12 Things I Would Tell That Bride Who Was Me

Today is our 37th Wedding Anniversary and Mike is visiting family in Seattle and I am home in Connecticut. But we really are still together — and yes, even throughout a very challenging pandemic year.

I am in such a season of looking back and hoping forward, so I’m going to re-post what I wrote last year on our anniversary. May these words encourage you today.

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)– even a year of pandemic quarantine! — 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. 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 37th anniversary, May 26, 2021, 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

May the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit  bring you comfort and strength, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2021 Lucinda Secrest McDowell      www.LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com

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 encouraging words at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com


  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

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Happy Anniversary to you Fran! Enjoy the quiet…

  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! 🎉🥳🎊❤️

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you Sheree. Same benediction to YOU!

  3. Ruth Graham on May 20, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    And they shall rise up and call you blessed!

  4. 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!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Yes, I know you get it….

  5. 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!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you and Jeff for being there at the very beginning…. and never leaving us!

  6. Jody H Wallem on May 20, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Great insights and encouragements, Cindy! Thank you!!!

  7. 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!!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you so much BFF! Yes, always praying for more time together with loved ones…

  8. 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!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      Why thank you, Kathy, for affirming these words on my journey. Blessings!

  9. 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.

    • Sheryl Berglund on May 21, 2020 at 5:57 pm

      Thank you for sharing. Touched my heart strings and made me reflect on my life knowing my husband for almost 30 years. God’s Grace has shown its self over the years. Just got your book “Soul Strong”. Looking forward to making it part of my life. Blessings to you my friend in Christ. 💖

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Thank you, Becky and Clark, for always being there for us and our family. Sending hugs and blessings…

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

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

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Thank you, Waneta, for reading “Soul Strong” – hope you love it!

  11. Peggie Bohanon on May 21, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    What beautiful and practical words of wisdom I fully enjoyed! You are a wonderful writer, so impressive and heart-ful. God bless you you both. Happy Anniversary!

  12. 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!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:25 pm

      Of course you could relate to that bloody tooth incident. Thanks for your friendship Nancy.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

    • Dorcas cameron on May 27, 2020 at 1:25 pm

      Dear Cyndi, ‘my other friend cyndi’, how ashamed I am as I read this sweet story of your married life. Ashamed that I haven’t been friend enough to stay update on your beautiful messages. I should have remembered to read this and wished you Happy Anniversary to you and Mike. I learned some of your story and life -walk together that beautiful week before Labor Day back in Aug-Sept, 2018 at Camp of the Woods. Bob and I had begun returning to brief Labor Day weekend trips to COTW which I had longed to do since our four children were now grown and on their own. Bob could have cared less Camp not one of his favorite places…too far from the ocean to go fishing, thus a waste of money to him. That week in Aug. 2018 was our first trip up for a week thru holiday weekend after he retired and I won getting him to go for the whole week. Little did I know or would you cyndi, know that the Sat. We arrived in Camp we walked around building to our door that you would come down the porch from your room #1, we were #6, to introduce yourself to us that you and mike were the beginning of a week in my life I cherish. Little did I know until later that you were one of the speakers in my life that week. Knut Larson was the other. Nor did I realize what very special person is your son Justine, to me he is a joy. You have done such a wonderful and loving job with that dear young man despite all his issues. He is loving, trusting, wonderful and so smart in his very own ways of thinking and very brave when he could be very fearful of so much. I came to camp that week with a very heavy heart, first because bob doesn’t really enjoy a lot of the same things I do, and lately our church that we belong to has changed a great deal due to where things are moving in this modern world of ours and has left longing for scripture teaching, good preaching and beautiful sacred music which is also fast disappearing from our churches. So my screaming from, as you put it, depression was full to the top of me when I met you and mike that first Sat. To make this story much shorter, but I could write you a book, thank you to you and mike for your testimony from both of you that week and reading your story that fills in the blanks I understand why the Lord placed you in Camp that week. Happy Anniversary from the bottom of my heart, may you continue to realize and dwell on the Lord’s leading in both of your lives. I remember mike was not well at all that week and both of you were facing and fearful of the brain surgery mike was facing that coming January if I remember correctly. Thank you again for the blessing you both were in my life that week, and we met again last June at Camp. Wish I could have stayed the rest of the week to be with you. This year at Camp is not a good year for Camp at all due to Covid stuff, many, many restrictions so many less fun things to enjoy none of which is camps fault but forced upon them to just be allowed to open at all. Many guests just cancelling or switching their reservations to next year. We are still reserved in our room #6 in Iowa. The Matthews family, now just Gary Matthews and his beautiful new wife Martha are doing the music for the weekend. Big brother Ron has been appointed the head of the university in Philadelphia and must be on duty by Labor Day weekend as universities open before L.Day. All apart of that wonderful week in my life, between your friendship that the Lord placed in my path , your messages which i’ve Saved, Knut Larson’ messages that week which I still have and the Matthews from the weekend itself. May this be an encouragement and congratulations to how the Lord has used you and mike in my heart for your witness of your lives for your 36th anniversary . Your walk through your lives together has left you able to witness to others in a way some other couples could not do and the Lord placed you both in Camp for me that week. Moresomeday I will tell…time too short now. Luv you muchly Dorcas cameron

