joshua · just write life · marriage · writing

Dear Twenty-Two (a lesson in marriage)

561065_4402535546884_1042303218_nDear Twenty-Two,

Look at you, so flush with love and naivety in your crinoline and Scarlett O’Hara curls. Wedding day dress up. But you don’t know, twenty-two, what I know now. Thirty-seven and fifteen years later. You don’t know anything about marriage or motherhood or making every moment count.

You don’t know about mortgages and missed opportunities and meeting in the middle. You think you do. That’s the lovely beauty of youth. The endless idealism and optimism that rides the top of the waves, cresting right into the shore of adulthood, so certain and pure.

Bless your heart. You’re only twenty-two.

Fifteen years will pass quickly—in a blur really. You’ll have four different homes and four different children and the constant love of a steady man. You got that part right, twenty-two. You picked a man who’ll stick it out through the thick and thin and threadbare years of lean tables but baby-plump waistlines.

Fifteen years later you’ll understand a smidge more about the mystery of a good marriage. But only a smidge. Because there’s folks like grandparents and church leaders and pillars of the community who’ve been sticking it out for much, much longer, and when you tell them it’s your fifteenth anniversary on that hot July day, they’ll smile with knowing.

Fifteen is barely beginning in the long journey to fifty or sixty or seventy-five.


Oh, twenty-two, you thought that one day was perfect and nothing could be more right, more true, more content. But more is coming.

More blessing. More sadness. More love.

If I could have told you then what I know now, you’d never have believed me. You’d never believe you’ll make selfish decisions or impractical ones; you’ll say hurtful things you nurse into the night on your side of the bed. You’ll say proud things too, and brag about how he loves you even when you’re broken, even when you’re wrong, even when you’re ridiculous with fatigue and deadlines.

Twenty-two, you believe all the right choices add up to a just right life. But standing on the other side of fifteen years, you’ll learn it’s not about right or wrong decisions. Making a life is about handling the choices you weren’t given—like the child with the neurological disorder or the job he believed in until the bitter end or the responsibilities that come with melding two families into one.

You’ll learn, sweet twenty-two. But when you do, promise me, you’ll never lose that spark of naïve idealism—that eternal, hopeful belief everything will all work out in its own time. That dark days can only get brighter and bright days will shore up your soul for the ones to come. Marriage is hard; life is difficult. But the journey through these years, the beauty of growing old with the one person who knows you inside out? More than worth the bumps along the way.602545_4402534626861_359516234_n

Keep smiling, twenty-two. That look of joy on your face? I want to see it there in another fifteen—or fifty—years.

Originally published in The Elberton Star, July 26, 2017. 


P.S. My debut novel, Still Waters,  is available for pre-order! It’s a Lowcountry love story about the power of family and forgiveness.

marriage · writing

What Romance Really Isn’t


We went to bed at eight o’clock Sunday night.

Not for any reason other than I’d already been in bed all day battling flu-like symptoms no doubt shared with me by my flu-ridden preschooler. We’ve been married fifteen years this summer and while the romance is plenty alive, there’s also many a time we go to bed early, and he puts in earbuds to watch a show he likes and I read a dogeared paperback I bought at the library book sale.

Last night I curled into his side because I was cold and my head hurt and even though I wanted to go to sleep, I wanted to talk more. About nothing. He told me about this show he’s been binging on Netflix about thieves who stick it to the rich, and I told him in Once Upon a Time, he’d be Robin Hood.

He laughed because he knows Regina is my fave (I gush about that a little bit here), and because we both know it’s true. He’s the one who sacrifices, who always believes, who never loses hope.

He’s the reason I know what romance really is–and what it really isn’t.

Romance isn’t always the big gesture. Most of the time it’s the mundane, everyday endurance of doing the small things over and over. Like making the coffee. 

Romance isn’t always candles and roses. Sometimes it’s energy saving lightbulbs and seedlings because the house got bigger and so did the bills and he still wants to save for an anniversary trip.

