Romance

DEAR FUTURE SPOUSE: MAKING A DIFFERENCE, CHASING GREATNESS

ascendtogreatness

Dear Future Spouse,

I admit this is spooky! Writing to you in public domain, not fixing your name in it, and allowing the rest of the world to see what should just be between us. Well first of all, though everyone can see it, this is STILL for you. I hope this sets you thinking as I unveil my heart; the brilliant part is you can always read this, as far as the Internet is still alive, you’re welcome babe! *wink wink*. Secondly, I want everyone to read it so people can think about these opinions. They don’t have to agree, they can pick one thing and ruminate over it, you never know!

I don’t know what advertising campaign I saw recently, but it said: ‘Made for More!’ That’s my guiding philosophy. Long ago, I concluded that one of the most boring thing that would happen to me was just to get married and have kids, just that. Oh wait, that doesn’t sound right; I mean getting married and having kids would be awesome but there’s got to be more to life.

There is this pulsating cry within me to make a difference, to leave a piece of the extraordinary in this world from within and to leave a mark for good on the footprints of time.

A good marriage for me is like a fountain, where both man and wife bring out the best in each other not for the benefit of each other alone but for the glory of God. And there is no glory of God, if others are not blessed. I feel like I am supposed to help you fulfill the reason for your existence as you help me fulfill mine as we create a nest full of love for the cubs, settle the bills and do the task of everyday existence with vigor and purpose. Sounds extraordinary, yeah?

Enter a calling! We were made, I believe, to do great things! And Greatness in itself has to be defined properly for it to make sense. Greatness and popularity are two different things even though many who have become great are popular. But greatness is not equal to a million fan page likes on Facebook, verified social media pages, a fat account in foreign currency (the Naira is not so great right now), or luxury, it is doing what you are called to do, with all of being. It might bring you comfort, it might bring you discomfort. However, let me warn you that a calling is expensive and it certainly will cost you something. Greatness will mean different things for different people, but blessing the world with who you really are will always be at the nucleus. I admit this is rather vague and introspective, but that to me is sweetest part. My quest to make sense of my existence has led me to make several detours but I am here now, and guess what, I’m happy.

The fulfillment of together forever is the relentless chase towards greatness, the relentless quest of becoming who God created us to be and unveil the best of ourselves until we leave this earth. Whether that ‘calling’ will make us stand on platforms or be in the shadows, just giving it our all, that’s fulfillment.

Time is running out, and every breath we take, brings us but one moment closer to leaving this earth, time though invisible is very expensive. I ask:  ‘What is greatness to you? Do you even think about this stuff?’

It was Jesus who said: ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’. That was vague in the beginning but obedience to that simple statement allowed twelve ordinary men, okay eleven, if you remove Judas, to turn the world upside down with a supernatural assignment. Indeed, who you follow determines how you will be made. So, simple suggestion, let’s follow Jesus together passionately, we will be made! That’s greatness!

To greatness, our relentless pursuit of it and bitter-sweet memories on the footprints of time!

 

Tim!

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fiction, Inspiration

Boarding Pass (3)

He has made everything beautiful in its time

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

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IMMESAURABLY MORE

When Demi got to Lagos, Mike was furious. “Dude it’s like you missed a penalty kick in the 89th minute of the Champions League final. How did YOU let her go? Ke tu e se je” He said. The last question in Asaba genre of the Igbo language meant how did that happen, and Mike rarely spoke his dialect except in dire circumstances.

“What was I supposed to do?” Demi responded raising his voice slightly.

Ikeja Electric restored power. The humming of a freezer in the background was a delightful soundtrack.

“What you were supposed to do? Jump on the plane. That’s why you have money. Jump on the plane or the next one. You should be in the US now tracking her down. You have money, you have a visa…” Mike reclined in a chair to calm down. Above him was a picture of himself, his wife and his daughter. Demi stared at the picture for what appeared to be eternity.

