2016 has been a treat! From paragliding off the Table mountain in Cape Town, to founding Dalah Ventures, to joining the Global Shapers, to attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in San Francisco, to landing a new job at Factor[e] Ventures, to high tea in London and receiving the Future Energy Leader award. It’s left me floored and grateful, so paying it forward was the only just act to mark my 30th birthday.

Paying it forward is when someone does a good deed for you, but instead of paying them back, you pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else. This video sums it up!

be-the-light

We dubbed this pay it forward project #BeTheLight aiming to :-

  • Demonstrate to young people that it’s never too early to give back.
  • Be the change light we wish to see in our world – eradicate kerosene.
  • Share this beautiful cake with beautiful souls.

The 38 solar lamps we donated are providing clean energy to 200 people in Machakos, Kenya for lighting and mobile phone charging.

This picture encapsulates #BeTheLight.
Happy women, kids & friends after receiving their solar lamps.
#ItsEverything #Joy #Gratitude #Love #BeautifulSouls

img_8620

To make this project a reality, I needed like minded people to turn my dream into action. Thanks to the YALI network for serving a high caliber of beautiful souls and brilliant minds that I was lucky to have by my side from ideation to execution.
Imma show them off real quick!

david

David Muthengi is a co-founder and director at Muthengi Foundation, Investment Analyst at Alpha Review, award winning Hip Hop musician and while the rest of us struggle to fit out to do lists into 24 hours, David is also pursuing his PHD in SME development and mentoring entrepreneurs! #YouGottaLoveOurTeesTho

beatrice

Beatrice Muthoni is a Renewable Energy Engineer at Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) where she develops hydro and solar power projects for small-scale tea farmers. She is also the founder of Altuna Group, a Mandela Washington Fellow 2016 and recently bagged the professional woman in energy award. She makes me so proud!

Why solar lamps tho? (You ask) 

Rural households without access to electricity spend approximately $395 on energy annually. With over 600 million people in Sub Saharan Africa lacking access to clean energy, the continent spends approximately $49 billion each year on kerosene, mobile phone charging and transport to fetch kerosene and access mobile charging points. (see detailed breakdown)

screenshot-18
Kerosene. Mobile phone charging. Transport to fetch kerosene and charge phone.

Besides being expensive, kerosene lamps have severe health impacts. The World Bank estimates that breathing kerosene fumes is the equivalent of smoking two packets of cigarettes a day and two-thirds of adult females with lung cancer in developing nations are non-smokers. There is therefore an urgent need to get hundreds of millions of Africans off kerosene by providing clean energy solutions.

 How is the #BeTheLight project sustainable?

  • Each household will make savings of $35 per month from previous kerosene & mobile phone charging costs.
  • The solar lamps incur no operational costs.
  • The solar products come with a 2 year warranty.
  •  The registered CBO (Community Based Organization) provides the structure to provide larger solar systems in the future.
  • We donated the lamps to 38 of 200 women who have been faithful in repaying the small loans advanced to them by the CBO over the years. We hope this will encourage the other women to be as diligent.

Last but not least, thanks to my amazing friends who started the day off by loudly singing me ‘happy birthday’ at Java attracting too much attention and lots of free cake to our table 🙂 #Love #Love  Thanks for your prayers and for making my 30th epic!
img_8204

A special thanks to my very best friend who hates me calling him my very best friend although he is lol  (I’m laughing so hard inside right now).
gax
Gax is a lawyer by day, a comedian by night and a fun human day & night. He works so darn hard and has closed the juiciest investment deals this year. He’s the epitome of ‘work hard, play hard then repeat‘. We take fun very seriously (as you may have observed). 7 years of friendship, 7 years Gax … it’s been great buddy! When I needed 8 extra lamps (because more women were faithful in repaying their loans), he bought 6 in a heart beat while Matthew another awesome YALIte and diligent lawyer bought the remaining 2 lamps to make 38.

*Thanks to Ssence Studios for the high resolution pictures.
*Can’t wait to see the documentary.

A happy 2017 lovelies! To producing Christ in every situation! #BeTheLight

Luke 1:38 May it always be unto me according to your word!

all4Jesus

Yours truly – Kui Chege

Advertisements

CFO before 30

It’s been 1 year as CFO at Barefoot Power – Africa 🙂

CFO 1

Exciting and intense in equal measures. The only experience that comes close to painting this picture is skydiving. There are moments when I hit a wall so hard I thought I was going to lose my mind, and moments when we had such big wins, my cheeks grew hot with ecstasy. I always wondered what it would be like to have the back stop with me, turns out it matures you, makes you pragmatic and the pressure produces experience!

I’m forever grateful for getting to practice what I love – finance!

On to the 10 things being a young CFO in 2015 has taught me:-

  1. Hire people who are smarter than you: Most young leaders want to hire people who depend on them to feel powerful and indispensable, but that means doing all the work. Hiring smart people to help me has bought me enough time to solve the big problems, delegate at least 40% of my to do list every day and afford to get to work at 10am.  I thank God for the best team, they sort my life out!
  2. Manage expectations: Disappointment happens when expectations are not met. And saying no is not weak, if anything, honesty buys you trust. With your customers, suppliers – manage their delivery and payment expectations to suit your cash plan and product delivery. Then follow up by keeping your word. It’s the only way you keep your cash flow healthy.
  3. Think, grow, think: You have to keep growing. Read a book, watch a TED talk, research on an unfamiliar topic, ask questions, constantly exercise your mind. Thinking is the only way you become an effective strategist and problem solver. If you are a lazy thinker, you will get caught!
  4. Be authentic. I’m a young woman, most often the only woman in board rooms and on discussion tables. But I have learned that I can never beat a man at being a man. So I hire from my gut, often have a different opinion from the men in the room. But by not shying away from doing me, I have learned that my views are refreshing and effective because I’m young and I’m a woman. So work who you are to your advantage with boldness.
  5. Relationships are everything: My bank relationship manager and my lawyer are my best friends. Because I understand that my success and ability to do business depends on them. Invest in good relationships with the people you need the most to do business, treat your suppliers with respect and your customers too even when you are following up on payments.
  6. People skills are 80% the job: Forget what you learned in school, anybody with a CPA or degree can do that stuff. The game changer is in the soft skills – communication, innovation, negotiation, respect, keeping your word, solving problems. That’s the stuff that holds the employees, board of directors, potential investors, suppliers and everything in between together.
  7. Keep God close: Depending on God continues to be my game changer. He provides for Barefoot Power when I pray to him for provision. He gives me genius ideas on how to solve problems differently. And always fights for me – I have never asked for a salary raise but I got 2 in 2015, went to the US for 2 months with my leave days and salary untouched My experiences are a testimony that there is a God and believing in him works for me!
  8. Be consistent: Set some personal rules and stick to them. I keep my promises. If I commit to a deadline, I will work up to 4am if I must to meet it. If I promise to pay a supplier on a certain date, I will do all I can to keep my word. That way people can count on me to deliver. I am however careful what I commit to because then, I have to do it. Under promise and over deliver. The same is with ethics, let your values known from the onset and be consistent.
  9. Don’t take yourself too seriously: It’s easy to get lost in titles sometimes. But do your best to demystify your role. I fully understand that the Finance role in any company is a supportive role. The sales people are the reason I keep a finance job, if they are not effective, I have no money to manage, hence no job. That keeps me objective and helps me not take myself too seriously.
  10. Wait 5 more minutes: Before you give up or get worked up, wait 5 more minutes – anything can happen in 5 minutes!  That also means taking a break when you feel like you are going to burn out, take a walk or a day off if you have to. The company will not fall apart because you decided to take a rejuvenating break. If it does, your systems are weak and what you are building too is weak!

