Tuesday, April 08, 2014


In Papua New Guinea, to a great extent, they have gotten around the issue of compatibility in marriage, much like most cultures where marriages are arranged in some way, shape, or form.

We often joke around about men and women being different creatures.  In PNG, they actually believe it.  Women are women, and men are men.  I won't get into a lot of the nuances and evils that spring from this.  At least for now, it is kind of irrelevant.

Until recently, in a village, men would live in a long house, all together.  Each wife would have her own house where she would raise the children, care for the pigs, and make the meals.  The man would come visit frequently for his meals, to see his children, and a little somethin' somethin'.

Even though most husbands and wives live together now, in many ways, their lives are far more separate than a Western marriage.  He often works or gathers income from the pigs, while she usually takes care of the family by tending the garden, daily care of the pigs, and selling extra produce or buai at the market. Often, they are not friends, they rarely are seen together.  They sit on separate sides of church.  Throughout the day, the men hang out with other men, the women hang out with other women.  It actually can be quite difficult as an outsider to figure out who is married to whom.

Now my marriage is completely different.  Before we became missionaries, I don't know that we have been apart for more than a week or so since our wedding date.  We spent most of our three year courtship on the phone with each other.  We love to hang out, we have most of the same interests, and we have grown together in most of those over time.  Even our faults are the same.  Where we are not similar, we often are complementary -- we balance each other out.  He hates forms -- I have no problem with them.  I hate dealing with people on the phone -- he handles all customer service issues, etc.

Looking back, there probably are only two or three places where we clash, and these things have been huge.  We fought about them in our first year of marriage, and we still fight about them almost twenty years later.  I just can't seem to meet Jeff on his issue, and he can't meet me on mine, but because my issue is so very important to me, I can't let him off the hook, and he continues to push on the issue that is dear to him. 

In a Papua New Guinean marriage, it wouldn't matter.  Marriage isn't about meeting the other person's deep need to be validated.  That's what friends are for.  In most marriages throughout history, it would probably be the same.

Choosing the person that you marry is really quite a novel thing, when you look at it.  And when we choose, we tend to choose a person because there is something about them that reminds us of us; something in common, some bond.  Some scientists and anthropologists insist that it is hormonal and subconscious how we pick each other.  But there is something in it that says "You are like me.  You are good for me" and we see this as a basis to build a relationship that will last us the rest of our lives.

As a breastfeeding counselor working with young parents,  I would see what would happen when a major life change happened, and the couple failed to navigate that change together.  I also worked with married couples as a mental health counselor who faced the same thing in various other stages or crises of life.  The hurt and pain was so palpable. 

Look at what divorce has become in our culture.  The main reason for divorce is simply "irreconcilable differences."  Somewhere along the line, a couple that came together because they had similar thoughts, dreams, beliefs, goals, etc., no longer have enough in common to make it worth keeping together.

I've seen marriages where the couple seemed to have very little in common, and marriages like ours where they seemed kindred spirits, but I am convinced that when we pick our own spouses, there is something that draws us, something we can relate to, something that is "us" not "other."   Maybe we are less tolerant of the "not us" aspects of this relationship because we picked someone who was supposed to validate that part of us that we were drawn to.  So when there are other aspects that don't click, or when our experiences change those things that used to, or when life brings up new things that show the differences, we respond with rejection.

Over the last year, I have been reading Dietrich Bonhoffer's Life Together.  I can't seem to get out of the first chapter because it is so amazingly rich.  One thing he argues is that loving someone with a psychic love -- a love that is pure us, is very different than loving someone with the love of Christ.  The psychic love wants to feel good about loving the other person.  The psychic love tends to want to change that other person.   When we love with the love of Christ, we accept that person for who they are, and we love them whether or not we get a reward back.  It doesn't hold up a standard for the other person to meet.  It says "Christ died on the cross for who you are now, He loves you for who you are now, and we are both one in His death and resurrection, so you are my family, my flesh and blood.  We walk together, and there are no conditions to that. 

Marriage is the closest thing that we have on earth to our relationship with Christ.  Christ knows that.  He calls the Church His Bride.  He refers to Himself as the Bridegroom.  Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, Scripture goes back to this analogy over and over again.  Often, it isn't the beautiful, romantic situation one would hope.  Generally, it is about God talking about how wicked the Bride has been, and how He loves her and is redeeming her anyway.  In marriage, God makes the two become one flesh in a very real way.  In baptism, we are made one in the body of Christ.

