Part 1: The Letter
In counseling, I talk a lot about how to value your spouse. I thought it would be helpful to move from talking to showing you one way that I do it. What follows is my effort to highlight my love for my amazing wife in a way that she can receive it, written communication.
Happy 15th Wedding Anniversary.
Today is the day our lives forever changed by a choice and two words-â€śI doâ€ť. I remember when we first met at a Life Church event. I was slurping a Dr. Pepper and inviting you to my â€śsinglesâ€ť life group. Wow, how much we have changed because I canâ€™t imagine drinking a Dr. Pepper and Life Church only had one campus. Oh, and of course the single life seems eons away :).
Over the last fifteen years we have seen friends come and go, family meet Jesus, created two incredible children, two dogs, lots of different fish, mammals, churches, multiple houses, career changes, and wave after wave of ups and downs in our marriage. But through them all, we have walked hand in hand seeking God all the way. Looking back, we can see His movement and how close He has been even though many times He felt so very far away.
Thank you for never giving up. For refusing to stay down when you fall. For always taking my hand and continuing the journey into the risky and faith-filled business of following God no matter the cost.
On our special day I want to make sure you know, and pray you never forget, one thing. I believe and am living out that you are truly Godâ€™s best and my always and forever love.
When we first met, you captivated my eyes and my attention and then you went on to capture my heart. Tanda, when I hold your hands and look into your eyes I can see the next 60 years of my life. I can see grandkids, a house on a lake or ocean, loving people and changing lives.
So, take my hand and letâ€™s press on toward the Celestial City. Letâ€™s run with a passionate love that shows the world that God is real and His love never fails!â€ť
I left this letter for her on the coffee machine and posted it on Facebook to remind the world of how amazing she is and how thankful I am to God for her and our life together. What I didnâ€™t know, is that very night she and the kids had written their own letters to share. They had also given me gifts that were well thought out and a cologne that was more money than I could see myself spending on smelling good. So, either she really loves me, or I just smell really bad :). That night went great and my mom was able to join us in celebrating our 15 years. But, the following Friday is when we would embark on our special adventure out of town.
Part 2: Embracing Joy through the Imperfect: The Trip
I have been asked countless times how to make marriage work. But recently, there have been more people interested in how I, personally, make my marriage work. There are so many strategies, resources, spiritual disciplines, and people who love us that have contributed to our success.
Instead of giving you my Top Ten list, I thought it would be helpful to give you insight into my recent anniversary. It has been 15 years and boy do I have stories to tell! I am going to pull back the tapestry and invite you into our personal space. I do this in hopes that you are inspired to press on even when you feel like you just canâ€™t go on. And I hope you can enjoy a laugh or two along the way.
On our fifteenth anniversary, I wanted to go big. I wanted my darling Tanda and our kiddos to know how much I love her and how faithful God has been to us. I asked some folks for ideas of how I could celebrate Tanda and the amazing gift she has been to me. The suggestions were all over the board. I had someone go all in for me surprising her with a trip to Paris, to someone who thought rubber gloves and a mop bucket were the way to go. One would break the bank and the other would have me sleeping on the couch for months. I thought it wise to try something different.
I had researched and believed I had discovered the perfect bed and breakfast. They had an amazing restaurant, beautiful views, and hiking trails on the property. To alleviate her anxiety of the unknown, I spilled the beans of our destination, and she was elated. I like surprises, but she was getting stressed because she didnâ€™t know how to prepare for our weekend. And, I have been known to be quite adventurous in my surprises and not all of them turned out the way I had hoped. So, to the keep the peace and create excitement, I told her.
What happens next is pretty much a great synopsis of the life of the Maguire’s. The day we were to depart, the temperature dropped to what felt like twenty below zero. When she rushed and rushed to meet me at my office, I was 27 minutes late. Then we had two more stops to make before getting there. And it turns out, I was wrong on directions and we were going the opposite wayâ€¦uh oh. Running two hours late, this was not a great start to our Anniversary weekend.