Looking forward to a thrilling 2016. Writing more often is on my resolutions 🙂

A blessed one to you and yours!

Your African girl,
Kui Fai.

 

 

My five minutes with President Barack Obama: Lessons, virtues, women empowerment and what makes him succeed.

It’s 3 am in Nairobi, loving the smell of Kenyan espresso coffee that fills my house. I missed some well roasted, mature Java coffee, Starbucks has nothing on it! And as I sip my home brewed espresso, it all begins to sink in. The last 7 weeks in the USA, studying business and entrepreneurship at the university of Nevada, Reno and the presidential summit in Washington DC as a Mandela Washington Fellow.

I finally reach out for the youtube video of the DC summit with president Barack Obama, where the best moment of my life and my YALI experience is thankfully recorded for life. And as I watch it over and over again, I am reminde of our first day in the USA, Nevada, Reno.

Filled with excitement, we wanted to know what this desert the US department sent us to was made of. So we took to the streets to talk to strangers and just figure. Turned out, it was a developing city within a developed country, the perfect place to learn how to transform an economy. The vibrant young people were full of ideas, fearless, bold and wanted to know everything about the 25 African kids (probably the most blacks they have seen in their city) were. But left out were the young African Americans who sounded stuck, bitter and in limbo. Born and raised in Reno but hopeful that one day they will go back to Africa, which did not make any sense to most of us. As we engaged them, asking if they had a strategy on how to overcome these barriers they went on and on about, it was clear that they had given up hope.

Walking back to our hotel, heavy hearted, I wondered how then Barack Obama made it to be the 44th president of the United States of America. What kind of internal dialogue must he have had to be able to counter the so called African American barriers. Against odds like his father-identity struggles among others. And yet, I had never heard him bring his baggage to a discussion table or project bitterness from past unfair experiences. He seemed at peace with himself, his past, his story and got his job done.

6 weeks later, we join the queue that finally led to us meeting the most powerful persident in the world. With hundreds of people already ahead of us, we explored alternatives on how we could sit behind the president. But the chances were slim, so we concluded that only favor could get us there and waited. When we finally got past the heavy security, into the hall, 6 of us were called and asked to hand in our phones. From hundreds of young leaders, we were ushered to the fron row, right behind the podium,and favor had like we banked on it, made it happen. Elated, we dreamt of questions we would ask Obama if he chose us, until he walked into the auditorium and the surreal experience began.

His charisma and calmness as he spoke to us, had my head racing with questions. His genius was obvious and his speech delivery was everything they said it was and some. Then finally it was time for questions, and he chose me to ask the first question. It was time to figure out what made him different and why he was able to escape the snare that still caged most African Americans we had met.

So I asked him how he keeps his balance. And his answer was weaved with wisdom, character traits, values, morals and a culture that explains what has helped him succeed.

President Barack Obama answering Faith Chege's question at the Young African Leaders Initiative 2015
President Barack Obama answering Faith Chege’s question at the Young African Leaders Initiative 2015

President Obama: Let me see who I’m going start off with, this is such a good looking group. Aaah! I’m gonna start with this young lady right here, right here, right in the middle, yeah, there you go, with the African earrings, very appropriate.
(A big thank you to Francis Kinyua CEO Vazi Langu for the ankara blazer, it made me stand out. You can see more of his great fashion here >> Vazi Langu )

Kenyan girl me: My name is Faith Chege. I’m from Kenya

President Barack Obama: Habari.

Kenyan girl me: Mzuri sana.
I’m curious how you keep the balance, in terms of your background as an African American and the kind of struggles yo’ve had to get over to get here.
And being married to Michelle Obama, she’s powerful and amazing.
And as a father, as a husband.
But you seem to not let that interfere with your work and you being effective.
So, how do you keep the balance?

President Barack Obama:
First of all, I wouldn’t be who I was without Michelle. She is my partner and that’s true professionally and true in terms of my character and who I am. One of the things I am very proud of is the fact that I am married someone who is strong, opinionated, talented and my equal.

Part of the reason why that is so important to me is because she is the role model now for my daughters. So Malia and Natasha have expectations of being strong and talented and being treated as an equal by their partners as they get older, much older lol

The balance isn’t always perfect. I think, one of the things that my generation but now even more your generation has to manage. Is that if you have two people working in the house, outside the home, how do you manage that in a way that we are both great parents, we are both able to succeed in our work? And what Michelle and I found was that, we had to recognize that at any given point in our careers, one person might sacrifice a little bit. Maybe, this was the time she really had needed to focus on something and I had to cover for her more. There are times where I was able to do a few things and she had to handle things more. Now, I am not suggesting that it has been completely equal as I am the first one to acknowledge that she has made more sacrifices given the nature of a political career that I have.

But what I have learned from her is that, if she does not feel respected and fulfilled, then I am gonna end up being less successful ultimately.And that is something that I think men in Africa should learn.

The best measure of how a country does economically, in terms of development, is how does it treat its women!

And as I said in a couple of the speeches that I gave while I was in Kenya and Ethiopia, if you are mistreating your women, then you are just holding yourself back, you are holding yourself down. You may have some false sense of importance, but ultimately you don’t benefit if women as being discriminated against.

Because that means if they are not working, your family is gonna have less income. If they are not educated, then your children are less likely to be well educated because typically the woman is the first educator of a child. If they see you disrespecting your wife, then what lesson … not just your girls, but what lesson are your sons learning from you?

This is something that I really think everybody especially the young generation of African men need to learn and internalize. I wanna see more men creating peer pressure among themselves. If you see a friend of yours, a classmate, one of your buddies, abusing a woman, you have to say something. You have to ostracize them, and say that is not acceptable.

Because ultimately this is not just an issue of laws, but it’s also a matter of culture and what our expectations are. And your generation will have to change expectations.

You do not lift yourself up by holding somebody else down!
And that’s especially true within your own family and the people closest to.

Watch the whole video on President Barack Obama’s speech to the 2015 Young African Leaders Innitiative cohort here. President Barack Obama speaks to young African leaders

I notice that president Obama does not use his past struggles to win sympathy or play victim. Any time he refers to his struggles, he derives lessons he learnt, how he is applying them and uses them to empower and lift others up. He leads by example and by doing it himself commands authority to urge others to do better because if he can, so can you.

To my African American brothers and sisters who feel stuck and suffocated abroad. President Barack Obama gives me hope that there is always a way out. You may not change the system yet, but you can rise above it. By finding a place where your struggles translate to a story of victory and empowerment. By identifying the gaps and tailoring solutions to address them. And by dealing with past issues to find wholeness and make room for focus and effectiveness when your time at the table comes.

