Made in God’s Image

IMG_1178“Our task now is to learn that if we can voyage to the ends of the earth and find ourselves in the aborigine who most differs from ourselves, we will have made a fruitful pilgrimage. That is why pilgrimage is necessary in some shape or other. Mere sitting at home and meditating on the divine presence is not enough for our time. We have to come to the end of a long journey and see that the stranger we meet there is no other than ourselves–which is the same as saying that we find Christ in him.”        –Thomas Merton

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Marriage is Worth the Wait

Weddings are wonderful.  It is wedding season so there are lots of great celebrations to enjoy. On Saturday we attended a wedding that was a beautiful picture of Christ and the church.  I love attending weddings where the focus isn’t just on the bride and groom but instead on marriage as an earthly window into the reality of eternity.  As a wedding favor, we were given a book by John Piper called This Momentary Marriage.  I haven’t finished the book yet but in reading the first few chapters and glancing through the rest, this book is a lovely Biblical picture of marriage.  Piper holds marriage up while recognizing there is a place for marriage as well as single individuals in the fabric of the church.  My favorite quote so far is Piper quoting Geoffrey Bromiley, “As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people.”  Single or married, those who are in Christ will be a part of that amazing eternal marriage.

IMG_0403At the rehearsal dinner I listened to the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride discussing their children’s relationship.  Evidently the groom had told his mother that he knew the bride was ‘the one’ early on in their relationship but she wasn’t ready.  She needed more time just to get to know him and be sure before she committed to marriage.  Listening to this reminded me of what Christ does while he is wooing us.  He is sure that we are his, he has already chosen us as his bride and once that decision is made, he does not deviate from that plan.  But God is a gentleman and he pursues without pushing, giving us time to get to know him, to prove himself trustworthy and allows us to fall in love.  This is such a beautiful example of the amazing give and take that happens in a Christ centered relationship.

IMG_0981Congratulations to the beautiful bride who found a man who is willing to step up and be a husband modeled after Christ’s example.  He has proven himself worthy by his actions as he has pursued you with honor and now he will continue, by the grace of God, to be the leader of your household and your precious husband.  Congratulations to the happy groom who patiently waited for his bride.  He has found a good wife who will love, honor and submit to him as the church submits to Christ.  May the Lord bless you and keep you in this amazing convent of marriage.

Remembering the First Kiss

4 months ago I married my tall, dark and godly husband.  16 months and a day ago, Ryan and I met for the first time.  And I have to be honest, I was pretty annoyed that he didn’t kiss me on the first date.  I mean the date lasted 5 hours!  We laughed, we talked, we walked, we enjoyed a meal.  It was one of those amazing Santa Barbara days that wasn’t too warm or too cold.  The day was wonderful!  He held my hand and I thought that this tall, quirky man would at least kiss me good-bye.  But no.  He told me that he wouldn’t kiss me until we were in a committed dating relationship.

So I had to respect that.  He was straightforward and told me what I should expect and then he followed through.  On this side of things, I really do appreciate his honor but at that point I was a little miffed.  My mind went crazy with explanations.  We had talked a bit about past relationships so I knew that he had been on lots of dates so I thought, well maybe he has a checkered past and is trying to set good boundaries for himself now.  I also thought that maybe this was a midwestern thing.  And I wondered if it was maybe a ‘holier than thou’ stance not out of honest reflection but because “it’s what Christians should do”.  I thought also just for a brief moment that he might have never kissed a girl but then I pushed that right out of my head because that was impossible, right!?

Well, we went on a few more dates.  No kiss.  I left for Atlanta and we talked regularly on the phone.  I came back to California.  We met up again.  No kiss.  And then one day it happened.  We were in the backyard of the house where Ryan was living at the time and he went inside to grab something so I stood up on this little ledge across a bridge that goes over the koi pond.  By that time I knew he was honorable and wasn’t going to kiss me until he asked me to be his girlfriend so I was just waiting for that moment.  And because Ryan is so tall, I liked standing up on a step so I could be closer to him.  The ledge was a great spot, overlooking this beautiful yard, listening to the running water from the fountain and shaded by the pergola.  So I stood there and waited.

Ryan came back out, stood in front of me and read me the rest of the poem he had written and had been sending me stanza by stanza.  And then he bent down and under one of the boards on the bridge, pulled out a rose that he hand hidden earlier.  He handed me the flower, asked me to be his girlfriend and once I said yes, he kissed me.  And. it. was. terrible.  The kiss was sloppy, uncomfortable, awkward, strange and everything else that you don’t want in a first kiss, or any kiss for that matter.

