? Well, let me ask you this: Have you ever consumed something that was not yours to consume? Taken something that was not yours to own? Used your power to take over something you knew you morally shouldn’t? If you have, you have ticked temptation #1 off the list. Think about it:

The devil, by starting his statement with “if you are the son of God”, was deliberately reminding Jesus of his power and position, and the statement “change this stone into a loaf of bread” was a reference to how Jesus could choose to abuse that power. Stones are not to be made into loaves. They are not to be consumed by humans, yet Satan was asking Jesus to turn a stone into a loaf of bread. He was asking Jesus to abuse his power to make the inedible edible. How many times have you used your power to make the inedible edible? How many times have you taken what was not yours to have and consumed it simply because you had the power?

Jesus’ response, “Man shall not live by bread alone” was not a literal reference to bread, but a reference to the fact that contentment does not come from us consuming everything we have the power to consume. There is contentment in loving others, applying restraint in our use of power, and finding other meanings in our lives that do not include how much we can take over.

Temptation #2: “I will give you the glory of all these kingdoms and authority over them, because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me”

Besides the evident lie in what Satan was saying to Jesus here, there was something else I completely missed all these years. Satan was attempting to tap into deep-seated insecurity. Think about it. What kind of person would want authority over all the kingdoms of the earth?

A person who was trying to fill a void no one else could see.

We are all insecure in some way, and we often try to cover our insecurities by acquiring more. People build 15 bedroom houses, even though they have a family of 4 simply because they want to be admired. People marry exotic partners because they want to be seen as capable. People seek power and exercise it in ways that are akin to tyranny because they feel small and want to prove to everyone that they are not. And by seeking these things, we begin to worship them. We become so consumed by the pursuit of them that they become the idols we dedicate our lives to. So it makes sense that Jesus’ response was “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him”. Because at the end of the day, even after we acquire these ‘kingdoms’, we do not find happiness; rather, we become consumed by the desire to pursue more. We keep searching for happiness in these kingdoms and increasingly become depressed when they don’t yield the joy we seek from them. Satan knows there is no joy in any of these quests. He knows that no matter how much we pursue and acquire, if we don’t put God at the center of our lives, we will end up depressed – depressed enough for him to sneak in and snuff our lives out (I wrote about this in my book. You can read the excerpt here). When I think about this, I remember the end of Alexander the great.

“And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer” – Hans Gruber in ‘Die Hard (1988).

Temptation #3: “If you are the son of God, jump off! For the scriptures say He will order his angels to protect and guard you

I have taken a lot of risks in my life. Sometimes, when I think back to the dangers I put myself in as a teenager, I mutter a prayer of thanksgiving to God. I did not realize at the time that I was putting myself in danger and I am grateful God looked out for me anyway. But what about now?

This temptation thrives on over-confidence. There are many people who love God, walk in his ways and trust in him, but are so over-confident that they deliberately put themselves in the line of fire to prove a point of how much God loves and adores them. This is common among the ‘Christianese‘. I remember a story I heard as a child of a pastor in a village in Nigeria who decided to go to the village stream to pray against the demons there. He walked into the stream, and before he could utter a word, realized his legs were stuck. The so-called demons in the stream had held him prisoner, and it took an army of prayer warriors to ‘set him free’. It was probably a fable, but a cautionary tale warning us not to go seeking things for the sake of proving God is on our side.

You might ask “but how do we show we have faith if we don’t jump?” Well, I don’t think faith is about proving a point to anyone. It is not even proving a point to ourselves. We don’t exercise faith to stunt on haters. We exercise faith because we trust God has beautiful and amazing plans for our lives. And that is why when what we trust for does not pan out the way we want, we don’t stop trusting God. If however, the plan is to prove a point, if the backdrop of our actions is over-confidence, then our motives are misplaced and our ego can end up hurt. Overconfidence does not serve God. It serves us. It is due to a bloated sense of self-importance, not a sense of God.

I can’t say I have gained a full understanding of the line between faith and overconfidence and I hope someone will expatiate on it in the comments, but I will always remember Jesus’ response to this temptation: “You must not test the Lord Your God.”

So, I am happy that I can finally say the three temptations make sense to me. I am elated to have found these meanings, and I am aware others out there might have insights I have not yet gained. Please share them with me in the comments. Looking forward to reading them.

God and Life

‘I Died At 26’ – Excerpt from Chapter One

To pre-order a copy of ‘I Died At 26’, please click here (Shipping from mid-September)

I died and no one knew about it for a very long time.

My death was no spectacular event. It was slow and almost painless. It did not make the papers; no one heard about it and no one far or near saw it happen. As a matter of fact, no one thought a person like me, on the path I was, with the strength I possessed and the determination with which I pursued my purpose could die. Yet I did; and for a long time it was my best kept ‘open secret’. I could not blame anyone for being oblivious to my death. It was not exactly made of crime investigation TV material. There was no bloodshed, no warning signs and certainly no suspects. It was a simple case of surprise and surrender. Death surprised me and I surrendered. Even if I had been given time to prepare for its visit, I doubt I would have been able to withstand its force against me.