And to my African brothers and sisters. May your eyes be opened to see just how much you have going for you. That you will be hard working enough to prepare for your moment of glory because it is here. May you be brave enough to deal with the unfair cards life has dealt you in the past, to find wholeness and optimism to be able to lead the generations to come.Like Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, may opportunities to revenge be platforms to show mercy, empower and demonstrate grace. As we work to usher Africa to a new era, to change the negative narrative, may we be crazy enough to believe that we can do it. Because we can and we will, produce leaders greater than Mandela and Obama, we will be the generation that ushers in a new Africa.

Your African Girl,
Kui Faith,

Lessons from my Mandela Washington Fellowship #Week 1&2 #YALI2015

It’s been 2 weeks in the US and the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Nevada, Reno has been an answered prayer. Ever felt like God took your thoughts, desires and silent prayers and planted them in somebody’s hands for execution? That’s my experience so far!

I had 5 goals in mind as I prepared for this program. To learn how to make the renewable energy projects we are working on scalable and sustainable, to address the unemployment that is rapidly growing in my country and continent by accelerating businesses, to have all the fun a human being can have in 7 weeks, to make new friends because relationships open doors and to soul search on what I truly want in life over the next 5 years.

The first 2 weeks have taught me a few life lessons that I intend to hold on to for ever!

  • Relationships are everything!
Raheeda - Ghana, Neil - South Africa, Martin - Zimbabwe, Me - Kenya, Ethiopia - :-)
Raheeda – Ghana, Neil – South Africa, Martin – Zimbabwe, Me – Kenya, Ethiopia – 🙂

They call it ‘speed-dating’ here. Where you meet so many people, present your elevator speech and connect in less than 4 minutes. My ice breaker is my bungee jumping experience, it makes people open up so easily and let their guard down, I think people easily identify with crazy humans who are not afraid of death … I kid. People give money to people not causes, people give business to those they trust, relationships open doors. And I have made some amazing friends these past weeks.

  • Failure should be celebrated not avoided!
You can only break somthing if you are doing something! Do something, break something!
You can only break somthing if you are doing something! Do something, break something!

Americans have a low risk avoidance culture that I admire. They are not afraid of failure. To them, it’s an inevitable part of the growth process that they celebrate and make provisions for. Some of my favourite failure punch lines so far are ‘ Err, fail and persist – Failure is a badge of honour!’ – Doug Erwin. ‘Be worried about failure only when you spend a lot of money, but never spend your own money on a business’ – Matt Westfield. Then Paul Jarley wraps it up by saying that failure should be celebrated because nothing great happens without it. Only through it can you find great success, that it is indeed the doorway to greatness!

  • Always be present!
Take a photo like you just won the Oscars! Be 100% present in even the small things!
Take a photo like you just won the Oscars! Be 100% present in even the small things!

It’s easy to get caught up in the past or in a future that you hope will be someday and forget to be present for today and its happenings. These past weeks, I have enjoyed being present. Present in conversations with new friends, present in sessions with amazing speakers, present for dance and music like there is no tomorrow and even present in my quiet time when I need to cool my engines. My new mantra is ‘when there, be there!

  • Create hard, work smart and play harder!
We visited the generator workshop where this 'Embrace' sculpture was built for burning man 2014. We asked why anyone would build this and the answer was why not?
We visited the generator workshop where this ‘Embrace’ sculpture was built for burning man 2014. We asked why anyone would build this and the answer was why not?

I have had so much fun in the past 2 weeks, it’s simply unbelievable. Meeting new people and taking in every moment with a big spoon has been such great soul food. I have met creatives who build without a plan and only decide what they want to build when they are halfway through, they call it creating. Met strangers in Reno who will have a deep conversation on entrepreneurship by the road side and leave you thinking hard. Shared the heartiest laughs with 24 brilliant, beautiful souls from 17 countries across Africa. Laughed to tears the 1st day we had to take the bus alone back to the hotel and had no idea what was happening. Got interviewed on TV for the 1st time in my life, created some great business models and plans and still managed to keep my work emails at zero.

To think that we haven’t even met President Obama yet, or gone to Lake Tahoe, or gone to San Francisco or even gone through half the program! I will be something else by the end of these 7 weeks! Kisses to the heavens for the best time of my life! #YALI2015 #WolfPack #UniversityOfNevadaReno

Lupita’s 5 year process: From a dwarfing dream to a beautiful reality

At age 25 (2008), Lupita writes of her disappointment, feeling lost, unfocused and afraid that she would never figure out her purpose.

On August 23rd 2008, she journals afraid tho on a flight to Yale – “I have this dream and desire [to be an actor] and yet it dwarfs me – but it’s MY dream, God dammit – I made it up!! How can what I dreamed up defeat ME?!”

On May 4th 2012, (4 years later) she journals that she now wanted “To make meaningful films that affect change in people’s understanding of and commitment to the world we live in.” And to visit New Orleans for at least a week.

On May 13th 2013 ( 1 year later) she booked 12 Years A Slave and on June 6th would be in Louisiana working on the film for 5 weeks.

5 years through her process, she bags an Oscar award and 24 others that I couldn’t keep up with. She makes it!

My analysis. It took Lupita 5 years to talk herself into her dream, apply for scholarship at Yale school of drama, get on a plane to Yale afraid and second guessing herself, overcome her fears, dream of making meaningful films, land a role on 12 years a slave and do it feeling like a fraud. Then succeed afraid of succeeding 😀

Her process gives me hope. That my dreams too are valid.

This is Lupita Nyoungo’s process. 31 year old Luo girl. Beautiful on the inside and the outside and if she could make it, who says we can’t?

Below is her process in detail. 4,000 words long yes but worth the read. (Ref: The personal investment of following a dream by Lupita Nyong’o, Facebook notes, December 12th 2014 )

A Key Note Address at the Massachusetts Conference for Women

Lupita Nyong’o
December 4th, 2014

Lupita speaks on stage at the 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on December 4, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. photo: Lisa Lake/Getty Images
Lupita speaks on stage at the 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on December 4, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. photo: Lisa Lake/Getty Images

I was asked to give this key note address some time in the spring. I was very busy at the time and I was still coming down from the whole Awards Season whirlwind. I have to admit that I only really agreed to do it because it was far away in the future. But like all things far away in the future, with time, they get nearer and nearer. And as it got nearer and nearer I grew more and more fearful that I wouldn’t know what to speak about. And then it dawned on me that that was the perfect subject to address: overcoming fear in order to get to your goal or your dream. Aha! I thought, perfect. But then of course I was crippled with the fear of talking about my fear!

I tried to find other people’s stories to illustrate what I know about dealing with fear, but couldn’t really remember any of them well enough to borrow them. I thought of hiring someone to write my speech for me,but then they’d know everything about me! I even tried to find another subject to speak about. But then I realized I was doing that actor thing of trying to find something to hide behind – that’s what we do as actors: we tell the truth by pretending to be someone else. But I knew this was not the occasion for that. So I’ve finally managed to quell my fears, and put the actor in me aside in order to share with you how I got to be an actor in the first place.

I would like to dedicate this talk to my sister, who is struggling at this very moment with figuring out her purpose. (I have 3 sisters so hopefully I am not calling anyone out!). I’ve meant to call, I’ve meant to write a long email… Modern lifestyles can draw us so far away from the ones we love most, and it seems like the more ways there are to communicate, the harder it is for us to really do so. So by sharing this with you today, I hope to kill two birds with one stone.