We retreated to the hammock and I tried to pull my thoughts together.  At this point I really liked the guy.  I thought there was great potential for something more but the kiss was really, really bad.  Kisses are important and intimate and should be wonderful.  So what happened!?  Well, it was indeed Ryan’s first kiss.  And as we talked, I realized that it wasn’t a midwestern thing.  Ryan wasn’t trying to redeem anything from his past and he wasn’t thinking that he was better than anyone else because of his choices.  He had just been convicted by the holy spirit a long time ago and knew that he wanted to save even his kisses for someone more than just a casual date.  At that point he wasn’t proposing marriage but we both were dating with the future in mind.

I am happy to report that the kisses improved very quickly and I couldn’t be happier with my husband’s lips.  I feel loved, honored and cherished each day because I married a man who made a choice to save his kisses for me.  I had mixed feelings about it at first and wondered for awhile what was wrong with him.  But then I realized that nothing was wrong, he was just so counter cultural that I had no category for this amazing man.  He elevated kisses to something even more beautiful, intimate and lovely.  I know that he has amazing self control, after all he waited 33 years for his first kiss.  And I’m so glad he did.  He will tell you that it wasn’t easy but it was worth it.  And our first kiss as husband and wife, oh yeah, it was beautiful, fun, amazing, fireworks and wonderful.

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Watching My Garden Grow

I’ve never been much of a gardener.  In Papua New Guinea this was confirmed when I was helping weed a garden, only to look back and see a couple of kids carefully replanting much of what I had pulled out.  I obviously didn’t know my weeds from other plants.

I might have possibly grown a few sweet potatoes in the fertile hillsides of PNG but planting was under strict supervision and the finished product was brought to my door already removed from the ground so whether or not they were from my sweet potato mounds or if they were just my friend’s generous gift to my fragile ego, I will never know.

But with this great track record I decided to try my hand at planting a few things behind our home.  One of the great perks to this place is our nice little patio and yard area.  We can have friends over and enjoy the sunshine, sleep outside on an air mattress and there is a little bricked off garden plot that I was told I could use.

IMG_0288And so this is how my garden began.  I had a few bags of soil, some seeds and a few plants and was determined to make it work.  I spent a whole morning just digging up old roots and softening the ground.  I had somehow tricked myself into thinking that once I got down below the firm surface, the digging would get easier.  But instead I just encountered more roots and harder ground.

Since I was alone with the dirt and my thoughts, as I dug, I contemplated these roots as a metaphor for my heart and life.  Many years ago I read the book Inside Out by Larry Crabb (I think it was this book but it’s been so long it might have been another one).  But anyway a book by Larry Crabb was read and one of the nuggets that has stuck with me is this idea that we often deal with sin by working on only the manifestations that can be seen.  We cut off the thorns but we don’t often dig down to the roots.  So instead of dealing with the actual problem, we are dealing with the symptoms.  This feels like it helps at first but we notice that it doesn’t really ultimately change anything.

I could have just added some more soil to the top of the planter and hidden the hardened dirt below.  But that wouldn’t have allowed the good roots of the new plants to take hold.  I first needed to dig out the old roots and soften the soil.  In gardening this is painful and I had blisters to prove it.  In life this is painful but fortunately we heal much stronger when this process is done with the Holy Spirit.

IMG_0358My garden is now slowly growing.  Some of the seeds I planted never even sprouted (i’m not sure if that fits the metaphor or just means that i’m still a poor gardener) but we’re happy about the ones that have.  We’ve enjoyed a few meals with these herbs as tasty additions.  And today I re-dug an unused area and planted some flowers that will hopefully bloom and be beautiful.  There were still some old roots that needed to be pulled out but the ground wasn’t nearly has hard as it was originally.

And that’s the wonderful thing about gardens, there will always be work, weeds will sprout, the plants need water but once you start, the good plants will grow and blossom and that is your reward.  It’s the same with our lives, once we start digging down, we can remove some of the roots and slowly reveal the more stubborn ones.  We’re never going to be fully complete, there will always be room for new plants and pruning but once we truly tend the soil underneath, there is hope in the new growth.