Before my death, my life was on the right path. It was a shining beacon of inspiration to many. I was touching lives, making a difference and feeling purposeful every time I opened my eyes. It seemed as if all the elements of the universe had converged to give me what I needed and I was falling in love with the path that lay before me. But in what seemed like a swift moment, everything changed, and for a long time I had to pretend they were still the same. I had to pretend I still had everything together, act like everyone expected me to, laugh like I used to, talk like I used to and walk like I used to. Every time someone who knew me before everything changed spoke to me, I had the textbook “God is good” response at the tip of my tongue. But deep inside, I was unsure of myself. I was at a place in my life where the questions I had for God were more than the praises that crossed my thoughts. I licked my wounds in secret and subscribed fully to the association of the walking dead to keep my pretence alive. I succumbed to death and no one could tell.

Is this perchance an apt description of how you once felt or are currently feeling? Perhaps you are slipping into the cold hands of death as you read this – walking, talking laughing and working… yet, slipping away slowly just like I was. Everyone thinks you are alive, but you know that the heartbeat you feel is not yours; the life you live is not yours, even the feelings you have are not yours. Every time you close your eyes, you are plagued by visions of another life – making waves and breaking grounds; but the moment you open your eyes, everything feels dead and hopeless. Perhaps you once had plans for the life you now see in those visions. You had all the right strategies in place and you were going for gold before you tripped and fell into a dark abyss. Now you’re struggling to stay alive. You walk and talk like you used to before you fell, and everyone thinks your life is going great still. But only you know, in the deepest crevices of your mind that you are dying and your attempts to fight death have been abysmally futile.

I know how it feels to lose against the cold scrawny hands of this death. I also tried to fight it and quickly discovered that I was expending my energy on a battle I was not equipped to win. I walked, talked, laughed and even worked with the efficiency of a flawlessly-assembled robot. Only I knew that my core was missing. Everyone else saw me as a complete package. Some of them even aspired to be like me! If only they knew that I was feeling like the essence of my existence had been yanked away from me and without it I had become soul-less. If only they knew how hard I cried to have it back, how long I prayed endlessly for the restoration of what was and how much I struggled to fake it with the hope that things would still fall into place, they would not have wished to be me. If only they knew that the package they admired on the outside was full of emptiness and despair on the inside, they would have cast the nets of their admiration elsewhere. If only they knew that the woman they perceived as strong, focused and a role model was at death’s door… if only, if only… but the truth is they didn’t, and I died.

I fooled a lot of people easily because as a fairly good orator, I knew all the right things to say and when to say them. Few people saw my tears as my soul was pierced but even they could not understand them. I reached out for help but no one thought I needed it that badly. Who saves a strong person? Who saves the person who always helps and motivates everyone? The answer is no one. No one thought the weight was too much to carry or the pain too much to bear. “You are strong Demi, you will pull through this” they said. And so I had no choice than to surrender to death. If no one was going to help lift the burden, I decided to die beneath its weight.

This book is a true story, my true story. It is about how I went from life to death and back to life in twelve months. It is about how I learned that God is in the midst of every dying phase we go through and his intentions for us, even in the midst of death, are filled with love, grace and peace.

At first, I told myself it was not important to write this book. In this day and age, where there are so many people going through excruciating situations, I started to question if my story was enough to help you understand your own death and hopefully awaken you to a new life. Then I met with other people, listened to them open up about their lives and I realized that the end result of death is the same. It does not matter if a person dies peacefully in their sleep, from a car accident, a house fire, or a violent attack, the endpoint is death. In the same way, it does not matter if you are reading this book because your design for your life is falling apart, or because you feel God is not hearing your incessant cries, or you’ve lost your job and can’t break into the job market because of the robots, or because your spouse walked out the door and left you to grapple with the million and one pieces that are now the remains of your life, the fact is you are dying just like many others out there – dying for different reasons but dying all the same.

I hope that by reading my story and my thoughts about this death, you will awaken to life again. I hope you will transition safely from a place of death to real life where you exist in every space, connect with yourself and with God your creator to live an abundant life. This book is not just for those who believe in God, live Christ-centered lives and know all the right bible verses for every situation. This book is for you – the ‘I’ve-heard-about-God-but-don’t-really-know-him’ person; the ‘I-used-to-know-God-but-my-life-fell-apart-so-I-left-him’ person and the “I-don’t-read-Hallelujah-stuff” person. You are in luck; I am pretty certain I did not use the word “Hallelujah” that much so keep reading. This book is for every imperfect person out there, every confused person and certainly every functional dead person who is trudging slowly to 75 when they hope to be buried. This book is for everyone who desires to wake up from death, make it through life’s dark tunnels and awaken to life again. It has taken a lot of courage to write this and I hope reading about my experience wakes you up to a new abundant life where you are assured of God’s love, God’s grace and God’s beautiful plans for your life.

Travel and Lifestyle

In Nigeria, Good Girls Don’t Wear Nose Rings

On a beautiful summer morning in the city of London UK, my sister and I woke up and made a decision we knew would not exactly make momma proud. We were going to the nearest Claire’s store to get additional piercings in our ears. I remember the excitement with which we skipped to the mall at Uxbridge for something as mundane as an extra ear piercing. But it was what it was – a defiance of an upbringing that had confined us so much, that our first opportunity to let loose brought about inexplicable joy and release.

