The Art of Cooking Ugali

My Dad taught me how to cook Ugali.

Let me explain: By the time I finished high school, my mother had taught me how to cook a wide variety of food:   fried rice, steamed rice, fish fillet, fish fry, chicken (broiler and free range yaani, kienyeji), meat stew, githeri, vegetables, tea, porridge, cakes, buns and pastries- but not ugali. (By the way, anytime we ate anything other than ugali more than once, my Dad would ask, “Leo hakuna chakula?” (“Is there no food today?”)).

So, as far as he was concerned, I needed to learn how to cook food.

So one fine evening, after I had subjected my folks to half cooked ugali for a few weeks, my Dad decided it was time for an intervention! He’d had enough!! I had to learn how to cook cooked ugali (no, that’s correct!). So, he sat in his favourite armchair and called the class to order – the lesson started (by the way, he was a teacher at some point before i left heaven). He instructed me to place the sufuria (pot) of water on the stove  (yaani, gas cooker) and bring it to boil.  Of course I complied, with the full expectation that once  the water started boiling, my Dad would come to the kitchen and cook the Ugali. Yeah, i know…. i was being rediculoius!!!! My Dad, a Kisii man, father of an adult daughter, in the kitchen, cooking, ugali…….not happening.

Anyway, the lesson continued –  i was to add a small amount of maize/corn flour (approximately half of what was needed) and let it boil some more, yaani, itokote kama uji (how is that said in English?). So, I did. And then, just as I was about to pick up the mwiko (cooking stick) to start fighting with the ugali (as I had always done), he said almost on cue, “do not start mixing until I tell you!”. So, I froze.  After tabout 5 minutes, my Dad said, “anza kukoroga sasa ukiongeza unga hadi ishikane. Then wait for my signal.”. I complied – turning the cooking stick all the while huffing and puffing like i was climbing ngong hills.  A century and aching arms later, the ugali did pfffff!! (my sisters and brothers from that side of Kenya know what that means..).

Just as i was planning to put an end to the unplanned session of arm wrestling, he  said , “Imenukia sasa. Toa kwa moto”. (“It has now smelt, take it off the stove”. Remember I said that some phrases are best said in Kiswahili? This one cannot be said in any other way, no, I can’t translate it. You just know it means the ugali has smelt, yes?).  That ugali was ammmmaaaaazing…. Ladies and gentlemen, it was perfect!!! The texture, the taste, the aroma….wow!! (If  you’ve eaten ugali in a kibanda cooked over a jiko by a person well experienced in the art then you know what I mean. Watu wa 5-star and buffet, please, one side.) There was no looking back after that. I was now a certified “food” cook!

Lesson learnt: Ugali is not hard to prepare; you just need to know the right time to add flour, how long to let it boil before fighting with the mwiko, and how to “smell” it.  And by the way, it must do pfffff!!! Otherwise, you’ve done nothing!! Had my Dad not given me a step by step guide that evening, the ugali would have tasted like under boiled porridge.

Hmm…..

In Malachi 3, God describes himself as a refiner and purifier. He sits and works on us until we are rid of all dross. In Jeremiah, God is described as a potter working at the wheel while Job falls short of calling him a butcher (well, the butcher is the one who slays. Ama? ). In all these, I see a God given to detail, especially in the process of forming and shaping you and I. He knows that one bad move, one additional piece of fire wood, one additional turn on the wheel will ruin the master piece. So he remains focused on the process!!!  In fact, I read somewhere that as a silversmith works on a piece of silver, s/he must watch the silver at all times while it is under the flame to ensure the silver is not ruined by the process.

Paul described it beautifully in Ephesians 2:10- he says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Imagine that! I’m a master piece. My personality and idiosyncrasies, my likes and dislikes, personal preferences and aversions: all of it. A. MASTERPIECE. He sat down and deliberately and masterfully shaped me with my destiny and purpose in mind; nothing was added by mistake, everything was just right-  he was intentional. He then tested and tried me (and still does) under the right temperature, conditions and environment to verify readiness for use. I now know that every experience has served to add the texture, value and depth required for my assignment. And when I am ready, He will say, “Amenukia sasa, mtoe kwa moto!” (She’s ready. Get her off the flames.)