Compatibility is nice.  I am so blessed to be married to my best friend, but even if he wasn't, he's still my husband, and I am his wife.  But it's really not about compatibility, it's about the fact that we are together.  The being together is the important thing, not the things that we think unite us or separate us.  So these things that seem so important, that we want the other person to validate in us, because the other person is as close to "us" as we can get....if we are loving them with the love of Christ, then rather than letting these things separate us, we really need to accept the fact that there are these places where we can't meet, where the other person can't do what we ache for them to do.  Often, the only thing to do is accept it, forgive ti, release it.

Because that is what Christ does.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Beauty of Marriage

The nice thing about L.A. is the days are BEAUTIFUL.  If I can actually get my butt outside, I can usually feel better, no matter what kind of day I am having.

Most days are good.  Honestly.  My joints barely hurt, no dull ache in my back, mood is okay.

Other days, like the week after we dropped my Prednisone dosage (last week) are hard.  Mood swings, rage, shaking from blood sugar issues, joint pain.  Withdrawal.  Because Prednisone is a corticosteroid, when I went on a 50 mg. dose, my endocrine glands could take a vacation from making cortisone, so when the dose dropped, my endocrine grands were slow on the uptake, and then probably overcompensated...vicious cycle.  Hopefully I won't experience this with every drop.  We ended up adding a few milligrams back. 

Other days, my introvert can't take it.  It just takes a little too much work to get out of bed, get ready, and cook around other people, around other people's stuff, and also to have to converse with other people.  Sure, it's my inlaws, and they are wonderful.  But usually I don't talk to people until I have eaten and vegged for a little while, unless I am very intimately related to them, and then it is dubious.  And it's still small talk, and small talk is work.  Usually more work than the rewards that it reaps.  I leave the room feeling tired.  And being alone in someone else's home, in a town that is not my home town where my friends are, 95% of all communication falls under the category of work. 

What I love about marriage is it is never small talk.  Even small talk isn't small talk.  It is relevant in some way, shape, or form.  It's something that we share in.  All day today, I just didn't want to talk to anybody, and then the phone rang and it was Jeff (okay....I "summoned" him over Facebook) and life became easier again.  Talking, listening became easy. 

I'm really glad that he found me, because I would probably be an extreme hermit without him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Six Months? REALLY?

Wow.  It has been exactly six months since I last wrote...on my birthday.

You are probably due for an update.

1.  Last I wrote, we were in Madang, and I was complaining about snorkeling.  I actually did learn not to completely despise it, and actually relax occasionally while floating in the water.  If I went back, I probably would have to start over, though.

2.   God put us exactly in the right place up in the mountains -- because I am NOT meant for the heat.

3.  Language learning has gone well, especially for the kids and Jeff.  Once we were up at Birip in the end of September, men were showing up constantly to talk with Jeff, and his Pidgin took off.  I am usually cooking and such, so my conversation is more limited, but functioning well.

4.  A few days before Reformation Day, Jeff started saying "I think they are going to ask me to preach."  Since before we arrived, he was nervous about the first sermon in Pidgin, and had been hoping to have a few months.  The next day, Jeff was sitting in the living room with the principal, and the conversation seemed to be dancing around something.  Jeff then said "Do you want me to preach?"  "Yes!" John responded.  A few minutes later in the kitchen, Jeff pumped his fist and said "It's ABOUT time.  I SO need to be back in the pulpit."  It was a wonderful sermon.

5.  Culture shock is brutal.  The first few months were ecstatic.  Christmas was harsh.  Packages that were supposed to come didn't come, we had been away from home for all of Advent, and when we went to church at home again, we expected something different than what was.  The same ten songs that we ALWAYS sang at church.  Nothing was different.  Christmas was not different.  It kind of threw us into a bigger spin than we expected, especially since I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays anyway.

6.  Depression and anger are very normal in that phase...but it doesn't mean that experiencing it is any less shocking to experience.

7.  People are awesome.  People can be hell, too, and sometimes it's the ones who you anticipate should be awesome that are hell, and vice versa.