For me, it was the excitement of deliberately testing the limit of cultural decency. A couple of years before that day, when I lived in Ibadan in Nigeria, I had unknowingly tested the same limit. That day, I had adorned my left ankle with a silver anklet that matched the dark blue knee-length denim skirt and white top I wore to my A’levels class. I thought nothing of it. It was jewelry and I loved jewelry. So imagine how shocked I was when I got a call from my mother later that evening asking if I had joined ‘a bad gang’. A bad gang? Where? What gang? You need to know how nerdy I am to understand how unlikely this accusation was. Yet, there I was trying to figure out the link between my activities at school and this band gang association tag. Yes, I did many teenage stuff, but way-before-bad-gang was where I drew the line. How did my mother reach this conclusion?

It turned out that a friend of hers who had visited her daughter at the school that day had seen me, and on noticing the anklet, figured I was part of a prostitution ring or helping armed robbers in cash heists. Because, in Nigeria, good girls do not adorn themselves with anklets, nose rings, toe rings, lots of rings on their fingers, belly rings, tongue rings, extra earrings… or any form of adornment that can be easily associated with women who are not under any form of control. So you can understand why me and my sister were excited to take our first step toward freedom by getting extra ear piercings. They were not in risque places but still, getting them was a step gained against the widely-accepted idea of what decent women ought to dress like.

I recently saw a tweet from a Nigerian man that made me think back to that day in London.

“Nose piercing and or breast baring in pictures is now the order of day. Even the supposedly Nigerian “good girls” have also caught the bug. I am seeing things.” – @Lexymma

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read that. I would have laughed out loud and responded if it did not bring back the memory of being accused of committing crimes across the city of Ibadan simply because I wore an anklet to class. I would have been really amused if it did not remind me of the many times as a child that I saw beautiful women who gracefully embellished their feet and ankles with beautiful toe rings and anklets, only to be told they were women who could not get husbands because they were prostitutes or mermaids sent from the sea to mislead married men and steal them from their wives. If the women were light-skinned, the mermaid story stuck. If they were dark-skinned, they were aspiring to join the mermaids in the sea (a story for another day).

I tried to dig into why these fashion elements are so demonized in the Nigerian society, and the best reason I got was from the bible. A young Nigerian man pointed to the fact that the Israelites had built a golden calf using their jewelry; therefore, any woman who had extra jewelry on, was endorsing the actions of the Israelites and possibly plotting to build a calf of her own. I don’t know about you all, but building a calf is not what comes to mind when I put on my anklet or toe ring. I just want my feet to look pretty.

It really sucks that in Nigeria, decency is still pretty much determined by inconsequential actions such as wearing a nose ring or an anklet, and this unfortunately affects how you are perceived by society. It is not unusual for women to meet men who are cool with their nose rings (like this should even be a thing???), but when it is time to meet the family, cool guy pleads with them to remove these extra embellishments. Why? The parents just will not approve. It is not surprising to find men in Nigeria assuming that a woman with extra piercings or jewelry is down for whatever. The idea is that if she is dressed like that (referring to use of jewelry here), then she is the kind of girl who will be exciting for the night but not good enough to marry. I have also heard pastors preach about how holy their wives are by pointing out her natural beauty and lack of jewelry as proof of this holiness.

I usually don’t know if I should laugh or weep when I hear these things. How does a piece of jewelry determine a person’s sense of morality? How do people even come up with these things? Besides vilifying women who wear jewelry, a new wave is demonizing women who cut their hair in trendy styles. I remember a WhatsApp broadcast message I received recently where ladies who cut and dye their hair were accused of being part of a diabolical prostitution ring. According to this broadcast, these women are members of a cult whose mission is to ‘hook’ married men to their vaginas and extort money from them. Do you see the trend? Have you noticed it? The idea that women who do these things are simply trying to steal poor married men from their marital beds.

To be fair, in Nigeria, men with tattoos are regarded as cultists or robbers most of the time, so women are not the only ones who are suffering from meaningless dictates of morality that have no direct correlation with behavior. What I wonder about is how these rules came about. Who decided to associate anklets with prostitution, and piercings with looseness? Who is the ancestor who has imprisoned women and men in this box of decency, preventing them from expressing themselves through fashion choices that are really just fashion choices?

Anyway, I have been thinking of piercing my nose but people say it is really painful and uncomfortable. Decisions… decisions….

PS: My book is now available for pre-orders. Visit the homepage and click ‘Preorder I Died At 26’. Remember to submit the form before you click the ‘Pay now’ option that applies to you.

Travel and Lifestyle

La vie est amusante et belle à Niagara, Canada/ Life is fun and beautiful in Niagara, Canada

I love going out – selecting an outfit, getting dressed and smiling with satisfaction at myself in the mirror after all the bells and whistles are in place is something I find exciting. Staying out however is a whole different ball game. After two hours, I start itching for the comfort of my home. I long for the soft feel of my couch and the desire to rest my head on one of the cushions becomes really overwhelming. This feeling waxes stronger if I am outdoors on a cold day , in a social setting with too dull or too loud conversation, or if I am with people who are so particular about coming across as perfect, they are unable to state their truths in conversations.

So when I and my colleagues from the Young Water Professionals conference in Toronto got set to visit Niagara falls with an itinerary of about nine hours, I was very worried about the possibility of being overwhelmed by my desire to be home. I wanted to hang out with everyone, but I was also worried about finding out that we could not connect on anything more than our passion for functional and effective water services across the world. I got set anyway. Armed with my camera, I decided I was going to have an amazing day and fight that urge to be home after two hours. I would later come to realize that my resolution was not necessary.