And you know what, He’s doing the exact same thing with you!!  For some of you reading this, the process has just began and the flames are hot!! But worry not. He’s on the job;He’s watching the process and best of all, He’s in there with you. And very soon, you will be ready. Flames –  out!

I promise.

 

 

 

 

Attitude Makes All The Difference

My Dad is very strict, yaani, ni mkali!! (If you doubt me, ask my family and close friends. And he makes no effort to hide it). He’s Christ-lover who governs his life by prayer and the Word of God. I mean, if it’s not collaborated by scripture, there will be no debate about it. My mother on the other hand is not mkali. She is calm but firm. Looking back, I don’t remember a time mother raised her voice at us, she was not a member of the “shouters club”, no. But we all knew never to defy her; my dad would finish you. She is also a Christ-lover  and His Word is and has always been her true north. I can confidently say that my parents shaped and influenced my walk as a Christ – lover. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

My dad and mom met in a national school. That was when a national school was headed by a “Mr Pen” from Ireland. My parents led their respective classes all the way to the “O” and “A” Levels (I’ve seen the report-cards).  My dad was also a serious athlete who made a light job of cross country races. He went on to become a telecommunications engineer and my mother became a teacher. So, I have very strong brains behind me.

My dad. Very strict. And just as he was known back in his high school and college days (I have met his friends), it is also known today: my Dad does not suffer fools!! NO!! His tolerance for foolishness and nonsense is zero. He also does not believe in being led- he leads!!! He once told us that he not raising  sympathy seekers and sissies (for real..). He still does not understand nor use the words ‘give up’ and ‘too hard’ in relation to anything he is doing. As long as someone else is/has done it, he will do it, and do it better than any one else.

He expected us to be the top students in class and no, he did not commend us when we did. My mother would celebrate us, naturally. But my dad, he would scrutinize the marks and ask questions like ” Kiswahili you scored 90. Where did you take 10 marks?” Closing day for us were usually interesting, in an equally interesting way. Basically, by the time we turned in for the night, our time tables for the holiday would have been drawn up. Play came after books.

One incident that comes to mind was when I was in Std 7. I, daughter of my father, had failed Mathematics. I can’t remember what I had scored. All I remember was that I was in big trouble.  My friend, there was fire!

My top-of-his-class-telecommunications engineer- Dad could not make peace with my marks!! He demanded an explanation for my dismal performance. And what did I do?  I opened my mouth, this one of mine, and told him it was hard. WEH!!! Niliona siku ndefu (You know, some phrases can only be said in Kiswahili. Because, really, the direct translation of that up there is “I saw a long day” and that does not make sense! But for the benefit of non-swahili readers, that simply means “I saw stars”. Together, yes?)

My Dad wasted no time!! He did not sit me down for a motivational talk. No. He took swift action in line with Proverbs 23:13 !! You see, in my part of the world, my Dad’s generation of parents did not send us to a naughty corner, or reason with us as I now find myself doing with my boys. NOOOO!!! Corner for who??? Reason with who for what??? Those  corners were already occupied by our mothers’ money plants! This business of “naughty corner” parents talk nowadays is recent. And for the record, my corners are occupied by pots so there are no corners in my house either!

Back to my story…. my Dad reminded me that the following were never to be repeated in our home: It’s too hard; I don’t understand; I don’t like the teacher (kwanza that one! ; I don’t like the subject.  As far as he was concerned, as long as someone else aced it, I was expected to ace it as well!! I quickly realized that my attitude needed to change quickly, immediately, NOW!! Niliona nyota!! Let’s just say that by the time my  Dad was done giving me his version of a motivational talk, my attitude had been re-calibrated, my head was correct, and I was in love with Mathematics!! Yaani my Dad’s RRI (Rapid Response Initiatives) were RAPID.

That experience taught me one thing: attitude makes all the difference.  You see, attitude not only determines and defines your learning curve but it also determines how fast you rise.  When added to your drive and hunger to succeed, attitude will propel you faster toward your goal. I also believe attitude either attracts or repels people. It is what will cause a teacher to spend more time with a student who, though struggling, is determined to improve.

So I dove back into my books under his supervision. Let me tell you, it worked. My attitude changed by fire by force, and my performance soared. Unfortunately, when I got to high school, mathematics and I parted ways due to irreconcilable differences but by then my dad had made his point. Nothing is hard; you just need to change your attitude.

