Dear Ruth, Ila, and Jane,
The year is 2020. Most adults you know from this period of time will refer to this year as a dumpster fire, but from what I can tell it seems like you’re having a good time. You’ve become budding artists who care deeply about God and people, which is what matters.
Your dad and I will celebrate ten years on July 11. Given this, I thought it would be appropriate to dole out some life advice since we now have a decade of adulthood/marriage down:
1. Singleness is a solid life choice.
This may shock you that this is my first point, but I firmly believe it’s true. We don’t talk about it enough in our culture or the Church, so here’s my mini sermon to you: there is honor and purpose in living life on your own. Think of all of the amazing things you can do! Saying yes to God would be that much easier.
Should you still use discernment in making wise decisions? Yes! Do you have to check in with a spouse? Nope! There is such freedom in this. Especially because you are women, our culture will send messages about who you should become. Often times the world’s desire for you is to be a wife or the object of someone’s sexual affection. Don’t buy into this. You are beloved as you are. Thanks for coming to my TED talk (hopefully TED talks are still a thing when you’re reading this. If not, know it’s something us millennials LOVE to say when we sound preachy!)!
2. Marriage is DOPE when you’re married to someone who respects you AND other people.
Your dad is one of the best people I know. He treats people so well. You can learn a lot from a person by the way they treat people—especially people in the service industry. Now we are in a time of a global pandemic, so while I can’t imagine eating at a restaurant right now, I’ve had enough experience with them to know this—if someone treats a server unkindly, move on.
If you’re on a date with a person and they treat a server anything less than politely OR leave less than a 15% tip, let it be your last date. Because after the honeymoon phase of marriage is over, the way the person you’re married to treats other people will reflect back on the way in which they treat you. Don’t waste your time and think you can change someone who’s rude to other people.
3. Marriage is hard…find someone you don’t mind spending time with in an ER in the middle of the night while you’re not sure if your kid is going to make it and reaches for your hand in solidarity.
Saying vows like for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…you can’t really understand those words unless you’ve lived through them. At the beginning of our relationship your dad and I did crisis response with one another, so we both knew we handled emergencies fairly well. We still do and I think it’s no wonder God placed us in special education and ministry. Difficult situations involving people are kind of our jam. So we are odd ducks in having gone through hard things together from jump street.
But, honestly, I’d be lying to you if I told you our marriage was picture perfect at all times. Our first and fifth years of marriage were…rough. And there were plenty of moments in between that were rocky. We’ve been through a lot together which makes me reflect back on saying those marriage vows. Yes, I took them seriously but I had no idea sickness could look like years of specialists and lack of answers when we couldn’t understand why your dad was falling over all of the time. I could not have fathomed emergency surgeries with our children or a high risk pregnancy. We could never have imagined what postpartum depression and anxiety looked like and the years of therapy involved in healing from that and a lifetime filled with trauma.
Through it all because of our faith in God and love for one another, we (for the most part) reached for each other’s hands to stand with each other. Even in our darkest moments I knew I could reach for dad’s hand and no matter the circumstance, he would embrace me with all of my flaws, insecurities, and misdeeds. We learned what real reconciliation looks like. It’s because we survived these difficulties, I am able to say the next thing…
4. Marriage is my favorite gift this life gave me.
You often hear dad and I talk about our love of God and then our love for each other and THEN you. Too often kids become an idol in a marriage and then people’s kids leave and they’re all like, “well, now what?” We love you three so much, but let me tell you, we have PLANS for when you’re all adults. He is my best friend and I super like spending time with him. Because God gave me the gift of your dad and because our relationship is so healthy I’m a better mom, friend, and employee.
As human beings, our propensity for selfishness is significant. I am culprit number one. Your dad teaches me daily what selflessness means. He does so much for our family and I’m so grateful to have a true partner in this life. I am better because of him and thankful for his unconditional support of my gifts, talents, and passions.
5. You don’t have to have kids.
Again, this may seem odd for me to tell you this since we have you. Trust me, besides your dad, you are the greatest gifts I received in this life. You all are going to change the world with your passion for what’s right, intelligence, and heart for others. You’re the funniest and most charming people I know. The world is better because you are in it.
There are, however, people who choose not to have kids. This is absolutely okay. Kids are a lifetime commitment and it is just fine if you decide parenting is not for you. God uses us no matter our life circumstance. So you can be married and not have kids.
6. We will always be here for you.
Sometimes relationships end up being not at all what you expect. I hate to think this, but I know it’s possible you could end up in an unhealthy, abusive relationship or marriage. Verbal, psychological, and/or physical abuse are unacceptable. You are made in God’s image and are to be treated as such. Please know if you need help, we will not shame you or guilt you, but embrace you with open arms. Your dad and I dated people before each other who were unhealthy and we certainly needed love, grace, and acceptance from others in order to healthily remove ourselves from a toxic situation.
There are certainly more nuggets of wisdom in my brain, but I’m tired, so we will leave things here for now. Dad and I love you and are your biggest fans. Remember us when you’re famous and when we are (Lord willing) super old. Your dad keeps saying I get to change his diapers and I would LOVE to have your help!