We set off from Downtown Toronto and headed first for a water treatment plant tour in the Halton region. After about an hour of learning about how resident water technicians worked together to ensure the plant was effective in its water provision mandate, we headed for the Niagara region which was a little more than an hour’s drive from the water treatment plant.

Photo taken in Tawse winery wine cellar

Our first stop was the Tawse Winery in the area. This is a great place to stop for a tour if you are travelling as a group. The Tawse winery is set in the serene Niagara region surrounded by the beauty of trees with a water fountain in front of the building. Welcomed with glasses of Rosé, our tour guide passionately explained the process of wine-making, how different types of grapes birth different wines, and how even though they make champagne, they can’t call it champagne because the residents of Champagne in France would have a fit. We walked between the rows of different grapes, grown specifically for different kinds of wines and basked in the sun listening to reasons why the grapes were grown on slopes. Inside the winery, we were treated to a wine tasting session, surrounded by Tawse’s finest products.

Few glasses of wine and a lot of good information later, we set off for Niagara falls. This was the highlight of the trip and I really did not know what to expect. I had heard a lot about the falls. A colleague even described her visit there as a dream come true so I was really looking forward to it. As we pulled into the ‘city’, I could see why anyone would be excited to be there. Niagara is really where you cut loose, forget how old or heavy-laden you are and just have fun!

You can start by seeing the fall from the curb or even ziplining over it. Afterwards, get on the skywheel and get a good view of the city. I am terrified of heights but after one round on the wheel, I was able to start enjoying the view. Thankfully, the wheel is slow. I still have some childhood trauma from a hand-spun ferris wheel on the Bar-beach in Lagos. Some useful advice: Buy an adventurer ticket which allows you on to the skywheel as well as other select rides in the area, rather than a single ticket for the skywheel.

You will be spoiled for choice on what to do in Niagara, so don’t spend too much time thinking about it and just start with whatever is nearest to you. From laser-tagging to cart racing, there is a lot of action in Niagara and lots to see if you decide to simply take a stroll around. There are restaurants with live music in the area and great ice-cream stores. If I remember correctly, I got really delicious rocky road ice cream from ‘Sweet Jesus’. It was about ten dollars and I remember my friend frowning at the price. There are also shops to get touristy stuff like t-shirts, fridge magnets and even hoodies.

By the end of the day, as we drove back to Toronto, I had no urge to be in my bed. It felt like the child in me came out to play and I did not want to lock her back in. I ended the day with dinner at a Cantonese restaurant in Downtown Toronto, and as I laid my head to sleep later that night, I closed my eyes with the contentment of a day well spent.

Travel and Lifestyle

Brethren, It is Not by Faith Alone that We Lose Belly Fat

If I was asked to describe belly fat, I would call it the creeping invader of the late twenties and persistent friend of the late thirties. It is the friend that takes the vow of alliance seriously. It understands the importance of keeping secrets, and will happily stay put in waist trainers, barely trying to stretch its arms as friends and strangers admire our tiny perfect waist lines. It does not rat us out beneath all types and colors of shape-wear and does not hold a grudge by the end of the day when we let it flow freely, relieving ourselves from the strain of arduous breathing. It is the friend no one wants, but one we are likely to get if we keep thinking that we can wish it away as we trust in our ‘fast’ metabolism.

I used to be one of those people – I had so much faith in my fast metabolism, did not really understand why I needed to workout, and was able to eat almost anything without consequence. But as I turned a chapter after 25, I started to notice an undesirable horizontal expansion in places I would have preferred to keep tight and fit. This expansion, although slow in its encroachment, began to bother me and it was only a matter of time before it became a battle I wanted to fight wholeheartedly.

So I did what everyone was doing – I joined a gym in my area and decided it was time to start working out. In fact, I started to fantasize about the toned body I was going to build and was no longer a fan of my slim-but-not-firm body.

At first, I would go to the gym and spend 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, and another 30 minutes fooling myself into thinking the halfhearted crunches and sit-ups I was doing were sufficient for me to lose this layer of belly fat that I could not stop seeing, even though my friends and acquaintances claimed they could not see it. I guess I don’t need to tell you that by the end of three months, I was exactly in the same place I was when I started.

Frustrated, I delved into research and got the gist of what I was doing wrong – spending hours on a cardio machine was not going to help get the toned body I wanted. I needed to move with confidence into the intimidating weights section of the gym and lift weights.

After talking myself up for several days and strategically eyeing the times of the day when the weights section of the gym was close to empty, I eventually made my way to the weights and attempted to do a 25 kg deadlift. The contents of my stomach mixed vigorously together and after a few lifts (and by few, I mean three), I made a good decision to drop the barbell and walk stylishly to the ladies room. From there I went straight home. Deadlifts were certainly not my friend. The first time I lifted 40 kg a few weeks later, the room spun and my whole body shook. I sat on a bench for 20 minutes, hoping my body was not going to disassemble into bits. Those were the funny early days, and I wish I could say they yielded the desired results but they did not.

After every workout session, I was so ravenous, I would eat a steak with vegetables and ten minutes later, be found sitting on my couch eating a packet of plantain chips. I was insatiable after every workout. I remember going out with a friend for breakfast at a new spot he really liked. He suggested I order an omelette and I remember saying “Just that? I am really hungry!” He looked amused and when the omelette arrived, I understood why. There was no way I could finish the large omelette AND the slices of brown toast I had ordered. It was the first time I was defeated by food, but I still continued with my plantain chips routine and would occasionally snack on a chocolate bar, nuts and all other kinds of small bits. The result? I started to look bulky. My shoulders were wider, breasts larger, butt rounder and belly fat? Persistent. I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror one day wondering what I was doing wrong.