Dreams. The dictionary defines a dream as a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep or relaxation. The dreaming I would like to speak to is a glimpse of the thing you want to do that would make you feel most alive. A dream as a portal to your purpose.

My dream was to be an actor from when I was very little, but I didn’t always know it. Before I could call myself an actress I had a lot of work to do: I had to unchain myself from indecision, cut through the fear of going after my dream, jump over my own ego and allow myself to be vulnerable and confront a great deal of Imposter Syndrome.

1. UNCHAINING FROM INDECISION

The first step to becoming an actor was to choose it for myself. Now, I am very indecisive; I’m a Pisces, I am astrologically predisposed to not being able to make up my mind, I admit that. But finding out that I wanted to be an actor was made a little more difficult because I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, in the 80s when acting was just not a viable career path.

Though I loved to perform and make believe when I was little, nobody I knew in my immediate surrounding acted for a living. In school it wasn’t one of the professions we learned about either (there was lawyer,doctor, businessman, secretary, policeman, politician, teacher – no actor on the list!). It didn’t help also that at that time in the 80s we only had one TV station, owned by the state, which aired extremely boring programming for a child – government propaganda: We witnessed things like which school the president had visited and distributed packets of milk, which church he had attended that Sunday. So my primary access to the world of performance became the cassette tapes of dubbed American TV that my cousins brought back with them. I was enraptured by things like Kids Incorporated, Menudo, and Different Strokes. But the characters all spoke in a strange accent and lived in a faraway land called America. In the 90s we got our second TV station which aired 95% of foreign programming: I watched Rosa Salvage from Mexico,Neighbours from Australia, East Enders from the UK. So while my imagination grew and my passion for performance expanded, it still was not a reflection of what I could realistically dream for myself.

But when I watched the Color Purple and saw Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah in it, a seed was planted in my heart to be an actor, but I dared not water it in public. Back then, acting was not considered an honorable profession in Kenya, especially for a politicians daughter. It was a thing that children and grown-up children did. I pursued acting opportunities in school all the same, and as long as it was extra-curricular and not my focus, I felt it was safe and acceptable. Mind you my parents put no pressure on me to want to be one thing or another, but it was the expectation from the larger society that kept me ashamed of the truth about what the desire of my heart really was. Soon enough, I was in such self-denial that I really believed that I did not want to be an actor. Then what did I want to be?

As I grew older, I grew more and more confused about what I wanted for myself. And at some point in my adolescence, the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” seemed to be the only one on every grown-up slips. (There is this pressure for us to define ourselves as one thing from so early on; a pressure I do not agree with. We can and should be allowed to be more than one thing, especially when we are children.) Anyway, I took to answering that question spontaneously, in the hopes that I would land on goldmine truth one day by accident and finally know what my life was to be about. Entertainment lawyer, botanist, archaeologist, nothing felt right though.

By the time I got to undergrad, Hampshire College in the US, I was still looking for the “practical,” “useful,” “viable” career path, the profitable type, the assured type. I went for the closest thing to acting: film studies because I figured wanting to hold a camera was more serious than wanting to play in front of it. But I continued to act after school. And once that chapter was done, though I had learned a lot and had been passionate about my education, I did not yet feel like I was in the right gear of my life.

I moved back to Kenya in a state of personal crisis, still wondering what my life was to be about. I was disappointed that at age 25 I was still feeling lost and unfocused. And I was worried that at the rate I was going I would never figure it out. My indecision and self-denial were becoming healthy breeding grounds for fear.

I sought advice from people I looked up to in Kenya, and as they dispelled their advice to me, I sat there totally envious of their clarity of mind and their ability to pursue their dreams. Why couldn’t I be like them? I coveted their dreams: When I met with a director, I wanted to be a director,when I met with a producer, I wanted to be a producer, I even met with a copyright lawyer and thought that might be a dream for me! I looked for all sorts of jobs, as a journalist, tv anchor, MC. Nothing worked and nothing stuck.

“When people don’t do what they want, they don’t know what to do,”

-said Marty Rubin.

There was no saving me from the agony of indecision until I stopped running away from myself and listened to myself. I took a time out to silence the voices, stop the chatter and really think about what would make me happy. I admitted it, first to myself and then out loud, that what I really wanted, more than anything was to make-believe for a living. I wept when I did so, because it was so hard to admit that I wanted to be something so improbable and impractical for a Kenyan like myself. It felt like a lofty, pipe dream really,but deep down I was overjoyed because I was finally speaking the truth about what made me feel most alive. And it wasn’t real until I shared it. John Lennon put it best:

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

Once it is uttered and you have taken ownership of it, the destination is taken care of and the journey can begin.

Then I got down to the most important work: figuring out what steps would get me to being the actor I wanted so badly to be. I had a plan of action, something to work towards: Getting into the Yale School of Drama for acting training.

2. CUTTING THROUGH FEAR

To go after my goal to attend the School of Drama meant that I would have to confront my fear of failure, of not being good enough. I knew it was a great acting program and I wanted the best education possible if I was to really give this acting thing a fair shot. But I felt inexperienced.

We didn’t even have a theater library in Kenya. For the audition, I worked with one monologue I knew from a speech class I had taken when I was 12 years old and another from Juliet whom I had played when I was 14. Mind you I was 25 at this point! I had no other choices and so I made do.As I boarded the plane to the US, there were naysayers in my head telling me I was crazy, that I shouldn’t even bother: over 900 people auditioned for 15spots each year. And yet there was a part of me that knew I could do it, even when the part of me that said it was impossible was louder. Our dreams arise from our imaginations, they belong to us and we owe it to ourselves to try and realize them. To encourage myself, I wrote in my diary on 23 August 2008,

“I have this dream and desire [to be an actor] and yet it dwarfs me – but it’s MY dream, God dammit – I made it up!! How can what I dreamed up defeat ME?!”

3. JUMPING OVER EGO, EMBRACING VULNERABILITY

And then I got in to Yale, this prestigious school where acting heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Angela Bassett had learned their craft (Meryl is so legendary at Yale that we referred to her just as The Streep). I was overjoyed. This was a gift I was given: the opportunity to immerse myself in my craft, surrounded by people of equal and greater talent.They had accepted me and I had to prove to them and to myself that I deserved to be there.

I couldn’t afford to fail. I had traveled too far for that and I had defied what was expected of me in my community. Too much was at stake; my dream was in motion and very much in my own hands now. And I had every intention to work hard and excel at everything I did. But I would very quickly learn that in acting school, things weren’t that straightforward.Acting is not like math where there is only one correct answer to the problem and once you figure out the formula you are all set. In acting, like in life,sometimes coming up with the wrong answer to a problem is the best way to figure out the formula for yourself. In acting school you are expected to fail and fail publicly a lot. It is the constant exposure to failure that frees you from the strongholds of the ego and allows you to embrace your vulnerability,and it is in embracing your vulnerability that you can surprise yourself in performance and share something really special about human nature.

