Last Saturday marked six months of marriage for Ray and I. After going to an arcade and spending two hours playing video games, we spent some time reflecting on our challenges and triumphs thus far and decided to share a few of them with you in a co-blog.
Challenge # 1: Pride
Ray: Having been raised in a culture where women have had no voice for many years has had a great impact on my understanding of marriage. Though I have been raised to believe that a man is the head of the house, especially in relation to providing food and shelter, there are other beliefs, like who makes decisions for the family, that we have had to work through. Here, men go for bank loans to buy expensive cars without consulting their wives. When everything backfires, the whole family shares in the sorrow. I have also seen men spend their family's savings on new overnight business ventures, only for the children to become guests at the neighbors' around meal time. Just recently our parliament even passed a bill into law that allows a man to marry a second wife without even consulting their first wife. You can call it whatever you like, but I call it PRIDE.
I knew marrying a person from the other side of the ocean, where stern legislation has been passed in favor of women was going to be a challenge. I knew it would be hard for me especially for the fact that we were going to start our lives in Kenya where shared decision making would not be normal. A woman trying to correct her husband in public or trying to share an opinion amidst African men is unheard of. But I still made that decision because I knew it was not about what people say, but about what my purpose as a husband is: to love my wife as Christ loved the church. When God gave Eve to Adam as a helper, it was not just to help Adam in the "gardenhold" chores, but to partner with him in other areas, especially decision making. All I can say is I haven't gotten this far with my wife on my own. It has taken Jesus, and I'm still looking to Him to see what He has in store.
Sam: Just as Ray mentioned, because I come from a culture where women are given equal rights to men (for the most part), I have really struggled with submission not just to my husband, but to other men. There was a day we were speaking with an older gentleman and I started goofing around with Ray, poking and teasing him. He kind of stiffened and gave me that "now is not the time" look. Later in the house he informed me that culturally it's disrespectful for me to speak in the presence of an elder unless spoken to. Apparently the expectation was for me to sit quietly and wait until I was dismissed. It is very easy for me to become offended at situations like that, but there's not much I can do to combat it, especially with the older generation. They're not too keen on a young American girl who wants to shake things up. I've just had to learn to humble myself... like really humble myself, and do as the culture warrants. Ray is no where near being as closed off as most men are here, but as he said, he still grapples with a lot of ideas he's learned about women and he's working on reconciling them to the fiery American woman he married. It's definitely a work in progress.
Triumph # 1: A Solid Commitment to Bible Study
Sam: I must confess that I was one of those single girls in college with the list. You know what I'm talking about? That illustrious list of attributes you want your husband to have. It's not bad to have desires, but it's probably not wise to compose that list when you have nothing but superficial ideas swimming in your head and then you make two copies, one sealed copy for yourself and another for a friend who can hold you accountable so you don't get into a relationship with anyone who is missing anything on your list. Yeah, that was me. Funny enough, Ray came into my life and broke every single expectation I thought I had for a husband. In a good way, of course. I wanted to marry a musician so we could go on tour and give birth to our very own Von Trapp family, but he wasn't that. At that time I was only attracted to white men; Ray is African... you can't get much further away than that. I also wanted a strong spiritual leader. It appears I didn't really have an appropriate grid for what that looks like within marriage before I met Ray. I expected to marry someone who had been leading Bible studies since he was a toddler or at least who could debate any biblical scholar to the point of concession. Ray wasn't that, but he had something I had missed on my list. He had a teachable spirit and a desire to grow, even if it meant that I would be the one teaching. From the first day of our marriage to today, he has initiated a Bible study with me every weekday. We read a chapter a day and discuss, sharing what we've discovered, asking questions, and so on. It has been amazing to watch my husband grow in the Word and to see how much this has helped our marriage. Even if we're tired or fighting or whatever, we know that our Bible study time isn't optional. Not because we're legalistic about it, but because we know that the one day we skip will be the beginning of a series of excuses for why we should continue to skip it. Sticking to this commitment has really helped us grow together the past six months.
