Ten years ago today began the wedding decoration overhaul to my hometown church. I say overhaul because this church I so dearly love…it had orange carpet and orange padded pews. Yes, orange! It needed some work. My mom spent many hours hot-gluing artificial flowers to the garden trellis that would become the centerpiece of the stage for my wedding. Lavender-colored flowers, beautiful Boston ferns, and just the right amount of tulle…it was a beautiful setting for a June garden-themed wedding.

Having just barely turned twenty years old, I now realize I was a very young and naive bride. I thought I was prepared, though. After all, we had completed our pre-marital counseling, answering in detail each and every question in our book. Throughout our year-long engagement we logged countless hours in discussion about our future marriage. I devoured books written on the topic of love and marriage, and just about ran out a package of highlighters, meticulously underlining important quotes. The programs were folded, the music orchestrated, and my dress (which would become the last size 8 I’d ever wear) was pressed and glistening beautifully in the dressing room. It was all perfect. And I was over the moon excited!

And then I blinked. And now, two moves to different houses, three children, and ten years later…I’m still over the moon excited. And more in love with this man than I was ten years ago.

Reflecting back on our journey over the last ten years, there are many things that have happened exactly like I’d have hoped. Yet, there are just as many things that I might have hoped for differently. Most of those not-so-wonderful instances could have played out much differently had I a better attitude and outlook. And so, it’s ten years late, but here’s a letter I’d have written to myself had I the knowledge, experience, and (dare I say?!) wisdom that I have now.

Dear Emily,
     You are about to embark on an amazing journey. A journey filled with many experiences and more emotions than you ever thought possible. Sometimes marriage will seem so different than you expected, and you might be disappointed. But, sometimes marriage will seem so much better than you expected, and you will be thrilled. You’ll experience a pendulum swing of emotions, and that’s okay. It’s part of it, honey.

There will be times when you and Tanner feel completely differently on a topic. You will wonder how this man whom you once thought so perfectly matched to you could have such a differently opinion than you. You’ll be tempted to despair. Don’t. You are two different people, while although compatible and made for each other, have many differences. Embrace those differences. They are what make you good for each other! 

     You will think the best way to show your husband your love is to cook for him, do his laundry, and keep the house clean. While these things are important and meaningful to him, what he wants most is you. Your time. Your energy. Don’t run yourself ragged with things that aren’s as important as you think. He simply wants you. Be thankful for that. 

     There will be some financially trying times in your marriage. At one point, you’ll only have $50 to your name, and this will be very difficult. And while you will never have an overabundance of money, God will always provide. You’ll be amazed at the unique ways He provides for your needs. These hard times, while stretching and trying, will eventually bring you and Tanner closer together. Trust the Lord. 

     Watching Tanner become a daddy will make you fall in love with him all over again. You will experience a whole new love for him, as well as a whole new level of stress and frustration. Parenting, while wonderful and amazing, is hard work. You’ll ooh and ahh together over the tiny new life of your babies, and then you’ll lament together over the fact that you have been cursed blessed with three colicky babies. The nonstop crying and projectile vomitting of your daughters will threaten to break you. But in the end, it will make you. You will both be better individuals because of the seemingly endless nights with new babies and sick toddlers. 

     In the beginning of your marriage, nights out happen effortlessly. Date nights are common, and you’ll love each one of them. Once children are added into your family, date nights will be difficult, if not downright impossible, to schedule. This will get frustrating. You’ll miss these date nights. Remember that date nights don’t have to be fancy. Schedule a late night at-home dinner after the kids are in bed. Put on a pot of decaf after the kids have fallen asleep…cuddle and talk together while sipping your coffee. Simplicity is often refreshing. 

     Crazy things will happen in your marriage. Things you can’t prepare for, no matter how hard you try. Your seemingly perfect rental house early in your marriage will prove to be infested with crickets, mice, and yes, even a squirrel in the basement. This will make you want to move back in with your parents. But you’ll survive. Said critter incident will force you to purchase your first home sooner than you’d planned, but it will be the best decision you could have made early in your marriage. Your basement will one day flood, causing your overnight houseguests to wake up floating on their air mattress. It will flood again the next night, causing over a foot of water to destroy your belongings and cause more stress than imaginable. But you’ll be okay. It will all work out, and you’ll learn a valuable lesson about the material things you once thought so vastly important. 

     Because you starved yourself to ensure you’d fit into your wedding dress, you’ll never again be the small size you were on the day of your wedding. For the first eight or nine years of your marriage, you will work tirelessly to lose weight that was gained through three pregnancies. This is such a futile effort. Those years will be spent wasted on thinking poorly of your body, which affects not only your attitude, but your relationship with your husband. Finally, after nine and half years, you will come to the realization that this obsession is ridiculous. You will lay aside expectations to ever be a size eight again, and you’ll learn to see your body as miraculous…after all, it gave you three beautiful babies! 

     For the first nine years of your marriage you will talk about and plan your ten-year anniversary trip to Hawaii. All you could afford in your young marriage was a honeymoon to Minnesota. Surely in ten years you’d have saved the money for a “real” trip. You’ll quickly realize that a trip to Hawaii is not going to happen…probably ever. Then as your ten year anniversary nears, you’ll be disappointed that not only are you not going on a trip, but your anniversary “gift” to each other will be a new refrigerator and garage door to replace the ones that broke. There’s not really enough money to pay for those, let alone a gift of any sort. And so you’ll be sad, but you’re certain that it doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is walking through life with your best friend by your side. And in that you can celebrate. 

 Please, please remember that your attitude often sets the tone for the entire household. The old saying is true….when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Relax and realize that not everything has to be so serious. Have fun. Laugh. Be goofy. It’s good for you and for everyone around you. 

 You will learn so much the first ten years of your marriage, and you’ll be quite certain that the next ten years will bring even larger lessons. Never stop learning. Always be open to change. Give of yourself. Love deeply. And most important of all…always, always, always keep Jesus Christ at the center of your marriage. To Him be the glory forever!

Your Older and Wiser Self

If you’re the romantic type, tune in Friday, when I’ll post a letter to my wonderful husband. Friday is our actual ten year anniversary, and I can’t wait to celebrate! While we may not be doing anything fancy, the fact I can celebrate a decade of marriage with my best friend is gift enough. See you Friday!