I will give you an example: Imagine now that you have been singled out from this group, just as you are. You are told that your goal is to make everybody laugh. The instructions are to leave the room and return with enthusiasm and do something great, without having a clue what that might be and show it to the audience without words, props or anything. Now I don’t know about you but that terrifies me, especially because laughter is the one emotion an audience never lies with; they only give it to you when they are really tickled. This was an exercise from a Clown class at Yale. Not the painted face,red nose, big shoes and baggy trousers clown of the circus, but the simple,innocent fool that lives inside all of us. The child within us that we’ve spent most of our lives trying to hide under layers of intelligence, sensibility,sophistication and social cool. The one who gets great joy in making others happy and finds the fun in simple things like a light bulb going on and off and is horrified by the pop of a balloon.

There is nothing as embarrassing and uncomfortable as trying to make people laugh and hearing nothing but silence in response. When it was my turn to go up, I tried all sorts of bafoonery: flapping my arms like a bird,rolling on the floor, I ran around and jumped up and down – I didn’t believe I was funny enough and I was desperate to find something to hide behind, I was fresh out of good ideas, and there had still been no laughter. Eventually, my teacher, Chris Bayes, called me out, he said, “You’ve failed, Lupita, haven’t you?” And at that point I let it all go and broke down and cried audibly. It was only then that everyone in the room burst out laughing, because I had finally allowed myself to be honest and truly open with them. My inner fool came out to play only once I had put my ego aside.

And so it was not until I had opened myself up to the possibility of failing that I was able to find success in clown class. Without the possibility of being bad, you will never be extraordinary. And so I resolved to operate from a sense of self that was louder than my critic and faster than my worry. It is only in that space that you can truly be free and innovate.

4. CONFRONTING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Right before I graduated, the opportunity to play Patsey was offered to me. After a rigorous audition period, when Steve McQueen, the director, called me to give me the part, I remember I sat down on the pavement overjoyed and horrified by the prospect of working alongside such seasoned artists. It was a dream come true, but the saboteur in me would have me believe that it had come true too fast and that I was not prepared for it. I was suffering from typical Imposter Syndrome: a pattern of toxic thoughts that tell you how lucky you are to have everybody fooled that you are good at what you do up until now. Your cover is about to be blown this time and they will know that you are nothing but an imposter of talent.

This was to be my first film and judging by the story and the people involved, I knew it was no small potatoes. I couldn’t possibly getaway with this one. It was a big deal and I… wasn’t. I felt small, like an underdog, dwarfed by everyone else in it. I had no experience working on this scale, I thought. How was I supposed to act alongside Mr. Kinky Boots, Mr. Magneto and Troy himself! Who was I? I was certain Steve had made a mistake, and that he would fire me any day now. This was a REAL fear of mine. It kept me up at night – in fact I did not have a good night’s rest from the day I got offered the role to the day I got wrapped on set.

Before I left to shoot the film, I reached out to a close friend and classmate of mine. I asked her where all that abandon and courage had disappeared to from all my time at Yale. What had I learned and why wouldn’t it show up to me when I needed it most? My friend breathed with me – a good friend does that. and then she reminded me that it was all there, that I needed to trust in myself in order for what I had learned to serve me. Patsey’s point of view had to matter to me more than my own. She reminded me to lead not with my fear but with my hope. When you are living ‘on purpose,’ the limited size of your human experience has got nothing to do with it.

You see, when we are fearful, we spend more time worrying about things that don’t yet exist and very little on building on what already does. The solution is not to eradicate fear – that would be nice but fear does play a role in keeping us safe. The solution is to recognize fear with compassion and act IN SPITE of it. That is what courage is after all: doing the thing you fear because what you are to gain is worth the risk. Playing Patsey in 12 Years A Slave was worth the risk.

5. NOW

The aftermath of 12 years was something I could not have foreseen. I definitely expected it to be an important film and a fantastic starting point for me in my professional experience, but I never expected to receive all the recognition and accolades that came with it. As such, I had to make space in my heart to receive all the good stuff, and this was not easy. I had had a life of believing I was afraid of failure and now here I was faced squarely with the fear of success. I was afraid of success because I did not know what might lie on the other side of it. With success comes an added expectation and with that comes lofty responsibility. Lately, I have been afraid of not being able to handle all these new expectations. I have been afraid that my weaknesses have no place in the world of this new found success,that I have to become a super-version of me to keep up with the versions of myself that stare back at me from magazine covers.

To the world, I have achieved the pinnacle of success in my field, and yet I still have the rest of my life to go. It is at this point that I have to constantly remind myself of how I got here: through hard work, daring to dream, and systematically slaying the dragons that are Self-Doubt, Self-Hate and Self-Denial. I must carry on on my personal journey and dream more, dream again. This new chapter of my life will be different but it will take rising upto the same dragons again. They disguise themselves every time but they are exactly the same, and I must ultimately trust that my life has equipped me with all the tools and weapons I need to deal with them.

Your life is equipping you with all you need to slay your dragons & realize your dreams and your goals. More and more women are coming alive, diversifying their career paths, defying the narrow expectations the world has in place for them. We continue to fight for equality, for justice,for freedom, for compassion. And we achieve the most when we are awakened &responsive to the desires of our individual hearts. It is then that we can really be a part of a whole and share our tools to fulfill the bigger picture of a better tomorrow.

Seven tools I offer to you today are:

  1. Recognize and articulate your fear to yourself . Then look for what you love and articulate that to yourself and to others. Do so often and your love will grow stronger than your fear.
  2. Reach out to your stretcher-bearers:This is a concept I have carried with me from a Bible teaching in high school.It speaks of a time when Jesus was teaching a crowd of people that had come from all over. Some men came late carrying their paralysed friend on a stretcher.I t was so crowded around Jesus that they went up on the roof , made an opening in the tiles and lowered the man into the middle of the group in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how much faith and love they had, he cured the man of his paralysis. My teacher in her message encouraged us to make sure we had those stretcher-bearers in our lives (at least four), who would carry us to healing and safety when we could not do it ourselves. The people who will remind you that you are not alone when your emotions get the better of you, remembering that “Our pain is when we perceive ourselves as separate” (Tara Brach).
  3. Ask questions of yourself, for yourself, and listen out for the answers all around you. Take reading recommendations from people you respect: It was in sitting through a talk back with a documentary filmmaker that I learned of the book “Fight Your Fear & Win” by Don Greene, and it very literally got me through my crisis before I got to Yale. That, and “Map For Life”, a life management book by Glen McQuirk that my mother insisted I use for over 5 years before I finally did so and never regretted it. I go back to these books often.
  4. Do not underestimate the power of writing your dreams and goals down. Right before I got cast in 12 Years, I was envisioning what kind of work I wanted to do. I wrote in my diary on May 4th 2012, that I wanted “To make meaningful films that affect change in people’s understanding of and commitment to the world we live in.” I also wrote that I wanted to visit New Orleans for at least a week. On May 13th I booked 12 Years A Slave and on June 6th I would be in Louisiana working on the film for 5 weeks.
  5. Breathe. Meditate. Pray. Be still with your soul. There is a force within us that unites us, surrounds us, penetrates us and binds us together – and I’m not just saying that because I am in Star Wars – its true!
  6. Go for it and always allow failure to be an option: “True Freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection,” says zen master Seng-tsan. And right now I am learning to deeply value my human right to be imperfect. No matter who we are or what stage of achievement we are at, I think that it is healthy to always have some perfection to work towards.It gives us perspective and also gives us something worth living another day for.
  7. Finally, Step forward and repeat it all: with each new step you take, with each new challenge you face, expect yourself to learn these lessons again and again. Do not be disappointed in yourself when it feels like this time it is harder or different – it will always be harder or different if you are growing. When you feel overwhelmed by this, remind yourself that you feel despair because you still care. Step and repeat, step and repeat. It doesn’t ever get comfortable, but it does get familiar.

