It’s May 28, 2015. Ten years later. I’ve been married for a decade. No matter which way I write it, that statement has the gravity of joy, pain, love and life wrapped up in a future I didn’t expect.
I’ve said many times that I didn’t marry the guy I expected to marry. He’s not anything I dreamed of, but he’s exactly what I needed.
I know he was hand picked to be my husband. I know he was the answer to the vague prayer I poured out to God so many times in the six months before I met my best friend.
Ten years sounded like a lifetime when I was 24 and about to march down that aisle without the pedicure I wanted. It’s what actors get paid millions to complain about in C-rated romantic comedies.
But it happened just like that – 10 years a wife.
I’ve got a few complaints (the hanger on the bed, ahem), but these are honestly the best and worst 10 years of my life. But what’s important is that we did these 10 years together. Side-by-side. Through pain. Through bliss.
Through it all.
We have way more than we can imagine ahead, but going through life with this man for the past decade has taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be. In celebration of being Mrs. J. Warren Brandon for 10 years, I’d like to share what I think are 10 defining moments of our life together.
Happy Anniversary, Curly! I love you more than cookie dough ice cream with chocolate syrup sprinkled with salt.
1. You can’t just go home after you get married.
I remember walking back through the door to our little dump of a house after our honeymoon in North Carolina and thinking, “This is it. I can’t get mad and leave. This is permanent.”
I was overwhelmed with joy to be his wife. But I was scared as hell at the finality of marriage. I knew divorce was an option, but as I learned in the next defining moment…
2. Divorce is not something you threaten.
I think it was our second year or so, and I got mad. Really mad. I think it was our first really big married fight. I let those dangerous words slip, “Fine. Then I want a divorce.”
He looked at me with a look that could’ve burned a hole in the wall and said, “Don’t say it unless you mean it.”
Ahem. Empty threats don’t work on this guy. Noted.
The hurt in his voice at those careless words etched my heart and taught me a valuable lesson in loving someone. My words matter.
3. You never really know someone until you see them lose.
Oh, I wanted to gather him up in my arms and just cry together. But our sweet little nephew needed someone to watch over him as he and his family said goodbye.
Warren lost his dad in our third year of marriage. It was sudden and completely unexpected.
And his handling of it was completely unexpected on my part.
I experienced the pain of death at a very young age. It was like an ax on my life. It hardened me. It made me want to run and hide.
But not this guy. He made his peace with it that day. He said goodbye and celebrated. Really celebrated his dad.
He also gave his dad’s eulogy. And in that magnetic way he has, he brought the house down.
He doesn’t remember a word of it, but everyone in that room remembers seeing his heart for the man who taught him to be a man shine brightly that day.
Warren shines in adversity. I want to be more like him when I grow up.
4. We don’t always get what we want first.
I became a praying wife after Warren lost his dad. I’d always prayed when things got hard or when I was in a good place spiritually. But I wasn’t dedicated to praying for my marriage.
Those next two years were big for us. We developed real plans for our lives together. Yes, we have one life together, but Warren and I work because we have separate lives. We are very different people and it took me a long time to realize how different we are.
took takes a lot of prayer to keep me focused on the needs of two very different people choosing to share a lifetime.
The biggest lesson God taught me in our first five years was that His plan for us is better than my plan for us. He also taught me how much of a planner I actually am. I like to know what’s next. But I like to dream.
And my big dream was to be a writer at home raising kids.
However, our finances didn’t add up to writer at home with kids just then. It added up to Warren getting his chance to fail and succeed first.
Warren and I both don’t do well in the boundaries of a job or an institution. We’re capable of following the rules and working really hard to be successful in our jobs. But we don’t like the confines of working in an office or a van.
We both caught the allure of self-employment early in our lives. We both wanted to build something great. But Warren needed to go first.
He needed refining. He needed to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. And my role was to pray for him and support him through it.
This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Giving up my pride and letting him walk before me humbled me and gave me a glimpse at my greater purpose in this life.
I was to be his prayer warrior. That’s a huge honor. And a role I’m so happy to play.
5. I now like surprises.
One question Warren asks me on a regular basis is, “Does that surprise you?” It’s usually in response to my comments on a situation. I like to talk through my interactions with others. And he’s a good sounding board.
The answer to his question is almost always, “No.”
But he’s always surprising me with his patience and with his perspective.
I don’t really like not knowing what’s going on, but I’ll take the surprise of not knowing how he’s going to react. It’s refreshing to share life with someone and still be surprised 10 years later.
6. There is no joy that describes becoming three.
We planned our first baby. But nothing. And I mean nothing went according to plan with this girl from the moment she arrived. She rocked my world and took her daddy’s heart hostage. She’s intense and beautiful and one of a kind.
Seeing him belly laugh at some of her antics makes me fall in love with him all over again.
Seeing him weep as she arrived in that hospital room was the most profound moment of love I’ve had with this guy. He was beside himself with joy. And it was beautiful.
7. Nothing matters except us.
I’m using a loose chronology here, but in our fifth year, things got really tough. We were both on our own. My business was still very new. His was fading fast.
We were barely putting food on the table and gas in the car. We lost a baby. We had to pay for a big surgery. We were at rock bottom.
And through all the fear and tears, he always saw it. Nothing matters except for us. No one could take that away. It was the three of us and as long as we’re together, we’ll make it.
8. Ashes really do lead to beauty.
When things got so tough, I started reading the book of Philippians. Chapter 2 has a very short prayer that I started praying over my marriage:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Not long after I started praying this through the storm, an old man asked me if Warren did roofs. He’s been roofing and remodeling ever since. And I’ve never seen him happier.
I also got my dream – to be a mommy. I get to teach our kids. I get to go see my friends. I get to spend hours in the kitchen. I get to do what I want because we are like-minded and focused on loving each other where we both fit.
That beauty rose from the ashes of us giving ourselves completely over to His plan.
9. It’s a boy with curls.
Oh, sweet Logan Douglas. We thought we were the best parents in the universe.
Then, we met Man Cub.
This kid is so opposite of what we know and so peculiar.
He’s obsessed with closure. He’s incredibly stubborn. He’s incredibly tough. And he’s incredibly perfect in our little family.
I once told Warren that I only married him because I wanted a little boy with curls.
I can’t leave because it often takes the two of us to handle this tiny handful.
10. Another one!
There was no way I could be pregnant. Well, I was wrong. I was shocked. And we got the best little surprise of our lives. Anna Cat is nearly 10 months old and the chunkiest, happiest baby. She’s a perfect addition to a decade of love.
And maybe one day she’ll like her daddy.
Until then, I think he’ll do just fine for me.