It is definitely a milestone. Forty years. I have been married to Peter for forty years! I know this particular anniversary is usually filled with all kinds of mushy stuff...and I could write for days all the mush you could endure about this man of mine. I could type reams about our married life in glowing and beautiful reminiscences as I wistfully look back on forty glorious years. I could...but I won't...at least not now.
Married for 480 months, 2,080 weeks, 14,600 days TO THE SAME PERSON. For Peter and me, this was no easy accomplishment. We were young when we got married...just eighteen and twenty years old. Just young enough to think we knew it all, could do anything and and that our love, well, it was the one great love that would conquer all. We blissfully had no idea what was ahead.
That glorious day in 1976 when Peter and I said "I do" with absolute joy in our eyes, it did not even register in our minds that we would endure loss over the years. The loss of dearly loved family...the shock of a beloved, butterball of a nephew who would be gone within a few short hours after smiling ear to ear at a family gathering...of parents to cancer, emphysema, heart disease...of a baby of our own only three short months in the womb. We did not know we would lose jobs, financial security, friendships. We did not have even one small inkling of the depression we each would face...that we would fall in and out of love with each other at least a half a dozen times or that we would have moments of not even liking each other. We would disappoint each other more times than I can count. We would say and do insensitive things. We hurt each other and caused some deep wounds that would have been the death of "us" if there hadn't been a few marriage rescuing things in our lives...
1. We had kids...six of them. They were and are the joys of our lives. We loved them fiercely (still do). There was a parenting author (I wish I could remember his name) who began his book saying something like: "Don't wait until you are ready to have children. If you do, you will never have them. You will NEVER be ready." He went on to say that having children makes you less selfish and self-absorbed. You learn to serve, cope, sacrifice, love unconditionally, forgive, plan, solve, prefer, be humble, be strong, be tough, be gentle...Without our six, we may have never made it...they were part of the glue that bound us together.
2. We had a church family who we loved, laughed, served, supported, cried and at times, just plain hung on together with through the years. I don't know how many marriage retreats, seminars and classes Peter and I went to in the past forty years, but it was A LOT. The constant positive input into our marriage from others older and wiser, and friends who loved each of us AND our family as a whole, helped keep our foundation strong even when the walls were shaking.
3. We BOTH never considered leaving the other...even in the worst of times. Had one of us decided to bail on our marriage, I wouldn't be writing this today. A marriage can only work, can only make it through the difficulties every marriage will face if both decide to hang on for dear life at times. Peter and I, we did this one thing right for sure, we did not look for an escape route out of our marriage even when the relationship between was "less than stellar" to say the least.
The marriage Peter and I have was once defined in an old marriage book as "chocolate chili pepper." I smile when I write this because I don't remember anything about the book except that term. It is actually a pretty good description of the adventure Peter and I have been on the last forty years. But if I were to give you a picture of our marriage, I know exactly what it would be. My pastor, David Parker, has been teaching a series on relationship (You can watch this life-changing series here: http://subsplash.com/desertvineyard/s/946857e) and this last week was on how to repair a broken relationship. David put up on the screen in front of us a beautiful broken bowl mended with pure gold. It was gorgeous...FAR more beautiful than the original plain, pottery bowl. That is our marriage...so broken over the years, but so beautifully mended that what is now is better than what Peter and I could have ever imagined.
So here comes the "mushy" stuff:). We love that we have spent this one life on this planet together. I can't imagine anyone, but Peter, who could possibly love and appreciate all the crazy that comes with being married to me. He has helped me to grow up, pushed me and at other times, dragged me kicking and screaming, heels dug in, toward what was best for me and our family. I would not trade this man and the simple life we live with anyone. It is pure joy to work beside him, to hold his hand, kiss his handsome, whiskered face, cozy up to him and fall into a peaceful sleep. When it comes to one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given, outside of my Savior, Jesus, it is this good man.
We were wrong about some of the rosy thoughts we had on our wedding day but this one is true enough...we do have a great love, and it has conquered, maybe not all, but enough to be a strong, gold-welded, far more beautiful love.
Peter and I, well, we hope that sharing our love story will encourage...give you courage, because that is what it will take, to gut it out in an imperfect marriage between two imperfect people. We hope it will help you to be patient for the mending God can do in a relationship. We hope you will see He truly can give "beauty for ashes."