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May 25, 2024
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Happy Anniversary

Today is a special day for me. Today, May 25 commemorates 50 years of marriage for my wife Janet and me. We were married May 25, 1974, after our first year of college. We were both 18—a couple of months shy of our 19th birthdays which would be in July and August. 18 may seem really young these days, but back then in Arkansas, getting married at 18 made us seem like late bloomers! Okay, not really, but it seemed quite right for us. We got married at her house with only a handful of family and close friends in attendance. We couldn’t afford an elaborate church wedding or expensive rings or an exotic honeymoon trip. But the wedding wasn’t about an event that costs more than the cost of a new home and requires the selling of a kidney. It was simply about us—a young couple in love who committed to each other that day to spend our lives together in the best and worst of times. In sickness and health, for richer or poorer. At the time, we probably didn’t realize what that would mean.

We certainly had years of the poorer part. Our first residence was half of a duplex apartment in a 100-year-old house for which we paid $40 a month, and at $40 a month, it was terribly overpriced! It had 3 tiny rooms, and the entire apartment had less space than a small Winnebago. There were some months when we barely had enough to buy food and pay utilities, but through it all we never failed to tithe even the smallest income believing that living with 90% of our income with God’s blessing was better than living with 100% of our income without His blessing. 50 Years later, it’s a decision we’ve never regretted, and God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.

Barely into our 2nd year of marriage, Janet was diagnosed with cancer—a malignant tumor attached to her spinal cord that doctors originally thought to be inoperable and terminal. The best prognosis originally given to us was that if they could reach the tumor, removing it would likely involve severing the spinal cord which might save her life, but leave her a paraplegic for life. Many people prayed for the struggling young couple and the surgery went better than expected, but required weeks of follow-up radiation, her learning to walk again and being told we’d never have children. God blessed us with 3 wonderful children, and now 7 grandchildren. Our home state of Arkansas elected one of those children we were told we wouldn’t have to be the 47th Governor of Arkansas.

To get to 50 years hasn’t always been easy. When I’m asked the secret, one thing I say is that we committed that no matter what problems we faced, we wouldn’t consider divorce as a solution. We did consider homicide a time or two, but never divorce.

Like so many young couples, we started with nothing but big dreams and no money. We worked hard. We saved what we could and were careful not to spend more than we could pay for. We did without things we wanted and things our friends had, but tried never to obligate ourselves for that we couldn’t afford.

We have been blessed with our 3 children. We lost one between our first and second children that would have been our 4th. All 3 of our children gave us great joy and at times great challenges, but they all were required to work at jobs in their youth, they all graduated from college, and all love God and have embraced the Biblical values and patriotism they were taught from their infancy. There are now 7 grandchildren who give us the hope that the next generation will continue to believe in God, country, and family.

We’ve lived most of our marriage in the public eye. That’s taught us to ignore the intentional hate and meanness of some people. Life is too short to allow others to determine our sense of worth. We know that God will be our Judge and we trust Him to do a better job than a columnist for a newspaper or some blogger or an anonymous poster on social media who doesn’t even have the courage to post under his or her own name, but cowardly hides behind some silly shield of a fake identity.

In our 50 years together, we’ve lived in a variety of towns and houses. The house we’ve lived in the longest was the nearly 11 years we lived in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. I like to tell people that the only house from which we were ever evicted was the Governor’s Mansion. And the home we were evicted from was government housing!

That young couple who started out 50 years ago in the little $40 a month duplex a few blocks from Ouachita Baptist University could not have imagined where our journey would take us. We tried to be faithful when we had little or nothing and try to be faithful when God has blessed us with more than we ever dreamed.

And so here we are, marked by the scars of life and the challenges of everything from poverty to prosperity, from life threatening illnesses to me running marathons and her bungee jumping, riding horses, and parachuting with the Army’s elite Golden Knight Parachute team.

And one thing we learned. Love is not what happens on the day of the wedding. It’s not the giddy or sentimental and syrupy emotions of youth. It’s the learned behavior of patience, faithfulness, sacrifice, and mutual commitment to God and to each other. 50 years ago, some people thought we were crazy and that it was just puppy love. But it was real to us dogs and 50 years later, we are still saying “I do.”

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