Thirty Pieces of My Thirty Years #7: Joel

I originally intended to post this entry on Saturday, the day of Joel's marriage to my wonderful new sister-in-law, Jen. However, I got too busy with the festivities to make that happen. All the same, this post is in honor of Joel's wedding day - I love you brother!

Joel and I in Paris on our family European Christmas trip.

Joel is my little brother who is not so little. We're only 22 months apart, so I can't really remember life without Joel. We are similar in some ways and very different in many ways, but I am so grateful God gave me Joel as a brother. Here are just a few of the many things I appreciate about him:

Joel is strong. One of the things I remember my parents saying to him time and time again when we were little was, "Joel, you don't know your own strength." Often, they said this after he pushed his tiny friend Sarah over in play or after he shoved our youngest brother Nate a little too hard. After all, Joel went on to become a heavyweight wrestler and a football lineman. But I think Joel is strong in more ways than just the physical. He is strong in his convictions about God and the gospel. He is a strong leader in his church and in his work in campus ministry. And he has been strong in the midst of suffering and persecution, putting his hope in the Lord even when it would have been easy to waver.

Joel is tender. Even as a small child, he was quick to notice and care for the weak and the suffering. One time, a few years back when I was still single, he sent me one of the sweetest birthday cards ever, reminding me of my beauty in God's eyes even when it is unnoticed by others. His words helped encourage me in a difficult time. I have seen him continue to grow in this area, showing incredible tenderness to his bride.

Joel is curious. I distinctly remember conversations at the dinner table with a three-year-old Joel that began something like this...Joel: Mom, why is ketchup red? Mom: Because it's made of tomatoes. Joel: Why are tomatoes red? Mom: Because God made them like that. Joel: Why did God make them like that? You get the idea. Joel always wanted to know why and loves figuring things out. My brain is much less scientific, but I so appreciate Joel's love for and curiosity about the natural world. God has richly gifted him in this area, and I look forward to see how God will continue to use these gifts in the future.

Joel is competitive. He once threw a checkerboard at me, pieces and all, when I beat him at Checkers, and we've each had our fair share of bad attitudes in family game nights. I appreciate Joel's competitiveness though as it has sharpened me and as we've grown together in humility and as gracious losers.

Joel is intentional. He likes to plan and strategize ways to run his life most efficiently - there are few other people I know (besides my Dad and myself) who can get so excited about organizational systems, and I love that about Joel. He has also been an example to me in the intentionality of his conversation. He does not waste any opportunity to draw people out and find out what is really going on in their hearts. Joel was the first person to call me out on being too guarded about what I was really thinking, and though I wasn't grateful at the time, his challenge has stuck with me as I've worked to grow in vulnerability over the years.

Perhaps the most lasting impact Joel has had on my life is the way my relationship with him helped prepare me for my marriage to CJ. Both Joel and CJ are men whose personalities are an interesting mix of strength and tenderness, men who like to debate, and men who value truth and theology. Growing to value Joel's strengths in these areas and to learn how to relate to him in spite of our differences has greatly served me in my relationship with CJ.

Joel, I love you much and so grateful God gave you to me as a brother. I hope you are having a fabulous honeymoon, and I can't wait to see you soon!