Oh yeah there are types of men – The intellectual stimulator

That effect of men in suits
Oh yeah, this is what he looks like in my head

Two words – brain candy! The man is 80% brains and 20% more brains. Having dated an actuary, an engineer and planning to get married to a genius, I will try to be as objective as I possibly can 🙂

I live for Khaki pants. I am yet to find out what about them just gets me like wow but the intellectual stimulator does them justice. He cleans up great. Often clean shaven with a well maintained goatee, rocking a multiple time zone watch which he is always setting and resetting. For that needed official look, you will catch him in a well cut suit and a dash of some designer nicely smelling something that makes your knees a little weak. As a perfectionist, everything must look right and unlike the liberal creative, appearance matters. In fact for him, appearance contributes highly to his success. Especially in Africa, the culture is such that, if you show up for a meeting in a well cut suit, driving in a Mercedes, you are more likely to bag that contract or tender. It’s ironical really but you often need money or at least need to smell like some – one million maybe – to make money.

He is often the white collar job guy – the engineer, lawyer, banker, accountant, doctor, you name it. And will some days be left handed, I am yet to meet a stupid left handed person, but you know one, introduce me and we kill that stereotype 🙂 Well, the left side of his brain works best so he probably made it to a great high school, aced an honors in undergrad and continues to pile up degrees, well just because he can or maybe because books aren’t that big of a challenge anyways.

Religion wise he is often totally atheist or religious. He will greatly argue for or against the existence of a God but hardly take the middle ground. Unlike the creative who leaves room for the existence of a God but chooses not to believe in him – probably because his talents and gifts can only be attributed to granting’s from a higher power, the intellectual stimulator knows very little of failure especially in regards to things his brain can do. And will try to logically reason God too out.

Living for him is basically about getting everything that can save him time, energy and money. If it was up to him, he would have an application for everything including flying over traffic. His default setting is to avoid risk and unpredictable situations at all costs. His brain is a blessing but can sometimes be a curse. When presented with great opportunities, he will want to logically think them through and probably calculate the risk quotient on every decision and issue he can.

Since he seeks to know before he can get into anything, he tends to hinge his confidence on the knowledge of what he is about to get himself into. Knowing too well that life rarely gives you time to figure everything out, he misses great opportunities due to lack of confidence. Sadly not because he does not measure up to the task, but because he is afraid of the unknown and the risk that may come with it. This is where his liberal creative counter part gets him – he goes on a hunch and believes in himself 200% faking it and often making it. They say confidence has magic in it. That mix of confidence and genius would be it for the intellectual stimulator if he stopped analyzing for a minute and just believed that he can do it ‘cause he can.

When it comes to women, he unfortunately over thinks this too. The analysis going on when he hits on a beautiful woman probably equates to that of an actuary computing financial uncertainty. He knows he can get the woman yes, but he wants to understand what the consequences will be if she says yes. What will his friends think? What will his mentors think? What will his family think? Why does the woman like him? Does she even truly like him? Could she be too good for him? And before his analytical escapades can be favorable for him to make a move, the girl is long gone.

But if the time factor, analysis results and the girls availability status all fall in place, then the girl is in for a treat. The intellectual stimulator has a way with jokes that cracks your ribs. It’s probably something to do with the speed at which his brain plays with words or the super geeky lines that sound ridiculously not in touch with humanity, all in all his sense of humor presents no dull days. He has an answer to any question, any issue, any idea you bring up … at least he must try. So often, finding yourself in these heated up debates on politics, energy, policy with every discussion opening your mind up to interesting lines of thinking. He not only feeds your soul but your intellect too.  And for that reliable, sober and wise second opinion a woman so craves, he delivers spot on.

Constantly pushing you to be better, he will want you to grow with him, live better and show you that those dreams you dream are valid. My uncle says that every person has his or her type and the secret to an amazing marriage is to find that person who feeds your soul. Love he says is a policy, that other crap about feelings and goose bumps is just that, a feeling – like cold or nauseated which comes and goes. So go ye and find your type. A prosperous 2015 to you and yours!

If you missed the liberal creative piece, you can read it here  https://kuifai.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/theliberalcreative/

Love,
Kui Fai

Church Girl Musings ; The power of sonship

This pic is epic
Jon & Ben Courson

I write this with the hope that pastors kids can freely and with great liberty share their musings on blog for the sake of the gospel. The angle may seem a bit unorthodox but the lesson tho simple I believe crucial 😀 🙂

I am sitted up at the NPC Valley Road balcony which gave me a great view of the front liners at the service. Then I spot this hot like smoking – fan – yourself kinda hot white boy sitted at the very front row. Deep dimples – yes I could see them from like … must have been 5 meters up lol Clad in a slim tie, khakis, black slip on shoes,button up sweater and a totally cool hair do. In my head I’m like, ‘who is that guy? And what in the world is he doing sitted with the big shot ministers?” I look at my pamphlet again and he has a session every day, no way! His name doesn’t ring a bell yet so I conclude, he must be a famous rapper they got to represent the youth.

Well .... this is he ... the pastors kid

So happens he is Ben Courson like son to the Jon Courson. Goodness!
Guy is 26 and has been married for 5 and 1/2 years.
As son to the Jon Courson, oh you can rock ragged jeans and a Lakers jersey to whatever church you wanna.
You are Jon Courson’s son for crying out loud!

Ben Courson & Gorg Wifey
Ben Courson & Gorg Wifey

It’s amazing what kind of doors son-ship opens. When a son can ride on his father’s shoulders and by pass all manner of protocol. It sure helps that he knows his stuff … his teachings are mind blowing to say the least. Simple. Deep. Refreshing. But that he knows whose son he is changes the game!

See, the bible does not say that creation awaits the manifestation of the holiest or the most religious, those who do it all by the good book. I wouldn’t qualify if it were so. But creation awaits the manifestation of sons, inheritance belongs to the sons. What makes me a son? The work of Jesus on the cross qualified me as a son … nothing more I can do to be more ‘son’ or so bad to make me less ‘son’. And by that … I too, in my raggedy jeans, funny looking hair and no protocol observed …. will take a front row seat in the pursuit of my destiny to be all God has on his heart that I be. Like Ben, it’s time to get acting like I know who my daddy is!

Time for you too to get acting like you know whose son you are!

Oh yeah, there are types of men – The liberal creative

As I blog for the 1st time this year I feel grateful, lucky and really blessed. I know I haven’t experienced even a drop of what this beautiful world holds but from such a simple life lived so far, I hold a handful of rich and priceless experiences that continue to enrich and shape my life.

Friendship for example. I say friendship ‘cause I haven’t dated much, contrary to misplaced impressions, I have only been in 4 relationships. I promise for a beautiful girl with my kinda charm, brains and all, it takes a lot of saying no I know, bloated esteem issues.