I ate a lot of proteins – beef, chicken, fish fillets, and no carbohydrates. I used only olive oil in my cooking. I drank water and freshly-squeezed orange juice most of the time. Fizzy drinks have never really been my thing so they were not a problem. I had the occasional glass of wine and sometimes, when I was out with friends, I had cocktails and “100% juice”. But surely, those should not have been enough to undermine my efforts in the gym.

It took a presentation by some of my students for me to realize that not eating carbohydrates did not mean I was not getting carbohydrates. Did you know that your body converts proteins to carbohydrates when your blood sugar is low? I immediately changed my game plan.

Low quantity of carbs + lean proteins + healthy fats to yield a calorie deficit daily became the plan.

Thankfully, the results are now better. I have lost the bulkiness of an aspiring body builder and I am well on my way to achieving a toned mid-section – which is really the most difficult part for me. I mean, it seems all the fat I had in other parts of my body migrated to my belly to set up a defense camp against my efforts, but my mama did not raise a quitter so I am pressing on, not by faith, but by strenuous workouts in the gym.

My banana, berries and chia seeds smoothie packed with a teaspoon of gluten-free oats

I work out four days a week and on one of the other days, I do a 5km run within the neighborhood. I have split my body, not into parts, but into sections – my upper body and my lower body. Because I never really had a butt when I was younger, and I really wanted one, I hit my lower body with heavy weights and many reps three out of four days. (By the way ladies, hit that booty as often as you can. Don’t give up on it! Working out your glutes will do your body a lot of good). Chest, arms and back workouts are two days a week (I combine the third day of lower body workouts with light upper body workouts), and abs are every workout day.

I eat more fibre-rich gut-friendly meals. One of my favorite breakfasts is a banana, berry and chia seeds smoothie which I pack up with a tablespoon of gluten-free oats whenever I am feeling really peckish. For lunch, I indulge in delicious vegetable casseroles or a delightful mix of lean proteins, chickpeas, and vegetables. Dinner is always something light, like a delicious carrot and coconut soup recipe I stumbled on.

No, I no longer drink orange juice even though it is freshly squeezed at a farmer’s market near me. Water is my best friend. I start my day with warm water and lemon, and by the end of my morning workouts, I consume about one litre of water. I consume more during the course of the day.

Yes, I still hang out with friends and I enjoy an occasional treat of waffles and ice cream when the craving overwhelms me, but all in all, I am doing pretty good and a gut healthy diet has been the best decision I’ve made on this fitness journey. Still a work in progress but I am happy with how I feel. Yes, that’s me featured on this post.

I intend to post my workout regimen soon so keep an eye out for that. For now, get rid of all the fizzy stuff, give the cookies away and replace your baked snacks with baby carrots. Get into some cardio and body weight exercises at home, and if you are wondering what you can eat, my advice is to stick to food that grows, not food that is synthesized.

With all that said dear community, what are your workout and diet tips? Please share in the comments. I will be delighted to read about how you are all challenging the creepy invader called belly fat.

God and Life

In Nigeria, It’s Not Hard to Find and Join a Cult

When the story of Ese Walters and Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of COZA broke out back in 2013, I posted Ese’s story and the story of another woman by the name Franca on my blog. You can read that post here. I remember how quickly people came to the pastor’s defence, not on my blog, but on Facebook, stating that he was a man of God and those who believed Ese’s story were bound to be mercilessly judged by God. An acquaintance from college took the pain to write me a personal message of how deeply she believed Pastor Biodun was innocent.

It’s six years later and new allegations of rape have come up against the same man. As usual, church members are out in droves on social media defending him. Some have claimed that women throw themselves at the pastor because he is ‘just so fine’. In spite of his display of ‘terroristic bigmanism’ (a newly coined Nigerian slang that describes the brute show of power by well-connected men in the country), many church members remain steadfast in their belief that the pastor is innocent, and is simply being attacked by the devil for doing the Lord’s work.

Here’s what’s interesting. This was the exact same thing church members chanted back in 2013 when Ese Walters posted her story. They praised Pastor Biodun in a frenzy of worship for his ability to teach the word, inspire the youths and well, for other things I cannot even remember. Now they are doing the same, as though they are reading from the same script from six years ago. You may see it differently, but it all sounds a little ‘cultish’ to me.

It made me think back with zero nostalgia to when I was a child and my parents decided to uproot our family from a well-established church in the metropolitan Lagos area to what I can only refer to as a religious start-up in one of the annex suburbs of Lagos. The church had one pastor who had the vision, the fire and the knowledge of the word, and us, the followers.

At first it all seemed great – a small church where everyone felt like family, not because we were really family, but because it was just so hard to hide your business from the prying eyes of everyone else. My parents reveled in it. We the children just went along with it. It didn’t take long after we joined for the rules to start falling from the pulpit.

