Tag Archives: Forgiveness

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

Forgive Each Other

Compassion flooded my heart as I walked into the room where my step-mother, Debbie, was resting while she battled the effects of stage-four cancer. With a frightened look in her eyes, she burst into a cry when she looked at me standing in the doorway. Debbie normally wasn’t emotional, but the sympathy in my eyes must have touched a deep place in her spirit.

With a smile, I walked toward Debbie, and her tears subsided as I embraced her. Serenity filled the room while we sat there together enjoying a conversation.

As love flowed from my heart, I asked Debbie if she would like me to say a prayer. Enthusiastically, she said, “Yes!” I held tightly onto her hands and began praying softly over her. The fear I had seen in her eyes began to fade away and a fresh glow illuminated her face.

After a sweet time together, I hugged her firmly and said, “Goodbye.” As the door shut behind me, a flood of emotion washed over me and I began sobbing.

The tears were a bittersweet mixture of the sorrow I felt for Debbie’s battle with cancer and a celebration of the powerful love I had shared with her in the midst of her pain.

I realized during those precious moments spent with my step-mother that I was reaping the fruit of my choice to forgive her many years before. Decades earlier when I was a thirteen-year-old girl, I met Debbie after my dad moved out of our home. He divorced my mother and married Debbie soon afterward.

The life I had known in my childhood was shattered and I felt the deepest pain I’ve ever experienced. Bitterness invaded my heart as I blamed Debbie for the break up of my family. In my brokenness, I struggled to open my heart to Debbie until after I matured and realized the burden of carrying the pain was too heavy.

While I watched the example of my mother’s forgiveness in the midst of the unwanted divorce, I resisted the urge to stay bitter. Miraculously, through the resurrection power of Christ, I was able to totally forgive Debbie, and the wound in my heart healed.

Forgiveness has the power to make something beautiful out of something terribly painful.

Amy and Debbie

On my wedding day, the photographer got a candid photo with my step-mom joyfully gazing at me. Only Christ could enable such beauty to emerge out of the brokenness from the past.

Years later, as I sat with my step-mom while she faced death, it was evident to me that the choice of forgiveness had truly transformed my soul. The hurting, young teen I once was, could not have fathomed I was capable of loving my step-mother with a love so pure.

While hoping and praying for Debbie’s healing, I received a phone call from my father. His voice was solemn as he said, “The doctors are saying it will be just a few hours before Debbie passes away.”

I said, “I’m so sorry, Daddy.” I was crying as I tried to comfort my father.

Peace encompassed my sad heart as I walked into the critical care unit. It was surreal to see Debbie hooked up to machines and nearly lifeless.

A kind nurse assured me that Debbie was listening even though she was powerless to speak. In those surreal moments, I embraced the sacredness of Debbie’s soul preparing to pass from this life into eternity.

As a heavenly aura filled the room, I walked closer to her bedside and with words mixed with tears, I passionately said, “I love you, Debbie; thank you for being a loving step-mother to me.”

If it’s possible to touch Heaven tangibly while still on the earth, I certainly touched it that day.

I am certain that forgiveness is the birthing place for the most beautiful kind of love. Evidence of the love that grew in my relationship with my step-mother is in a card she gave me a few months before her death.

Debbie’s written words will forever be inscribed on my heart. She wrote, “Amy, I have grown to love you like my very own daughter.”

After nearly nine years since Debbie’s death, she is treasured and the power of forgiveness remains the greatest miracle of my life.

A life without forgiveness is a burdensome existence—it’s like dragging a large weighted ball. Without forgiveness, the pain adheres itself to the soul and dampens everything we experience with a thick darkness. When we don’t forgive we are only hurting ourselves.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest keys to living an abundant life. The one who walks in love and forgiveness experiences an abundance of spiritual blessings. 

