Happy Mother’s Day Arrow Shooters

Chloe and ElizaHappy Mother’s Day all you arrow shooters!!! As arrows are in the hands of a warrior, so are our children the Psalmist says. In this thing called parenting, our job as parents is to shoot those arrows higher than we’ve flown. The nocking of the arrow should encompass their interests, natural bend, temperament, giftings, and those things that come so easily to them. As we draw that bowstring back, the kids in our quiver should be bathed in prayer, praise, affirmation, encouragement, and support. They should be so secure in who they are that when distractions, setbacks, rejection, failure, disappointments, etc., come their way, the trajectory of that arrow stays the course – that they fly as high as God intended them to fly. I am so proud of my sister Maureen for letting my niece Chloe follow her natural bend. This led to a full scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. 🙌🏾 I’m extremely proud of you Chloe and would like my Broadway tickets now 😉 Seriously, I am proud of Chloe for having the passion, tenacity, and drive to follow her dreams. And of course I unashamedly took screenshots of their Instagram stories when Elizabeth went to see Chloe’s first production last weekend. On this Mother’s Day and everyday, I encourage you to draw that bowstring back and shoot your arrow/s higher than you’ve flown.

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The End Of An Incredible College Career

 

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A week ago, when my daughter submitted her thesis on our people, the Baganda, I thought it was the last day of her college career. While this maybe true, yesterday, when she clicked “submit” on her final paper, was the official last day of her college career. “I didn’t hear congratulations, just a slew of to-do items of all the things I should do next,” she said in jest as we facetimed this morning. “But I thought your last day was”….”Mom, that was my thesis submission,” she interrupted to make the all-important distinction. To which I apologized profusely and officially congratulated her on the end of an incredible college career.  I can barely contain the joy that fills my heart – but who says I have to contain it? Heck, I’m shouting from the rooftops: GOD IS GOOD!!! I thank all the educators at Georgetown University who helped Elizabeth soar – you have given her unbreakable wings.

God has taken Elizabeth to places we only dreamed of. She studied in France and Jordan, interned for the International Relations Bureau of the Federal Trade Commission, Senator Warren, and Congressional Black Caucus Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. She was part of the Chi Alpha GU campus ministry and the HTC church family. She worked at The Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, at The Georgetown Alumni Association as a liaison between alumni and students, baby-sat, and tutored Arabic. She co-chaired the Georgetown Scholarship Program Board, was the Political Action Chair of the Georgetown University NAACP Board, is currently a member and Chair of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service Centennial Planning Committee, a speaker at many an event, a remarkable student, sister to many, and friend. This past weekend, at a Georgetown event in Boston, the Dean of the SFS complimented me on my parenting and it took everything in me to keep for crying. All of these extraordinary educators, alumni, Jesuits, the Imam, the Rabbi, friends new and old, have parented Elizabeth during her time at Georgetown, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

CONGRATULATIONS Elizabeth on a job well done!!! I am beyond proud of you. I smile as my mind dashes back to memories of your incredible time at Georgetown. Thank you for not compromising who you are, your values, and faith in Christ to fit in. You led with heart and as the Tenors sing, “Lead with your heart – It’s the one thing you can trust to always come from love.” You are love, and I admire everything about you-you are beautifully everything! You are friendship, faith, leadership, excellence, etc., goals. The scripture that sums up this auspicious moment for me is Psalm 3:3: “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” May He continue to be your glory and the lifter of your head. Cheers to my favorite Hoya!!! Photo credit: Selfie from this year’s SFS Diplomatic Ball sent to mom under #justforyou 💕 But how could I not share?

 

God’s faithfulness Amidst College Rejection Letters.

As your children wait for their college acceptance letters or decide which colleges to attend, my prayer is that they will look to God for guidance and fix their eyes on Him. This period can be a very difficult time or time to exercise your faith. Do you truly believe that God has a plan for your child and that His plan is better than what you, your son or daughter could conjure up?

When my daughter received rejection letters while her friends rejoiced in their acceptances, I watched her rejoice with them. I watched her faith grow as she waited. It is in those moments where your faith in God is tested because: Your child has worked so hard. They have studied and shown themselves approved. Any college would be lucky to have them. But they receive rejection letters, and it’s your job as mom or dad to encourage your child with each rejection letter. You have to help them keep their faith while yours might be waning. I had faith that Elizabeth was going to college, however, my heart broke with each rejection letter.

