This painting was a tenth anniversary gift from my husband, John. His own hand brushed the vibrant colors across the canvas. We are beachy types, preferring sand and sun for most of our vacations.
The number of sunsets which have spray-painted the skies while we settled on the shoreline is too large to count. From Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to Punta Cana, we have held hands under the same radiant kaleidoscope display above glistening waters on fifteen beaches across five states and three countries.
John's milestone sentiment of love speaks volumes about our journey of love and friendship. When he asked me to fly with him twenty-three years ago, I was completely unaware of what our flight path would include.
With my "I do," though simple and overflowing with enthusiastic love, I entered the plane rolling a hefty load of baggage behind its tender oath - naiveté, selfishness, brokenness, insecurity, expectation, immaturity and low self-worth, to name a few.
Now, more than two decades in, as I look back on the route, detours, layovers and destinations, my heart fills with awe and wonder at all God has taught me. And I pray for the blessing to continue racking up frequent flyer insight for years to come.
Here are some of the soul-altering lessons gleaned from the moment I stepped off the altar with my amazing soul mate to jet set into the realm of marriage.
1. I was selfish when I said, "I do"; as for marriage, I had no clue.
2. Expectations are a silent plague infiltrating the heart when talk is vague.
3. Communication is a must - honest and raw. The lack thereof is Murphy's Law.
4. Children bring unending delight. Parent as a team, strive not to fight.
5. Crisis reveals the inner heart and prayer is a necessary place to start.
6. As we learn to give by removing "me," we build up our spouse in unity.
7. Reaching high to touch our king tightly binds our covenant strings.
8. When love rests in the shadow of his grace, harmony and peace win the race.
9. Love at first sight can last; it has for me, via treating our sacrament with dignity.
10. Laughter heals many hurts, containing power to defuse the worst outburst.
11. Grace is real even if we aren't religious. Being married is full of forgiveness.
12. Every day is a gift amid joy and pain. A spirit of gratitude keeps us sane.
13. No use trying to change our mate, it's hard enough to alter our own poor traits.
14. Writing letters is better than talking. They allow us to listen without the balking.
15. Fights are sometimes a necessary vice, but mending is easier when we argue nice.
16. Try not to take things personal. We can usually relate to the issue with role reversal.
17. Love our spouse where they're at. Meeting them there avoids any brickbat.
18. Learning our partner's love language has to happen. Read the book by Gary Chapman.
19. Respect is a lifeline for relationships to thrive, essential for sacred vows to survive.
20. The little things gain meaning as time goes by. Don't let "taking for granted" be an alibi.
21. Marriage requires investment and conscious choice. Always give our spouse a voice.
22. We can sail the seas of better and worse if 1 Corinthians 13 is our verse.
23. We should live to love and serve, serve, serve ...
As an exclamation point to my simple list, here are powerful words from Ruth Bell Graham, "I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish wife who expects her husband to be that which only Jesus Christ can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under impossible strain."
Twenty-three years of unconditional love from a man who chooses to serve, the blessing of three beautiful children and the gift of incalculable personal growth ... My cup runneth over, and under, and around, and beyond.