Yesterday, I decided to stop being lazy and have breakfast outside my room. So I stepped down to the cafe just beside my apartment block and ordered a sandwich and my guilty pleasure – a cup of piping hot chocolate.
The beauty thing about the otherwise awful British weather is that – when it is sunny, it can be the most incredible thing to be outside and to take that delicious contrast in. It was one day to my 29th birthday, and I threw my head back and let the sun hit my face. I couldn’t have been more grateful. For the indescribable pleasure in doing that, and in how lucky I am to be alive, to be well, to be joyful, to be able to take in those little moments.
It’s the reason I wanted this birthday to be mine, to be quiet, to be personal. For the past five years, my birthdays have been more or less given to my country. It started in 2010 when I stepped out, angry, onto the streets to demand some accountability and the rule of law with the EnoughisEnough rallies, and last year I spent the month of it at the NYSC camp in Lagos, with Microsoft and other partners to launch YouthSpark, to provide jobs for young Nigerians.
This year, I thought I owed it to myself to keep it inwards – to make this one very personal. It made it easy to sadly decline the invitation of a dear friend to host a party for me at his lovely Essex home – very tempting idea, and a lot of friends are in the UK. But it was a good decision.
I got my first birthday message from our office assistant and store manager, who has been with us for about five years. #TeamRED is my second family, and I try to invest a lot in my team. The sweet message Taye sent me at 12.05 meant lot to me.
I woke up to the loveliest prayer waiting for me from the Miss. To be loved, to have a partner in a world that can be overwhelming is cause to be thankful. And it started a brilliant day.
I went with my friends Shola, Aninoritse and Chioma to my favourite London church, Jesus House. And woulda thunk it? I had no idea Pastor Agu’s 50th was this weekend! Today was the best church I have had in years, and the best birthday gift God could have given me:
1. Church was long – and I was so grateful that it was. Four hours in God’s obvious presence is more than I could have asked for.
2. Pastor Adeboye – PASTOR ADEBOYE! – gave the sermon. My God. It is the first non-Holysghost Service sermon I have been under from the man I love to call Daddy. I was completely overwhelmed. He knelt down to lead worship and I immediately began to cry. God’s presence is hugely magnified in the simplicity of servants like Daddy. His message and his prayers for birthdays today was God’s special gift to me. God bless him.
3. Praise and Worship was an incredible time in God’s presence. Jesus House always brings it home to me = and from the choir to the special ministrations, it was impossible to have enough.
4. Thanks to my dear friend, Yemi Adamolekun, the birthday boy, Pastor Agu laid both hands on me and prayed for me. Oh, he prayed for me. I wanted to go right to Heaven after that. He spoke powerfully and ministered to me in such an intensely personal way, I felt enveloped in God’s power. And I say amen, and amen.
5. Pastor Paul Adefarasin’s closing words – and prayer – was the best end to a beautiful service.
I joined my friends at the naming ceremony of Anino’s nephew, with a long ride across town that gave us moments of joy, of laughter, of one of life’s most important gifts – friendship, shared. At the christening of the new baby – Mofeoluwa, Remi, Logan-Carter Carew – the laughter continued, and great food, and the joy of family. Just as we wanted it.
I am a sucker for the prayers of mothers – and I am thankful for those said to me by Anino and Chioma’s mothers. I felt so safe – I still do. And who can forget Chioma’s tears as Mrs. Odeli gave me the gift of a birthday song. I still smile now at the memory.
On the ride back home, the laughter continued, and the selfie when we arrived at the station, and then one more selfie for the road, just before Chioma left me on the train, almost missing her stop. Because, you know, some moments are too important to be worried about getting home late
In between, I got a nudge to check on Twitter, and I see that the celebration of the short life I have yet lived has been intense. My team members have now made #ChudesDay an annual tradition (just 10 days ago, they had given me a surprise birthday celebration just before I left Nigeria - that left me in tears), and to see the supremely kind words from them, and from friends, family, colleagues, mentors those who just know me from afar – Twitter, Facebook, everywhere else – it’s just truly wondrous.
I spent the rest of the train ride, and the rest of the walk home to my little hideout, just smiling. Just joyful. Just thankful. It didn’t matter that the hat I bought on Friday for my birthday flew off my head and onto the train tracks. It had served its purpose; had added a little zing to a special day.
The day was capped up by the most important thing of all – my mother, the one person I love above everything and everyone else in the world, on the phone, saying yet another prayer for me; her fourth in 2 days. And we joined together on the one very thing that is now most important to both us. And we know God will answer it.
There are a lot of things I don’t understand, and I hope to get clarity from God as I keep working with him. Why some people still have to endure suffering in the world, why my country is still the way it is despite all that many have done to remake it, why lives have to be lost because young people are looking for a job to take themselves out of their country’s misery. While I wait for the understanding, I keep doing my best to do what I can.
But one thing I understand, and I know for sure: God has been good to me, He has loved me, He has blessed me, and I am the least worthy of any of these. That is my truth.
For today, and for my life, I am truly thankful.