For this reason, I wanted to take a moment to encourage you to keep the faith. My daughter’s words during her high school senior address always remind me of God’s faithfulness. She said, “In any kind of distress, remain strong and do not give up…When I look back on everything God had planned and how it all came together, I see His pure faithfulness…We can not always see God’s hand, what He’s doing, where’s He’s taking us, or what He’s teaching us, but we always have a choice to trust Him.” Do you trust that He’s able to do exceedingly, abundantly and above all, you could ever ask or imagine?

As I sit in the library surrounded by books, I cry. I cry because I remember her checking out 100 books one time. She had a goal to read them all in one month, and she did – she must have been around six years old. As she’s about to graduate from Georgetown University on a full scholarship, my tears are endless – but they are tears of joy. I look at God and marvel at His goodness and His faithfulness. All He asks is that we trust Him. Will you trust Him?

 

The Power of the Cross

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Photo by Reuters

I couldn’t help but cry as I watched Notre Dame Cathedral go up in flames. I sat in disbelief as the fire burned through the historic church with such rage; a rage that reminded me of that of Jesus’ accusers. They bore through his body with unfounded anger. The Bible says they flogged Jesus beyond recognition. Before the fire, this 13th-Century marvel was a wonder to behold. Sadly, it burned beyond recognition. My daughter and I were blessed to visit Notre Dame in 2017. On that beautiful summer day, the line into the church wasn’t that long, so we jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a tour.

While inside, we were completely awestruck. The stained glass – the rose windows featuring glass set in circles with stone outlines took my breath away. Some of the stained glass depicted stories from the Bible, portraits of martyrs, women, and disciples. I found the genius of the flying buttresses astonishing. Our Lady’s visitors were lighting candles, praying, crying, and all the while, the aura of holiness was inescapable. I wanted to take a picture as if it could accurately capture what we felt. My daughter stopped me, “Mom, I don’t think you should take a picture out of respect,” she said. My silent agreement, overshadowed by a momentary wave of embarrassment that I almost snapped a photo, took us back to the moment we found ourselves. It was a holy moment on holy ground.

We ambled through the cathedral and at times sat down in silent reflection each lost in her world of wonderment and worship. I cannot explain how one place could possess an abundance of spirit, love, and history but it did – a thing of beauty it was! God was tangible in that space, His presence undeniable.

Jesus made His way through the crowds carrying His cross – with a crown of thorns affixed to His head, similar to the one King Louis IX placed in the cathedral in 1231. His accusers severely bruised His body, His friends denied and betrayed Him, and God seemed to have forsaken Him. Through the suffering, His spirit remained intact.
I say this because, at that moment, He (God the Son) could have struck them all, but He accepted His purpose when He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 22:34) The fire that raged through Notre-Dame de Paris didn’t “know” that the cross would remain intact. In this compelling photograph, as the cross remained standing in the ruins of Notre Dame Cathedral ahead of Good Friday, I am reminded that there is nothing more powerful than the finished work of Jesus on that bloody gory cross at Calvary.

Thank you, Jesus, because you knew every sin we would ever commit – all our failures, everything about us, and yet you still loved us with unfailing love. An unexplainable love; one that if we could fully comprehend, we would be able to extend to others the same grace you extend to us. I cry because I am overwhelmed by Christ’s love and sacrifice for me. In This Thing Called Parenting, do not neglect to talk to your kids about His love and His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” – There’s no greater love than this!

2018 Reflections From My Daughter

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“Farewell Twenty Eighteen,

I always look back and see God’s hand and faithfulness at the end of each year. He is such a good Father. But this year, I’m not just looking back at His faithfulness. I’m looking back and also seeing how much He has changed me because of His grace. I don’t think the same way I did when I turned 21. I don’t fear some of the same things I feared. I don’t want the same things I wanted. All because of His grace that doesn’t relent. Growing is painful and rough, but altogether lovely and necessary for the days ahead.

The journey to

patience

love

unpretentiousness 

contentment

& joy

continues… it’s quite a long journey without a definite end but as I look back at 2018, I can humbly say, “I’m beginning + I’m on my way.”

from Good Morning America in New York to the Acropolis in Greece, Petra in Jordan to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Trevi Fountain in Italy to the source of the Nile in Uganda, the breathtaking expanse of Wadi Rum to the streets of LA … from saying hello to new friends and goodbye to dear ones … from voting for my mother to witnessing phenomenal candidates win + important efforts made during the midterms … from finishing the first half of senior year to regularly questioning why I chose to write a thesis … from being deeply moved by Eugene Peterson’s life and work to being deeply convicted by F. William Faber’s book, “The Progress of the Spiritual Life” … from taking more time to find out who Elizabeth “is” to seeking the Lord and finding the fullness of His joy— for all these things, I am grateful.

