I spent 3 days in a training this week with a group that included a contingent of folks from the Virgin Islands. I couldn't wait to tell them I was one of them. Sort of. I got married on their beautiful island of St. Thomas, and officiated the wedding of 2 great friends on St. John (Life Comes Full Circle). I figure that makes me at least one part native. Several of the trainees were from St. Croix, the Virgin Island we've missed while marriage hopping on the Atlantic. They claimed we've deprived ourselves of the islands' best offerings. It sounds like the perfect spot for Elliott or Ian to tie the knot.
It was strangely coincidental that I would hang out with fellow islanders this week. They brought back a few good memories leading up to today, when Katie and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. I'd love to say it seems like only yesterday when we stood in front of Reverend Speight and said I do, the waters and mountains of the Atlantic to our backs. But the truth is that day seems distant now, and most of the details of our actual wedding day are lost and maybe stranded on that far away island.
I can't say that I've spent much time looking for them, which may not sound warm to you, but it means the world to me. The memories created with Katie and our boys since our wedding day have exceeded anything I was imagining of married and family life back on May 10, 1999. They are memories that have given me every reason in the world to be excited about tomorrow, and no reason at all to look or wish back. I think too many people get caught up in the emotions and the $50,000 productions that were their wedding days, and spend the rest of their married lives trying to recreate them. For many reasons, that's impossible. And to too many, disappointing.
As I relived the memories I did have of our week in St. Thomas with my Virgin Island buddies this week, I couldn't help but reflect and smile about our wedding day: a 15 minute ceremony followed by 8 poolside and sun burnt hours of drinking fruity drinks and fending off lizards wrestling for the cherries on top. I have to say though, I wouldn't trade one single day of this fifteenth year of marriage for that one.
Among many blessings, this year I witnessed Katie launch the photography business I've seen her pointed toward since I sat safely on a beach watching her capture underwater pictures snorkeling in the Virgin Islands. Her willingness to step out and take chances keeps the tomorrows of our marriage sounding more exciting than the yesterdays. And someone to take pictures of them to boot. I can never forget it was her willingness to take chances that brought our marriage together in the first place. Even so, I'm sure there are days - lots of them - when she wonders how she landed in the picture above.
I've spent some time lately with my friend Scott who watched his wife die unexpectedly earlier this year. One minute they were jogging together, the next minute he's telling her goodbye on the side of a road. His marriage has run out of opportunities for tomorrows. I've left every one of our conversations more grateful for my wife. Who she is. What she stands for. How she loves her kids in a way that makes me hurt for kids who never see that kind of love. How she is weaved in everything that holds us all together. And I'm grateful for who she makes me want to be.
I was reading that the modern day gift associated with a 15th wedding anniversary is a watch. Don't panic Katie, I didn't get you one. As you know, it would have surely been tacky, and besides, it would have humiliated the iPhone that currently keeps your day moving. But the watch is supposed to be symbolic of the time a couple has spent together and the time they long to share in the future. I can appreciate that, but this year I've been reminded to avoid getting too caught up in honoring time past or plotting time to come; both of them steal time better spent celebrating the greatest gift a marriage can receive - today.
I do love where time has delivered us. God has managed to work with some challenging days to bring us to this beautiful place we call our 15th wedding anniversary. Today, I thank him for my co-pilot on this journey. Only He knows where I would have landed without her. I'm pretty sure it would have been an island, but one with far less appeal than St. Croix.