I’m going to get really, really personal today. Today is our ninth wedding anniversary, and I can safely say that I never thought Warren was the guy I wanted to marry. He’s the guy God chose for me to marry.
And I truly believe we’re not in total control of our lives – God is. At some point, we’ll either listen or spend most of our live running from His plan. Thankfully, I heard the best part of His plan for my life at an early age.
I was 20 years old and hung over the night my life changed. My petite, loud and Texas proud friend stopped by my apartment and dragged this sweet introvert with a terrible headache and malaise out for a night of unexpected events. She was the LAST person I wanted to be dragged around by that night. But I went anyway. She needed moral support and told me we wouldn’t stay out too late.
We were sitting outside at a little place called Bodega on a hot and humid July evening in beautiful Oxford, Mississippi. I was sitting in the corner of the table of people I didn’t know wishing I was in bed. I chatted with the group a little here and there, but I was really just ready to leave.
Then, this baby-faced, curly-headed boy walks up. He pulls up a chair and says, “Hey, I’m Warren.”
Next, he proceeds to buy the girl with the midriff cutout dress a drink. But he’s talking to me.
I’m still not sure how he managed to get my attention, but for the next hour or so, Warren intrigued me. I don’t think I’ve ever told him that.
He didn’t meet my list of expectations at all. I didn’t want to date a boy from home (he was from the 39042; me from the 39047 part of Brandon). I didn’t want to date a boy younger than me (he was just going to be a sophomore). I didn’t want to date a boy that loved mud and hunting and had 47 hobbies. Plus, he was wearing the ugliest shade of green shirt you’ve ever seen. He claims it was okay because it was Lacoste.
But he was taller than me, had nice feet and a twinkle in his eye. He looked fun and intriguing. And something told me to give him my number when he asked, even after he called me Amber.
I was kind of scared I wouldn’t see him again, so I did what any enterprising woman would do – got out a tube of lipstick and wrote my number on a receipt. He has called that a little desperate. But my friend found a pen and he walked away with my number on his hand and a promise to call me on Monday.
The call on Monday was probably the only thing he’s ever been completely reliable about. Everything else has fallen within the “guidelines.”
But I received an answered prayer that night. I met the man God wanted me to marry.
The next month, we were together a lot. We went swimming at his “family’s house” (He lived with his grandparents, who are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.) Just would’ve been nice to know it was their house. I would’ve brought a batch of cookies or something had I known, Mr. Brandon.
Pretty soon, I heard those five words every girl wants to hear, “I think I love you.”
I need a sarcasm font because WHO SAYS THAT? “I think I love you.” A couple days later, he deleted the “I think.”
But even before that I was smitten. He wasn’t like anyone else I knew or ever dated. He was confident and nice to everyone. If you’ve spent five minutes with the guy, you’ll know he’s charming and kind. Sometimes he’s a bit obstinate and lives to debate, but that’s part of the package.
I was pretty sure before September rolled around that I could marry this guy. No other guy who’d crossed my path got under my skin like Warren. My mom didn’t like him. My dad didn’t care. My little peanut gallery of siblings wasn’t impressed. But I was sure that he was the one. As much as I didn’t want him to be, he was.
For the next year or so, we were inseparable and then we got separated.
Warren had parents with standards on grades and they asked him to take some time off from school. So, he did what any hardheaded boy would do and ran off to North Carolina to guide rafts down the Nantahala River.
I stayed behind to finish up school. That year away from each other was tough. I know he had fun, but I felt like I lost my best friend.
It was tough to talk every day, but we managed to stay connected. A few months after he left, he showed up at my door at 3 a.m. with a little velvet box. I woke up with a ring on my finger and never got “the question.”
We joked about this yesterday. He said, “Why did I need to ask when I knew the answer?” That’s really just the way he does things. Some would think he’s not romantic, but deep down that’s what I needed. A guy who thinks outside the box.
I could go on and on about how many ways my life is blessed with him in it, but there are a few big themes that show me God put me in the right place, at the right time that night.
The words we say to each other and to ourselves matter.
I used to tell Warren that a few times a year I needed to yell at him and cry and I’d feel better. He taught me very soon that wouldn’t fly with him. He taught me that we are responsible for our own happiness. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make us happy. We decide to be happy and we decide to love. And you know what, that’s what God says.
We can’t change people, especially our husbands.
Warren Brandon is not a person who changes for anyone that tries to change him. He changes through lots of prayer and petition. It took me years to believe that and understand that it’s not possible to mold a person. God is the potter and we the clay. If we want to change something about a person, we need to look at ourselves first, then ask for intercession.
Sometimes our dreams are dependent on others’ dreams first.
I tell just about everyone that the worst day of my life was the day I put my sweet RL in daycare for the first time. I fell totally in love with that little creature. I begged Warren to let me stay home. But he knew that in that first season, we needed to be patient and see where life took us for a while.
His dad had died a few months before very unexpectedly and he took a leap of faith to start a construction company. I wanted nothing more than to be at home and writing.
But God had a bigger plan. He wanted Warren to be our leader and our provider, but he needed a little bit of shaping first. And it really wasn’t long before we had cut back to part-time childcare.
Warren took RL to work with him most of the time. He really got to know that sweet girl and I got to work on my freelance business alongside my job.
And in January 2011, I got the call that changed everything. It was my 30th birthday and I got to come home to my sweet baby girl.
God isn’t ever finished shaping you.
Even though I was starting to be successful, Warren was a bit lost. He was now in an insurance business that was failing fast. It just wasn’t the thing he should be doing. And all I could do was start praying.
I realized that summer what ASK in Matthew 7:7 really meant: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
I wasn’t sure Warren was right spiritually, so I asked for an intervention. And it came through after we had spent every penny we had to our name. After we had lost a baby. After we lost just about everything. We needed to be at the end of ourselves for this next step to take place. And we were.
A husband isn’t a savior.
I was in a lot of emotional pain from the miscarriage. I was really awful to Warren. At times, it felt like I didn’t love him anymore. But I knew that most of that was loss and grief. We all deal with grief differently. And my way is to retreat inside myself. I wanted him to feel the pain I felt. And I know he did. He just dealt with it differently.
It took some counseling and a lot of prayer to realize that he couldn’t process the pain for me. He couldn’t be my savior. There’s only one savior. And ours was intervening. He brought Warren a roof to replace. And another and another. He’s now doing what he was called to do.
The best marriages are based on two individuals coming together in love.
The best lesson I can share from nine years of marriage is that we have to be our own person. Two children and soon to be three have stretched me emotionally and physically. But we can’t forget who we are.
We were made for a purpose – to do God’s work. My work is to be our kids’ mom and Warren’s wife. I can’t fill those roles if I forget who I am and let labels and the world define me.
It takes daily checkins with our Father to know who we are as individuals. It takes leaning on him instead of seeking happiness in people.
And when we realize these things, our marriages are magical. Not in that fairytale way. But in an understanding of each other on the deepest levels.
Real love happens in the everyday.
I’ll leave you with a story that shows how much love happens in the everyday. Warren and I recently served at a spiritual retreat called Cursillo. I was a servant. He was a talker and a table leader. Our paths didn’t cross much as we were roomed separately.
But this separation was so good for us. It gave us a chance to see each other serving the Lord outside our everyday roles.
I got to see him talk to people in that magnetic way he has about him. I also got to see his sweet side.
And wow does he have one. He spent the better part of 24 hours digging around in chip bags to find me “curly” chips to put on my pillow our last night there.
It’s pretty cool when you’re matched with someone who knows you that well. I’m looking forward to the next year with him at my side. And he still has that twinkle in his eye after all this time.