  1. All children had to be in the choir. Yes, you read that right. Every child in the church, including those who were unable to blow their own noses had to be in the choir. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how the choir sounded. Drunk bees sounded way better than we did
  2. There was a special covering over everyone in the church due to the anointing of the pastor. Leaving the ministry meant leaving the special covering of protection, in which case we would be vulnerable to the darts of the enemy. So guess what? No one was trying to even leave for fear that the enemy was right around the corner.
  3. We were like the Israelites and we were heading to the Promised Land physically and spiritually. Leaving the church meant missing out on the joy of getting to the promised land of the church and the promised land of your life. In fact, for this rule, the pastor openly considered himself to be Moses and appointed my father (yes my dad!) as Aaron. Both of them were to lead us, the Israelites to the promised Land.

We needed a really good shaking but we stayed put. After a while, visions started to pop up from prophets in the church, stating that the wrath of God was going to fall on anyone who dared to think of leaving the church. We were stuck. No one wanted to be the first to leave and test the prophecy so we all showed up religiously at church, even when the pastor and his family were kicked out of the building and we had to hold our services, including vigils outside in pouring rain.

We often left the church on Sundays to pray over the promised Land – a vast piece of land in the area which the pastor claimed God had shown him will be ours. We went there as a group, held hands and prayed with enough fervour to scare all the angels of Heaven into doing our bidding. It took years and a lot of bravery for us to discover that the so-called promised land belonged to families who were already planning to erect structures on it. Thank God we were not arrested by the police while we were there shouting proclamations over land we did not own.

We defended the church. We defended the prophecies and looked forward to their fruition. In fact, every Sunday, there were prophecies and visions of evildoers falling at our feet in the spiritual realm. When the pastor’s daughter testified that she successfully wrestled two witches in her classroom, exposing them in their black and red regalia, we broke into frenzied dancing! God was doing wonders in our midst, exposing witches and using overlooked members of our community like the shockingly slender daughter of the pastor to bring witches to their knees. Of course, her revelation was followed with a stern warning to parents to ensure their children did not have friends, for fear that the children would be initiated into witchcraft and used to attack the church. So, for a long time, friends were terribly frowned upon in our family. In fact, happiness and peace were feelings I personally only started to experience once we left that church. I remember baking a cake once in the pastor’s kitchen and being labelled a possessed child for doing so. I can’t explain how exhausting the torrent of prayers that followed after was.

The first disturbance to the status quo came in the form of a woman called Mrs Akintayo. Mrs Akintayo and her husband had four strapping boys and were punctual at every single service, including weekday services. During one of such services, one of the prophets was in a trance, prophesying and stating visions of things that were happening in the spiritual realm. By the way, this was a prestigious gift to have in the church so many people often went into ‘trance’ and ‘prophesied’. On this fateful day, Mrs Akintayo was standing behind the prophet in case she missed her step (because in trance, you are walking in the spiritual and might not see stones, steps or even poles in the physical). The prophet suddenly turned to Mrs Akintayo and said:

“You must never leave the church else the wrath that falls on those who leave will befall you and your family.”

Mrs Akintayo immediately fell to her knees in subservience. “Me? Leave the church? I would not dare! My allegiance is pledged to this church and the vision of the pastor.”

From his seat in front, the pastor nodded satisfactorily. We all did. No one wanted to experience the wrath that befalls leavers and we certainly did not want to lose Mrs Akintayo to it. However, on the following Sunday, as the service commenced, the absence of the Akintayos was noticeable. My dad decided we would visit them at home after the service. Perhaps one of their children was ill. We arrived at their home and were surprised to meet everyone in high bubbly spirits. “We woke up late and the car was not working”, they said. My dad prayed for them and prayed for the car to miraculously start working.

Yet, throughout the week, the Akintayos were missing in action. Weeks went by and their visible absence from church could not be ignored. The truth finally dawned on everyone – the Akintayos had left and were not coming back. Something had shaken them awake and caused them to look again at this ‘ministry’. It took another year for my parents to leave. I was living in Ibadan then so I was not there to experience the ugliness of what led to their exit.

Now, as I watch and listen to people jump to the defence of their pastor without first checking for the truth, I am reminded of the agonizing years my family spent in what we thought was a church, but was really a cult in the making. I am reminded of the belief we had in this ‘pastor’ and his ability to ‘teach’ the word even though I can’t recall any impactful message he taught and I bet my dad, his ‘Aaron’ can’t recall any either. But even if we could, is the ability to teach impactful messages enough to absolve one of criminality?

From my experience, I have come to realize that very often, when we seek churches we find cults; not because we are foolish, but because we are seeking manifestations of God that meet our expectations by feeding our fear. We want to be told not to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or even wear certain hairstyles because for some reason, we think those rules make God real. We believe in human shepherds and their man-made laws which they turn to doctrine, but forget the one true shepherd – Christ Jesus. We forget that God is already in the beauty of our skin, in the curls and coils of our hair, in the steps of our feet and even the waves of our hands. God is in us, hearing us, seeing us, and walking with us. We need not trust in the special gifts of others, but trust in the name of God alone.

Have you also had a ‘cultish’ experience? Please share. I would love to read about it!

And yes, the Akintayos were all still alive last time I checked.

Personal Growth

Why I Revamped my Blog

When I first started blogging in 2012, I did not know why I wanted to be a blogger. It was a cool thing to do at the time and seemed like a good avenue to tell fictional stories, so that’s what I did. I wrote 16 episodes of “a woman’s world” but could not bring myself to ‘land’ the story with the expertise of a seasoned fiction writer, so I left it hanging with the blunt end of zero suspense and delved into relationship blogging.