Are you carrying unnecessary weight in your heart? There’s no better time than now to choose forgiveness.  Christ died on the cross and rose again so that we can forgive and be free from the pain that weighs us down. Choosing the path of forgiveness leads us to eternal joy, perfect peace, and unleashes the most magnificent, unimaginable love.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for being the greatest example of love and forgiveness. We surrender to You and repent for the times we have had an unforgiving heart. Please show us the offenses we are holding in our hearts and let us totally forgive every offense that has come against us. Let us live a lifestyle of forgiveness daily and let us have a grace-filled heart that’s incapable of being offended. Let us be vessels of Your awesome love and let us be defined by Your powerful gospel of grace. Please use each one of us to make a difference in the world by spreading Christ’s love everywhere we go. We pray in the mighty name of Christ. Amen.

Dr. Bruce Hebel teaches a powerful message on forgiveness. If you’re struggling to forgive, I highly recommend that you watch the video below and check out the ministry’s website to learn practical steps for walking in forgiveness:  ForgivingForward.com.

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MARRIAGE IS A GIFT FROM GOD

Marriage is a Gift

Marriage can grow more beautiful every day or it can be a source of pain in our lives. It’s really all up to us. It depends on whether or not we choose forgiveness moment by moment.

When Michael and I got married three decades ago, we could have never dreamed of how deep our love would grow. Occasionally, we will have an argument, but now we forgive instantly rather than let an offense take root inside us.

My marriage to Michael is living proof that Christ can empower us to walk in forgiveness toward each other even in the midst of the worst circumstances. Sometimes a separation is necessary as it was for me in 2002, but any marriage can be saved if it is covered in persistent prayer (Luke 11: 9-10).

Marriage is a gift from God that thrives beautifully when it is Christ-centered.

I wrote an article in 2012 with ten tips for a passionate marriage and shared it on my blog in 2015. I submitted it to the Unveiled Wife website three years ago and they recently posted it. The article has not been updated, so it says I have been married twenty-eight years. However, I have actually been married thirty-one years.

I pray that you will be blessed by reading the ways Christ restored the passion in my marriage.

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Ten Ways to Have a Passionate Marriage

After a tumultuous season in our marriage and a brief separation, my husband and I decided to do whatever it took to get our lives back on track.

We met when I was an eighteen-year-old student and got married when I was nineteen.

Over a decade later we had two children, piles of debt from several failed businesses, and the stress had taken a toll on our relationship. Our marriage hit rock bottom.

Then after a season of brokenness, the healing of our rocky relationship began. Through prayer, forgiveness, and the love of Christ, our marriage not only survived—it was gloriously restored.

To celebrate what God had done for us, in 2010, we renewed our vows and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.

It’s now better than it’s ever been, twenty-eight years after we said, “I do.”

Marriage is a gift from God that is supposed to be a beautiful mirror image of the love between Christ and His church. It’s a covenant that is meant to last our entire lives.

How do we keep the passion alive throughout our lifetimes? Is it possible to be deeply in love after two or three decades of being together? Absolutely.

I will never stop sharing the story of my restored marriage. It’s a story of redemption that I hope will encourage other married couples to never give up.

A few years ago, a friend told me about a great idea she had for putting together a “Happy Marriage Recipe Booklet” for a bride-to-be she knew. My friend asked me to contribute my own special recipe for a great marriage.

After a few days of praying and searching my heart for the best marriage tips, I came up with a top ten list that has contributed to my thriving marriage.

To read the entire article, click the link below.

10 Ways To Have A Passionate Marriage

LOVE THAT LASTS FOREVER

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Michael looks into my eyes and takes my breath away. I have no doubt that our hearts were knitted together long before we met. We were made for each other. Thirty-one years after we said our vows on April 27, 1985, our love is stronger and more beautiful than ever.

During the hard years when the children were young and the stress seemed insurmountable, there were times when I actually felt nothing toward the man I had vowed to love forever. The misunderstandings and the hurts had taken their toll on my heart and it all seemed impossible to repair.

I began to understand why God desires that we pledge our love to each other for the rest of our earthly lives. It takes a lifetime to learn the true meaning of forgiveness and how to love unconditionally.

Through prayer and faith, our relationship was transformed. Christ renewed our love and restored our marriage.

With God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

After more than three decades, our love is deeper than I could have ever imagined. Christ’s love is the strength of our marriage. Where there is love, there will be beauty because love never fails.

