4: Crook

My fourth toys is a shepherd’s crook.

The shepherds who visited baby Jesus must have had a crook with them — a long and sturdy staff with a hook at one end that comes in handy to manage their sheep as they forage. They use it to catch and pull back a wandering sheep, it becomes a weapon to defend against predators, it helps to balance when walking rough terrain and used to part tall undergrowth when looking for lost sheep.

“ — your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” Psalm 23:4

It’s no coincidence that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was visited by shepherds as a baby. That should say something to you — because of who He is, He is able to direct the course of life, catch you when you are wandering off into danger and defend you against predators. And He can wade through the entanglement of disobedience to find you.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and all his sheep are within his reach.

But the big question is,

Are you a sheep?

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“I am the good shepherd… and I lay down my life for the sheep.” — Jesus

Tomorrow’s toy is: Gift

3: Manger

Man·ger /ˈmānjər/
a long open box or trough for horses or cattle to eat from.

Unfamiliar voices, the bleating of sheep, the braying of donkeys — these sounds quickly let us know that the stable is no place for a baby to be born. Yet, you can almost palpate the air of love and warmth and joy.

Have you recently had an unwelcome or unpleasant change in circumstances or fortune?

Do not be afraid, for you have a champion — Jesus — who was born in a manger. It was no cot, but the baby Jesus felt comfy in the manger surrounded by the love of his parents on that wintry night.

If you look closely,

you will find comfort even when you feel out of place. In a friendly face, a soft-spoken word, the sound of gentle whispers, a light pat on your back, the unnoticed glimpses of Jesus’ glowing face will bring hope and comfort and calmness to the raging storms in your life.

And Jesus does not discriminate. He comes to whoever invites Him. If that’s your heart, He will come.

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In the vicissitudes of life, you can find divine providence.

Jesus is patting your back right now, saying — I am here. For you.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:77

Tomorrow’s toy is: Crook

2: Music box

Do you wonder why there’s carols and so much singing associated with Christmas? Around this time, and for pretty much the rest of the year, you will hear many wonderful Christmas songs playing in stores, homes, gatherings, on TV or from any of the forms of music boxes (phones, computers, home audio systems). I believe the many songs we love to sing and hear reflect the spirit of the song which characterizes Christmas and that is why my second toy is a gramophone (P.S. I also wanted to draw something vintage, ha ha).

Chances are if I take a poll in a room, I’ll find that the majority of people like music. Experiences of awe and joyful surprise interrupting the mundane often lead to singing. Many of the characters of the Christmas story — the angels, shepherds, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna showed us this.

The angels sang, announcing the majesty of God. The shepherds sang — in utter amazement of their divine visitation. Zechariah sang — when he received the fulfillment of a promise in his old age. Mary and Elizabeth sang — having found favor and been chosen to birth greatness. Simeon and Anna sang — acknowledging the privilege to witness to the coming of the Savior.

They sang because they were so enraptured by the visitation of the divine in their mundane lives.

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“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14

Do you consider your life mundane?
At the verge of despair?
Is the Christmas miracle lost on you?

Now, rejoice, the promise is fulfilled. Your king is here. Jesus is born. And this means —

You will sing a new song.

Tomorrow’s toy is: Manger

1: Star

What’s a Christmas tree without a star at the peak?
What’s our universe without stars?

Stars keep planets in place. Nested in constellations, they provide energy in form of light and heat. Look at the sun, a really big star, around which our solar system revolves. What will we do without the sun?

Stars shine bright.

They remind us of what we want to be — bright, seen and valued. I start my toy collection with a star, because that’s how the astrologers of Jesus’ day found him. Shining bright in the eastern sky, it led them to where baby Jesus lay. They sought him, saw him and worshiped.

Why is it important to me?

Life can get pretty complicated, pretty fast especially when a lot of things aren’t in place. Let me remind you today that there is a star who keeps everything in place. Jesus provides light, energy, strength, purpose and a whole lot more to any one who seeks him. If you let him light your heart, you find that you are bright, seen and valued. He becomes your sun and shield, giving you favor and honor (Psalm 84:11).

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As I keep up this Star at the peak of the tree that is in my heart, let me ask you — does this Star have your attention?

“ — For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

Tomorrow’s toy is: Gramophone

the 12 Toys of Christmas

Hello Friends and Readers,

I am so excited to present to you, my personal passion project with which I will wrap up 2019!

A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me to explore the Christmas story, find objects that would pass for Christmas tree decorations and explore them deeper.

Christmas Toys?