 

 

The Great GO Expo

photoYesterday was Pentecost Sunday and what better way to celebrate the beginning of the church than to see what God is doing all over the world in the global church.  Christ Presbyterian in Santa Barbara supports and has relationships with ministries all over the world so they transformed the sanctuary and set up a world tour.  Ryan and I participated in the Asia/Pacific region with a booth for both Papua New Guinea and Australia.

IMG_0335The countries represented not only had displays with information about the ministry but they also provided food from the region.  There was Egyptian baklava, Chilean empanadas, Australian vegemite, German beer, Costa Rican coffee and much much more.

IMG_0339It was really fun for me to see some of the places I’ve worked and visited also represented.  Kazakhstan has such a sweet place in my heart.  Can you find my picture on the board?  That’s from when I visited in college.  They still do English camps with students every summer.  This is a great, practical way to show the love of Christ.  Want to visit Kazakhstan?  Ask me for more information and maybe you can go next summer.

IMG_0332There was also a photo gallery and one of my pictures from Berlin made it onto the wall.  This is street art in Kreuzberg near a former checkpoint between East and West Berlin.  I snapped the picture while on a walk one day just because I thought it was interesting.  Notice the rolex watches chained together?  It’s quite the statement.

IMG_0337Thanks to everyone who put time and energy into this great event.  It’s wonderful to be able to bring a little bit of the global church in to remind the local church that we are part of a greater community.

 

Singleness: How to Encourage and Not Discourage

I’ve been married all of two months and a day.  Ryan and I are both still pinching each other because we really don’t believe it.  We’re also still battling through all the changes that take place when you start living with someone who you’ve given your heart, your life and your future to.  It’s not all rose petals and fairy dust but there is a lot of laughter even during the tears and our vows and commitment to each other keep us holding hands.

Although marriage changes pretty much everything, Ryan and I both hope to remain sensitive to singleness.  We realize that just because we’re married doesn’t make us experts in how to find a spouse.  And it definitely doesn’t make us marriage experts.  I had a lot of advice pre-marriage but I am especially thankful for the advice that was conflicting but completely sincere.  This is an important reminder that all marriages are different and we have to find our way together.

And that’s kind of a long introduction to my main point that comes from a blog entry called What Not To Tell Single Girls (And some things you should do.) This is a good article (click on the title and it will take you to it so you can read it for yourself) that elaborates on why certain platitudes said mainly to single women (although I am sure some single men have heard them too) are not helpful nor edifying.  I think that her words can be an encouragement to singles but also a call to those who are not single to watch our words.

So in that spirit I want to respond to her six points with observations now on this side of marriage.  It’s not too long that i’ve forgotten what it is like to be single but my perspective has definitely shifted.

1. “I know the Lord has someone special for you.”

This is just not true unless that someone special is Jesus.  Yes, God could have a spouse in mind for that person but he may also have a plan that includes a beautiful, fulfilled life as a single.  Do not lie to single people.  It doesn’t make anyone feel better.

When people would say this to me I remember thinking- How do you know?  I don’t know if God has someone in mind for me so how could you possibly know?

What did actually help me was the reminder that God is sovereign.  2 years ago with no Ryan even close to the picture and even now that I am married- I need to constantly remind myself that God is sovereign even if I had never dated again and God is sovereign even though i’m married.  That is the truth.

2. “You’re just so great; guys are intimidated by you.”

This point is definitely one to read from the other author.  She points out that this is emasculating to guys and not helpful to women either.

I heard this a lot and I took it as a challenge.  I wanted a husband, not a puppy.  But I did date a lot of guys who would have followed me around like a puppy.  That was not God’s plan and in his grace he provided me with a husband who is not intimidated and also not overbearing.

I can’t really explain it but somehow God provided me with a man who lets me be strong while at the same time loving and encouraging my vulnerability with him.  I’m still observing this and trying to figure out how it even works but I know that it’s beautiful.

3. “The Lord is preparing both of you.”

Ok so this point may actually be true in some ways but it is definitely not helpful for a single to hear.  And getting married is not about being perfect and ready.  Praise God or we would all still be single.

God was preparing Ryan and God was preparing me.  Now that we are married he hasn’t stopped preparing us.  God is still working in us individually and now he gets to work in us together as well.  This will continue.  It’s a process called sanctification.

4. “He’ll come when you least expect it.” 