Real and lasting love grows out of hearts that are knitted closely with God. The purest kind of love is filled with patience and kindness. It is not jealous or self-seeking. It does not remember past offenses. It rejoices with the truth. It never gives up on a person, is always full of faith, and will endure the hardest circumstances and come forth as pure as gold. Love that is built upon the rock of Christ is eternal and lasts forever.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” — 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7(NLT)

This piece has been revised from a previous post. The photo was captured the day we renewed our wedding vows in 2010.

THE TREASURES OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

Gift of Friendship - Dawn Camp (3)

Relationships are what matter most in life. We all need friends to walk closely with us. Real joy is found in our closest bonds with the people we love. Only Christ can meet the needs of the soul, but a healthy friendship grows when we each depend fully upon God while offering encouragement and unconditional love to our friends.

After the birth of my first-born child, I learned that I needed friendship more than I ever had before. I was a young mom, feeling overwhelmed while trying to navigate my way through the great adventure of motherhood. Most of my friends weren’t parents yet, and many of them weren’t even married. I was craving friendship with somebody experiencing a similar phase of life.

During that season of being a new mom, I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a support group for mothers. I was intrigued, so I decided to call and inquire about the group. I can still remember the initial phone call.

A sweet voice over the telephone said, “Hi, I’m Roxene!”

I was excited to learn that Roxene was the area leader for the mother’s group. She and I had an instant connection and we had quite a long chat that evening. Our friendship was already beginning to develop.

Within weeks, I joined the group and eventually I accepted the job of co-leader. During the next nine months, the group grew and my friendship with Roxene grew. Things were going smoothly until the holiday season approached and the leadership responsibilities became a burden to me. I wrote a letter to Roxene expressing my concerns and my need to resign as co-leader, and it led to a misunderstanding between us.

Shortly after that, I noticed the warmth in our friendship began turning to coldness. I was faced with two choices. Would I be willing to let go of the hard feelings? Or would I let bitterness begin growing and lose a friend? Being a young woman in my twenties, I had very little relationship experience, but I knew what the Bible says about forgiveness.

In Colossians, it says: “Bear with each other and forgive each other whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I made the choice to do the right thing. After several weeks with no contact, I decided to call her and make things right. It was awkward and uncomfortable working through our misunderstanding, but it was necessary for our friendship to survive. We talked through our feelings and patched things up quickly.

As I stepped out and chose forgiveness, I could have never dreamed of the blessings that would come from my friendship with Roxene. Through our friendship, I learned that authenticity, patience, forgiveness, and compassion are required for a trusting bond to develop.

The Gift of Friendship - Be Authentic

The depth of our friendship was revealed when my second child was born and Roxene had recently gone through two miscarriages. She was brave enough to lovingly tell me that it was hard for her to be around my newborn son. It was Roxene’s willingness to be authentic that allowed me to work on understanding that she needed extra compassion and time to heal from the pain of her losses. Even though it was a challenging season, it ultimately caused our friendship to grow stronger.

After twenty-five years, Roxene and I are still close friends. We’ve developed a bond like sisters have. We’ve been through the ups and downs of life together. We’ve cried with each other during the darkest seasons and we’ve celebrated together during the joyous seasons of our lives. Laughter and immense joy have filled our hearts when we’ve shared our victories with each other.

When friends become like family, there’s a commitment that requires sacrifice and effort.

I’ve chosen to work hard on developing friendships, and I am grateful I’ve gained a number of really close friends. Each one is unique in her expression of Christ’s love to me.

We cannot be close friends with people without living authentically and walking through their pain with them and cheering them on wholeheartedly in their successes. Friends are meant to be the ones God uses as the vessels of His love.

We know we have a true friend when we are free to be who God made us to be in their presence. We can enjoy sharing mutual love, respect, forgiveness, trust, loyalty, support, and kindness—all of these magnificent treasures of true friendship.

For encouragement in developing stronger friendships, I recommend that you read The Gift of Friendship by Dawn Camp. I reviewed the book in my last post. To learn more about Dawn’s book, visit her website or get your copy here.

Lord,

Thank You for the gift of friendship. Let all of our friendships be built on the foundation of Your love, and use our friendships to establish Your perfect will for our lives. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

This post was revised from an article I wrote in 2008 for a prayer ministry. 

