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.

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.



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!


Why Getting Married Older Works for Us

If you google ‘reasons to get married young’ you will see list after list of reasons and justifications people have given for why getting married young, as in 18-23, is a good idea.  I didn’t read all the articles but most of the ones I read or skimmed made sense, they have valid points.  Many of the authors admit that there are also cons to getting married young but that’s true with almost anything.  There are also lists of why not to get married young but those I find less convincing, possibly true but fairly selfish.  Anyway, if you google ‘reasons to get married older’ you really aren’t going to find much more than a couple lists for people considering marriage after 50.  And that’s not the kind of older i’m talking about here.  My point is that Ryan and I are 34 and 29 respectively and getting married older works for us.

Ryan still is a big proponent of young marriage but that wasn’t God’s plan for either of us.  I also have many friends who are older (*gasp* late 20s or 30s) and would love to be married.  This post is for you.  I’m not saying these things will end up true in every relationship or even that marriage is the ultimate goal.  But here are some great positives that Ryan and I have found just in our first month or so of marriage.

Getting married older definitely works for us and here are 12 of the reasons:

1. He’s self sufficient.  This is the something I remind myself on a regular basis.  Ryan has survived on his own since moving out of his parent’s house.  He made it to 34 without someone reminding him to eat vegetables, do his taxes, floss his teeth or buy new underwear.  He can do his own laundry (he actually is better than I am at taking care of his clothes and separating colors) and he can feed himself (his pizza and pasta making skills are excellent) and he knows how to clean too.  These are very basic things but they are a huge perk.  Of course I don’t always make him feed himself or do the laundry or clean the house but knowing that he is fully capable is wonderful.

2. Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  So I wouldn’t really advocate for this one but it has proven true for us.  Past relationships are definitely formative and hopefully, whether good or bad, we learn from them.  I would like to think that even without my previous relationships, I would still value Ryan very highly but there is something about looking back at ‘what could have been’ and for me, being abundantly thankful that I didn’t choose that road.  Comparing can be a dangerous thing but in this case Ryan is head and shoulders above the rest.  Both figuratively and literally.

3. We know how to be good roommates.  Because Ryan and I have both lived in many different situations other than in our parent’s home or the dorms, we know how to live with other people.  We definitely have our way of doing things but we’ve had to deal with other people, sharing space and making it work.  These are über valuable skills.  Although I think i’m pointing out the obvious here when I say that there are major differences between having a husband or wife and having a roommate.  But even with that said, we’re thankful for the past roommate/housemate experiences.

4.  We didn’t need to date for years.  I’m so thankful that Ryan and I only dated a year before getting married.  If we had lived in closer proximity it might not have taken that long but even so a year was long enough but not too long.  Once we knew, it just made sense to get married.

5. He’s the right oneI have no doubt that Ryan is God’s best for me and Ryan knows that I am God’s best for him. It may have taken us longer but we didn’t settle for second best or someone who could work.  Of course there are compromises and things that we might have wished for on our dream lists (sorry Ryan that I don’t have an angelic singing voice) but we focused on the very important qualities that will sustain us in the long run.

6. God worked on us as singles first.  In the Bible Paul talks about not getting married because then your attention will be divided.  Of course marriage sanctifies you but Paul has a point.  Ryan and I both value our time as singles and the work that God was able to accomplish in us and through us.  We are abundantly thankful.

7. “She knows how to be creative in the kitchen.” So this one might really be unique to us but after living in Papua New Guinea I learned how to cook and be creative when it comes to using what’s in the house.  Ryan definitely has his food preferences and I am still learning how to please him.  But even he would tell you I’m doing a great job.  It helps that I know how to follow a recipe, I am not afraid to take chances, try new things, make mistakes but eventually get the recipes to work for us.

8. We have good family habits and boundaries already established.  Ryan has lived in California for over 10 years and also lived in North Dakota and Colorado.  His family is in Wisconsin and although they love to see him, they don’t expect him there for every event and holiday.  I’ve been here, there and almost everywhere so my family loves it when I make an appearance during the holidays or any time really but they don’t expect it.  Ryan calls his parents once a week but if he forgets or something comes up, life goes on.  I don’t have a regular time that I call my parents but we have our own system.  Because our families have realistic expectations for our time, Ryan and I now have the freedom to figure things out ourselves and establish our own family traditions and habits.

9. No one questioned our marriage.  So maybe that should read, no one questioned our marriage to our face.  But I think this is something people face when getting married young, all the questions “Are you sure?” and doubting statements “But you’re so young!”.  I guess the older equivalent is “Did you wonder if you would ever find someone?” and “Are you settling?”  But all of that aside Ryan and I did wonder who God had for us, when it would happen and we are both so glad we didn’t settle.  I think it was obvious to our families and friends that Ryan and I would be Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Reiter.  And it is good.

10. We know that we want marriage. I definitely still need the reminder that God would be sovereign even if I were to have been single the rest of my life and now that I am married God is still sovereign.  But Ryan and I both really wanted marriage.  We didn’t just want marriage because we were in love with the idea of marriage.  We didn’t just want marriage because it’s a social norm or because it’s the next thing to check off the list.  We wanted marriage because we want to share our lives with each other.  We recognize the joys and sorrows that will come and we choose marriage over our lives as singles.  We choose a life together with no regrets of what we might be missing had we stayed single.  We are thankful for our single years but now we are thankful to be married.