“There is a company to be run. I barely know this chick. I can’t justify jumping across the Atlantic for a girl. Yuck.” Demi was trying to sound tough.

“Can I sincerely ask you if you are crazy? Do you have mental issues, do you smoke crack in your spare time? Don’t you remotely think this chick might be THE ONE and you didn’t fight?”

“Pardon me but I am not a hopeless romantic like you. America is a faraway place….” Demi got out his phone, he could use a distraction right now.

“…..nowhere is that far, wasn’t it Westlife who said something about swimming across a river just to climb a thousand walls?”

Demi shot him a glance, stood up and once he was at the door he said disgustedly: “Did you just quote Westlife? Good evening?”

Mike stood rooted to the spot wandering what he had just said.

Like twenty seconds later, Demi resurfaced: “Yeah dude, that’s how stunned and rooted to the spot I was when Shade left me. I feel your pain.”

Six Months Later

Monday was Demi’s longest day of the week as interim CEO. The Board had agreed to appoint him CEO on an interim basis. The canceled wedding was proof that he had indeed made an attempt to meet the requirement to become CEO, or so they thought. His father had stepped down on medical grounds, and these days with more chemotherapy, although he felt better, he preferred to focus on his health than the business. Thus Demilade was in full control and under pressure to perform.

Meeting after meeting made Demi tired. He had yet another one before closing at 8:30pm. He was glad when he got a call from his Operations Manager canceling the meeting. Just as he exited the building, his phone rang.

“Hello?” He tried to sound alive. Leaders are supposed to be alert at all times. “Hello?”

“Hi CEO or shall I say interim CEO?” He knew the voice.

“Shade?”  Demi sat on the curb outside ‘Cobblers R Us’ unconsciously and the security men surrounded him in a rush to check if everything was alright.

“There you go. How are you?” She sounded excited, sweet and alive.

“I am fine thanks. I just sat on the curb, I am shocked.” The security men helped him to his feet, his driver ran to grab his things. He signaled for him to just bring the car.

“I knew you would be, I hoped I would get through to you. “

“For heaven’s sake where have you been? Your dad is the only way I know you are alive. That’s not good.” Now it was raining just like it had been on the night she left and he could close his eyes and just almost touch her again.

“Well someone asked me to get a job. I was busy doing just that.” She chuckled.

“About that…what I was trying to say was….” He scratched his head, and his driver wondered who it was that made his boss appear so ordinary.

“….You don’t have to explain Demi! I was just joking. Plus it was great advice. I have a job with a medical research firm in Maryland.” Shade was excited.

Wow there goes my dream of ever getting her back. “Congrats. I am happy for you.” He managed. Lord save me from lying.

“Thanks. Plus one more thing. I sort out started checking out church when I returned. Last Sunday I made a decision to be a Christian….”

“You are joking right?! Don’t play with stuff like that.” Demi protested, his heart beating faster than normal.

“I’m not. Check out my last post on Instagram, there’s a picture of me and my testimony.”

Demi grabbed a tablet and swiped as fast as possible. And He saw it.

“Oh God, you’re not joking. You aren’t joking. This is amazing!” His grin was as wide as ever.

“I said to update you about my situation. Thanks Demi.”  He didn’t want her to go.

“Um…You skype right? I’m home in thirty minutes tops.”

“Not while I’m at work. Maybe later. But I’m sure you’ll be well asleep by then. We are six hours apart remember?”

Homecoming

From thereon, Demilade looked for meetings that would take him to the United States. None came. The closest was three months away. He couldn’t wait. He took an early vacation.

A day before his trip, he got a call: “Demi, I’m coming back home.”

He was in the middle of some handover meetings with senior management. He wouldn’t have taken the call, but rules are often bended when people fall in love.

“Coming back home where?”  Nigeria was never home to her, at least that she said again and again. Demi’s question was valid.

