ten(ish) things in ten years

the start of the new decade made me reflective. so i wrote this post:

here are some of my reflections and events over the last decade of my life. overall, i think the take home for me is the understanding that life is hard. i know- pretty revolutionary huh? i think the 90’s i just thought they were hard for * me *. not for you. but i am seeing more clearly that life is hard on either side of the proverbial fence. it is up to me to give my pains, challenges and hurts to my god and allow him to shape me, give me depth and use those pains, challenges and hurts for the good of other and for his glory. the alternative (bitter and/or cynical) is not pretty.

leaving staff: the decade began with me working with a para-church organization as a campus minister to ethnic students first in new york city. enroute to a transition to chicago with the same organization, my dad got very ill and i didn’t feel comfortable being far from home. i looked into working at ohio state focusing on ethnic students but that didn’t work out. while i loved my job with campus crusade, the decision to leave staff set into motion a whole trajectory change for my life. campus crusade exposed me to wonderful things and places around the world i might never of seen and experienced and likewise the decision to leave gave me opportunities that i might never of had or seen had i stayed with the organization.

my dad dying: my dad was sick for over a year w/ very serious heart disease that eventually affected his entire vascular system. he died slowly over the course of that year. watching my parents ‘do’ his death was very formative. if someone can die well- my parents choices allowed my dad to do it. they took us all on vacation as a family to one of our favorite places. as a couple my mom and dad lived ‘in the moment’ and when my dad finally passed they were at peace with one another and at a good place. i was able to show my dad the honor and respect that he deserved for so many years that i somehow rationalized not giving. i was able to be of help and assistance to him i was able to tie up my loose ends and make the amends i needed to. i still think about him everyday, worry i will forget his voice, and am deeply grateful for the process of grief that has deepened my soul.

getting married: meeting and loving charles is easily the thing that has been the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life and this decade. we got married at a little stone chapel on vanderbilt’s campus where my brother officiated with our family and closest friends. it was a wonderful day and a wonderful start to our life together. i was 31 when we met and feared that i may not ever get married. i married up in so many ways- charles is a incredible man.

being married and staying married isn’t nearly as romantic as i thought it would be. i guess you can’t know until you know. the mundane things of life, the difficulty of owning my own life and choices, and the imperfections of a spouse have forced me to grow spiritually like nothing else in my life. marriage is not for the faint of heart that is for sure! it takes lots of work and passivity just won’t do for us!

having a baby: constance! the joy of the decade. i cannot imagine our home without her spunk, energy and opinions. i liken her in my life like exercise when you first start. you know… your body aches in places and muscles you never knew existed! that’s how i love her. in places and with depth i never knew i even had.

being in graduate school: in this arena i learned that i can do it! i am smart! my graduate school experience has been wonderful. i feel like i have been exposed to people with such similar experiences and outlooks that i never would of known had it not been for my master’s experience.

my experience has also made me angry at the mainstream educational system that allowed me to go for years without discovering that i have something to offer intellectually, that i love to learn and that i could succeed in the academic world.

politics: i feel like this is an area of the pendulum swing for me. it is what it is- and i can’t be somewhere i am not- but needless to say i voted for gwb twice and now blush with embarrassment at the thought. i thought it would be a good idea to campaign on fb for barack obama which in hindsight was not a good idea. what this area of my thinking has revealed to me is that i like to fight too much. i hope this improves and i am less evangelistic or obnoxious at least.

church: this is a decade i fell in love with the church. the capital c church where i cut out my protestant superiority complex and really grew in my appreciation for the role of different organizations, denominations and doctrines. i started the decade with many more answers than questions and end the decade knowing some of the basics like i am loved by god and this love is so supernatural that i don’t need to ration it in my dealings with others- no matter our differences. i know that age has the ability to temper some of the most ardent opinions and i hope this is true for me and allows me to me gracious to people within Christianity and those who do not consider themselves Christians as well.