Ray: When I was praying and asking God for a wife, "God-fearing, singing ability, beauty, and spiritual maturity" were some of the things that were on top of my prayer list. I thank God because He answered my prayers and not only did I get what I wanted, but they came in double portion. When I said I wanted a singer, I was thinking more on a Kenyan level. God gave me an international singer. If you haven't heard her sing, you're missing out on a lot. You can click her picture on the sidebar to check out her music. As far as spiritual matters are concerned, I can proudly say that I am not the spiritual leader yet. I know I can choose to pretend and act as if I know the Word, but what good will it do me? My wife has challenged me to want to know God more. At first I was like, "Let me read the Bible more so that I can be the head," but when I got into it, I realized it was more than that. I know that since I've been raised with a strong Christian background one would think that things like spiritual maturity come by default, but that's not the case. That's why we made a commitment to read the Word of God on weekdays, and I can proudly say we have honored that. I believe that this has kept us going even on stormy days.
Speaking of stormy days, those are the times I believe I gain even more from the Bible, because sometimes my baby is so upset with me that she doesn't feel like talking, so I end up breaking down the Word all by myself. Sometimes it's a blessing in disguise.
Challenge #2: Time Commitments
Sam: I have alluded to this issue previously, but the fact that it's surfacing again here should indicate that it's something we're still dealing with, though I can say it has gotten a lot better than it used to be, and I have no doubt that when we review our marriage in another six months, it won't be as big of an issue.
The first week we lived here, this surely wasn't the case. I couldn't see any issue as big or as damaging as the issue of time management. One day Ray left in the morning to run an errand and said he'd be back in two hours. Because of Nairobi traffic and people he bumped into that needed his attention (he had been in the States away from work for two months and he had the African wedding to help plan), he didn't come home for twelve hours. I literally had a nervous breakdown. At that time I hadn't gotten a cell phone yet, so I had no idea where he was or what was happening. When he came home, we both ended up crying, and we resolved to do the best we could to keep time from getting away from us like that ever again. Even with all of the resolve we muster to combat this issue, there are just so many variables that are out of our control. I'll let Ray explain some of the challenges he faces when he promises me he'll be home at a particular time...
Ray: I try so hard to keep my word, but in the world we live, this is far from possible. So many factors influence time. Taking a matatu home from work takes me like an hour when there is no heavy traffic. This can change if it rains heavily, if the matatu guys are on strike due to some new regulation introduced by the government, if our 'dear' president is either going to the airport or leaving the airport, and so on. I believe my wife has shared with you guys about TIA. (If you haven't read that, you will have to check it out somewhere down this page.) Being in a third world country, one has to work extra hard to make money. I know God provides, but does that mean we have to sit there and wait without putting our hands to work? I doubt. For that reason I have to commit to be in the office more than my wife would like. Sometimes a client will promise to come to my work place at two in the afternoon, but because TIA, he will show up at four. In Kenya when someone promises you a job, missing meeting them means you miss out on the job. In such cases, which don't happen on the regular, I can decide to follow my wife's request and go home without meeting the client, only for her to ask me what we are having for dinner and since I have no money I suggest we just pray and sleep, but trust me, that night I might be forced to sleep on the couch. (Just kidding. That has never happened.)
Sam: Dealing with these factors, sometimes all at once, has not been a leisurely stroll through the grasslands. Ray had grown accustomed to a life with various interruptions, but he wasn't used to facing these interruptions and coming home to a wife who has a bad habit of wielding a skillet whenever he's even slightly late. I was used to delays of no more than fifteen minutes, only permissible if accompanied by profuse apologies. We've both had to change our actions and expectations. Ray does his best to leave the office by three so he can beat the rush hour traffic, and I try to give him a warm reception and pleasant attitude, even if he is a few minutes (or hours) late. Neither of us has perfected these goals, but we're working on it!
Triumph #2: Communication & Honesty
Sam: Ray and I talk about everything, and I mean every-thang. Whether the topic of conversation is something trivial or intense, we share freely. At times there can be a backlash.. I don't like to hear that my husband had to "bounce" his eyes when a particular girl walked by, and my feelings can get hurt, but I know that when you face temptation and don't verbalize it, that gives it power. You can end up undergoing a serious struggle within yourself, and your spouse has no idea that you've been enduring heavy spiritual fire. When Ray tells me his struggles and I tell him mine, we can help each other guard ourselves from falling prey to that particular temptation. In matters of personal expectations that were dashed or offenses we received from one another, our catchphrases have become "You need to verbalize" or "What did you hear me say?" (The second one we learned from our friends Paris and Akeia.. this one has helped us clarify the difference between what was meant and what was felt.) It is very rare for us to let the sun go down without communicating what's bugging us. If we do allow that to happen, it's because of stupid pride (a.k.a. Wasike enemy #1), and most often... okay, all often, it's my pride. Regardless, the following day we end up straightening things out.
