Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thirty-Five Years!

Frank and I have now been married for thirty-five years!

We celebrated yesterday!  And may I tell you - I barely feel like I've lived thirty-five years much less could be old enough to have been married for thirty-five years!

Life Flies Quickly!

I recently heard this sage bit of truth:  "When your children are young the days drag and the years fly!" 

Frank took me out last night for a lovely dinner at a historic restaurant in Tampa called The Columbia.  Then (brace yourself, ladies) we went to see the Broadway musical, Phantom of the Opera!

Resplendent, resplendent indeed!  (Two resplendents in one post!  I know!  But it was just that special!)

The evening was jam-packed with nearly all the elements I enjoy most: 
  • Copious quantities of people watching at the restaurant and theater.  
  • Lots of hand-holding, reminiscing, laughing.  
  • Both of us all dressed up and smelling good.
  • Delicious and unusual food.
  • Two new friends - Michael, our waiter and the theater patron sitting next to me who was unfamiliar with Phantom and needed a quick tutorial.
  • MUSIC!  Oh, such spectacular music!
I could go on but you get the idea.  

Over dinner, Frank and I each told three things from our lives together that we never would have imagined standing at that altar in Pensacola so many years ago.  On my facebook page I posted a wedding picture of those two kids, alongside one of us now.

(Well, I tried.  What I ended up with was a collage of repeated pictures.  Oh, my techie-challenged self!)

Under the pictures I wrote, "Thirty-five years ago, we chose.  Since then - Children, Churches, Challenges, cheering, crying, celebrating.  Conclusion?  Best Choice Ever!"

And it was.  Frank and I have proven to be good partners on this journey called life.  (Much to the surprise of a few nay-sayers.)

Together we're perfect.... ("Wow, Sheri!  It's unlike you to make such a bold statement."  Read on....) we're perfect examples of how the Grace and Mercy of God can take two totally imperfect, broken people and make something good.

Our marriage is a beacon of HOPE for all marriages.  That's why we enjoy doing marriage retreats so much.

We were such dreamy-eyed, naive babies on our wedding day.

Frank thinking, "She's going to be beautiful and smile and cook and clean for me everyday for the rest of our lives!"  Me thinking, "He's going to adore me and protect me and think I'm brilliant everyday for the rest of our lives!"

A train-wreck in the making!

Add in to that self-centered thinking a few other relational road blocks like:
  • both head-strong, stubborn first-borns
  • both accustomed to leading
  • both carrying some serious baggage we didn't understand
  • both with distorted views of what "healthy marriage" looks like
There is a phrase in Psalms that aptly describes our life - "....if the Lord had not been on my side..."

Our life journey has included all the normal trials, struggles and difficulties that everyone else experiences.  That's just life.  We live in a broken world.

Sadly, Frank and I have also traveled through some real troubles we brought on our selves.  (Mostly as a result of being focused on.........OURSELVES!)

But we've had a third person in our marriage.  Our dearest Friend, the Lord Jesus.

He has listened patiently when we've come to Him complaining about one another.  He has "called us out" when we're selfish.  He has healed our hurts; forgiven our offenses; reminded us to love as He does; challenged us to be lavish in forgiving one another.  

Yes, our marriage is a perfect portrait showing how grace and mercy serve to"airbrush" experiences.  His love is the ultimate "photo shop app" covering a multitude of mistakes.

Because of God's work in our lives, Frank and I were able to sit at dinner last night and look back over the last thirty-five years with joy.  God's work continuing in us, helps us look forward with hope!  (Believe me, He's not finished with us just yet.  There's a lot more to be done!)

Maybe you wonder why I gave such a raw, honest look behind the curtain of our lives.

Because on this last day of 2014, I believe someone needs to look forward with HOPE!  Someone needs to know that not everyday is beautiful; there are no perfect fairy tales.  But there is hope!

To that "someone" I want to say, "Hang on!  Don't give up!  Life has more wonderful moments than tragic ones.  And if you'll lean in close to the heavenly Father, listen for the comfort and instructions He'll give, you too will experience JOY!"

The prophet, Zechariah used a phrase I've loved ever since it first came to my attention years ago, "....Prisoner of Hope..."  Isn't that powerful?! 

I want to live as a Prisoner of Hope!  Always believing that the best is yet to come.  Always expecting that God is using today's difficulty to work something wonderful in my life.  Always anticipating the next blessing that's on its way!

Oh dear friend,  the Father sees your struggle.  And He calls to us, "Choose to identify yourself as a Prisoner of Hope.  Watch what I can do with a heart that anticipates JOY!"

No, there are no perfect marriages to celebrate.  But the good news today is this, there is a heavenly Father who is perfectly capable of helping imperfect people become prisoners of hope and experience all the joy that follows!

So from one "prisoner" to another - keep believing.  Joy comes to those who hope!