jobs: this was the decade of jobs for me. i started the decade as a campus minister and end the decade in school fulltime and kinda unemployed. what fills in the middle are a number of jobs that didn’t suit me. i held a number of administrative jobs that nearly stole my will to live (always a sucker for overstating), a grant writer- which i liked but didn’t suit me, worker with kids that was spoiled by my job responsibility to be a debt collector. what did i learn? in our family, it is important for me to find an additional vocation that is viable and meaningful for the long term. and i don’t like to organize my own crap- let alone yours. i also see that my work life has surfaced more of my “issues” than pretty much any area of my life in a not so fun way. but i’m very grateful for all my experiences.

i set out to identify ten things in ten years but only had time to get these down. such is life! the remaining two if i had energy to write about them- is the new found gratitude for the twelve steps and the understanding that i am not always right (news to only me ;))


garden 2009

just to keep a record of my adventures in gardening:

so this season i tried a couple of things from seed. i had very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. i have had little to no time to maintain our allotment but it has been pretty self sustaining and we had regular rain as well.

i did peppers, carrots, okra and spinach from seed and directly into the ground. i bought a eggplant plant that yielded one eggplant.

the biggest surprise of the season was the carrots and okra. the carrots i was sure i had not thinned enough- but i was wrong! we probably got five pounds of carrots. most of them were all misshaped. about half seem normal sized and the other half are smaller.


the other surprise was the okra. i waited to long to harvest it and generally they were mutant huge okra. but charles was happy to have it and i finally learned how to make okra soup! yay!

last harvest of the year... green pepps, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, &okra

i took a small bed that i had tried and failed to have a clematis climber vine and moved all my tomatoes there instead. the result was good and i think i'll keep them there again next y ear.

this coming season- if we remain in our home (there's a chance we would move to an apartment)- i hope to eliminate half of our back lawn and really plant quite a bit.


constance turns 2!

improv elmo/cookie monster plan b cake

well our baby is two years old. this is an attempt to record my emotion and the events of our day... no blogging comeback by a long shot. we celebrated today w/ family and had a wonderful time. we had dance party to open and conclude our time and at cake in between. it was a cookie monster/elmo hybrid cake. i had no choice but to make it a hybrid when i realized that i had only blue food coloring and no red! there are worse fates.

not only does our daughter provide endless amounts of joy and laughter to our sometimes too serious lives; she truly lights up any room she is in. the love her daddy and i feel for her is sweetly rivaled by how adored she is by my sister and mom and my sweet niece laurel. it is so great to see your kid get swallowed up in love and adoration in the presence of family.

it makes my heart so deeply grateful to have the profound privilege to raise you as my daughter. i may be your parent- but you- my sweet constance are my teacher. the day you arrived was a day i cherish and thank god for it daily (read about it here)! here’s to a third year of life of more laughing and crying, comfort and spunk, obedience and repentance, elmo and the omission of the wiggles, and prayerfully… potty training.

happiness is being w/ nana

cousin love!



i am not dead

i may resign my title as a blogger. i'm not heartbroken. just a bit overwhelmed with life. practically. emotionally. my energies are just elsewhere for now and any spare time i do have goes to recouping or trying to find things that feed my soul rather than pass the time.

honestly, life has been challenging. but i know the Lord is working in me and changing me. so much of our lives are in flux right now but the Lord's commitment to me, to our family and to our future has never been in flux... and for that- i'm grateful!

i'm coming into new self awareness. mostly an awareness of how inept i am without the power of the Holy Spirit and my submission to Him. i feel really good about working on my masters degree. it helps me to remember how empowering it is to be proactive. i'm doing lots of inner work on myself and that is good.

charles spent the better part of june in nigeria to bury his dad. i'm glad to have him back. he jumped into a graduate course at ohio state and completed it with an 'A'. i'm very proud of him. constance still continues to awake each morning cuter than the previous day. she's growing and learning and is a precious joy in our lives.

so although life is challenging- i'm reminded that people would beg for my problems. really? i have good problems. some days i loose perspective and think i may drown and other days i am hopeful for the future. but either way- the truth remains that God is with me. i have a deep confidence that each challenge i face interiorally and externally He is present.

i'm sure i will return to blogging more regularly- but for now- sporadic updates will be the new 'norm'.

chewable vitamin:

"the time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. eat.
you will love again the stranger who was your self.
give wine.give bread. give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
sit. feast on your life."