“Nigeria! My company is launching out to Africa, and they want three of us to oversee the launch. I’m doing West and Central Africa, it would be a lot of trips, but I work from Lagos, my office would be there.” Shade said in such a hurried manner, she was running out of breath.

There was silence. Demi sank into the leather swiveling chair unable to say anything, too stunned. “Demi, you there?”

“I’m here. I’m too stunned. This is too good to be true.” He said almost whispering. She could only laugh. The day was brighter from thereon.

****************************

A week after the call, Demi was at the airport. Her plane had touched down. It was raining in Lagos as it had been all week. He adjusted himself for the umpteenth time.

Once she appeared from the door marked ‘Arrivals’, he was sure he had been smitten. She was as beautiful as ever. She was cautious herself. Nobody knew what to say.

When she was finally before him, he wanted to tell her a thousand things but only this one came out: “Did all your bags come?” That wasn’t what I meant to say, That’s not what I should have said.

She nodded. And they couldn’t resist the urge to go into each other’s arms. He lifted her up, well made a shallow attempt to, and she screamed.

Once in the car, Demi started the engine but he didn’t move. Then he stopped the engine and got something out of his jacket. “Last time, it was our parent’s idea. This time, can it be ours? Will you marry me?”

She looked at him. “ Gee,It’s been a long flight. If I say yes, would you drive me to my Dad’s and let me be?” Demi nodded like a child.

“Ofcourse yes. That’s the major reason why I convinced them to launch in Africa genius.” She replied with fatigue in her voice.

Demilade was elated. Shade was tired yet excited.

“Bae, I guess your dad still has the invitation cards for last year’s canceled wedding, could we perhaps just use a biro to change the date?”

She shot him the ‘You are joking, right’ glance. “Is the economy that bad?!”

He winked at her.

 

 

 

 

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fiction

Boarding Pass (2)

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:26-28 NKJV

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A ‘Romantic’ Elope

Demi woke up with a very funny idea. It always amazed him how creative he was in the mornings. After a long hard brainstorming last night and some prayers (this he was learning, and so far, it appeared to work), he had a plan. He texted Shade, well he rewrote the text five times to arrive at:

Good morning Beautiful. Arise and shine. Call me when you see this.

She called back two hours later.

“Demi?!….” What kind of game is he trying to play?

“Hey you. Um…can we do lunch?” Was he asking her out on a date?

She agreed, they did lunch that afternoon. Over a steaming bowl of Amala and Gbegiri at Bukha Hut, Demi unraveled his mysterious plan: “…..And that baby is how we get out of this scheme.” He thought it was brilliant, she thought he was crazy.

But when she arrived home that night to see printed Invitation cards and her father signing them at the table, too buried in the activity to even return her greeting, she was irritated.

“Demi, uh….thanks for lunch today, do you think the plan would work?” She said with desperation when she finally settled in to make a call.

“Say what, Girl? The network over here is bad.” Demi replied with a chuckle.

“Do. You. Think. The. Plan. Would. Work?” Shade asked again.

“Ofcourse it would. Oh I heard the first time. Your American accent is gorgeous damn….”

She cut the phone, and put it down smiling. She couldn’t tell if it was the plan or the man that tickled her.

 

*****************************

Thursday afternoon, they were in Abuja. A delayed flight due to weather conditions meant that they had to spend three and half hours together before leaving Lagos’ MM II. Now they were a little more than just acquaintances.

Demi now understood Shade wasn’t obnoxious, and Shade understood that Demi was not a Lagos ‘player’ with a lot of money. They had exchanged stories.

The plan went sour the moment they found out that Shade couldn’t just buy a ticket to the US, just like that. Currency issues with the Naira meant the foreign airlines were quite hesitant with selling tickets, thus Shade was on a waiting list. If they approved, she would be given a ticket.

“You are always….always on the laptop.” Shade blurted out on Friday evening. Demi Shrugged. She wasn’t lying. “Let me tell you something Mr would-be CEO, the company would flourish in your absence, the world would move on if you God-forbid died. Take a chill-pill.”