Ray: I thank God because my wife has really improved on this. By now I believe you all know she is an introvert, so when we first started this journey it was so hard for me to read her because she would always go quiet to "process". There was a time in the States we went out for breakfast with some friends, and out of nowhere she developed this attitude (at least that's what I thought it was). Of course this made me go into deep thoughts, trying to analyze my actions from the moment we walked into the restaurant, but I just couldn't figure it out. Later on I asked her about it and she said that something I said was kinda demeaning to women. I didn't mean it the way she took it, but the damage was already done.
Sam: That would be one of those moments when Ray would say, "You need to verbalize" or "What did you hear me say?" Short questions, but very powerful.
Six months seems like such a small milestone to celebrate when comparing it to the many years that we'll be together, but evaluating our progress and taking time at such points in our life journey to make sacrificial altars before the Lord and worship Him for His perfecting work in us is a great reminder that the best is yet to come.
Last Saturday marked six months of marriage for Ray and I. After going to an arcade and spending two hours playing video games, we spent some time reflecting on our challenges and triumphs thus far and decided to share a few of them with you in a co-blog.
If the precedent we've set for our marriage thus far has any bearing on what's to come, we're looking at an upcoming series of faith-shaking events.
A totaled car and a wedding dress
Little did I know, when I gave my heart to Ray Wasike and consented to marry him, my faith would be tested to the max. The only thing we had going for us at the time was a fresh, budding love for one another and the understanding that our dreams somehow seemed to fit together to make a bigger picture. Forget that we were both broke and lived 8,000 miles apart. Even so, we were advised to begin the fiance visa application early on in our engagement because it could take up to a year for the government to determine whether or not we should be allowed to marry in the States. Who knew when it was all said and done, we would have paid Uncle Sam nearly $1,000 for his nod of approval?
But just as it is with God, He worked a way out of no way. While I had been in Kenya just months earlier, someone hit my car and jacked the back up fairly bad. I came home to a check for $1,800. The insurance lady said I could fix the car or do whatever I wanted with the money and keep the car as is. Say what? Option B, please! People may have felt bad for me driving Dorfy around town with a busted backside, but I didn't care. Dorfy helped me pay for my portion of the visa application and a wedding dress, and she helped me keep from starving since I had lost money from being away from work those previous weeks. Call it what you want, but I call it a blessing.
The unanswerable question
For months leading up to the wedding, I got the privilege of fielding a question most brides get to scribble on their calendars and encircle with red hearts and exclamation points early on in the planning process.
"When is the wedding?"
"I don't know."
It is difficult to plan a wedding when you don't know when or if the government will release your husband to attend. Nevertheless, we decided to set a date in faith and hope for the best. Now, some people end up waiting a year, get denied, and then are forced to give up, find other means of getting married, or reapply. With that knowledge looming over our heads, we frequently had to re-evaluate our plan. Was it stupid? I have no doubt some of my friends (outside of my earshot) gossiped about how crazy, desperate, or ridiculous I was, but it didn't matter. We had spent more time praying about it than they did, so we were ready to take that leap of faith.
Lest I go on a rambling spree, I'll cut to the point. With the help of our friend Senator Arpke, and friends who gave pre-wedding gifts, we ended up getting Ray's visa in record time and secured his plane ticket on the same day. We had to push the wedding back one week, but just like the car situation, it was to our benefit. Within two hours of receiving the visa, I had a new location (totally free) and had cut expenses for the wedding drastically. Ray spent that week with me and my family and we just had some much needed time to be still before wedding chaos ensued.
