My Marriage "Top Ten" List

Ephesians 3:20 is real ya’ll.  God doing above and beyond all we can ask or imagine is real…if we will let Him.  This past Friday I celebrated a decade of marriage.  Toby {affectionately known as my ‘Coach man’} and I have been married for 10 years.We dated for 1 year and 1 month before Toby proposed to me on a Southwest flight to Dallas.  I had no idea he was on the plane.  As “At Last” by Etta James played over the speaker system he slipped like a stealth ninja into the isle and surprised me…and boy, did he surprise me.  I shrieked like a teenager and dropped everything in my lap, jumped up and into his arms.  Right there in that Southwest airplane isle the boy of my dreams slipped a round cut diamond ring in a vintage platinum setting around my finger and asked me to marry him.  Well, of course I said yes and from that point forward we have been forging a life together as the Lord continues to position our steps.  I’ll never forget sitting in the Chili’s at DFW airport and spilling all over each other {total annoying PDA couple}.  We were so in love the whole world could have been looking at us and I never would have known because all I saw was Toby.  As we got up to board our plane and fly back home to an engagement party a couple stopped us and asked if we had just gotten engaged.  Giggling like ridiculous school children we said “Yes!”  I’ll never forget how serious and honest the wife got for being just a random passing acquaintance in an airport terminal.  She said, “Never forget how much you love each other this very moment.  Never give up loving each other as ridiculously as you do right now.”We woke up the morning of our ten year anniversary healthy, full of hope, zeal for the dreams in our hearts, family surrounding us in love and prayers, three of the sharpest arrows this globe has ever seen and still passionately in love.  Against all odds, we are ridiculously in love with each other.  I don’t just love Toby because he is my husband…it is important to note that I am ‘in love’ with my husband…even more today than I thought I was as a giddy 23 year old.There is assuredly a time and a place for extravagant trips and dinners and dressed up date nights.  However, this year – for this decade worth of marriage – we celebrated with a simple offering….and yet as I type those thoughts out I am remembering the laughter, the night air, the glow of the moon, the feeling of my coach man keeping me warm while we watched our kids run underneath the stars….and suddenly I’m struck with how very extravagant it really was. We spent our anniversary night wrapped in mismatched jackets, hot cocoa in hand, beneath the stars with our precious little people by our sides.  It was perfect.By God’s grace my parents have been married for 37 years and Toby’s for almost 45 years.  My grandparents have been married for over 60 years.  Toby and I’s small amount of married years are held together under the shadow of those marriages that have been forged before us.  Although, come to think of it, in this day and age 10 years is a pretty big deal.  To have been stayed to each other - heart and soul -  for 10 years is monumental in this generation.  From all that we have gleaned from those couples that have so generously left wisdom in the fields for us to gather I decided to share with those of you that are in the generation behind me a “Top Ten” listing of how to make a marriage work.  For all those dear hearts hopeful for their fairytale, handsome prince and God-story here are a few things I have learned in 10 years.#1-#10 – Make Jesus your everything.Not Jesus in the center, or on the cake topper at the wedding, or a form of symbolization in that ring on your finger, or a partner in that triangle thing.  No, make Jesus everything.I know you might be disappointed or think me lazy or so “Sunday School answer girl”….but that’s just the real deal truth.  I wrote out a real long annoying list of how smart I think I am after 10 years of marriage and you know what God came up with…”Cari, it’s about you letting me love you.  It’s about Me loving Toby.  Only then is it about Me offering My everlasting Love so you can extravagantly love each other.  All the other details flow from that Source of Perfected Love, a love that is more faithful than the morning.”Truth is we were just two imperfect peeps that came together to form an imperfect marriage….the ace in the hole?  Jesus.  Grace.  Mercy.  Love.  My flesh could spout off the quick “real life feet on the pavement” recipe for a real Christ center marriage like…# 1. Fall madly in love.  Like, for real passionately in love with each other.#2.  Form your own love story – not the kind they create in storyboard rooms, or books or movies…but your own personal love story.# 3.  Surround yourself with those that influence your spiritual growth and encourage your faith#4. ….yada, yada, yada……I’ll stop while I’m ahead.  Maybe after Toby and I cross the 72 year mark {that is what coach man has promised me…I can just visualize us rocking to the oldies together on our front porch someday} I will be able to come up with the specifics that make a marriage work…but as far as I know after 10 years, moves, job changes, relationship changes, financial strain and triumph, two people overcoming selfish natures daily, three pregnancies, three healthy baby deliveries, social schedules, work schedules, travel schedules, families, bills, dreams, house repairs, doctor visits, church changes, spiritual growth, sickness, disappointment, ministry, great achievements, holidays, raising a coaching family, kisses, arguments, forgiveness, celebrations….I could go on and on…….The point is that what we have observed with our parents and grandparents the “Ephesians 3:20/1 Corinthians 13” kinda love story comes back to God’s gracious and divine love exemplified in each marriage.  The “Top Ten” of every marriage is different, but the banner over each successful, thriving, growing marriage is Jesus.  It is all grace, all mercy, all love….all Jesus.“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.Love never gives up.Love cares more for others than for self.Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.Love doesn’t strut,Doesn’t have a swelled head,Doesn’t force itself on others,Isn’t always “me first,”Doesn’t fly off the handle,Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,Doesn’t revel when others grovel,Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,Puts up with anything,Trusts God always,Always looks for the best,Never looks back,But keeps going to the end.8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20