This seemed to make sense. I knew from seven years ago that being mistreated in a relationship was not acceptable and even had what you might call ‘feminist tendencies’ without identifying with the movement. I loved relationship blogging; it made sense at the time to sit on the stool of idealism and scream at people to ‘do the right thing!” Lots of exclamation marks were used to pass points across. A friend said he read my blog and felt I was in the room yelling at him. I felt embarrassed. I did not want to be a yelling relationship expert (and the use of the word expert is a stretch considering how single and drawn to unhappy relationships I was) so I went to some of my posts and changed the exclamations to periods. I left some of the ‘yelling’ because well, ‘how else would people get how passionate I was?’

As time went on, I started to realize there was a lot of nuance to consider when speaking to people in bad relationships. People just don’t wake up, look at an abusive partner and say “dayuuum! You fine! Can I get me some of that?”

No. People are led to that, conditioned into it, sometimes subdued into it. I realized people needed motivation so I changed my blog name to Motivation Springs. I wanted to motivate people and get them going. I imagined myself on world stages, telling people to “aspire to acquire what they desire because it is required” – yep. It does not get emptier than that in motivation speak.

To make it seem like I had fans, I did a Facebook advert of the Motivation Springs Facebook page and got over 1000 likes. It boosted my blog follower count on the site but led to zero engagement because those ‘followers’ were not real. Thank you Mark Zuckerberg.

Recently, the scales fell off my eyes. Everytime I delved into something new with my blog, I did it with the conceited impression that I had and knew everything I needed to tell people what to do and who to become. My position on matters sometimes lacked nuance, and in cases where they hit the nail on the head, I could not say I was living up to everything I was telling everyone to do.

See, that was the problem. I was telling everyone what to do from an idealistic point of view because it sounded sensible. It took a few years for this brand of ‘sensible’ to begin to sound empty to me and I realized I was losing my love for helping and inspiring others because I was watching the world through the eyes of idealism and not that of experience, and by doing that, I was creating a subtle kind of falsehood.

Hence this revamp.

It has taken a long time to get to this comfortable point of saying “I am not a relationship expert or an expert motivator. I don’t always have the right words or know the right things to do. I am just a young lady who has lived alone since 16 and has grown to view the world through different lenses. I want to share the reality of happenings around me, not the idealistic images of perfection I once tried to force on you.

I am an ‘expert’ who knows nothing more than to see people, events, opinions and life in the real expressions of what they are about. My posts might inspire you, some might make you laugh (if you have a dry sense of humor like me) and some might rub you off the wrong way. Whatever they make you feel, I hope for healthy discussions and sharing of real experiences. I hope to talk about everything from having a loving relationship with God to your best chicken wings recipe. I hope to read about your real life experiences not dream life experiences and I look forward to sharing this space with all my 200 followers. Yes, I deleted that Facebook page. 200 humans over 1000 robots for me any day! (Oops! I’m yelling again 😄 old habits).

Signed:

Your not-so-Nigerian girl.

Travel and Lifestyle

Out and About in Downtown Toronto

If you are thinking of where to spend your next summer holiday, take a good look at Toronto. It is nice and warm in the summer, vibrant and not short of places to visit or things to do. I spent a couple of weeks there and had a really great experience. I had a great view staying in a high rise building

If you are wondering what to do in Toronto, keep reading.

  1. There are lots of places to eat: Downtown Toronto is not short of places to eat. Expect to be spoiled for choice in this vibrant part of the city. In fact, you are more likely to find places to eat than you are to find places to shop for fashion. I am not kidding. I stayed on Dundas Street East all through and was grateful for it. Not only is it close to the famous Dundas Square (Toronto’s version of NYC’s Times Square), it was easy to access a wide range of restaurants from here. There are a lot of Asian restaurants on Dundas Street West, so if you are craving Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai…the whole shebang, Dundas Street West is definitely the place to be. I had really good culinary experiences with Hong Shing and Zen Q.

Downtown Toronto also has some cool breakfast spots. If you are looking for a delicious and filling weekend brunch without having to go to through the stress of making reservations, check out School on Fraser Avenue. The ‘Krispy Krunchy’ French toast with raspberry compote and brown sugar butter is to die for! The ambience is relaxed, welcoming and for a nerd like me, appealing. Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you. They serve juice in glass beakers! Haha! I mean laboratory glass beakers. The scientist in me couldn’t be more pleased!

If you are looking to eat at a chain restaurant, Sunset Grill is great to check out. I ordered an omelette and was told by a friend later on that I shouldn’t have. It was not as exciting to eat as I had hoped but I did see other customers eating more exciting stuff

OK. Enough about food. I could go on and on because I ate a lot from a lot of places but let’s move on.

2. Be sure to check out the art! Toronto is an artsy city, well, at least the downtown area is. I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario with a friend and saw really beautiful exhibitions. The ‘Infinite Mirrors’ exhibition by Yayoi Kusama was on at the gallery and it was quite the ‘limitless’ experience. Going through the gallery, you will be sure to find other interesting pieces of art.

3. There is a place for critically acclaimed films and documentaries. That place is the Ted Rogers cinema on Bloor Street. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the Toni Morrisson movie due to unforeseen circumstances, but it is a great place to hang out in the downtown area if you are into those kinds of movies.

4. Hire a bicycle and ride around the city. There is a lot to see in Toronto and one of the best ways to see the city is hire a bicycle and ride around town. Bicycle rentals go for about $35 for the whole day and an extra $10 if you want to keep the bicycle overnight. Here are some pictures I took around the downtown area.