With a little help from my friends
God has blessed us with some great friends. Remember how I told you I was operating on a shoestring, nay, spaghetti string budget? Well for various reasons, the weight of wedding costs fell solely on my shoulders. But in a "look at God" turn of events, I ended up spending less than $700 on the wedding. The date change had a lot to do with it, but there were also three phenomenal women who stepped in to slap me on the hands for being too stubborn to ask for help and took planning the reception and decorating the venue on themselves. Sondra Miller, Jan Mattison, and Cindy Walker: angels in disguise. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Margie McGreevy (Mrs. McGredients according to my niece Brooklyn) as well for helping coordinate the ceremony on one night's notice. God sent these angels to help me bear the pressure of the wedding, and I am so grateful for them because I secretly felt like I was standing in quicksand, and I have claustrophobia issues, so you can imagine my horror. Really, God sent a fleet of angels to rescue me. Thanks to the help of many volunteers and monetary contributions, it all came together.
The beginning of the beginning
So after eight months of waiting and having no control over when the wedding would be or when Ray would arrive, we were finally able to marry and begin a whole new walk of faith together. This was just the beginning, folks, and it's only been six months! I'll have to divide this up into multiple sections because the testing of our faith continues to be the order of the day with us. Very few people know that when we left Salina, we didn't have money for our plane tickets to Kenya. And maybe some of you haven't heard about the providence of God for the album fundraiser. So many stories to tell, but we'll leave it here for now.
In each season of faith in our marriage, God has highlighted a different lesson. The lesson for this season: sometimes negative events we face in life are simply blessings in disguise. A wrecked car sustained me in a season of financial lack, a jilted wedding date allowed for my husband and father bond so there were no reservations at the wedding, and a heavy responsibility to plan a wedding became an opportunity to know that I wasn't alone and that in the absence of my mother, I had many spiritual mothers to stand in her stead.
No matter the situation, God will work it out for our good and His glory. The question is, do we have the faith to believe it?
Having house help in the states is a luxury that not many can afford. Having house help in Kenya is a basic necessity for most families.
She's got high hopes
Before I moved here and had any semblance of a clue of what life is really like for the typical Kenyan wife, I scoffed at the thought of needing a house girl to help me take care of my home. It would just be the two of us, how hard could it be?
My resolution was further solidified during a visit to Maryland (our future home when we return to the States *woot woot*), when my Aunt Kathy passed on some advice from my late grandmother. My grandma used to get up really early with my grandpa to cook him breakfast before he went to work. Her reasoning: "If I don't cook for my husband, Sally down the street will." There's so much truth to that statement here, it's scary.
The problem with house girls
House girls generally come from financially struggling homes with the hopes of making money to help the family or to become less of a burden to their parents. They're generally teens or young adults and lack formal education. Some work at your home during the day and then go home. Others take on the role of the mother, almost entirely in some cases, and live in the home.
When you allow another woman to care for your children, your home, and your husband, lines start to blur. The husband usually begins to take interest in the woman who is always there taking care of him, and the house girl starts to feel like she has a right to talk back to his wife. It's no surprise then that house girls turn up pregnant all the time and house girl bureaus have to advertise that their girls are "honest".
I trust my husband totally, but I don't want any temptation of blurred lines in my home and I don't need to deal with the suspicions of whether or not her intentions are pure. Truth be told, since I'm home all day and Ray doesn't come home until the evening, I could hire someone part-time, but I'm too dang stubborn. I want to prove to my husband that I can do what Kenyan wives do, so I try to do it all on my own. I'm not sure that this will last forever, especially when we have kids, but for now I'll keep working out my housewife muscles.
The life of a Kenyan housewife
So you're probably wondering what is so difficult about being a housewife here that makes people feel the need to outsource. I'll share some of the things that I've either experienced or seen:
There's a lot more, of course, but I'm sure you'll hear me mention them in upcoming blogs and whatnot. Oh, one more thing... I stay at home so I can focus on writing, but other women typically have some kind of job or side business that they tend to on top of these things. Having a house girl is pretty much essential in their cases.
Creating our own cultural expectations
When we lived in the states for a few months, I knew that my days of lying in bed, eating junk food, and letting dishes pile up would soon become a distant memory. Natural expectations of being a wife required that I keep the house clean, cook meals regularly, and spend my free time with my husband. Living in Kenya has tremendously heightened the expectations I face.
