A Dozen Things I Would Tell that Bride Who Was Me
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary this week was celebrated quietly. A lovely time for Mike and I to look back and remember – to look forward and hope. As I glanced at the photographs of my younger self, I thought of all the things I could tell that young woman now. She knew almost nothing about marriage and mothering, grit and grace, serenity and strength. But God never saw her as a hopeless case. He had so many, many plans for her good. Still, the journey would be nothing like she imagined. The journey would instead, be… more.
Oh, if I could just whisper a few hints in her ear — Oh Cindy, do you realize that…
- This beautiful wedding and God’s answer to your prayers for a husband and children is a big splashy celebration of all that is good and hopeful in your life. But the days to come – the years to come – will be far more ordinary, filled with daily acts of faithfulness. You will learn to embrace smaller, quieter moments along the way. The part of you that longs for the big and splashy will be seasoned into a transformed soul who understands the hiddenness of deep growth.
- This man you hardly know is good choice for life! He is honorable and will stay loyal and faithful to you, seeking to keep his vows. He was definitely worth the wait. As you literally floated around the room, dancing to “Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?” you will enjoy dancing together every chance you get, even when moving much more slowly. But yes, there will be times of sickness (not health) and worse (not better) and those seasons will require all your God-given steadfastness to keep going. But you will. By God’s grace and with Mike’s love.
- You are about to discover, dear bride, that all your outside wedding photographs were ruined by your photographer (that’s what you get for hiring the church custodian-photographer-in-training.) You will think it’s a catastrophic loss. Trust me, it is not. The portrait on the church chancel with your new husband and children will be sufficient to revisit often over the next thirty-five years.
- Even as you’re enjoying the glorious music (hand selected by your groom and performed today by a full choir and exceptional organ) at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, these notes are being imprinted on your heart. Every time in the future when you hear Widor’s “Toccata” (your recessional), Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” (your bridesmaids’ processional), Charpentier’s “Te Deum” (your own processional), Bach’s “Sheep Shall Safely Graze” or “God is Wisdom, Love” your heart will be stirred and your strength shall return. Because music holds our life’s moments.
- 5. As nine-year-old Justin pulled his bloody tooth and handed it to you in the middle of the ceremony, this was a foretelling that injuries and crises will usually appear at the least opportune moments. But you will learn to deal.
- The sight of four-year-old Fiona running down that very long aisle, swinging her flower basket and seven-year-old Timmy twirling his ringbearer’s pillow (fortunately with a fake ring sewn on it) will come to mind again and again as you delight in grandchildren so reminiscent of them.
- Shortly after you start a new family in your Seattle home, y’all will need professional help in working through the myriad of issues arising from family history, adopting three children, marrying a widower, and forging your new identity. You will feel like a huge Failure. But you and Mike will work hard through this for ten years, building a strong foundation that stands firm for the next twenty-five years.
- Your desires for organization, control, recognition, and achievement will eventually die small deaths upon the altar of a gloriously demanding family and ministry life. Mothering a son with special needs will teach you the value of endless repetition, and how to value small victories. It will also show you that life can change in a moment with just a phone call. You will learn to firmly embrace the old adage, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.”
- The year you turn thirty-eight, you will be diagnosed with clinical depression – a consequence of chemical imbalance and too many changes in too short a time. On that day, you will be a mother of four children ages 2-16, a pastor’s wife, and writer/speaker who has never even heard of a depressed Christian (!) You will believe that there is a big “L” (for Loser) on your forehead for all to see. That you can never climb out of the darkness. But God’s grace will miraculously rescue you. And you will change, for the better.
- No, you don’t actually know how to mother these children. Not yet. But you are eager to give 100% and be the Best. Mama. Ever. Honey, can I just tell you, you will not win any awards for Best Mama. You will find yourself expecting too much, occasionally speaking in a harsh tone, and sometimes wanting to hide. But you will also pray for them every morning, read to them every day, sing to them every night, go to their sports, scouting awards, concerts, and plays. You will create a cozy and healthy home, hoping they will know a haven of love and acceptance. You will urge each of your kids to become the unique person God calls them to be. Sure, you will make mistakes, but God will redeem all in the lives of your children.
- If you keep waking up and showing up, when you turn around on your thirty-fifth anniversary, May 26, 2019, you will realize there is no one you and your husband would rather spend time with than your young adult children and the grands. You will look at them all and be amazed at the people they’ve become. Not because of you, but in spite of you. And your heart will almost burst with gratitude.
- As you glance at the hundreds of friends and family who have gathered at this wedding to sincerely wish you well, may I tell you, dear younger Cindy, that your life will continue to be enriched by many more friends and new family in the years ahead. People who appear just when you most need what they have to offer. Some will stay for a lifetime. Others will weave in and out as seasons pass. You will especially rejoice and treasure your friendships with other creative, compassionate, and crazy women. With those you love, you will have to learn (sometimes the hard way) how best to work, travel, play, and minister together. And you will ask forgiveness more times than you imagined. But you will be rich with remarkable humans in your life. And you will experience the privilege many are denied – growing older with grace, grit, and gratitude.
Our Wedding Text – Jeremiah 32. 38-41
They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
under the mercy, Lucinda
Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 14 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places, Ordinary Graces, Live These Words, Refresh, and the soon-to-be-released Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most. Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,” pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/
My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE.
©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!