So for the next few days, wear the right attitude. You’ll see the results.

I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

Public announcements

May, 1992.

I am and always have been a teacher’s child (“mtoto wa mwalimu”); my mother began teaching long before I was born and is about to finally retire (yey!! Party loading!) At one point, she was a teacher in the primary school I attended. That had its privileges and limitations. Naturally, I was treated  in a certain, often uncomfortable, manner by my peers in school.  In fact, I was sure a hidden list of expectations had been drawn up for all teachers’ children that we were expected to meet.  Otherwise, we would be severely reprimanded. So really, I did not need to draw more attention, yes?

In May 1992, I put myself on a scale, added an even bigger list of expectations to the existing one and allowed my audience to write out the marking scheme.  What did I do?  I announced that I had given my life to Christ over the Easter Break of 1992. And I have to tell you-  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED. I was not prepared.  I mean, if I lied, it was amplified; if I dared say I listened to  a boy band that was popular then, it was head line news; if I dared say I had a crush, it was national news, “fresh off the press”!!!  I. WAS. NOT. PREPARED.

With time, I realized that for the rest of my life, everything I did would be weighed and measured against that announcement. And I have to be honest with  you, there are times it would have been easier to walk away.  But then,  I found grace and mercy for when I missed the mark, and decided to aim at being, as my Mother once told me, “Spiritually natural and naturally spiritual.”

In the Gospel of Luke, it is written that Jesus walked into the synagogue in the city of Nazareth and made his own “public announcement” (You can read more about that in Luke 4:16-30). True to form, the community immediately pulled out their version of a marking scheme. They did not waste time, those men. No. Their conclusion?  Jesus was up to no good!!

They first told Him, “We know your father” . His response made an already bad situation worse, I mean, their blood boiled. Then they took action. They marched Him out of the city, found the nearest cliff and were intent on killing him!  In fact, I suspect that some of the witnesses who testified at His trial relied on this incident to strengthen the case against Him. (By the way, could this be the origin of Kenyan key board warrior-ism? You don’t think so?  Ebu try make an outrageous announcement of how you intend to lift living standards in your community if elected into bla bla office…. We Kenyans, we will waste no time!! By the time your mother gets the news that you are seeking nomination, we will have found and interviewed your kindergarten teacher, high school dorm matron, your dean of students in campus, first employer, first boy/girl friend, dug up your past for dirt, found a record (any record!) of your wrong doing and in 24 hours, throw you off a cliff!  Chills are for penguins, I say!!! But, I digress.)

Being a Christian is a tough call. Many times society and friends will remind you, ” We know your Father! We even have videos of you doing such and such! We were with you the other day at …. doing …..” Our weaknesses are amplified. We stumble and fall short of the mark many, many times. But we cannot give up.

So keep lifting the standard of Jesus high. When you stumble, pick yourself up. Make that public announcement as often as you can: I am a Christian.

And even when society wants to throw us off a cliff, Jesus will cause us to walk right through the crowd and find safety. I promise.

 

 

God’s back can be trusted.

Have you ever gone through storms in life that did not make sense? Or made you ask questions like, “Who did i offend? Who cursed me? Why me? Why now?”

If you answered yes, then you are in good company.

A few years ago, I went through a storm of magnanimous proportions. I mean, that thing gathered the strongest monsoon winds, added a few hurricanes, traveled around the globe picking the coldest and hardest hail stones, then collected a few fallen trees from the Amazon and Mau forests before hitting me when I least expected!!!  I remember looking around me and thinking, “What in the name of all that is holy is this??? What just happened?” and most importantly, “Did God’s watch break, because this timing is OFF!!!” (That question must have put a smile on God’s face. Like really?? How can the creator of time have a broken watch??) But through it all, as I spent many hours on my knees hiding in the cleft of the rock, I had a strong witness that it would all make sense one day.

Looking back now, I can tell you it all makes sense now. I know that season worked  resilience in me and made my faith in God unshakable. I walked out sure, beyond a shadow of  a doubt, that there is a God and He answers prayers. It also broke my fallow ground and sunk the foundation for what I know God is now building. I can now look back and like Jacob, say that God was in that place but I did not perceive it. God walked ahead of me, all I did was follow His back.

