12 Things I Would Tell That Bride Who Was Me

Our 36th wedding anniversary is later this week and we plan to celebrate quietly on our 74th day of pandemic quarantine. By God’s grace, we are still talking to each other! Making time 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…

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. If you keep waking up and showing up, when you turn around on your 36th anniversary, May 26, 2020, 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.
  12. 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.
May 26, 1984 Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, Menlo Park, California

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.

Clan McDowell – New Year 2020

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2020 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouragement at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com

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11 Comments

  1. Fran Cooley on May 20, 2020 at 11:33 am

    Words of wisdom. Thanks. Tom and I are approaching our 35 th anniversary June 1 st. It will be quiet on the lake.

    Fran Cooley

  2. Sheree Harrington on May 20, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Happy Anniversary, Cindy! May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord sustain and prosper you. May you rejoice in the Lord alway, I say again rejoice! 🎉🥳🎊❤️

  3. Jennifer Drummond on May 20, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Oh, I love this! And #8 really speaks to me: “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.” I’m in the midst of my own glorious, mysterious and truth be told painful transformation into something better. Thanks for that reminder and encouragement!

  4. Christine Trautman on May 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    What a wise and wonderful tribute to your marriage journey, Cindy!
    Happy 36th Anniversary to you and Mike!❤️
    We love you both…and celebrate your beautiful, hard earned and grace filled marriage!

  5. Maggie Rowe on May 20, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    I enjoyed reading this, Cindy – all the stories, all the moments that make up a life. May you have decades more together. Happy anniversary!!

  6. Kathy Collard Miller on May 21, 2020 at 1:10 am

    Every potential bride should read this wisdom. Thank you for sharing and happy anniversary!

  7. Becky Puntigam on May 21, 2020 at 6:34 am

    Happy Anniversary, Cindy. I remember when Mike went down to Menlo Park and met you. That meeting was obviously a gift from God for him, Justin, Tim, and Fiona and for you. Mike and you have worked hard to make your lives fruitful in ministry and in building a secure and loving home for your lovely children. It is great to hear about the beauty God created in your marriage in the past and in the present ! May God continue to bless you both.

  8. Waneta Calley on May 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    Lucinda,
    I enjoyed reading your words of wisdom. I’m looking forward to reading “Soul Strong.” God Bless

  9. Nancy Smith on May 21, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Happiest of Anniversaries! I’m sorry but I giggled when I read that Justin handed you his tooth. That was the day you became Mom. Imperfectly perfect! Love to you and Mike as you continue on in His grace and mercy!

  10. Nancy J Smith on May 21, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Happiest of Anniversaries! I’m sorry but I giggled when I read that Justin handed you his tooth. That was the day you became Mom. Imperfectly perfect! Love to you and Mike as you continue on in His grace and mercy!

  11. Elizabeth Brandes on May 21, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    Oh Cindy. What amazing honesty and resilience you have. And what a gift to communicate it so meaningfully to others. I hope you have a very lovely anniversary–and a very happy birthday. All this week. Sending love.

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