Dear Self of 2008,

You’re going to love it here.

I know.  I KNOW.  You don’t want to move to North Carolina.  And I know you feel like you’ve just moved to the middle of freaking nowhere.  You’re hyperventilating at the thought of having not. one. single. bookstore. within a reasonable drive.  You’ll cry A LOT at the thought of living hours from family.  And you just want out.  Now.

What would you say if I tell you that you’re going to grow to love this place?  That the years you spend living here are going to wreck you and shape you in the best way possible.  That the tears you shed in having to move here will one day be far outnumbered by the tears you shed in having to LEAVE here.

Self of 2008, I know you have some resentment about having to work to put your husband through seminary.  For a seminary degree that you don’t even think is necessary because obviously you’re going overseas as missionaries and CLEARLY missionaries don’t need to go to seminary.  (Also, self of 2008?  You have a lot of opinions.  That never really changes.)  Anyway, that husband of yours who promised from Day One that he’d NEVER work at a church.  Or be a pastor.  Girl, just take a few deep breaths. We’ll get to that one in a minute.

Back to you working.  I get it.  You feel like the responsibility of keeping your family financially afloat on your part-time salary is fourteen steps beyond daunting.  But you know what?  God’s gonna provide.  Generously.  Unexpectedly.  Bank statements aside, your job alone and the relationships built there are going to quickly become some of the biggest blessings in your life thus far.

And that whole seminary thing?  K, so here’s the deal.  I’m not going to lie and say all of this went down seamlessly and without lots of, well, friendly “pushback”.  But let’s cut to the chase.  You’re not going overseas.  Not now anyway.  And SURPRISE!  Your husband’s going to be a pastor!  At a church!  A really large church.  I know how you’re feeling right about now.  And, I hate to break it to you, Self of 2008, but you’re going to be working through Some Big Feelings regarding this whole upheaval-in-your-life-plans thing for months.  (Years, even.  Sorry, self.)

I need you to know this, though.  And GOOD GRACIOUS you’re going to learn this a lot over the next few years.  You know that God you spend a lot of time talking about and praying to and studying?  Well, God- the one who created everything that is and was and will be- yeah, so he knows what he’s doing.  Better than you do, my friend.  And he’s good even when you think his plans are crampin’ your style.

You’re going to have a complicated relationship with your church for a while.  Because, thanks to them, your husband is now a pastor!  At a church!  Remember?  And because you suddenly discover that, lo and behold, pastors are REAL PEOPLE.  With their own sin and failures and junk.  And for some ridiculous reason, that’s hard for you to grapple with.  Also, because your own little heart may just be a really hot mess.  Yeah, that too.

But God’s going to use that place and those people to show you Jesus in a new way.  You’re going to grasp the gospel like never before, and your messy little heart is going to be rocked.  And as you work through your own issues, you’re going to learn, ever so slowly, to love the church again.

Really, what I’m saying is that you have no idea what you’re in for.  It’s going to be an unbelievably difficult and beautiful and exhausting and sanctifying six and a half years.  Those years are going to be a perspective changer.  Because as you eventually step into the next season of life, you will be able to look back on God’s graciousness in those bittersweet years in little Clayton, North Carolina.  You’re going to be filled with this overwhelming sense of confidence that he is FOR YOU.  And he loves you with a “no matter what” kind of love that still blows your mind.  And he’s good.  Always.  Always.