Monday, December 28, 2020

Meet my Minika!

Some days we forget to look around us,

Some days we can't see the joy that surrounds us,

So caught up inside ourselves, 

We take when we should give.  --Josh Groban from the song, Thankful 

Little could I ever imagine, Minika, my dear friend who I knew in Qatar would represent my husband and me at our son's wedding in London on December 22. She had separately met my son in Doha a few years ago and then later, his fiance, on a London commuter train. No family was able to be at their wedding, but Minika drove them on blocked, rainy roads so they could be married in the London Temple. Everything was shutting down in London, but Minika was there for us. 

Sometimes, more often than we could realize, I believe God intersects people for us in our daily, ordinary lives. Often, we do not understand it until some time has passed for God to prove His point. And then again, sometimes, the same person keeps returning into our lives (like my husband, but that is another story), to teach, mentor, serve and love us. Because I have now lived many seasons, I am beginning to see the tapestry that is being crafted by The Master Weaver. Minika often says we are "sisters from different mothers."

Almost seven years ago, I met Minika in Doha, Qatar where we were living at the time. She is originally from Nigeria, but went to England as a young mother and later went to school there and received her Master's degree in Civil Engineering. When I met her, she had been working very successfully as an engineer for eight years in Doha. She was widely known for her attentive eye for detail (something she attributes to her tailoring skills as a teenager). It was not uncommon for her to climb high ladders and planks to investigate the construction quality of the buildings she was responsible for. And if you know Minika, she was never afraid to tell someone how to do it better. 😀

When I met her the first time, I immediately loved her. She has a very loud laugh like me, and I was entranced by her stories growing up in Nigeria. Once when she was six, her family was escaping from a civil war in the jungles, and she remembers also being close to a lion as they ran. I could listen to her for hours telling her stories of starting a Saturday School for the children of the area to help them (and her own children) to gain good test scores to enter private high schools. Or, she would relate to me stories of being a single mom to three bright, rambunctious boys. Sometimes she faced outright prejudice with a school or neighbor, but she successfully helped navigate her sons' careers and lives. As my eighteen-year-old son with autism matter of factly states, "No one messes with Minika."

In these pandemic times, I hope we can see the long parade of people who have marched before and with us in this life. For all of us, the line is long of others who have supported us when we needed it. I have learned a simple truth: some of these beloved people who have locked arms and embraced us later come to encircle our loved ones. When we cannot be there, people come to fill in our gaps--compensating for our absence. It happens more often than I think we see or understand. Indeed, there are angels on earth all around us. Thanks for swooping in, Minika! We love you!

Here Minika is with some of my children in Doha--way before Jonathan met his wife or Minika met her on that train in London. 

                          Here are a few of us all decked out to be in the Christmas choir.          

         One of our favorite things to do was to go fabric shopping and then take our material to various Indian and Bangladeshi tailors in Doha. She is just kidding around as she enthusiastically picked up this material with peacock feathers woven into it. We were on a hunt to find fabric to buy for another son's wedding. Ironically, the material she bought that night she made into a dress. That is the dress she wore to represent me at my son's wedding. 

      Feeding Muslims at a mosque in Doha during Ramadan. Although she is not Muslim, Minika fasted with her Muslim friends during Ramadan and encouraged me to do the same. I am so grateful I met Minika. Her influence spans wide and long--all over this world. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Finding the Bright Star in us at Christmas 2020

There shall a new star arise, such as one as ye have never seen. --                                                                             Helaman 14:5

Every child is fascinated with stars. Their light punctuates our sky. Indeed, astronomy is the oldest science and has been used to navigate the world since time began. But ah, during Christmas time, stars have a special meaning: we remember the wisemen who followed them to the Christ child, the shepherds who stood under their canopy while angel choirs sang to them in pastures, and likely Joseph who as a refugee father looked to the night sky to escape Bethlehem for Egypt. Without stars, it would be hard to imagine the first Christmas story.

This year, for the first time in 800 years Saturn and Jupiter are merging together on the same elliptical plane. We have been viewing over here in China. with just our eyes (no telescope is needed) the conjunction in space of Saturn and Jupiter. Each night they become a little closer --merging like a glistening megastar. On December 21 it will seem like they will overlap. It is stunning to watch them every night getting closer together--our nightly ritual. My daughter says she is having an outdoor "star party" in Utah, USA. And I will be doing the same here over here in China. 

Perhaps these two planets seemingly joining together is a message for us--that the world needs to unitedly come together too. To find these two merging planets every night has made me look up and discover the sky this holiday season. I am a child again. Every night can hold unexpectant light-filled radiance. Also, we too can become new arising stars ourselves. But we can also interlink with others to be even brighter--just like these two planets.

The night skies remind me of slaves, sailors, explorers who absolutely depended on them to navigate across oceans and wildernesses. Stars brought them to freedom and new promised lands. And then when they were through journeying, they would bring them home again. Stars remind us we are not alone and to gather more hope. They direct and guide us to where we need to be. 

So wherever you are in the world, go out and view the heavens. Catch some stardust and surprise yourself by being even brighter than you could have ever imagined.

          Love these stars that are hung in many parts of Europe. We made these when my kids were little.                                                                             Here is a tutorial

                                            What would the Christmas story be without stars?