Could be true but was not true for me.  I was expecting it.  Each time I went on a date I was wondering if this was the guy.  Each time I updated my online dating profile, I thought about what I would need to write to interest the one who would marry me.  I thought on my first date with Ryan, “This could work”.  I, of course, didn’t say that to him but I was thinking it.  I had no idea how it would unfold but I was anticipating each step.

If I wasn’t married to Ryan, each new guy at church, each random encounter at the grocery store, each new seat mate on an airplane, I would still be waiting, anticipating.  I’m not ashamed.  I wanted to be married.

So maybe this isn’t the most healthy outlook but that’s where I was.  I was living my life with my eyes wide open and my heart was waiting.  This could have been disastrous if I had met a smooth talking liar who was good at telling me what I wanted to hear.  But by God’s grace I met a man with character and an amazing heart.

If I could go back I would tell my single self that it’s ok to anticipate and it’s ok to hope.  And just because a guy is over 6’4 doesn’t mean he’s perfect for you:-)

5. “Enjoy this season of singleness.  You have so much freedom to adventure and find out who you are.”

Yes!  Enjoy this season of singleness but don’t tell singles to do that.  I enjoyed being single but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to be married.  These aren’t mutually exclusive.

There is also a part of this that comes in how it is said.  Is the married person unhappy in their marriage?  I have a divorced friend who continually reminded me that being single was better than an unhappy/unhealthy marriage.  This was actually a good reminder for me to be careful who I was choosing.

And now to that other part: the freedom to adventure and find out who you are.

First of all, the adventure for Ryan and I didn’t stop with marriage, it just changed.  And everything superficially I thought I knew about who I am is also going through the spin cycle and becoming something different.  Marriage changes things.

But the core remains.  The other author hit the nail on the head with this.  She writes:

“I also probably will never find the end to finding out about myself. If I did, I would think myself pret-ty boring. I am the daughter of the Most High, the Great I AM. You know why I love His name? Because He is. He IS kind. He IS good. He IS just. He IS mercy. He IS jealous. He IS patience. He IS love. He IS truth. He IS. We cannot find an end to Him… Why would the Creator of it all make us so finite that we could find an end to ourselves? Science has not even found an end to us biologically. The matter of the heart has not yet been tackled. So HOORAY for never finding an end of myself or of God and ALWAYS living a life a discovery and adventure!!!!”

Those words can remain true whether single or married.  Amen.

6. “Enjoy this season of singleness.  It is a special time with the Lord.”

Once again, Yes! But don’t say this to singles.  It is not helpful or encouraging.  I am so thankful for all the special time I had with the Lord as a single.  I am also thankful that God does not revoke the special times with him now that I am married.  They are both special, both worth celebrating and both are possible and lovely.

Adding Ryan into my relationship with God has been a very challenging thing for me.  God and I were getting along just fine together.  I knew (but was still constantly learning) how to talk to God, listen to God, commune with God and worship God.  But then this man came into my life who is not Jesus and who is definitely not God.  But he wanted to be a part of this relationship and became a part of it when we said “I do”.  I’m still struggling, learning and stretching as we figure out how this whole being-one-thing works when it comes to communion and relationship with God.  Ryan and I now have our own time to be with God but we also have time to commune, worship and pray together.  It’s part of the great mystery of becoming one and it’s good but it’s by no means easy.

Prayer and Encouragement

The author ends with an exhortation for people to encourage and pray for singles.  Her words are lovely so I won’t try to summarize here.  But I agree that there are so many worthwhile and easy ways to encourage that don’t include cheesy platitudes.  It’s a reminder for all the married people to think before they speak.

I will add this.  Although I did want to be married, I have come across many single women (as well as men) who are not actively praying for or seeking marriage.  This is perfectly acceptable.  So please don’t assume that just because someone is single necessarily means that they want to be married and just because they want to be married don’t assume they are not content with their singleness.

I had a few friends as well as strangers over the years ask me how they could pray for me while I was single.  They weren’t making assumptions, they were listening and genuinely wanting to pray how I was praying.  To have someone treat singleness not as a disease to get rid of but a normal part of life is amazing.

Whether single or married, God is sovereign.  How’s that for encouragement?

He is Risen!

But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. Acts 2:24

EasterCrossThis is the lovely flower cross that was made in Ukarumpa this year.  The residents bring flowers to the sunrise service and decorate the cross.  It looks different and amazing each year.  Thanks Laura Dokken for posting this great picture.  It’s a beautiful reminder of life after death.  Christ is risen indeed!