Yes! I know you probably haven’t thought twice about the toys and ornaments you mount on your Christmas tree.

In the days leading to Christmas, I will share my list of the 12 toys I came up with. To add an interesting twist, I will present them as the icons on a deck of playing cards.

Follow this blog to get fresh notifications immediately a new posts comes out. You can also join me on Instagram here

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I wish that you will follow my journey and as you enjoy my writing and illustrations, my hope is that, somewhere along this playful but meaningful exploration of mine, you will find meaning and hope in what they represent.

I invite you to explore with me, the 12 Toys of Christmas.

Toluwanimi

List of Toys (updated daily):

Star
Music box
Manger
Crook
Gift
Shield
Crown

Who will I say sent me?

Do you remember what people say when you want to do something great? What do they say when you mess up?

They say “can you do it?” who sent you in the first place?” “who asked you to do it?”

Moses knew that so well: he wanted to do something great. But he had messed up and was told “who made you a judge over us?” So he ran away. For 40 years!

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Wanna know something?

God sent you.

Now if your dreams are selfish and ego-driven, you will be up against a brick wall. Real hard brick wall. If you follow self-conjured imaginations or ambitions, you will meet a dead end. You will fail miserably or succeed more miserably.

But, if God has placed a vision in your heart and nudged you to make a difference —maybe He prompted you to start writing, pursue a particular career, start that project or join that mission trip — you will be unstoppable. If He’s saying “speak to Mica about this,” don’t be afraid. Even if you messed up the first time. Or second, or… however many times, you can pick yourself up.

People and situations will ask you “Who sent you?” and it will be more of mocking than questioning.

But you can confidently say to them, “God sent me.”

God is “I AM.” That means He’s ever present: He’s not an outdated God. He’s not in the past. He’s with you, leading you every step of the way into your great future!

He sent you!

MISTAKES X FAILURE

What do you do when you make a mistake? What should you? This nifty post gives you an idea.

What do you do when you make a mistake or fail?

If you were me, you would hate yourself, wish it never happened and try so hard not to talk about it. Sometimes, that will prevent you from doing something great again.

If you are nodding your head right now, I have a word for you.

Do not beat yourself…

The microwave was a sizzling accidental discovery during a radar test. Sticky notes came out of a failed strong-adhesive project. The potato chips was an attempt to annoy an extremely fussy customer. The penicillin was a result of an accidental culture inoculation, and the x-ray and corn flakes were also accidental discoveries.

Do not take yourself too seriously. Seriously. Okay, I meant, do not beat yourself too much.

Rather, take a second look at your mistakes or failures. You may learn something phenomenal.

Take a second look.

You may learn something phenomenal.

Check out the Instagram info-graphic here.

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Little lights

Big light, little light, we should all shine.

In retrospect, I think the childhood chorus “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,” was curated to tell the child that there is a light within, a light of passion, of purpose, fueled by the intrinsic gifts the maker has deposited in all of us, it’s a reminder to let that light out regardless of how small he or she may feel.

Somehow, on the journey to adulthood, we tend to forget this.

As we all reach to attain the perfectionism our institutions have created in our hearts, the words, “You’re not good enough, you can’t do it, you don’t have what it takes.” burn their way into our minds and threaten to eat up what is left of our childhood wonder, faith and sense of adventure.

Like a little light, we consistently belittle the progress and the victuals we’ve earned in the journey so far in life, work and relationships. The weight of unrealistic expectations and our half-empty appraisal of ourselves makes us think we are never going to be prepared enough to offer much, and we think we need to have it all figured out before we can take a step in the direction of our dreams, or be a blessing to others. Often times, the feeling of inadequacy that comes with this perfectionism prevents us from believing in the process that has gotten us to where we are and venturing in faith into the things we are supposed to do. We doubt Gods ability to work in and through us.

We fail to remember that “in the dark world of doubt and mediocrity, even the smallest lamp and faintest light will illuminate hope.”

So I will not hide my light under a bushel anymore. I am a light. My source is divine. A light burns in me. It may be little or big, but I would shine. As I shine, I grow and then shine some more.

Will you join me?

A C R Y L I C on Primed Canvas | 8 X 10 inches | 08-14-2019

MY INSPIRATION

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

P.S. Check out my latest project here.
Thank you!

Run your own race

The pressure to perform can be as helpful as it is disastrous.

As a writer, I am torn between do it now and wait until it is perfect. For a long time, I was confused about what school of thought to pattern myself after because I didn’t want to offend the wisdom of either, as I respected and admired the work of people who swore by both.