8.  Satan attacks where you are most vulnerable, and God still can turn that for good.

9.  The work of the Lord does go forward, despite the devil, the world, and our sinful selves, thankfully...mercifully

Probably our biggest update is that part of our challenge has been my health.  I have had some incidents over the last few years that we believed were isolated and unexplainable, but have come together to form a bigger picture.  I walked into a clinic in Goroka while we were traveling, just expecting to get another round of antibiotics for yet another UTI and he looked at the "acne patch" I have had on my face for several years and started asking questions about lupus.  I have other symptoms that point in that direction, and so I currently am in Los Angeles, seeking medical treatment.  Jeff and Chris are still in PNG, and I look forward to figuring this out and returning back home.

But with internet and the United States comes blogging.  There is so much to write.

So part of my Lenten discipline is to blog, either here or at our mission blog:  Gutpela Sindaun: 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Potato Salad

“I REALLY don’t like potato salad.”  I interjected into the conversation.

“You don’t?  Oh, but you should try the potato salad from Brent’s,” Jeff shared.  “You’d like Brent’s.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes.  “You see, that’s the thing.  EVERYONE always says ‘you should try THIS potato salad.  You’d like THIS potato salad.  I never do.  I just really don’t like potato salad.”

The same thing goes with snorkeling.  I tried snorkeling in Hawaii.  I hated it and there are a myriad of reasons.  I don’t like the way the mask feels.  I really don’t like breathing through my mouth through a tube.  I REALLY don’t like when water gets in that tube, or up my nose because I didn’t breathe right.  And more than anything, I really don’t like contemplating the existence of things like jellyfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, or water snakes.  I REALLY don’t like water snakes.  And I don’t like the idea that if I want to put my feet down underneath me to get my bearings, I can’t because of any of the things I mentioned before.

Coral makes a popping sound.  Did you know that?  When I was a kid swimming in Lake Mead, I’d hear something similar, but I believe it was motor boats in the distance.  But I attributed it to water snakes that conveniently any time soon would come out of any of the numerous holes down on the lake bottom that occasionally would release air bubbles.  When I hear coral, I remember that.  So I find myself avoiding coral, no matter how cool it might look…I don’t want to be where it is too shallow, so when I snorkel, I actually avoid the places where I might see something good, which is the whole point of snorkeling.

I do admit, it would be kind of peaceful if I didn’t constantly feel like I was partially suffocating in my mask that is sticking to my face and (for good reason) blocking my nose from breathing and consciously reminding myself to breathe through the tube….unless of course water gets in my mask and I happen to breathe it in or get some in my tube.  There are ten second increments where I can think “this is almost cool.”

But I probably will keep going out, at least while we are here in Madang…because the truth is, somewhere along the line, I learned to REALLY like potato salad (but not really Brent's potato salad).

Friday, July 26, 2013


Howdy there!

I thought it was about time for an update.  A LOT has happened since I last blogged.

Here's a few things:

Maggie was confirmed.

I finished my internship, and am graduating with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling.

Chris got his drivers license AND his braces off.

The movers came and our stuff is ready to be shipped off to Papua New Guinea.

Jeff and Maggie drove the car and the cats across country because all of them will be living at Jeff's parents when we go to Papua New Guinea.  Jeff dropped off the stuff and came and picked me up at the airport in Burbank.

Chris had a great time at Higher Things Purdue and then also came out to L.A.

We are having some downtime at Jeff's aunt's beach condo near Santa Barbara.

We leave for Papua New Guinea on August 12th.

You are basically updated! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

To My Friends

On April 30th, we were truly blessed and amazed that God called Pete Haugen and his wonderful family to serve with us in Papua New Guinea. I've known Beth for four years now.  We've been choir friends, shared some of the same beliefs about food, our daughters have become friends, and this year, God put us only two blocks from each other and put us in the same congregations.  Our husbands became friends, and discussions happened...looking back, I can see the Holy Spirit has been working a long time to make this happen, and I couldn't be more thrilled.  God is good.

What got my attention was that apparently one of the dearest people in my life teared up when she found out and said "Now Lora won't be alone."   I was deeply touched, and didn't know that was a concern for her...because honestly, that thought had barely crossed my mind.  In a physical sense, aside from Jeff, my very best friend, I'm used to being alone.  You want to talk not having a niche -- try being a confessional Lutheran, conservative Republican, homeschooling, organic food-lovin', low-carbing, "kids can't have milk so this potluck is going to be difficult" woman in Los Angeles.  EVERYONE thought we were weird, most especially our own families and congregation.  And then take that same person and put her in a small town in Indiana.  Yep,no niche there, either.  :) 
 I can do alone.