Romance isn’t always the handwritten love note. A card, carefully plucked from the masses, that probably took him his entire lunch break to choose, truly is as meaningful.

Romance isn’t a fancy dinner. It’s being surrounded by our little people and having a backup when I say no and they beg for yes, then doing the dishes, and falling into bed beside each other for that Netflix binge and sharing the hidden cookies.

Romance isn’t just for Valentine’s Day or anniversaries or birthdays. It’s for the each day rise and fall and fight and love and do it all over again. 

Romance is the choice.

And I’m so very glad he chose me.


Here’s one of my favorite posts about Valentine’s Day:

Mardi Gras, Aqua Notes, and Marriage

Aqua notes… still our favorite form of (mis)communication.

And this post usually tops the list of blog favorites:

What Makes a Marriage

faith · family · Home · marriage · writing

What Happens When You Move 10 Miles Down the Road and Everything Changes

New living room. Perfect for dance parties and silly boys.

I know things have been quiet around here since I revealed what happens when the three year house becomes the ten year house becomes the sold house. There’s still a lot to say about that and God’s timing and sense of humor and my incredible lack of patience and grace, but y’all… I’m really tired.

Moving is no joke. Can I get an amen?

Ten miles. That’s about how far we went. Far enough to jump the county line and need a new school situation. Far enough to make me choose between my familiar Ingles with the bag boys who learned how to write complex sentences under my tutelage. Far enough to make me understand why this stretch of rural highway annoyed my husband every afternoon for five years.

Somehow we moved into a bigger house with less dedicated space. One less bedroom, a basement in need of a true finish, and a family room big enough for our family of six and all of our friends who are just as outnumbered in this parenting gig as we are.

New obsession with items I  have wall space for. Well, porch space actually.

That’s why we bought this house. So everyone can come over and drink sweet tea on the back porch and the kids can run wild on our almost-four-acre subdivision lot without us having any real worries.

But this different space means everything is different. I can’t put the same furniture in the same places. My Ikea tables are woefully out of place. There’s nowhere to plug in a lamp next to my couch. Our master bedroom is ginormous which is good because my kids like to play hide and seek in there. For the first time ever, there’s room under the bed because, hello? Basement = lotsa storage.

It’s a little like living the dream. Really. Even though it’s not my dream farmhouse with a wrap around porch.

(Joshua says he’ll build me one. He’s a much better person than I am in case you’re wondering.)

Yet we’re still wandering around. A little uncertain about things like end tables and dining room chairs and pictures to hang. My friend Brooke said I’m not allowed to hang my beautiful wall art from 163 Design until it truly is Well With My Soul.

So I’m sipping coffee and the Word on the back porch. Soaking up the sounds of birds and cicadas and squalling kittens who won’t leave the dog alone.

Because you should always get new kittens when you move.


You should also knock off from unpacking and climb a mountain with your Florida friends.

Here’s another life lesson about moving. Somehow ALL the kids stuff–including scraps of paper and toys you intended to throw away–will make it to the new house and get unpacked. However, their daddy and I still can’t find:

  • the alarm clock
  • the printer
  • his shoes
  • the Wii console

So this is where we are right now. Big changes. Little changes. And a whole lotta Jesus being spoke over me by blessed friends who love me through my crazy.

And a husband who is willing to put up with me for another fourteen years and beyond. Here’s to a new house and a new life.

just write life · marriage

What Makes a Marriage

A few weekends ago, we gave away my nineteen year old sister.

When you’re the youngest of seven children, it’s perfectly normal to have ten nieces and nephews participate in your big day.

Young, and  as innocent as she is worldly, she’s known for a long time her heart belongs to a four-wheeling country boy I’ve hardly ever heard speak. So my daddy walked her down an aisle of grass amidst a backdrop of autumn, and gave her over to a young man who must have been shaking in his boots when he asked permission.

Because respecting your wife sometimes starts with respecting her daddy.


I declined the title bridesmaid; after all, there are six of us sisters and I wanted to choose my own dress. But when she asked me how I’d like to participate, I didn’t hesitate.