At some point in my life I decided to let people in. Meet as many new people as I could, pick their brains, listen to what they had experienced, their opinions, dreams and struggles. What I found were people with such great hearts, beautiful brains, mind blowing dreams and that friendship was a platform big enough to draw amazing lessons from their insights, experiences and thought processes. So when I hear Kenyan girls go on and on about how men are dogs and the whole long list, I say they must be hanging out at the wrong places ‘cause boy!

While at my socializing escapades I came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of men. You know how women say, ‘he is not my type’ … and men go like ‘is there a type? I’m unique, I’m not a type!’ that kinda type. It changed socializing for me entirely and allowed me to experience rich friendships. Today, I will share about the liberal creative man, what he has taught me about life, who I think he is, what his thought process is blablabla …..

Creative 4

The liberal creative man is often a breath of fresh air. His passion contagious, dreams of endless possibilities enviable, ease at which he lives life admirable and his ability to create simply mind blowing. He is often the painter, musician, producer, dancer, actor, photographer or poet. He strongly believes that to succeed, you have to give it your all. So he works late into the wee hours of the night, goes 10 extra miles, gives 120% even when the rest don’t believe in his dreams. For him, it’s simple – if you are in, it better be worth everything, if not, don’t even get started!

He may be a little overweight, totally starved and skinny or all muscled up and can’t stay away from the gym. His extreme nature gives him away on that. Besides a regular Australian 4 minutes max shower and the basic deo, jeans & tees the closest he will come to fashion is a collection of converse, super hero tees or scarfs. Unless you buy it yourself, forget spotting some nerve stimulating Ralph Lauren scent on him … almost always, that latest camera lens or gadget will win.

Interesting thing is, in his view, appearance has nothing to do with his game skills. When it comes to women, he wastes no time and when he sees something he likes, he goes for it. What’s the worst that can happen anyway? The girl will say no? That doesn’t come close to the reaction he got when he told his mama that he wasn’t going to be a doctor but a musician. What saves him is his understanding of the art of creating. He knows too well that memories, experiences, friendships even love are all created. So he showers his woman with flowers, well customized gifts, poems, dances her to the moon and back, sings her through the phone and before the woman knows it … for all she cares, he can wear pajamas Sunday to Sunday if that’s the sacrifice demanded for a fairy tale experience. All that said tho, he often finds himself in his late 30’s still unmarried with no urgency as to when or how that will happen.

His studio will often be better furnished than his entire house. His home as functional as it gets with more headsets and camera lenses than plates, spoons and cups combined and more gadgets than his entire wardrobe. If he could own an empty beach house and get to work, eat, shower and even sleep at the beach, that would be it!

The liberal creative is a brilliant man. Only problem is, because he spends too much time creating and very little socializing, he tends to lack the ability to connect with we normal beings and our day to day struggles. He will know all about history and what possibilities the future holds but often forgets to touch base with the present reality. His thought process stimulates your dreaming ability, how he paints a picture of what could be building so much excitement and opening you up to endless life possibilities.

He is either religious or not, not half way. Because he is smart, he knows and acknowledges that there is a God, but his extreme nature drives him to either go crazy for him or against him – agnostic. The insights of creatives who share in my belief in God have enriched my life with deep and great insights that have helped me cross rough patches while the often heated up discussions with the atheists & agnostics have caused me to interrogate why I believe in God and what motivates my behaviour. Why do I choose to be Christian girl? Do I tithe as an insurance policy against disease and danger? Why not drink? Why not have sex like others freely do? This process of replacing my past lazy answers with honest, true and well thought ones has helped in my transition from a girl to a woman, from what society says I should be to who I really know I am, from religious activity to true belief.

The ability of these men to create has taught me that you can be anything you want to be and get whatever you want out of life. That first impressions are created, memories are made, relationships are built, that answers are formed – that life, is what you make it to be.

My creative friends have also helped me fine tune the art of faking it till you make it. You get a great job offer and deep inside know you have no idea how you’re gonna get it done, accept the job first then watch every you tube video and read every book you will need to do it. Nothing beats the feeling of winning when you know you dotted and shivered all the way thro’. That must be how winning the lottery feels.

It has also made it clear that this business of women waving up everything for a man to get their attention is a total waste of time and utter nonsense. It’s simple, if a man wants a woman, he will do anything to get her attention. He will send flowers to your office, write you poems, sing a song to you in front of a massive crowd, paint you a portrait, ask for a dance to absolutely no music just to steal a moment, start a fire if that’s what it takes. And if he doesn’t, he just isn’t that into you. So you take a chill pill and let it go, it will save you a lot of anti-ageing cream money in the future. From this too, I formulated my first dating rule. The man has to ask … for that 1st date, if he wants me to be his girlfriend, to marry him … let’s leave assumptions to the statisticians.

I will continue with the series and next time we look at the Intellectual Stimulator.

After winter, must come spring!

Thank you once again for reading. My biggest lesson this year has been on seasons. At the end of last year I had so many questions regarding promises God had made that never came to pass. I felt wasted, like I had been taken for a ride, but that was because I used my calendar to tell my seasons. Just because it was 31st December did not mean that God was done with me. So I got up, dusted myself and dared to dream and hope again. It was everything against my will and I struggled and hurt in ways I choose to forget. But in the midst of the pain I realized that God was at work, he was moulding my heart and no moulding happened in between duvets and sun basking in white beaches. It meant stripping, tearing apart, unlearning, releasing, letting go, lessons upon lessons. He said be still and I petitioned him telling him he must be joking, how was I supposed to stay still when he was cutting me up? I could not protect myself from him, I knew that would be equivalent to renouncing him but it hurt and I hated it. I prayed but he did not take the pain away, instead he poured in me grace & peace. I ran all over looking for an exit but he kept me caged in this season teaching me patience & joy in the midst of the storm. He quieted my soul from the questions and absurd thoughts that he was a mean God. He sent me angels to guard me & carry me through. Someday I will share what it is my last 2 years have been about, but through it all, I love him better, I know him better, I know I need him – even when he strips me apart, he will bind my wounds in his time. I love him!

Winter (1)
Winter is characterized by prolonged nights & shorter days, the freezing cold weather that keeps you indoors, flowers and plants that are not well covered die, reptiles hibernate & birds migrate, fur-coated animals grow a thicker coat and others build muscle to resist the cold. But for plants, this is when the newly transplanted trees are growing roots and drawing on soil nutrients & moisture. During this season, the priority is never to keep the soil warm, but to keep the temperature even using mulch from fallen leaves.

Spring

Then finally comes the spring season. Where the days are longer as the earth begins to tilt closer to the sun. More daylight and warmth causes people to come out of their houses. Trees & flowers bloom and bring forth fresh buds. Hibernated animals awake and the fur-coated ones lose the heavy fur-coats. For the plants, this is an important season, it’s the season of productivity. To maximize on that, the 1st thing the farmers do is prune the leaves and branches damaged by frost. As a season of new beginnings, the priority is to get rid of damaged parts to allow maximum growth.

Know your seasons. If it’s winter in your life, understand that you will be indoors a while as God maximizes on that time to teach you things, deep things that will strengthen your roots and nourish you with essential nutrients. It may feel like God has deserted you as the nights grow longer than the days and the darkness causes you to curl up at some corner wondering if God took a vacation. But just like the earth tilts away from the sun during winter, it never means that the sun has gone off. God’s promise is that though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear not for he is with you. You may not see him, but He will be there every step of the way. So be strong and courageous, it will mean growing some tough skin – persistence, patience, spiritual warfare – for you to face what comes up this season but do not be afraid, your God goes before you. As some friends migrate your life and dreams & hopes hibernate, even then remember that God works all things for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes.

