She loved to swing from an old rope and tire that hung high in a pecan tree on the edge of the alley. It was our favorite place to meet. Her long hair would fly in the breeze while the rope yawned and creaked in stride.
A friend had a new tool that chewed wood like a rabid beaver and I asked him if he could carve “Joy” into a 2x6 I scrounged. Two holes, a new rope, a trip up the tree and a new swing was born. It was my first gift to her somewhere back in the 70’s. Soon enough there was a ring, a little home, a baby boy, and a life together.
The swing became a treasure. An old hackberry in Schertz, Texas, an oak years later, a 4x4 between two uprights in Corpus Christi. And like so much else in life, the old swing named Joy was carted here and there and then forgotten as newer and better swings came along, finally parked on a shelf in the shop. Just a simple board that reminded me of her and where our life began, and oh so many other memories.
We could never have imagined what life would hold, certainly no one would have guessed a lifetime of ministry. None, certainly not us, would have seen success and prospering beyond the simple life we chose. There was little to go on except the deep sense of calling and friendship we shared. I had asked God long before to allow me to be best friends with the one I would marry, and He answered my prayers with a resounding “yes.”
Marriage can turn mundane after so many years. Everyone knows that. There was still plenty of love, just not as much “like” at times. Kids, work, finances—you understand. But like the swing, even when life pushes joy to a shelf, the abiding friendship continued to deepen and here we are, forty years later—friends, lovers, and full of joy.
The swing is a part of our family. Baby boys giggled with joy as young parents told them to hold on tight. Grandchildren, all five, went “to the moon and back” over and over again. The many young people that have adopted “Pop and Mama Jan” still find their way to the swing and discover a vast improvement over the safety-first playgrounds they grew up enduring.
There were also times when the swing stood still—the four babies we lost, the dear one who is no more, and all those times of trouble when joy stayed on the shelf. We have endured much more than most. In the midst of all this living, there has been that uninvited houseguest named cancer. For over half of our marriage we have labored to keep it at bay.
No kidding. Every. Single. Day.
Even now, instead of the dream anniversary trip, we will be in treatment, code for the terrible ways medical science finds to kill terrible things that attack. But the joy, no matter which way life swings, will always be the center of it all. It will always be you.
I did some research. The gemstone of 40th anniversaries is the ruby. It is a stone that is only surpassed in hardness by the diamond, yet the ruby’s value and beauty can easily surpass the popular pick. The choicest old stones are from India (my second home) where it is known as the King of Gemstones. The Indian maharajah would give a special royal welcome to this gem when presented with one.
It is the Bible that tells the real worth of the stone. Solomon, the wisest king of all, said that the ruby is only surpassed in value by a wife of noble character. And for these forty years, your heart, Jan, has been the noblest of all. Your value, your wisdom, your friendship and love is the most precious gift our Lord has ever given—“worth far more than rubies.”
You are my joy in the midst of the troubles and strife. So here is to the years that lie ahead, whichever way life will swing. Happiest of anniversaries to the one I love.