To save us from being over-run by disillusionment, one of our mentors gave us this piece of advice: create your own culture within your home. This is probably the best advice anyone has ever given us and it has helped us adjust to one another regardless of the setting. People around us may expect us to act a different way (I feel the pressure to be a "Kenyan" wife all the time), but my husband never puts that yoke on me. In fact, he does what most Kenyan men would never do. He helps me with laundry when it becomes too much for me and he cooks over the weekend so I can have a break. That's become part of our culture. Adjusting here has happened quite fast for me, and it's really because of him. He truly is a blessing. Some day I'll be able to do a full load of laundry without complaining or quitting halfway through, but until then, I'm so thankful for the grace of God and my husband.
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. ― Mark Twain
If clothes truly make the man, it feels like I'm undergoing a serious makeover. As a teen, my favorite episodes of any talk show would be the makeover specials. Watching ordinary women turn into super models fascinated me... probably because I was strictly forbidden from wearing makeup and the majority of my clothes were secondhand. Living vicariously through the lucky makeover recipients was the next best thing as far as I was concerned, but I couldn't wait until the day that I could be my own boss and give myself a total makeover.
A dream unrealized
Following the stereotypical course of most college students, I left my parents and set off to find myself. Several piercings, tattoos, hair color and wardrobe changes later, I came to the conclusion that makeovers are fun until you're broke. Eventually I went back to what I was used to. Little to no makeup and secondhand clothes. Plain Jane all the way, baby.
Years of maintaining a wardrobe of sweatpants, shorts, short (but not too short) dresses, and cut up t-shirts became the norm for me, and I was fairly comfortable with the self that I had found. I was never on trend, but I was modest and comfortable. That's all I really cared about.
Once again, place me in a culture that runs perpendicular to mine, and I find that I'm not what I thought I was, at least not by their standards. Apparently most of the clothing I brought with me isn't very modest. From my first week of arrival until today, this has been a point of contention for Ray and me. Yes, you did read that right. Ray and I fight about clothes... a lot. Mark Twain wasn't kidding. Clothes make the man, and you don't realize how much your identity is wrapped up in your clothing until you are forced to change.
Here capris are considered shorts, actual shorts are out of the question, my knee-length dresses are too short, and no one wears sweatpants in public (I am most heartbroken about that). Now don't get me wrong. It's not just Ray that questions my wardrobe. Sometimes it's other people that mention it to him and then he has to be the one to deal with my resulting tantrum and pleas of, "I don't care! Just let me be myself! I'm an American, not a Kenyan!" (If I believed in using more than one exclamation point at a time, I would put three on that last statement.)
Matters of conscience
I'm sure some of you would probably agree with my response, and I would still be on the bandwagon with you, if it wasn't for a recent conviction I got from some Scriptures Ray and I read together a few weeks ago.
1 Corinthians 8 describes Paul's stance on matters of conscience. He poses the example of eating animals that had been sacrificed for the purposes of idol worship. Because idols were nothing but pieces of stone, not real deities of any sort, Paul knew that there was no spiritual or supernatural issue with eating meat meant for the blocks of rock. Even so, there were others that just couldn't get over the principle of the matter. If food had been sacrificed in the name of an idol, it was defiled. No question. Shut the book; don't open it again. Regardless of what Paul knew to be true, he refused to do what he knew was okay if it came at the expense of someone else's conscience. He also exhorted the Corinthians/us to do the same:
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (vs. 9)
A stumbling block to the weak
As Ray and I read this, I realized that yes, as an American, I have the right to wear whatever I want, but within the bounds of this culture I'm sending a very different message. Just a few chapters after the one that made me eat my foot, Paul makes what has become a controversial command in our modern world. He tells women to keep their heads covered when they pray or prophesy in the church. Maybe that's a bit weird in our culture, but in that particular culture, women who were considered loose or promiscuous went around with their heads uncovered. Paul was just trying to keep the women from giving off the wrong cultural message. Likewise, my husband is simply trying to keep me from becoming a stumbling block to some of the men around here.
Searching for some answers
So this is where you lovely people come in. Even though I know that I need to adjust to cultural expectations so that I keep others from stumbling and whatnot, I feel like I can't dress like myself. How would you suggest we go about this issue as a couple? How can I honor my husband and his culture, yet maintain my identity?