But the main reason I can do alone is that I really haven't been alone.  Some people criticize internet friendships, but the women (and their husbands) on my Lutheran homeschool email list have been my community.  They have been dear friends.  They have been sisters, and God has used them mightily to shape who I am today.

I remember a friend telling me about Martin Loopers because she had a relative on it.  I signed up and the first set messages that came across my screen, these nutcases were talking about tanning deer hides with brains (apparently I had just missed the huge blowup about how to properly make your own vanilla).  Surprisingly, this had been a relief-- we had just gotten back from a park where there was a statue of John C. Fremont, and I heard a homeschool mom tell her kid about how he was a bad man because he had a gun. 
So seeing this first thread, I was grossed out and knew I was closer to being among kindred spirits more than I had probably ever been.  At least, it gave me hope. And that hope blossomed into joy.

A few years ago, I took a full-time job and I was listening to a coworker who was hurting.  She was talking about how painful the Christian life was "trying to do this and trying to do that."  I remember it being so easy to tell her that wasn't the Christian life.  The Christian life is that we never can be good enough, and God already knows that.  He loves us.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us because we couldn't be good enough.  I explained the difference between law and gospel, and she had tears in her eyes when she realized the burden wasn't all on her, because there were so many burdens all on her.

Getting in the car that night, I remember wondering "where did that come from?"  Yes, I know - the Holy Spirit put me in a place where she could hear the gospel from a friend when she needed it.  But how did I learn to do that?  I was always so reticent about discussing faith with others....except my friends on this email list.  We had more theological discussions than I could ever begin to count...in between the talks about curriculum, homeschooling styles, whether or not to keep chickens, cloth diapering, birth control, our kids' accomplishments, our husband's job struggles, our kids getting married, the economy, etc.  Some of those posts, I remember editing for hours on end before I hit send, because if something was phrased wrong, they would jump on it and I'd have to clarify or defend what I'd said.  At times, it seemed petty, but it made me learn to express myself on these issues carefully, concisely, and lovingly.

This year, my practicum in Mental Health Counseling has been just as much the same thing.  Thanks to these women, I know my Bible and my Catechism, and I am not afraid to pull them out to bring comfort, to teach, to use as a guide...to help a fellow Christian when they are hurting, through the mutual consolation of believers.  My college degrees didn't shape me into this kind of counselor.  My friends did.

My friends also are the ones who shaped me into a missionary.  Jeff wanted to do this right out of seminary, and there honestly is no way that I could have.  Over the last ten years, these women have taught me alternative ways to keep house, new ideas in nutrition like Nourishing Traditions, ways of being self-sufficient in my thoughts and my practices, good brands of support shoes, lacto-fermentation, what reverse culture shock looks like, how to question the way things are generally done....and they have also made me feel very comfortable in not being perfect.  

They also, above all, gave me respect and love.  They gave me so much, but then let me know that I have given them so much, too.  We've shared our joys and pains (and insecurities), patiently listened to each other's ventings, and sometimes put each other in line. At times, they've shared the other precious people from their lives into mine. I could go on and on.

Living near Fort Wayne these ten years, I have been tremendously blessed to not only know these women online, but to get together with them in person, either on retreats, or with the wonderful friends that actually live close by.  This year, I even have the ability of seeing a couple of them at least once a week, and they keep an eye on my kids if we are not there, and our kids have been friends to each other.  Some Loopers have partnered with us in our missionwork and their congregations have been an amazing encouragement to us.

I'm not alone.  There is no way I am giving up these good friends, or the good friends I have made through these good friends.  And God has let me know that I am not.  When we were in Papua New Guinea, the very plastic plates that we ate on were designed by Looper kids that I knew.  That was an amazing encouragement on a very scary day.

Even if I have to wait hours to get the list to download, just like I did when I first got on the list, I will still be there and a part of it (probably better than I am now with this practicum), I will need them, I am sure. 

Thank you, ladies (and your wonderful husbands).  You are indeed my best friends and my sisters.  You are amazing.  I love you dearly.

(and a few more pics will be added soon)