11. We come in with great life experiences.  Ryan and I are both grateful for our experiences and journey before marriage. Although we are looking forward to a lifetime of shared experiences and memories, we both bring to the table unique knowledge, different perspectives and parts of the world unknown to the other.  We get to draw on those varied experiences and have them add to our strength as a couple.  A small part of me does wish I had met and married Ryan earlier but if given the choice now, I would not give up the experiences in my 20s, not even for this wonderful man.  We’re not even sure the 20 year old Joy and 25 year old Ryan would have liked each other.  🙂

12. It’s what God had for us.  And that’s the simple truth.


Nature of Language

languageartLanguage and art are linked/connected/interwoven in many lovely ways.  This artist, José Parlá, has united art and language in a very beautiful and thought provoking way.  Understanding the artist’s process can often make the art come alive and become even more beautiful.  View this VIDEO to hear his inspiration and see his work in progress.  The picture and the video can be found on the blog posted by GRAFFUTURISM.

The Complexity of Culture by Amanda

My friend and former roommate wrote this beautiful blog about culture and the kids she teaches in Ukarumpa.  I have been praying for the Aiyura valley this week because of the recent fighting and I was challenged and encouraged by Amanda’s viewpoint as a Missionary kid who has returned to serve in the same community now as an adult.  She took the terrible fighting and turned it into a beautiful teaching moment.  Check out the original post and other posts from Amanda here on her blog Wulff Where Abouts.
Now for Amanda’s words:
When I was here in Papua New Guinea as a teenager I had quite a narrow view of PNG culture. With my impressive two weeks of language and culture training, living in a community of mostly missionaries and their kids, and my many years of third-culture experience, I believed I had it all figured out. A girl at my school was hurt by a Papua New Guinean man and all the sudden I deemed everyone in this country to be mean and bad. I even developed a fear and frustration toward Papua New Guineans so much so that I right out told God I never wanted to return.
As you can see…God and I worked some things out. In January of 2011 my plane landed in Madang, a small town where I would spend 16 weeks attending language and culture training. Though nervous, God walked me through my fears, misconceptions, and frustrations. The last day of our training, my group was waiting to leave our shopping trip when one of our leaders got robbed. Catching him in the act, I screamed at the top of my lungs “STILMAN”, which means just that…man who is stealing. Startled, he backed up quickly and began to run. I’m sure he didn’t anticipate my continual screams and pointing. As I was screaming a mob of people who didn’t even know me tackled him to the ground and proceeded to take him to the police.
On the way home, I realized something. I realized that I no longer believed as I did when I was a teen. When one person sinned, he was the sinner…not his whole family or his whole country. Something inside of me had changed during this time of training. I had been welcomed into a Papua New Guinean family’s house, into their village, and lived with them for five weeks. They had sheltered, cared for, loved, and protected me. They had become my friends. There were Papua New Guinean helpers at our training course who had helped me learn the language over tea every day. Instead of seeing them as “different,” I saw them as children of God, as fellow Christian workers. This thief helped me notice the goodness of the Papua New Guinean people around me. He was stealing, but everyone else was helping us…even though we were strangers to them. They didn’t want this guy giving them a bad name just like I don’t want thieves in my country giving the United States a bad name.
I was reminded of these things this morning when my eight Papua New Guinean students came into class laughing about a fight that had occurred between two neighboring villages. They were obviously not aware of the consequences of such fighting and its seriousness . Changing my morning plans, as teachers often do, I decided to sit them down and give them a chance to talk through the situation.
We talked about the way of our cultures and the way of God. I explained that as Christians we need to look closely at the way our families and relatives have done things and ask ourselves, “Is this the best way?” I told them that there are many things in my culture that I don’t feel like God would be happy with me doing: drinking too much, I told them, or neglecting children – things I thought second graders would understand. As followers of Christ we can’t always follow the ways of our culture. If the Bible doesn’t agree with how our culture and family have always done things, I told them, then we need to make a decision. It might be pretty hard.
 And then we talked about things in this country that are contrary to the will of God . We talked about fighting and why people fight. Often a lot of little things build up and finally it all comes out. Sometimes they are not “walking in the way of the Lord” as Jeremiah says. I reminded them of Joseph’s brothers. They didn’t start with hatred…they started with jealousy and it slowly built into frustration, anger, and then hatred.
We prayed, and I told them that the desire of my heart is to see them grow into godly men and women who think of others above themselves. People who serve the Lord no matter what their job is, who seek peace and offer forgiveness. After praying, my students shared other stories of things they had experienced or heard. I was given the opportunity to tell them about the power of Jesus’ name and encourage them to follow the examples of the godly Papua New Guinean men and women that work among us here in Ukarumpa.
My talk with them lasted about forty-five minutes or so. Afterwards we went on with the day, but my heart remained in our discussion. Every good teacher wants their students to succeed and grow in wisdom and discipline. Working in a different culture has challenged me. What will become of them? Their culture is very different than mine. Opportunities are limited. But I don’t care as much about their academic abilities as I do their hearts. Will they choose to follow “the way of the Lord”? Will they study the Word? Will they proclaim peace, forgiveness, and love? Pray with me that they will.