Praise is the moisture that will keep you going through this season, praise that comes from a heart of faith. That right there will be your strength – praise in the midst of the frost. It will keep your faith in God from drying up. And to maintain that even temperature that will ensure your moisture does not dry up, you need to be still. You cannot keep uncovering plants during winter to see if they are still alive, you keep the mulch still. You keep your heart and mind still in the Lord, this is the most important rule. I know the lessons are hard, there is expansion as you grow thicker skin to resist the cold, people you invested much in are migrating and hibernating and you want to run after them. But you have to keep still, the most important thing is to make sure that when spring finally comes, you have not lost your ground. You cannot lose your ground! And allow God to flood your heart with peace, the peace which transcends all your thoughts, that is what will guard your heart and mind. It’s the warm duvet you must have covering you to shield you from catching pneumonia, it’s what will keep you from dying. This was my praise song!

Then spring will come. It has to come. Right after the winter and after it will come summer. As the earth tilts towards the sun, tilt towards the Son. It is not time to be stressed about what may have been or should have been. If God wanted it to be, he would have made it happen. This is not time to sit in and count your loses, it’s a season of renewing, it’s the season of new beginnings. The first thing you must do to maximize on this season is pruning. Doors that no longer lead anywhere must be closed, habits that God worked on during the winter season must be deliberately cut off, dead relationships that you still hang on to must be ended, jobs that are not in line with God’s destiny for you must be terminated, activities that drain & derail come to an end. Everything that takes up time, energy or has a place in your heart and like the roses was damaged by frost or it’s branches weakened by the heavy ice must go. Baggage, unforgiveness, false hopes, hatred, bitterness, memories all those joy suckers must go for anything new to bud.

After that you will be amazed as talents you never knew of begin to manifest, as struggles begin to fall off like dirty rags, as the fruit of the spirit becomes real in your life. As you tilt closer towards the son, you will see God. And he will flood the eyes of your heart with light. Your understanding will no longer be marred by fear & doubt. Your purpose will be made clear. You will overcome fear and understand that the power that raised Christ from the death lives in you. You will walk with your head held high knowing that you were created in God’s image, empowered with dominion over all God created and that God has put all things under your feet. You will cease to feel defeated, there is no way the power that raised Christ from the grave can live in you and you stay defeated. Something will change on the inside, a lot will change on the inside. Like a lion, you may not be the fastest or the largest in your kingdom but you will roar with confidence, your attitude will cause you to be elevated.

As you hope & trust in God, he will keep your mind in perfect peace. He will renew your strength, your will to dream & go for it, like a wounded soldier who gets his health back you will fight twice as hard this time with wisdom and experience. You will soar up like an eagle, above the clouds, such that it may be raining and storming but you will be flying high above those issues. You will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not be faint. From one glory to another, that’s the only way your life will go, your latter greater than your past.

So yes, the winter is worth it! You cannot quit, you cannot lose your ground. When spring comes around, every tear, scar, lose, hurt, struggle, will be worth it. Be still and know that He is God. Watch as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility & self control manifest in your life. As he deploys power, glory, honor and angels to work for you. He never fails, He won’t start now. It may be the end of 2013, but don’t count your loses yet, it’s not over till he says it is!

Lovely holidays,
Love Kui Fai.

Thanksgiving Note

From my heart to the heavens, Jesus be the centre.
From my heart to the heavens, Jesus be the centre.

It’s thanksgiving day! On the American calendar at least 🙂 and I am grateful for so so much today. I tried writing it all down, am still at it! But the greatest thing I am grateful for is finally finding myself. With a background like mine, it’s easy to get swallowed up by the strong personalities around. Being a pastor’s kid comes with expectations; which have over the years not settled so well with my sanguine, loud, jumpy self. Fitting into that church girl box suffocated me, then I found this beautiful place where I could be me and it’s allowed God to teach me things, things so deep, it’s taken me past religion to true spirituality.

With relatives so ambitious & successful. It’s easy to trade your simple country values in the dreaming process. But God is teaching me that those country values are what make me so unique. They shape my perspective and character. Growing up in a small town where neighbors shared their fruit harvests with every other neighbor, we got milk for free from those who had cows. The generosity, love & friendships were rich. Then came the city life. The ballgame changed and at the age of 18 I was living alone, attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Everyone minding their own business, competing for just about everything, what label you had on your clothes defining your worth, it was crazy! But the blend is priceless. That in my ambitions I can remember grace, in my excellence I can remember patience. A little of both worlds now defines me.

I look at the girl I am today. Sure of what I want. My strengths & weaknesses clear. My values and inspirations clearly written down. I can now change the world. I believe that the biggest battle, which is the most important winning, is the battle that goes on within. Because winning that inner battle brings peace, clarity, focus, joy, strength, boldness. It takes care of the time wasting petty issues like jealousy, unhealthy competition, greed, discontentment and all. I am grateful that I have won that inner battle. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures – James 4:1-3 packages it perfectly!

It’s meant staying single by choice for 3 years. Saying no for reasons people don’t seem to understand is tedious, but for renovations to take place, you need to first terminate all tenant contracts and put up a ‘God is working on my heart‘ notice! I have also had to go against my father whom I love dearly and respect highly and firmly fight for what I believed was right for me. It strained our relationship for years but God has finally brought him around. I did not back slide, I just changed church. Believe me, it was the boldest and most important decision I ever made. About a month ago, watching my dad visit my church that Sunday filled my eyes with tears. Now that is settled, we are in agreement and with it has come tremendous blessings!

As a first born I have had to make sacrifices to support my siblings decisions. To be honest, sometimes I did not even believe in my little brother’s dreams, he is a brilliant entrepreneur. If there was a way I could run away from the responsibility of having to go out of my way to understand what he was talking about, why he looked at things the way he did and support him! It’s totally dealt with my selfishness. The sooner I embraced my responsibilities as a first born, understood that my siblings actually look up to me and that my opinion regarding issues mattered to my parents, the sooner we all found freedom. So finally, I changed my approach. Mentorship took time but it worked wonders. I patiently listened to my brothers dreams, supported him the best way I could, helped him build capacity to wash dishes lol we used to fight about dishes lol Now he’s gone home for his holiday and I feel disoriented. He’s become my thinking buddy. His opinion matters, his ideas so refreshing. He will be great! So finally, I feel comfortable in my 1st born skin. It’s an honor actually being able to pour into my siblings lives.

With the most important things in order, I am at peace with myself and my family. I am in agreement with the plans God has for my life. It’s an amazing place to be and I am grateful to God for the strength and grace to have paid the price. Everything it has cost me, relationships I had to walk away from, opportunities I had to turn down, sacrifices I had to make. It was all worth it. All glory goes to God, only he can walk us through deserts and bring us out as princesses! I feel like an organization with all it’s operational documents and resources in order, all set to set the world on fire! Grateful and content.

Happy thanksgiving 🙂
Love Kui Fai
Stay blessed