#ThankYou2018 #LetsGo2019 #HappyNewYearInstaFam,” Elizabeth Nalunga.

I’ve always said there’s no greater joy than that of being a mother – that statement takes on greater heights of joy as you watch your children grow and become who God has called them to be. I wanted to share my daughter’s reflections of 2018 because I find that in This Thing Called Parenting, I learn more than I teach. Elizabeth, thank you for teaching me what it is to love selflessly. In a year where I have resolved to pray passionately, live loudly, and love wildly, I am so grateful to God for blessing me with you 22 years ago today. He turned my mourning into gladness on January 3rd, 1997. And when I think I cannot love you anymore, He takes me to greater heights in love. Happy Birthday my love, my best friend, my beautiful daughter!

Keep Families Together…

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It is only when we begin to see our #children in those children and ourselves in those #parents being separated that we will #dosomething. Can you see your #kids in those kids? Can you see yourself in those parents? Well, if you can’t just know that it could’ve been you. And for those who see their #families in those families but feel powerless in the face of such evil, you are more powerful than you think. Please call 202-225-3121 to reach your US representatives and 202-224-3121 to reach your US senators. I am blessed to live in #Massachusetts where my entire #Congressional delegation has signed the #keepfamiliestogether act. In #ThisThingCalledParenting and at this moment in your #parenting, let it not be said of you #singlemom #singledad #mom #dad #grandparent #auntie #uncle that you did NOTHING!!! Do something!!! Attend a vigil in your city or town on support of immigrants. Run for office, as I am doing right now. Be an advocate for the voiceless. And for my fellow #Christians still in support of the #President you will be hard pressed to find scripture to support this atrocity. #GodIsWatching #OurKidsAreWatching #KeepFamiliesTogetherAct

You Are Not “Just” a Mom!

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PhotoGrid_1526196413407You are not “just” a mom. You have the best and most important job in the world. I believe that most of the problems we are having in society today can be traced back to bad parenting. So you are NOT just a mom!!! You love, nurture, train, influence and shape our future. Our children are the future. A while ago, I was talking to a business woman who disagreed with my business approach, so she said to me, “You can say that because you haven’t done much else except just be a mom.” I burst out laughing and bit my tongue. What I really wanted to say to her in my mom voice was that: I’m an incredible mom, writer, journalist, story-teller, speaker, researcher, influencer, marketer, a wealth of information, an activist, a crusader, a feminist and a fierce advocate, etc… but I didn’t. Moms, sometimes you just have to hold your head high and let your fruit speak for itself! However, none of those titles hold a candle to my role as a mother. My highest honor is being a mom to my incredible daughter. I thank God for trusting me with being her mom. I consider it an honor and a privilege. I don’t let anyone tell me otherwise. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms, especially black single moms, who like me, who are often discounted. You matter, your kids matter, and YOU are shaping the future in so many beautiful ways. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you otherwise. ✊

Black Panther, A Movie Marvel

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As a #singlemom who’s had to navigate the waters of #parenting across cultures in the #diaspora, I cannot adequately articulate what #blackpanther means to me. My daughter must have been 4 years old when she ran up to me with a worried look on her face and asked, “Mummy, what kind of house did you grow up in, in Uganda?” I briefly described the homes we grew up in but before I could ask why she was asking, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief and exclaimed, “Oh, you have totally saved my life!” My puzzlement was eased when I looked at the television and saw that the program she was watching showed grass thatched houses, naked big bellied children, and mud houses which blended with the red dirt that had been used to build them, somewhere in Africa. I didn’t want those images to be the only images engraved on my daughter’s mind about Uganda. I immediately stopped what I was doing and dug up some family albums to show her pictures from my childhood, and to help her decipher the images she had seen. This marvel of a movie shatters all kinds of #stereotypes about Africa. It does so much for all kinds of people. But for me and for all YOU #singlemoms like me, it validates you! It sings your accolades! It puts a spring in your step and inspires you to keep bridging that divide between your roots in the #motherland and your new home in the #diaspora. I cried when I read my daughter’s post about Black Panther, which she has seen twice. She writes, “Thank you to this cast and creative team for producing something that I never realized I had been waiting for my whole life.” Our hearts are beyond full. With lots of love, respect, and gratitude, I #marvelsalute @danaigurira @lupitanyongo @letitiawright @im.angelabassett @chadwickboseman @danielkaluuya @michaelbjordan @sterlingkbrown #ForestWhitaker @andyserkis @winstoncduke @rmorrison @therealstanlee @ludwiggoransson @iamruthecarter @marvel THANK YOU for this beautiful film!!! #WakandaForever #MustSeeMovie #againandagain ❤✊🙅