Some of the seasons we go through cannot make sense in the present. In the midst of a furnace, our senses only register the heat of the fire. After all, that is all we see, feel and hear.In fact, in that moment, we are incapable of seeing how this will “work out for my good”. It’s only after the storm that we look back and see that God had not only been with us in the furnace, but had also gone ahead of us. That we had all along been following his back. Just like Moses.

In Exodus 33, a conversation between God and Moses is recorded from Verse 12 – 23. God had just promised Moses that his presence would go with them as they journeyed to the promised land but for reasons only known to Moses, he wanted more than just the presence of God!! He wanted to see God.  “Show me your face”, he asked audaciously. In modern parlance, Moses was saying, “Show me what you are planning, let me have sight of tomorrow. I need to be prepared”.

But when you think about it, if God shows you all He is planning, you would probably try and change some of the experiences. I know I would. Especially that storm up there. Instead, God in His wisdom and mercy chooses to show us His back and then , and only then are able to understand the why, where and how of our journey.

So, if you’re facing Hurricane XYZ or Tropical Storm UVW, take heart. If you cannot see beyond the next minute, it’s because he has covered you as He passes by and tests the water and furnace to ensure it does not overwhelm you. Once He is sure you will make it through, He will let you see His back. And when He does, follow.

I promise you, His back can be trusted.

 

 

 

Hello, World!

Quote

Hello, World. Welcome to my blog.

I first setup this blog in 2011; a whole lifetime ago!!! At the time, i was looking for a channel through which to share my thoughts and give expression to my internal conversations ( i call it “the destructive trinity of me, myself and I”). Well, i ended up putting those conversations in my journals….  Story for another day.

Since then, a whole  LOT has changed both in my personal space and in the world around me. Of greatest significance and perhaps, relevance to me is the construction and completion of Thika Super Highway, the Eastern By-Pass  and the Southern By-Pass (more about that in my next post). During the same period, we got our second child (“the landlord”),  changed jobs , and moved houses twice. In addition, we (my husband and I ) have recently stepped into bigger and more demanding roles both individually and as a couple one of which includes taking care of a young congregation. Now,  I promise this blog will not focus on that. Maybe one day, in the not so distant future, but for now, no. However, much of my content will be draw from my experiences and influenced by my journey.

So, it is in this new role that i recently found myself standing in front of our precious congregation to speak on a subject very close to my heart. Several days after the event, i found myself pondering on some of the things i said and many that i did not say and i thought, why not write about it?

I did. In my journal.

However, laaaaater, after a tear jerking phone call with one of my mates, i thought…. how about i post my thoughts, experiences and lessons on a blog? It could help someone out there, yes? What’s the worst that could happen? What do i have to lose? Well, only time will tell.

The longer i toyed with the thought, the more urgency it created.

I thought of how best to begin, perhaps a fancy title?  Or “deep” content? No. An introduction!! Yes.

So, since i was raised well, allow me to introduce myself….

My name is Grace Mandela. (No, no relation to Nelson Mandela). I am a wife to one husband, a mother of two boys, a sister to three brothers and two sisters,  a daughter to great parents and friend to many.

I love cooking (Indian food….my word) and singing-  I am a worship leader. I am a lawyer by training but most important, a follower of Christ. I have zero tolerance for nonsense but i enjoy a good laugh.

My dream is to raise a company of women who know who they are, whose they are and where they are going. I have crazy ideas… and even crazier ambitions. For the women and my boys. With time, i will give a little peek… just a little.

Warning: I have zero blogging experience, but i promise you will not be bored. We will grow together, you and I.

Finally, i consider myself a woman covered by grace.

Welcome!!!

 

 

Run the Race

Run the race with all your might,
Keep your eyes on the light of my face.

I heard this song by Dennis Jernigan for the first time many years ago while a student of law at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Law College, Karnataka, India and it changed my life. It encourages us to keep our eyes on the price and no matter how long and winding the road may be, our focus will ensure we hit the finish line.

Over the years, i have met many acquaintances and made many friends; one thing that has struck me is the fact that many had big dreams but few have achieved them. Many fell on the way side, others got distracted and abandoned their quest, and few, a handful, made it to the end……..

I have learnt: your path may take you through rugged mountainous country and overpasses so perilous that few would dare to tread. But as long as you keep your eyes on the price, you will make it to the finish line. I promise….