Demi put down his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “This is why my father wants me to get married. Would you marry me?” He chuckled.

“Joker!” She smiled. “Hey, let’s take a selfie. If we are supposed to be on a trip shopping for the wedding, we have to make it appear so.” They took selfies: the smiling one, the pouting one, the crazy-faced one. Ten shots later, and three Instagram posts later, it was boring.

“I like this one, Bae and I…the world can wait…Are you always mysterious and introspective?” She asked curious as ever.

Truth was he just wrote something. “Um…I’d rather refer to it as being spontaneous.” his was a cheeky yet smart reply.

The evening wore on beautifully. They went to dinner, and just…talked! And with each conversation, they felt less vulnerable with each other.

“So….how does it feel to be a billionaire’s son?” She asked with a soft laugh.

“You tell me. Your father is a billionaire as well. Billionaires in Naira are just starting. When you convert the net worth to the dollar, it’s not so much anyway.” He shrugged.

“Oh please…..this is not an interview with the Financial Times, can you just be real?!”

“Ok…well there are two sides: you have a lot of fun because you can do almost anything, money is not exactly a problem. It can make you stupid because what others consider a blessing, you see it as a right. Then there’s the other side where you work crazy hard to protect your wealth.”

“….And you play hard as well?” She asked with a wink.

“Maybe in my early twenties. Straight out of college, partied hard, painted the town red. I almost got into trouble a lot. But God’s mercy, that’s what I call it, just helped me cos the moments of pleasure versus the long-term effects….” Is there something she wants to know?

Their dessert arrived just in time.

“So are there any liver problems, STDs or diseases I should know about?” They both laughed.

“Girl, are you like out of your mind? Oh wait you’re a doctor, I forgot that. I’m sorry I can’t provide my medical history….” Another laugh. “….But as far as I know, I had none of those. I consider that to be a miracle in itself.”

The marriage issue was the elephant in the room though and as they ‘washed down’ dinner and desert with a glass of wine. Shade decided to ‘hunt the elephant’:

“I have being dying to ask a question..” Shade started.

“Shoot.” Will the questions ever end? He played cool though.

“This marriage benefits you more than me. You become CEO, you lead a Billion Naira company into the future, and I give you kids. You can play along and have an affair outside, like some side-chick or something like most African men….why aren’t you going along?”

He sighed, and took a long sip from his chapman; The grilled Chicken was to die for!

“First of all, when you say MOST African men cheat, that’s an accusation without empirical evidence…..”

“….I apologize”

“…..Second I don’t want to do this to you to me, to us…this….arranged thing where we have no commitment, and we are almost being forced….”

“Who says we have no commitment? We’d say vows in front of a pastor or priest in front of God?!….” She protested.

“…more like lying. Because we haven’t made up our minds to…or more like I haven’t made up my mind to. I’m not sure this is how God intended marriage in the beginning.” Demi made his case with the most serious look she had ever seen of him.

There was a silence brief but meaningful and her next words came right out of her heart. “You are a godly man. Are you religious?”

He gave her a look that made her clarify her question: “Mercy….miracles…..now…marriage and God’s intention?!”

“Well I am a Christian…..” He replied afraid that all his street-cred was about to be burned yet at peace with his confession.

“Jesus-follower Christian? or Christianity as per religion?” Shade asked her voice slightly lowered.

“Jesus follower Christian!” Demi said even more sure this time. She was quiet. He did not know what to think.

“Karl Max said religion is the opium of the masses. Most people around here need God for blessings, miracles and breakthroughs, why on earth do you need God? C’mon you know I’m right.” She had to speak a bit louder above the sound filtering from a Jazz band playing on the hotel foyer across the room.

“Shade, the point of Christianity is not getting blessings. Man’s ultimate purpose is to worship God. Without it, life is empty and meaningless. This applies whether you are rich or poor.” Where did that answer come from?