Throughout high school and college I heavily supported the concept of knowing who you are as a woman before getting into a relationship with a man. For a long time I was fairly certain that I knew who I was, no doubt about it... then I got married.
In the short time that I've been able to don the title married lady, I've already been faced with the nagging question I thought I had finally rid myself of... "Who am I?" There are three major areas/roles that keep dragging this question up for air against my vehement wishes to let it sink to the bottom of the sea of forgetfulness with all the other junk I'd rather not deal with.
First, the role of being a wife. Pre-nuptial Sam (a.k.a. "Da Broje") was spontaneous, disorganized, and independent. Naturally, as a right-brain dominant chick, I embraced creativity and made most decisions on impulse. In fact, the more friends grew to know me, the more often the term weird would be connected to my name; I was actually proud of that fact. I kind of felt like I had achieved a certain level of transparency with people when they would identify me as such. Post-nuptial Sam is now learning to be more reliable, submissive, and clean. All those left-brain skills that I once dismissed as unnecessary are now on standby every day as they come into play with most discussions we have as a couple. With the care of my husband and home taking top priority in my life, I can no longer act as carefree and random as I once did. Now don't get me wrong, I still get the incredulous side eye from Ray with the remark that I'm weird, but most of "Broje" in me is slowly becoming more domesticated. I suppose this will happen even more once I become a mother.
Second is the role of culture. Most people don't realize it until they're affronted with a culture contrary to theirs, but we all have a cultural identity. Some of the things that seem "normal" to you are only so because they are just that... cultural norms that you've been taught from childhood. Being married to a man from a completely different culture has really opened my eyes to how American I truly am. The differences between our cultures reach much deeper than which side of the road to drive on. They even reach deeper than appropriate types of dress and speech. Culture influences the way we believe our family should be structured, the way we read and understand the Bible, and much more. There are certain expectations I face as a wife, but adding culture to those expectations makes it that much more difficult for me to know exactly what it is I'm supposed to be doing with myself to make my husband happy. I have to learn his culture to get a better idea of what he expects of me.
The third role I'm grappling with, that many of you have in common with me, is called being a Christian. There was a time before I got married when I thought I was Miss Holier-Than-Thou-So-Don't-Even-Try-To-Step-To-My-Level-Cuz-Perfection-Is-My-Burden-To-Bear. I had even gotten so bold as to tell God months before Ray and I officially got together that I believed I had reached the end of what I could learn as a single person, so marriage would be a nice challenge. And so God proceeded to let all the air out of my big head... Since the day I said "I do", so much foul stuff has surfaced in my heart, I barely recognize who I am anymore. Sometimes Ray looks completely bewildered when I spit at him some of the most hateful things I've ever said; I look at myself the same way. I often wonder, What happened to those days in college when I would worship, pray, and feast on the Word for hours? Where did that girl go? When did I become so mean? As far as everyone else is concerned, I'm still sweet and of admirable character, but Ray... oh, Ray... he has seen the pit of hell and lived to tell the story. It's the weirdest thing though. This pressure cooker called marriage is really showing who has the stronger relationship with God. I've been saved longer than Ray, read the entire Bible multiple times through, can easily recall Scripture and apply it to any question I'm asked, and I've served in ministry most of my life, yet he is the one who demonstrates the actual fruit of the Spirit. It turns out I'm not as holy as I thought I was when I was single... I'm actually quite wretched and depraved. This category has been the toughest for me deal with because it influences both of the preceding categories. If I don't learn how to live by the Spirit, I'll do nothing but gratify the desires of my flesh when it comes to letting go of my independence and making compromise in cultural conflict.
Christ In Me the Hope Of Glory
So it seems like the revival of the question "Who am I" is something I'm going to have to deal with until the day I can answer dust. In the meantime, I think it's time for me relearn what it means to be crucified with Christ. Above all else, I pray that all that I am is transformed into His likeness; that His traits, His identity becomes one in the same with mine. Of course there are unique bits of me that will not change because He created me that way, but if Christ is living in me, then He becomes the default answer to my question. I pray this becomes the truth I live from this day forward.