Thursday, June 16, 2011

To My Sister on Her Wedding Day

     I think I was the first person you ever saw.  I was the first person to ever hold you after they cut your cord and cleaned you up.  No, I was NOT in the delivery room when you were born, but they called me in while you were still naked and wet and squalling on the scale.  When they had you dressed, they handed you to me.  I was 17, a junior in high school.  I always felt a special bond for you because in a way it seemed you were mine.  I was going to protect you and care for you.

     You don't remember, but I used to experiment on you when I was taking early child development classes in college.  I new you were brilliant.  You did things babies your age weren't supposed to be able to do.  I actually did a project on you for class.  I remember a time when you were maybe 18 months old.  We were at Grandpa and Grandma Weatherford's house and they had just gotten their gumball machine.  You sat and watched as all your siblings and cousins stuck their pennies in the machine and took the colorful balls out.  After a while you walked into the other room, went up to Dad, stuck out your little hand and said, "Need money Dad."  You were about 18 months old and not only was it cute, but I was amazed that you already had a sense of object permanence and were grasping abstract concepts such as monetary value.  Okay, my education classes had warped me a little, but I sure was proud of you.

      You were always tough as nails too.  Maybe you just learned early on that as the ninth kid, you weren't ever going to get much sympathy, but you could take a tumble and get up and go like it never even phased you.  I watched you running on gravel once when you were not even 2 yet.  You wiped out big time.  Your little knees smashed hard onto the rocks and when you stood up, your legs were scraped and bloody.  I started to run to you and then stopped in amazement, because you never even cried.  Instead you squatted down and picked little chips of rock out of your bloody knee caps and then took off running as fast as before.

     You were my little gravelly voiced sidekick when I lived with you and I would try to picture what you would be like when you became a woman.  I imagined you would be strong, and courageous, beautiful and a person of great character.  Eventually I grew up and took off on my own.  I left you in good hands with Dad and Mom, but in the transition, I sacrificed that bond I had with you.  From then on I watched you grow from a distance.  For me it felt like you crawled into a cocoon and now much sooner than seems possible, I am watching you emerge and stretch your wings and I am so proud of what you have become.

     Willie is a lucky guy and I think he is a great enough guy to have someone as special as you.  I look forward to getting to know another brother and friend.  Marriage is wonderful and you two will be great at it.  It is hard work, let me assure you.  There will be amazing times and hard times.  Sometimes you will be running full steam ahead and then suddenly you will find yourself face down in the gravel wondering what happened.  Just get up, clean the gravel out of your knees and keep on running.  I pray that you will be caught up so much in the joy of your life together that you won't even notice the occasional bump or bruise.

    I don't know exactly how to tell you as a woman what marriage will be like.  I can give you a little advice on men though.  It might possibly come in handy since you are going to be spending a lot of time with one from now on.

     First of all, men need to feel needed and respected.  We don't always deserve respect, but it is what motivates us to be better than we are.  You show Willie that you respect him for what he does and who he is and he will give his all to make sure he's earned that respect.  Yeah, we want to know that our wives love us, but it means a lot more to us to know that you're proud of us.  Our biggest fear in life is that we will fail you in some way.  We have pretty fragile egos no matter how much we pretend otherwise.  We go to work each day so that we can provide for our families.  We can endure criticism and stress all daylong every day if we know that you will be there for us when we get home.  Sometimes a "thank you for what you do" is the best motivation a man can ever receive.

     Secondly, keep your priorities straight.  God comes first and Willie second.  Eventually you will probably be a mom.  It is so easy to pour so much energy into children that you don't have any left for your spouse.  It won't seem possible while the whole marriage thing is new and exciting, but in 10 years when the shininess has worn off and the luster has faded, when kids are screaming and demanding all of your attention, remember what you feel for Willie today and always take time to get alone as a couple.  So many marriages focus so much time on the children that when the children are gone the couple has no relationship left.

      You two are a team, formed by God for a purpose.  He has taken both of your strength and both of your weaknesses and forged them into something unique.  Find that purpose and dedicate your marriage to fulfilling it.

     Put value on the things that matter.  Invest in eternal treasures.  Don't get caught up in collecting stuff that grows old and sits in boxes in the basement.  Be content with little even when you have times of plenty in your life.  Hold material things with an open hand and never be afraid to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal.  The size of your house, the logo on your car, the value of your bank account, these things do not bring happiness or make a strong home and family.  Time is precious and it slips by far too quickly.  Use every minute wisely and squeeze every last drop of goodness from each second.

     This day may seem the greatest in your life so far, but it is just a day and will soon become a memory.  The real joy of a wedding day is the journey that follows.  You both are grounded and equipped for whatever life may throw at you.  Do me proud little sister.

      I love you so much and am so proud of the woman you have become.