Dear EBK... (and Kat, Amelia, Evie and all the other special girls in my life ages 23 and younger...)
Today is your dad and my third wedding anniversary. By no means are we experts at marriage... or even anything at all... but we are pretty blessed. Lots of people say that year three is one of the hardest years in marriage... and that makes me a little nervous. EXCEPT for the fact that I know your dad... and I know how awesome he is... and even more, I know how awesome our God is. I was thinking of writing some sappy letter... but instead I think it's important that I address the wait. Girl... I waited a long time for your daddy. And am I ever so thankful and glad that I did. Here's what I learned during and from the wait...
1. It really is easy. The moment I met your dad, it was just easy. It sounds so cliche... and I can't TELL you how many times I rolled my eyes when people said it to me... but it's true. I was 100% myself... so much so that I didn't care if it scared him away. We had disagreements... and still obviously do, but even those are easy to get through. So... make sure the guy you end up with is not dramatic... because oh my word, that can wear a girl out.
2. Be yourself. Seriously, God made you, and all of your quirks. Embrace being you. Having to be someone you aren't... even if you want to be that person really really bad is simply EXHAUSTING. If some dude wants you to wear certain things or not say certain things... or wants you to have a schedule... or wants you to be with him all the time... remember that you need to be you. There really is someone out there who will love you for YOU.
3. Wrap yourself in a community of friends and family. Those people will be the ones you lean on when times are tough... and the ones that will travel hours to celebrate your birthday just because. They will also be the ones to help you move 9 times in 8 years. They will be the ones you go on adventures with... they are the ones who will live life with you. They will be the BEST judge of the guy you date. Sure, they may really like one guy in the beginning... but always do your gut-checks with them too... they will be honest.
4. Gut-checks are 100% necessary. Am I being me with this guy? Do I laugh and truly enjoy being with him? Does he encourage me to have time with the people I love? Does he want to be with those people too? Does he want me to be around people HE loves? Am I with him just because I don't want to be alone? Am I with him because it's comfortable? Does he pull me away from Jesus... or point me toward Him?
About 2 months into dating, your dad and I both did a gut-check. The heart can be deceiving sometimes. But, a gut-check makes you step away from the "feelings" and look at the facts. I truly wish I would've done this more in my twenties. I would've saved a whole lot of heartache!!
5. Be honest. I had relationships that I held back what I was feeling. If I was hurt, I put up a wall... and pretended that I was this super cool and awesome girl. Well... guess what? You can still be a super cool and awesome girl that FEELS things. I'm not trying to encourage being dramatic... cause that's a little much for anyone to handle... but I am encouraging standing up for yourself. Any guy should be PROUD to call you his girlfriend. Every guy should be a GENTLEMAN toward you. Every guy should put your SAFETY and WELL-BEING over their own. They should walk you to your car when it's dark... or if you are in a parking garage. They should wait until you go inside until they leave. They should WANT to be there for you if you're upset or sad. And here's the deal... if they don't do this stuff, for my and your dad's sake... break up with the jerk... but on the real, TELL THEM. Tell them what you EXPECT... at the very least they can learn from your relationship.
6.a. Learn from every relationship. When I met your dad, I knew the type of guy I wanted to marry... and therefore, I kind of knew really fast that your dad was my guy. I dated a little... but with each breakup, I always did a "what did I learn from this" lesson. What was one thing I wanted to take with me and one thing I want different?
My college boyfriend:: Take: I wanted to be his best friend... and have a blast with him. Change/Difference: I learned that I wanted a guy that would be proud to call me his girlfriend.
My mid-twenties boyfriend:: Take: Someone who encourages my relationship with Jesus. Change/Difference: Someone who WANTS to be around my people... and who encourages me to have time around my people without him.
6.b. Other relationships can be helpful in figuring out the kind of guy you want to spend the rest of your life with...
My best guy friends:: Take: make sure he is easy to be around... make sure he loves your family... make sure he will fill the role of protector when needed... make sure he values and TRUSTS your independence.
My dad (your Poppa):: Take: make sure he loves you with every ounce of his being... make sure he protects you in every way he knows how to... make sure he will be a great dad... make sure he knows that marriage is the foundation of the family, and that it needs attention just as much as kids do.
My Jesus:: make sure he forgives, even when it's hard to forgive... make sure he shows you respect and unfailing love... make sure he is gentle and kind to all around him... make sure he'd give the shirt off of his back for anyone.
7. "Don't try to find someone like your dad, he isn't out there." - my mom (your Marmie) Well... thankfully she was wrong... and hopefully when I say that to you, I'll be wrong too. Wonderful, good, kind, gentle, funny men DO exist... and they are WORTH waiting for. You have 3 incredible men in your life to teach you what that looks like... so soak it up... and don't settle for anything less.
8. You don't have to have everything in common. Your dad likes comics, ska and punk music and soccer. I was never a fan of any of it. However, I have learned to like soccer... and I will go see comic-based movies... but I'm still not a fan of ska or punk. Your dad encourages me to be creative... because he knows that fills me up. If your dad and I liked the same things... I think life would be a little boring. :)
9. I would never... well don't ever say the word "never". I would never marry a frat boy, a Texas Tech Red Raider, a soccer player or a guy with ties to Amarillo. Well sweet girl... your dad is the ultimate frat boy... he went to Tech... he breathes soccer... and he was born in Amarillo. God has a funny sense of humor... so just don't be TOO picky about the little things.
10. You don't have to meet him in college. Your Aunt Ber and I used to joke about writing a book about being 23 and single. Girls seem to go through this crazy phase at 23 if they aren't dating anyone. You've just graduated from college, you're in the real world and you have the expectation to settle down. I struggled a LOT with singleness after college... but then I learned to embrace it. The world gives you reason to think there's something wrong when you don't have a significant other... but that's a bold-faced lie. It's okay to be young and independent. It's okay to be alone. It's ok. It may not be fun at times... you may feel lonely, but that's when you cling to those God HAS put in your life... versus the one he has not.
11. Have a song or two... your dad and I have a few songs. No matter where we are or what we are doing, he acknowledges that one of our songs is playing. We'll either have a little dance in the living room or we'll hold hands in the car. It's a little way, at least for me, to remember how all of this came to be... and that every bit of the wait for him was worth it.
12. Enjoy the wait. Enjoy finding out who you are. Enjoy the relationships before the one. Enjoy every second. Don't rush it... because the rushed things are usually the ones that fail. Soak up living life and figuring out the kind of person you want to be and are. Take risks... do the things that scare you... live for Jesus and not this world. Create a foundation for you... that will only get stronger over time. Be around people in different life stages as you... LEARN from them. Watch and study them. Figure out different things you want to do with your own kids one day... or ways to encourage or celebrate your future husband. Take the time of being in the wait to gather information and ideas. I would not be the kind of wife and mother I am now had it not been for me being single for so long.
13. Pray. Take time every day to pray over your future husband and family. Pray for little things as well as big things. Be intentional with your prayer. God listens... and He is Sovereign... He knows the desires of your heart. He won't let you down. I prayed for a very long time for your dad... and I still pray for him everyday.
There's so much more I want to tell you, but for another time. All in all, it's just worth the wait to find the love of your life. It's the best and easiest "yes" and "I do" I've ever said. I wouldn't change a moment.
All my love to you and your future mister...
grace + peace,