“No gifts,” we promised each other this year in anticipation of our upcoming wedding anniversary. There was simply too much going on in our lives at the moment to add the stress of finding a gift that could accurately express thirty-five years of wedded bliss. Jim was about to leave for a week-long visit to the west coast to help his parents get their house sale-ready, we had a contractor working on our own home with a varied schedule of comings and goings, and there were cleaning tasks innumerable that needed to get done in advance of guests coming next month. Our plates were full; we would simply have to be content with the knowledge that our hearts were the same, and leave it at that.
In reflection, my husband, Jim, didn't abide by our rule. He didn't intentionally disobey; his lifestyle just didn't cooperate.
“No gifts,” we said... yet Jim brought birdseed home from the hardware store he stopped at after work. Because I delight in watching my feathered friends outside my kitchen window, he keeps my heart full by keeping the seed bin in the garage the same. And not just any birdseed mix; he bought me the over-the-top kind with all of the birds' favorite seeds and no fillers of less desirable options – the stuff that is too expensive for me to ever buy myself.
“No gifts,” we said...and yet he texted me to see which of the flavored K-cup coffee pods sounded best to me for my morning brew. How appropriate that I picked a brew called “Dark and Handsome.” Jim keeps my heart full by keeping my coffee cup the same.
“No gifts,” we said...yet he found the particular red-striped petunias I'd been looking for to plant in a similarly decorated pot and sent pictures to my phone of the so I could tell him which of the options to bring home. When that planter overflows with flowers this summer, he knows my heart will spill over with joy, as well.
Have I reciprocated at all, I wondered? Hmmm...
“No gifts,” we said...yet when cherries were on sale this week I snagged him up a bag of the luscious red gems that he loves but that are normally too costly to land in our fridge. “No gifts,” we promised...yet I added a box of his beloved Hostess Ho-Hos to the list of more healthy snacks he had asked me to pick up for his upcoming trip. “No gifts,” we insisted...yet I rushed home on my day off to finish the laundry so he'd have clean clothes to pack.
When he brought home steaks to grill for our anniversary dinner, I told him I'd pick up dessert, and stopped at Bob Evan's to buy us each a slice of our favorite pie; coconut cream for him and strawberry for me. As I looked at the two sitting side by side on the counter later in the day I realized they perfectly pictured the everyday sweetness of the past many years. We've likewise sat side by side on the couch watching our shows and working puzzles after dinner, and slept side by side in our bed despite the dogs' best efforts to come between us. We've sat on bleachers at soccer and basketball games, in the audience at school events and later graduations, and now on the sidelines of our children's lives, marveling as they unfold. We've sat side by side on church pews and in the front seat of our cars as we've traveled through life together in the years since we first walked out of the church building as as husband and wife...side by side.
If we've broken the “no gifts” promise it's because we've rejoiced in keeping the “I do” pledge instead...wrapping our love in everyday ways to show that gifts of love don't necessarily need ribbons and bows.
“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ...Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.”
(Ephesians 5:22,25 MSG)