I grew up in a time where the seven year old who makes 3.1 million dollars in first year of business and the seventy-five year old who wins a marathon got the spotlight shone on them while the thirty-five year old doing either gets a mere shrug. As a result, I have tried both – I produced work too quickly in a bid to rush up to spotlight but then realizing it wasn’t ready. Frustrated and guilt-ridden, I resorted to endlessly waiting for my work to be perfect or until I am ready.

Problem is, I never feel ready.

My perspective is broadening as I meet people everyday. The journey to purpose and significant work as creatives is often a path of undulating slopes and we grow through the process of a balance of learning and creating.

Don’t birth into the world a poorly written first draft at sixteen just because you will look cool doing it. I’d rather you give us an irresistible bestseller at twenty-two or thirty-five! You must remember that it is okay, yes, it is perfectly okay if you do not get there first or as early as you think you should. But it’s really terrible if you get there first or early and have nothing significant to offer, because you will be asked to stand aside.

There is an interesting story in the Bible (2 Samuel 18:30) where Kind David’s army commander, Joab, needed to get a message across to him. Ahimaaz thought he could run faster so off he went. He got to the king before the Cushite, who had the message, but because he had nothing to deliver, he was asked to stand aside. You see, the king will wait for the one who has something to offer, even if he arrives later.

It’s great if you do create masterpieces as early as you can, but if you can’t, it’s okay too. Do not let your performance be fraught with undue pressure to perform. The experience and maturity that comes with the diligence of mastery (or age as the case may be) is nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, you may have brilliant ideas, but your character is not formed – it is important not to rush the process because the wisdom you gain from the experiences on the journey is as important as the destination.

Listen. Pay attention. Learn. Fine tune. Release. Then rinse and repeat.

You don’t have to get there early because no one is observing the time. Really. No one is.

It doesn’t matter who is there right now, they will step aside when someone with something significant arrives. You don’t have to get there first because it’s not a competition. You don’t have to wait till you feel you are ready, because what you need to do is to prepare and then share it when opportunity comes.

It’s often not about when you get there, it’s about what you have to offer.

If you fall short at an attempt, shake yourself up and do it again. My advise right now is to be a life long student. Take on opportunities as they come
Do it one at a time. Do not compare yourself to other’s journey. One of the reasons why I just pay attention to doing good work rather than fussing over when and where I am published is that I am on a unique race.

Imagine you’re an athlete. You’ve trained for so long. You are ready for the meet, then when you squat on the track, the marksman announces, “hey, everyone, today, you won’t be competing against the people on the other lanes. The’re a personal creative best you’ve been equipped to achieve at this time. Today’s race will be about how much you have applied yourself to your personal best or how much you have improved since your last record…”

That’s pretty much the life we live. You’re on the same track as everyone else in the word. But you’re not running the same race. Each person has a unique set of gifts and abilities and paths of purpose to benefit the world. It is your duty to find your purpose and pursue it’s achievement.

As long as you are alive, what matters is the impact you make on other people with your work and the peace and joy you experience through the process of growth on purpose.

The creative life is a long-distance, not a sprint. And if there is one thing to take out of this article, it is this –

run your own race with diligence.

P.S. Check out my latest project here. Thank you!

My Lollipop

“Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done…”

That is the song that awoke my heart this morning.

It’s Thanksgiving and as each year unfolds the complexities of life, I have found many reasons to be thankful. I have learned to savor God’s goodness in all of life as a child savors the sweetness of lollipop as he licks the juice off of it. That’s why I call this illustration “my lollipop.”

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God‘s goodness to me is like candy to my soul. Though it doesn’t determine my commitment to Him, it sure sweetens the deal.😁

I’m thankful for a life of purpose.
I’m thankful for the gift of Creativity and the transformation it brings.
I’m thankful for my wife, and the gift of love.
I’m thankful for the gift of family.
I’m thankful for friends who have become family and we’ve sharpened each other.
I’m thankful for life’s challenges because I see and know him who is able to guide me in this uncharted terrain.
I’m thankful for the joy and strength that comes from God’s presence.
I’m thankful for the health God gives to his earthen vessels!
I’m thankful for Hope that comes from faith.
I’m thankful for direction and discretion.
I’m thankful for Grace that teaches me to give my best yes!
I’m thankful for a whole lot more!

Savor your lollipop and be thankful!

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭103:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As you Count your blessings, name them one by one, may you have a joy-filled Thanksgiving and a super end of the year as well!

Happy Thanksgiving from @studio1352

Toluwanimi