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Oh Beth! How wonderful to hear from you — dearest old friend! Yes, I am allowed to say that, because of all the wisdom we have garnered lo these many years. I send you back a lifetime of love and hugs.

      • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:28 pm

        Oh Dorcas, you honor me too much. I loved the serendipity of being neighbors on the lake at Camp of the Woods. Sadly, we will not be there in 2020, but I’m speaking the FIRST WEEK of 2021 and perhaps shall see yall then. May the Lord bless you and keep you, friend.

        • Dorcas cameron on May 29, 2020 at 12:54 am

          Will certainly try to see you even if we come up as last time you were there for a short week. We usually come later toward Labor Day. Lord willing. You would not be happy there this year anyway. We’ve pushed our August week to 2021. We’ll see what the Lord has in store for us. Just know , the Lord prepares you before you get there for meeting certain people without you even knowing it. I do honor you , you and mike were special to me in a week I needed someone special…long story….but thank you so much and praise the Lord you both are doing so well especially Mike after his very scary surgery. Tell my favorite Justin I said hi too please and Maggie too.

          • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on June 19, 2020 at 7:48 pm

            Yes Dorcas, everyone here sends their love and sorry we cannot see you this summer at Camp. Please take care and cling to the Lord who is beside you all the way…

  15. Maureen Miller on May 28, 2020 at 12:07 am

    I love your words… and your friendship!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on May 28, 2020 at 1:29 pm

      Dearest Maureen, thank you and you know I feel the same about you…

      • Elaine Miller on May 26, 2021 at 11:15 am

        How special! How wise! Happy Anniversary, Cindy and Mike.

  16. Linda Mackillop on May 26, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Lovely letter, Lucinda. I could’ve written this to my younger self as well. We will celebrate 39 years this September, and oh, what a remarkable journey! Thank you for sharing yours.

  17. Ginny McNamara on May 26, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Happy Anniversary to both you and Mike!🎉. What a wonderful family you married. You have both been a blessing to our church and the community. So many of your thoughts ring true for many of us.

  18. Yvonne Ortega on May 26, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Belated Happy Anniversary to y’all. I love your honesty and humor.

  19. Kathy Plaag on May 28, 2021 at 12:46 am

    Happy Anniversary Cindy! I hope you and Mike will still celebrate it when he returns to Connecticut. Thank you for your words of encouragement. God bless you and your beautiful family.

  20. Maggie Rowe on May 29, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Happy 37th!!! I meant to text you on the day itself – a bit chaotic here with guests coming and going – but rejoicing with you.

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