: derek wolcott
:: "love after love"


patrick okonkwo

my father in law passed away may 12th. we've been scrambling around and trying to prepare for charles' trip to nigeria to bury his daddy. needless to say, we have tried to manage the stress of work, school, baby, house, church and everything else- we have limped through it all! please keep us in your prayers. i wrote a long time ago about the customs involved with burial in charles' region of nigeria. if you're interested here is the post.

here are some ways you can pray for us during this time:
: pray for protection for charles as he travels.
: pray that charles would experience the presence and companionship of God as he is away.
: ask the Lord to give charles extra grace and comfort through this time of managing tasks- but grieving as well.
: pray for charles' ministry to his family in this time of need.
: pray for constance and i as he is gone.
: pray for his decompression time upon return home.

here are some great pictures of my father in law patrick and also, his obituary and my tribute to him (which will be read at his burial- along with each of the other children's tributes).

“How well he spent his life…”

Patrick Chukuemeka Okonkwo April 22 1944- May 12, 2008

Lak Oguieda Patrick Chukemeka Okonkwo was born April 22 1944 as the first son to Lak Oguieda Okonkwo and Mrs. Patrick Nwawunne Okonkwo Obogborn. At the time of his birth, his family lived in Akure Ondo State and was eventually given the affectionate nickname Bambidele by the deji of Akure.

Patrick enlisted in 1967 and served nobly on behalf of the Biafrian constituency in the Nigerian Civil War. After the war’s end, he met and fell in love with Christiana Udekwue Okonkwo whom he married on January 10th, 1969. Patrick and Christina have six children (three sons, three daughters).

On May 1988 Patrick married his second wife, Henrietta Okonkwo with whom he had four sons. Patrick was a loving son, brother, uncle, husband, father and grandfather until his passing.

Patrick received his primary education at Sobe and his secondary education in Benin City in Edo State. During his professional life, he traveled to London to study as a secretary and eventually returned to practice his trade in Nigeria. He was employed at R.T. Brisco prior to the Civil War. Afterwards, he returned to Lagos to start his own business- Patmon. Later he established Amamites Agro Tech and Construction with subsidiaries of Amanmites Aluminum Construction and Anamites Agro Tech. His entrepreneurial spirit and success in the marketplace led to his selection by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce to be the first business person chosen to attend an international seminar in Sotuh Korea and again, in London in 1979.

In 1987, he founded the Oshun Landlord Association after relocating to Abule Oshun. His later days were spent establishing a school within his compound, PEC. Patrick acted as director at the school and along with his second wife who continues to serve as head mistress.

Patrick was a moderately social man that kept to himself most of the time. He was known as a principled man who stood tall for his people. His term as the Chairman of his Community and age grade in Lagos was long standing. He was a gentleman to the core. Born into a Christian home, Patrick was a Catholic and at an early age was an alter boy. Although not a church goer for some of his life, before his death, he gave his life to Jesus.

Today, we gather to say farwell to a great man. Patrick fought the good fight of faith in this side of life and now rests in the arms of Heaven where we will see him again.

Dad, we love you, but the Lord loves you most. Be at peace in the arms of God. We will miss you but we are so grateful that you were our father, husband and friend. "


and here is my tribute (each child writes a tribute that is read):

“My daddy, Patrick Chukwuemka Okonkwo welcomed me to his family with an open heart. I knew that he was a great man prior to meeting him because I watched his eldest son, Obugo to whom I am married; glow with pride when he spoke of him. I am grateful for daddy for many things. He loved his family deeply and earned the respect of people regardless of their creed, religion or ethnicity. . I am so happy that I had the chance to meet him and spend time together and introduce him to Ebelechukwu, his first granddaughter. . I will miss him very much. My only comfort is to know that his body has been restored completely and he is no longer in pain- his heavenly body and spirit rests with King Jesus. .He leaves a legacy behind in the kind of children he bore into the world and I consider myself blessed to be an Okonkwo. “


chewable vitamin

"the vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. nothing else...will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting."

: dr. tim keller


chewable vitamin

“the Church is the only organization in the world that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”
~ archbishop william temple