My Valentine, My Heart, My Treasure…

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VDayWhen you’re a single mom, #Valentine’s Day is lovingly all about your #kids. One of my most treasured possessions is a #heart pin my #daughter made me one Valentine’s Day. When she was a young child, I intentionally romanced her heart. When she began reading the Bible on her own, together we learned to guard our hearts because out of them flow all the issues of life. In every situation, in #thisthingcalledlife, the heart of the matter is always #love, or a lack thereof. Indeed you may ask, “How do I love thee?” And Elizabeth Barrett Browning may respond, “Oh let me count the ways.” But I dare say that the purest form of love is found in Christ’s teaching on this matter of the heart; LOVE.

He teaches, “Love is #patient, love is #kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always #protects, always #trusts, always #hopes, always perseveres.”

In #ThisThingCalledParenting my daughter taught me that patience is a virtue. When I became a mom, I became kinder…how can you not be; kinder? I do not envy anyone because when I was a young child my mother told me that envy is a waste of time. She said, “Never try to be like anyone because you will never be like anybody else.” I believe envy comes from being discontent and not knowing who you are. My mother gave me the gift of contentment which I passed long to my daughter. Thanks mom!

I had to swallow my pride along my #parenting journey and apologize to my daughter when I treated her unfairly. When it comes to boasting, I boast in the Lord. I boast of His marvelous works and His hand over our lives recognizing that if it were not for His love, I would not be here today. Oh how it breaks my heart when I see parents dishonoring their children. An example of this is when parents publicly shame their children to correct behavioral problems and in the moment win a victory, but it is oh so fleeting a victory.

Being a mom quickly tackles the “self-seeking” heart issue as you quickly realize that in order to be a successful mother, you have to daily die to self. Gosh, it’s really all about your kids. Mom, I finally get it! Thank you for modeling what it means to be a selfless parent. Ahhh, the “not easily angered part,” I’m still working on. Sometimes when I get angry, I have to ask God to forgive me because if you know my daughter, you would know that I have nothing to be angry about. Infact, one of her high school teachers came up to me once and asked, “We all want to know, does Elizabeth ever get angry?” To keep from confessing that I have an almost perfect child I fibbed and said, “Well, yeeesss,” all the while rewinding and fast forwarding our lives looking for that angry memory of her but there was none. When he left, I felt so small for all the times I let myself get so easily angered over insignificant matters. God spoke to my spirit and told me to look at Elizabeth. I sigh and say be still my heart…still I look, watch and try to emulate.

By the way, how fun is it when you go to the freezer for an icecream bar only to find that the box is empty? Do you wonder why your child doesn’t throw out the box? Do you call her at school to let her know of the travesty? This past semester, while my daughter was back at uni, I found such an empty box. I left it in the freezer until Christmas break in order to demonstrate to her the feeling a mom gets when she thinks she has a Haagen Dazs bar but she doesn’t. We had a good laugh about it but besides that four month record of ‘wrong’ which I icily kept, we forgive one another and move on. There’s no greater joy than seeing your children rejoice in the truth of God’s love and strive to be love. I thank God for honoring me with the awesome responsibility of protecting my daughter and her heart. My heart is full of a love that always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

“I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life,” Browning.

Happy Valentines Day!!! Elizabeth, no matter how old you get, you’ll always be my Valentine, my Heart, my Treasure. I love thee!

He Opens Doors No Man Can Close…That’s Our God!

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Elizabeth's Speech at Georgetown

Back in the fall of 2014 when my daughter Elizabeth was applying to college, she sent only one application to Columbia University because it has a great International Relations program, it’s in New York City, which she loves, and has a comprehensive focus on global studies, a field that interests her tremendously. So off went her early decision application and there was no doubt in my mind that Columbia would be lucky to have my daughter; however, she received a rejection letter instead of the acceptance we had been eagerly awaiting. She shed a tear or two, we held hands and prayed together and the words that followed surprised me, “Mom, this just means that’s not where God wants me.” I marveled at her maturity and resolve to keep trusting God in the middle of such disappointment. Taking into account that children take their parents’ lead, I put my brave face on and said, “Well, I wouldn’t want you to be successful at the wrong college now would I?” We both burst out laughing because we have mastered the art of laughing at adversity.

We knew the road ahead would be treacherous. Elizabeth had put “all her eggs in one basket” as one friend had cautioned and now she had to go through the whole process of applying to college all over again (now with only two weeks left), writing and re-writing essays, supplements and going to more interviews. Anyone who has gone through this knows the kind of a headache it is. But I am so proud of her for keeping her eyes on Jesus and putting Him in the center of the process.