While the sun shone and the wind blew, with the sky for a cathedral, I spoke about the sacredness of promises made.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Even when Monday morning is running late, and one kid can’t find her shoes, and someone forgot to wash the socks.

Love is not jealous or boastful. Even when you’re right, and he’s wrong.

Love bears all things. Yes, young couple, remember that. Love puts up with temper tantrums and ugly fights that can’t always be undone. Love bears the load of worry and fear and panic when the gurney holds one of you

Or one of your children.


Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I told them they think today is the happiest day of their lives. Today they’re committing to a physical and spiritual intertwining, and they’re surrounded by family and friends, so today love is easy. Today hope is easy.

But a wedding is really just an ending of the lives they’ve known and the beginning of the one life they will create.

A wedding is not the happiest day.

Instead, that happiest day will come upon you in the most ordinary of moments. That’s the endurance of love. When you wake up and look around and realize you’re surrounded by little people and loads of laundry and life.

12185269_979805842062642_265660025408713117_oOn that day you realize this is what a marriage is. It’s not fancy flowers and yards of lace. It’s not white chairs and first dances.

A marriage is not “I do”. A marriage is “I will.”

A marriage happens because you get up every day and promise that person you love (but sometimes dislike) that you will, all over again. You will when the bills are overdue, and the dishes stack high, and you can’t remember the last time he brought you flowers.

Love never fails.


Because love is an action, a conscious doing, not a state of being. Love requires work, sacrifice, the molding of yourself to another person. That is how you build a marriage. That is how you create a life. That is how you make your happily ever after.

But these three remain: faith, hope, and love. An endless circle, like those rings exchanged. Love begets faith, and faith begets hope.

And the greatest of these is love.


A version of this originally appeared in The Northeast Georgian, October 23, 2015.

Professional photography courtesy of Candice Holcomb Photography.

31 Days: Fear

No Fear in Love: 31 Days

There is no fear

Sometimes, like Scout and Jem at the beginning of To Kill A Mockingbird, I get in an argument with myself about where this story begins.

Everything started last October. When we came home from Denver and the little ones were sick. That’s when I became afraid (with the silly fear of mothers) that life would never be the same again. I’d spend the rest of my days cleaning up from the relentless stomach virus. After all, that lasted until Thanksgiving and the real nightmare began.

Then I think past that and I remember my husband’s heart scare. I remember the difficulties of the year before when our youngest and only son was born. The year I stepped out of my classroom role and into full-time mom and thought my world had ended.

Then, then, I think long past that. Back to earlier days when our most pressing concern was choosing between the cafeteria and the cafe before play rehearsal, when we could stay up way past midnight eating hash browns at Waffle House and studying for my Spanish exam, when my first inklings of fear were doused by the words I ran across one night after we’d been dating several months and people began asking just where this might be going.

We sat in my car outside his dorm. Dark night. Cloudy probably, because I don’t remember the stars and Berry College is known for beautiful skies. He’d told me he loved me months before. We didn’t talk about the future as senior year scuttled forward and Christmas loomed on the horizon. My plans to teach somewhere, maybe even as far off as New York where my friends told me I’d be eaten alive by the public school system, no longer seemed my own.

The terror of making a decision not knowing what he was thinking, not knowing if he wanted to be a part of that, twisted deep in my gut. And then–

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

Love drives out fear. A verse I’d stumbled across during church that morning when I was listening for the Lord instead of the sermon.

We sat in my car and he held my hand and ran his thumb over mine in what would become so familiar and trademark gesture that later, I would use that move when writing a love story. Because I knew then, this man loved me with no fear for what may come.

The tighter he held my hand, the more I could trust this unknown future.

Love casts out fear.

A promise I have clung to through thirteen years of marriage, four boisterous kids, and more than one terrifying experience.

This is the beginning of my story.

This post is part of the 31 Days challenge. Read all my posts here or subscribe to this blog (there’s a button under my picture over there). I’m writing 31 days on one topic, but don’t expect 31 posts. Because did you see the line about four kids? And how I write over here too