“Wow, well I wouldn’t call myself religious. I am sure God would be very mad with me at the very least.” Shade forced a laugh. He was straight-faced.

“Why?”

“Let’s see…one….I partied hard in college, alcohol, some drugs in my freshman year. And oh…sexperiments in my sophmore year. I was sober in my Senior year” Shade winked. Demi mouthed ‘wow’. She laughed.

“….oh one more…” She looked away. “..Early on in my medical practice, I lost a child, a patient, due to neglect. I mean I misdiagnosed his condition, and prescribed a drug that killed him. My supervisor swept it under the carpet and the hospital paid a very heavy fine to keep the family quiet. I was fired to avoid the scrutiny of a medical board which could revoke my license. And to this day, I live with a guilt nothing can ever take away.”

“…..But the blood of Jesus certainly can! And before we had our crazy life moments, God was ‘crazy’ enough to send his son to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him via His son Jesus can have their sins paid for, thus they are forgiven and free. Nothing we have ever done is bigger than what Jesus did on Calvary. But we have got to accept and appropriate the grace freely given.”

There was silence! Like one where no one is sure exactly what should be said. He took her hand and squeezed it gently but firm. Are you even supposed to do that? Demi Focus. He cautioned himself.

The night was getting windy and it was their cue to hitch a cab to the hotel. “Demi, did you just preach to me?!” she said once they were in the cab. She had switched moods almost instantly.

“Yup. I think I might have. Was it good?” Demi replied attempting to sound upbeat.

“I don’t know…But if it was I’m supposed to be crying and converted. But since I’m not…oops sorry.” She laughed in a way that if he hadn’t known better, he’d call her drunk.

“You are evil.” He said with a grin.

“Sorry! But seriously I would think about it.” She said with a smile.

“I have to write that letter to my Dad tonight.” Shade said a few moments later, bringing their minds back to the plan. He agreed she should. They needed to stay focused.

The plan was for her to go to the US and email her father vowing not to return until the whole marriage was cancelled. Abuja was also Demi’s secret part to see if he was right to dismiss Shade. Only he knew that part though. So far, he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to let her go though.

It is so hard to say Goodbye

Saturday moved so quickly. In the morning, Shade got a call from the airline:

“Yes ma’am your ticket purchase was approved and we even have a flight to New York you can be on tonight, if you want?”

“I’d take it !” She replied quickly before she changed her mind. Demi wasn’t sure if he liked the plan anymore.

All afternoon, they shopped. She wanted to take away as many Nigerian memories as possible: Sandals, hats, hand-made shoes, books, Kilichi, bags, clothes, etc. By early evening there was a full box, scratch that, two full boxes.

In the evening, she was ready to go and when they got to the airport, neither wanted the plan anymore but neither had the courage to opt out.

She checked in and thereafter they had some time before she would finally disappear. They shared a Coke, just one can, with plantain chips. They were barely talking now.

“Shade, you are beautiful and smart. A doctor with prospects and a bright future…..”

Oh God please let him beg me to stay, not to go. I won’t even move. Wait Shade you’ve got to have a response. Focus.

“….Get a job in the US! You have lived your life with your father’s decisions, now you live! Live the life you have always dreamed and don’t you look back.” He closed his eyes meaning every word.

What?! Is he pushing me away? Is he even serious? “What?!” Shade blurted out.

“What?!” He replied. She stood up suddenly. “Are you sending me away? Demi? I live where I want, I do what I want! My decisions are my decisions. Yes my father has directed them, but I made those decisions. Don’t you tell me what I can or cannot do with my life!” Now Shade was raising her voice as tears welled up in her throat.

What did you just do Einstein? You just ruined a perfect moment Demi. Why are you just stupid?  “Shade please don’t take this the wrong way!”

“How am I supposed to take it?” He begged. This wasn’t happening. “I was…….” He was interrupted by the airport announcer.

“Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately! Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately.”