She then did something kids her age seldom do. She posted her rejection letter on Instagram and wrote,

Usually people share pictures of acceptance letters, degrees, awards, & certificates… But rarely does one see a rejection letter. So I thought I’d share one with you along with some heartfelt thoughts… 12.11.14, 5 pm. I have faith that an acceptance letter will be posted on my Columbia account but at 5:06 pm I read these words. Human nature– I shed a tear because I have been believing for this for a LONG time. With faith, I’ve fought through the critic battlefield where constant opinions were given and suggestions were made such as, “Applying to one school is silly…especially an IVY. You should try something more realistic.” The truth is, you and I live in a world that is SO numb to reality; the reality of War, Hunger, Brokenness, Feelings, and the reality of Christ in the here and now. I appreciate every word and piece of advice that is given to me, but I don’t see the reason in having to always “play it safe.” Why not have faith towards bold dreams? It is impossible to please God without faith– the evidence of that which we do not see yet. So in humbleness and confidence in Christ, I applied….and I was denied. But the good news to this story is that I have come out stronger. There is a peace that I feel because I know that no man can thwart God’s Will and if His Will was for me to receive a “No,” then I will trust and obey…because there is no other way to be happier in Jesus. 😊

Today, I pray that your strength and hope won’t fail. So many things are fighting for our attention and it takes one lie to convince you and me that we are not good enough. But Christ is enough and He says you and I are AWESOME in Him!!!

We have many plans, the Bible says, but it’s the LORD’S Will that prevails. When your dreams don’t turn out, develop the muscle that praises God in the midst of rejection and denial. With your consent and total dependence, God will lead you in His perfect direction. Just keep moving forward with Him. You were born to be a world changer… Don’t let anything convince you otherwise.

Xo.”

I was floored and my heart was full of joy. Parents came up to me and told me how they had read the post and cried and prayed for her, how she had encouraged their children and how extremely proud they were of the way she had handled the situation. That was the grace of God, His ability, working through her to re-assure her that He had this whole thing under control. She sent 10 applications out to: Georgetown University, George Washington University, Washington College, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, American University, Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University and Princeton University. After ALLLLL that, our prayer was simple: That God would open doors no man can close and close the ones no man can open. We didn’t want to play any guessing games. “Make it plain and clear Lord,” was our cry.

More rejections, three acceptances, not to her top schools, but still, we believed. A few people we love and respect suggested that she take a gap year citing that they were the voice of reason and that the data showed that since she had been rejected from ‘target’ and ‘safety’ schools, the ‘reach’ aka IVY leagues would not accept her. To one person I said, “We have chosen to believe the voice of truth, and that the voice of truth tells us she will get into a great school.” Sometimes when you are standing on faith, it will look like craziness to some people. It will look ludicrous and just plain silly. And in that moment you have a choice. You have a choice to keep trusting God when things look bleak, or to give in to the voices around you. You have a choice whose voice you WILL believe.

I am happy to say that it pays great dividends to believe in God, in His promises and in His plan for your life. On March 30th, 2015, we learned that Elizabeth was accepted to Georgetown University. She received a full scholarship for Georgetown’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS). Her scholarship came with the prestigious 1789 Scholarship, in honor of the year Georgetown was founded, whose membership awards her blessings upon blessings…some of which we are still wrapping our heads around. The following day, she was wait-listed to Princeton University. Our hearts were full and she was proud to say that she would be attending Georgetown University. George Washington University accepted her as well with a generous scholarship. Two other acceptance letters followed. She wrote to each school that accepted her to thank them for their time, consideration, acceptance, and scholarships. I’m sharing our testimony to say that God opens doors no man can close and His plan for your children’s lives will prevail.

A week ago, at the Georgetown University President’s Event for Reunion Weekend, Elizabeth, who is now a junior in the SFS, had the awesome privilege of speaking to Georgetown Alumni about her incredible experience at Georgetown and how their continued engagement and giving paves the way for students such as herself. In Gaston Hall, which was filled with kind, passionate, and notable alumni and their spouses, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, she spoke of the blessing it is to be a student on the Hilltop. We were reminded of the scripture in Proverbs that says your gift will make room for you and bring you before great men. One such great man is President John Degioia. Thank you, President DeGioia, for your exemplary leadership! Ours was an improbable dream, but God. We are extremely grateful for you and for the Georgetown Alumni who continually look back to invest in students like my Elizabeth, enabling them to look forward to a future filled with limitless possibilities. What a blessing! Thank You.