When we arrive, we are given a tour of the grounds and I am thinking, SCORE! The place was top notch. That is, until we are shown our cabin. Then I was thinking, â€śHouston, we have a problemâ€ť. It turns out, the cabin I was told was their â€śbestâ€ť was decorated in the Dark Ages and had all the windows blacked out. The porch was open however, and had a nice view of a white wall. But, you would be proud of your counselor, I kept my thoughts to myself. The tour guide, however, observed my unspoken displeasure and offered to show us another room. The guide left and said we could call if we wanted to see another cabin. After the door shut, Tanda noticed the obvious centerpiece and said â€śWow, what beautiful flowers.â€ť She picked up the card and it said â€śHappy Birthday! Love, Ralphâ€ť. I had the same thought cross my mind that would likely cross yours â€śAhh, wish I would have sent the flowersâ€ť. I think you know by now that my name isnâ€™t Ralph and we were not celebrating a birthday. I was wanting to check out other cabins anyway, so I used this as an excuse to call the tour guide to tell her about the flowers and ask her to show me another cabin.
Because it was so frigid, and my lovely wife does not like to feel like she is a burden, I went alone to the cabin. When I saw the newer and cooler cabin I thought, this is where we need to be. It had a great view, more light and a much better feel. It was more like Florida sunshine than a Medieval dungeon. On the drive back to my current cabin, my guide received a call. She said that it turns out that this cabin wasnâ€™t available. And because I had told her about Ralph and the birthday flowers, they discovered they put us in the wrong cabin. For those of you who donâ€™t know my wife, these scenarios can be very stressful for her. She loves to keep the peace as much as possible and I sensed that I would somehow be blamed for this because I tried to move. I thought, great now I have to tell my previously relaxed and grateful bride that not only is the newer cabin not available, but now we have to move. At this point I am laughing nervously and hoping this doesnâ€™t turn our trip to the dark side. And not just because of how she would respond. I mean, I made a lot of effort to find the right place and the right cabin. Thankfully, she handled the move graciously and didnâ€™t blame me.
The guide drops me off to pick up Tanda and our belongings and asks us to follow her. As I am backing out of the gravel driveway, she drives off. I am backing straight out of the driveway and looking behind to find her and canâ€™t. And thenâ€¦Bang! I backed into a tree. It turns out that the driveway backs directly into a tree if you go straight out. That is why the gravel veers slightly to the left. Oops. Thankfully, it appears we sustained no permanent injuries, but my car has a bald spot on the bumper where the tree gave it a kiss.
Later that evening, we were enjoying a fantastic dinner and we received a call from my daughter around 9:30 pm. She was having an allergic reaction to our friendâ€™s animals and needed to leave, as she was planning to spend the night. This required my mom getting out of bed and driving her back to our house and both of them spending the night. My mom also has a dog that my daughter is allergic to, so my mom had to stay the night at our house. And guess what, we went away with two healthy kids and came home to kids who both had the flu.
This is a typical Maguire trip. We plan for fun and adventure and then the unexpected happens. As part of our time, we talked about the events and how much differently we have been able to handle them after 15 years of investing and working hard. We were able to laugh about the surprise of her almost getting flowers from Ralph for her Birthday; us thinking we were upgrading to a better cabin and then having to move to a smaller one; and the shock of backing into a tree. We were able to laugh until we cried. Oh, and then there was me bringing the wrong camera to take a picture to memorialize our time. I took the new one she hadnâ€™t had time to figure out how to use yet. And, we had to hop and re-hop the balcony to take pictures because I forgot the remote and thatâ€™s where the best light was. You may be wondering that after all that, were we able to enjoy our anniversary? I will say emphatically yes. Yes, even though we were downsized in cabins. Yes, even though a tree bit part of my bumper off. Yes, even though we couldnâ€™t hike because it was horribly cold. How could we, you may wonder. Thatâ€™s a great question with a great answer.
After reading about our quite imperfect anniversary trip, you may be asking how were we even able to enjoy ourselves. The answer is, we saw the events through a unique lens. A lens that allowed for failure and the imperfect. A lens of understanding that these mishaps will actually make great stories we can pass onto our grandkids. We loosened up over the years and made allowance for life to not have to be perfect to be enjoyable. We took our expectations to God and exchanged them for an expectancy. An expectancy that we can find good even in adversity and that together with God we can work through anything. I know I canâ€™t control the circumstances, but I can always control what I focus on and the meaning I give them. And that is a good snapshot into how we make our marriage work.