Shade turned and left. Demi stood wondering what in the world had just happened. It would be a long trip to Lagos in the morning. He would take the bus.

*****************************************

Somewhere midflight across the Atlantic, Shade recalled the entire situation and cried her eyes out. Did she overreact? Was Thursday, Friday and Saturday a romantic scam? For one moment, she had felt he was very sincere but why did he push her away? “Get a job in the US? Who is he to tell me where I am to live. If he didn’t want me, why didn’t he just say so..?” She gathered herself and she wondered if she hadn’t created a scene already. Thankfully she hadn’t.

Her eyes travelled across the aisle to a Hispanic couple. The man appeared to be in pain and what appeared to be a nebulizer on his nose. The woman, his wife seemed to reading to him from a tablet. Was she speaking English? Shade strained to listen for some reason:

She could hear the woman reading in English above her accent: “….I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”

Was God trying to talk to her?

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Banking, Brands, Opinion

What a Toilet Taught Me About Customer Service

I was recently in a mall in one of Lagos’ popular suburbs when I felt this incredible urge to use the convenience! Now this shouldn’t be a problem right? wrong! It was!!

Actually, this mall was under renovation and the toilets were too! For about 30 seconds, I was furious. They might as well have decided to shut the building down. If you let people in, then they have to be human, which involves a regular use of a place to release waste from the body!

The urgency of my predicament overcame my feeling of injustice and I was soon out on the streets looking for a place to relieve myself with a plan: look for an eatery or a bank. After a stroll, I finally arrived at a bank. Though a legacy brand, this building was attractive on the inside and soon I was standing in a convenience up on the first floor of the building.

This toilet was unbelievably very neat that I decided to spend a longer time! See, I had arrived there settling to just pee (minor) however the quality of the convenience triggered a longing for a deeper experience, so I decided to poop (major). In the process of this important activity, I discovered that people (well other men, duh!) had written all sorts of things on the recently painted door. From subtle preachings to convert the public to the writer’s faith, to an encouragement by a kindred spirit (who echoed my thought) to poop here as it was fun, to a frustrated young man who used the ‘f’ word to describe the National Youth Service Corps, it was all there.

Hang on something was missing. No one had written anything negative about this brand here. I cross referenced this with other bank conveniences I had been to. Another bank’s similar door had carried inscriptions such as This bank sucks, payment lines are so long, a few swear words aimed at the management and staff, etc.

Then it hit me. People will most likely give you an honest opinion of a brand when they are very well relaxed! Let’s face it leaving notes on a toilet door works because:

– You are relieved (sometimes extremely, depending on how long you have been carrying it!)

– You are anonymous: no one is looking at you and thus you can say no wrong. You are free to express yourself without judgement.

– The platform is comfortable and easy to leave a feedback: How? Get a biro, and state what’s on your mind.

I instantly told myself that the bank manager should visit this place and see what comments people are leaving. Sadly, I realized that there was a feedback and comments sign on a slab at customer service downstairs. I need no prophet to tell me that channnel is rarely used. The process is quite a task.

Here is the lesson:

– If a brand wants to know what customers really think, they should look in unconventional places -the toilet door (like in my case), social media, comments on blogs, rants in complaint emails, even informal discussions among customers on a queue (*if you can pick it up from there).

– A customer survey is most likely a hard sell.

Now here is another lesson I learned:

I had gone to this same bank a few weeks ago to perform the BVN exercise, however a rude security man told me I couldn’t carry my computer inside. Why? no reason. He expected me to leave a computer worth a huge amount out, in the name of BVN. No thanks. This singular incidence made me skeptical about the brand.

Now funny enough a great toilet experience instilled some hope in this brand. Funny yeah? You do realize that nothing dealing with the bank’s financial operations or service delivery has been mentioned. It’s the intangibles, often times, that wins the customer’s heart.

Guess what? I feel like taking a leak AGAIN! and I’m still in this mall. Smh. Where will I relieve myself? Another bank?

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