Once upon a time there were two kids who got married on a beautiful, snowy day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I’m sure parents, family, and friends thought they were witnessing a wedding then that would turn into divorce before anniversary number one. Well, that didn’t happen as you can see, because here we are celebrating year 45 on January 16, 2016, and I do mean celebrating.
I’d like to say it’s been a picnic in the park, and I guess it has been if you count the charcoal that won’t start, the fire ants, hornets, and thunderstorms. There were times just like that, but then there has been a profusion of times when the sun was out, the water calm, and the fun plentiful.
When we meet people socially and the conversation turns to the familiar: What do you do? Where do you live? How long have you been married? Silence! Then “Whoa!” they say. “That’s a long time.” Yes, yes it is. It’s a long time.
When someone asks, what’s our secret I always want to say, there is no secret. It’s hard work from which you never take a vacation. There is no such thing as a sabbatical from relationship building. Tim gets a lot of credit because he has always been rock solid in his commitment to me and his family. Tim chose a profession he knew he could work at his entire life and find deep satisfaction. I, on the other hand, skipped around trying to find a place to settle down – you know – find myself. Tim is now retired, still doing things he loves, and I am fighting off retirement while finally doing what I’ve spent a lifetime looking for. We have never been the fairytale, two peas in a pod. We’re more like a pea pod and a bean pod. But we are content pods.
#1 God is the main thing. Stephen Covey said to be successful, you have to keep the main thing, the main thing. I don’t know what his main thing was, but if two very different people are going to coexist, your main thing has to be God first. Make prayer the bookends of your day and keep your spiritual armor strong.
#2 Remove the word ‘divorce’ from your vocabulary. If you list divorce as an option, you’re leaving the door wide open to entertain the idea. In your heart, right now, take divorce of your list. It sounds like the easy way out. There is no easy way out. Life is hard. It’s always hard.
#3 Make up your mind to love your spouse. I didn’t always love Tim. In fact there were a few years where I said the words with my fingers and toes crossed because I didn’t mean it. I remember reading a book back then by a woman who admitted she hated her husband but grew to love him through prayer and having God change her heart. What did I have to lose, right? I was a total skeptic, but decided to give it a try and God did change my heart. He turned my totally darkened, skeptical heart to one of total belief and love for my husband. It didn’t happen overnight, but the change in my heart changed everything about my life. Proverbs 23:7 says we will act out of the condition of our hearts. I know that’s true because my attitude changed and when I said “I love you, Tim”, my fingers and toes were no longer crossed.
#4 Practice gratitude. I remember the year – 1994. I don’t remember all the circumstances but I was noticing how attitudes of different people affected their relationships and their lives. I knew inside I had a natural tendency toward positive thoughts. That’s when I changed my focus from trying to get smarter, to trying to get wiser. James 1:5 says all we have to do is ask God for wisdom and he will give us what we need to fill our deficiency.
#5 Trust God for everything. I hurt for friends who can’t let go of things in their life that is controlling them. Tim and I just talked about this yesterday. We can care about things that happen and we can pray for what we want – but we have to let go, relinquish control to God who doesn’t just have control, He is the controller. We can cling onto the fringe of a situation and refuse to give it up, but what God needs from us is to give everything over to him. The truth is, God gets to decide anyway, so I open my palm and let go.
On January 16, 1971 I couldn’t say “Today I marry my best friend.” Today on January 16, 2015, I can say with certainty, “Today I am married to my best friend.” And no crossed fingers, toes, or eyes – I love you Tim, and tomorrow I will love you even more. You coax me to the top of the Ferris wheel when I prefer the Merry-Go-Round and you let me be me, just the way I am, because you love me the way God loves his children.
Flowers photo: Tim gets me a flower for every year we’ve been married. It started with 1 rose, then 2, then 3 – now we have carnations and roses. The carnations last a LOT longer. Our marriage is carnations. The roses are just the short term special times.