5. Get on a sightseeing tour bus and see the city: This is as touristy as it gets. The tour bus has a pick up point at Dundas square and tickets are about $40 if I remember correctly.

6. Check out ABC books on Yonge street: If you are into old books at pleasingly low prices, then this is the shop to check out. I left with two fiction books and a memoir of imprisoned women in Iran, and parted with only five dollars. Yep $5. Definitely the cheapest purchase I made in Toronto!

7. Go to the beach: Yes, there are beaches in Toronto and if you are there for the summer, the beach is a great place to go and let loose. Volleyball is one of the popular beach sports in Toronto.There were groups around almost every volley net playing very competitively, I might add. The great thing is that Canadians are really friendly people, and will likely invite you to join them. I went to Woodbine beach, which is about twelve minutes drive from Dundas street, met a couple of guys, had some Canadian lager, went out to dinner with them, and at the end of the evening, we were all following each other on Instagram. Yep! And Oh I discovered I have lost my volleyball touch.

8. Some noteworthy additions: China Town and Kensington market are great places to check out in the downtown area. If you are looking to purchase souvenirs, tourist hoodies or decorative material, China Town is certainly your plug! And your way there, stop by the Lucky Moose grocery store to get your dose of fresh fruits. If vintage clothing is your thing, then certainly you must visit Kensington market!

Toronto is certainly not the cheapest place to holiday, but it is really lots of fun! I went to the Niagra area and visited a winery, a wastewater treatment plant (can’t run away from being a water specialist), and of course Niagra falls, but I will save that for another post.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Do share your fun holiday moments if you have been in Toronto!

God and Life

God Sends Help Before You need It

There was a time in my life when I thought I would die from every bad situation I faced. I often told myself, in the midst of difficulty, that there was no way I was going to make it out so it was in my best interest to bend my back, let the situation sit on me until I could no longer breathe… until recently.

For those of you who may not be aware, my car was stolen three days after my PhD graduation. I am specific about the time it was stolen to help you understand how potentially crippling the situation could be. I was on a good high, celebrating the completion of a degree that had me questioning myself over and over and finally adding that ‘Dr’ title to my name. And right in the midst of all that, my car was stolen from a parking lot, and I was left wondering about ow I was going to get to work.

I told myself I could not live down the height of embarrassment that was about to follow me. I thought I could not survive the thought of going from a car-owning student to a bus-hailing PhD holder. I thought “Oh dear! The devil is about to have a field day at my expense. How was I going to tell people about how much God loves me, when I was unable to explain the fact that a car I had driven for six years without any event was stolen on the happiest week of my life?

Well, I did not die. I did not sink. I did not even bend. Surely, I was sad, but my sadness was often shortlived as I remembered the passage the holy spirit shared with me a month before my car was stolen.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack any good thing. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me. His rod and his staff, they comfort me. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over. Surely, the goodness and mercy of God will follow me, all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever. Amen” – Psalm 23.

It did not seem like much when I woke up on the morning of my birthday and the Lord dropped this on my heart. It seemed like a little more when a pastor friend of mine called me that morning and started our conversation with this passage, but still not enough for me to think too deeply about it. Afterall, it was just psalm 23. I had heard it over and over. What else was there to it?

In retrospect, I realize this was a seed God was planting ahead to give me strength for the day of trouble. It was a covering God sent out a month ahead to prepare me for the days I could not live down the misfortune of losing my car. It was a reassurance of love before the event that would cause me to doubt his love. It was comfort before the tears, relief before the pain, reassurance before the doubt.

I don’t know what you might be facing at this point. Perhaps it feels like God has forgotten you exist and you feel hurt that he let certain things happen to you. Don’t lose hope. Don’t think he has forgotten you. Sit back and think back… He sent you a covering before the storm. And if you are struggling to locate it, I encourage you to remember that the Lord is YOUR shepherd. You shall NOT LACK any good thing!

God bless you! XOXO

Travel and Lifestyle

Hello Toronto!

I love travelling! There is something about it that opens my mind and removes from me, mental barriers that I can’t shake off in my regular space. Perhaps it is my constant desire to find something new and exciting that makes travelling a worthwhile experience.

This week I am in Toronto, Canada and boy oh boy, am I loving the vibe of this city! I took an Ethiopian airline flight from Johannesburg – the least stressful option in the category of non-direct flights. The route was Johannebsurg to Addis Ababa (two hour layover – change planes); Addis to Dublin Ireland (one hour stop for refueling, no plane change required) and then Dublin to Pearson International in Toronto. The airline service was excellent, lots of leg room in Economy class and good culinary service. I had to decline one of the meals because I really did not want to leave feeling like an oumba-bumba (nope, that’s not a word).

From Pearson International, I took an uber to my friend’s condo in the Downtown area. One thing to note if you are planning a trip is that ubers do not take cash in Toronto. If you select cash as a payment option, your booking will be cancelled. So remember to activate your card for your trip so you can use it for those bookings.

Toronto is beautiful, I am currently staying in the downtown region, a few metres from Dundas square (Toronto’s equivalent of Times Square in NYC) so I am right in the center of the action. I am here for a Young Water Professionals conference, and will explore the city more after the conference ends.

For now, here are some pictures I took with my phone.

Highway from the airport.
Dundas Square
Pride festival on the weekend of 22 June 2019