Photos were provided by Dawn Camp. 

REMAINING CLOSE TO CHRIST FOR STRENGTH IN MARRIAGE

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Michael looks into my eyes and takes my breath away. Twenty-nine years after we said our vows in front of God and our loved ones, our love is stronger than ever.

During the hard years when the children were young and the stress seemed insurmountable, there were times when I actually felt nothing toward the man I had vowed to love forever. The misunderstandings and the hurts had taken their toll on my heart and it all seemed impossible to repair.

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Now I know that with Christ all things are possible (Luke 1:37). Love grows out of hearts that are knitted closely with God. His love never fails.

I understand why God asks that we pledge our love to each other for the rest of our earthly lives because it takes a lifetime to learn how to love unconditionally and fearlessly.

After nearly three decades, our love is deeper than I could have ever imagined; it is a true miracle. As we remain close to Christ, His love is the strength of our marriage.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” — Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Close.” It took me more than five minutes to write this post today.

The photos were taken the day we celebrated twenty-five years of marriage by renewing our wedding vows.

Five Minute Friday

GOD’S AMAZING GRACE

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As my mom reached out and touched my step-mom’s shoulder, I saw a love I had never seen before. I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were at a family event after my dad had left our home to live with and marry another woman. It was a day when we were all together again after the divorce of my parents. It could have been disastrous and filled with tension and stress. But instead it was a day filled with grace.

The unconditional love of Christ was revealed through my mother’s actions as she showed true kindness and love to the woman who had lured my dad away from her. It was the grace that I saw coming from my mother’s heart that impacted me eternally. These memories are what beckon me daily to live as my mother lives, to live as a woman steeped in grace—loving freely all those who have hurt, used, or mistreated me.

True freedom comes from living in the grace that was given to all mankind when Christ paid the final penalty for every wrong thing we’ve ever done or will do in the future.

Oh, the beauty of God’s amazing grace makes my spirit soar and makes me want to frolic in a field of flowers.

“But continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory, now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 (Good News Translation)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Grace.” Today’s post took me about ten extra minutes.

The photo of me was taken at the sunflower fields in Rutledge, Georgia.

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Mercy

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On a hot summer day, a week after my thirteenth birthday, I walked into my kitchen and saw my mother weeping. Her Bible was laying open on the table next to her, and in her eyes, I saw brokenness. I could feel the weight in the room. The air was thick with pain. I knew something really bad was happening. Suddenly, it felt as though my world was turned upside down.

My father asked my brother and me to take a ride with him in his car. Within moments of our driving away from our home, Daddy told us, “I’m leaving. I don’t love your mother anymore.” I was in shock. It wasn’t long before the pain began to rise to the surface of my heart.

My mother, who was and still is deeply in love with Christ, displayed His mercy in a way I had never seen before. In the days, and weeks following our devastating news, I watched closely as my mom responded with love and kindness. She spoke loving words about my daddy, saying, “We need to forgive him and pray for him.” She not only forgave him immediately, but she continued to love him in a Christ-like, unconditional love. She promised me that the Lord would redeem everything.

As painful as it was for me to experience such a loss and heartbreak in my childhood, I am grateful for that season in my life. It was during those youthful years that I began learning about the grace and mercy of Christ in a real and tangible way.

Now, thirty-five years later, I thank the Lord daily for His mercy and grace. It’s because of His loving-kindness and never-ending mercy that I can freely live in His love. I can love those who use and mistreat me.

His mercy enables all of us, as His followers, to love purely. His mercy heals broken hearts and makes life incredibly beautiful.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36 (NIV)

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday where Lisa Jo Baker and other awesome people write for five minutes flat with no self critiquing or no striving for perfection. This week’s prompt is: “Mercy.” Today, I had a hard time finding a good stopping point and wrote for about ten minutes.

The woman in the photo is my hero and amazing mother.

Five Minute Friday

Love Never Fails

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To love and to be loved are the two greatest things we can experience in this life…I felt a warmth all around me when I heard these beautiful words spoken during a wedding toast once. I wholeheartedly agree that there is nothing that compares to the fulfillment of loving someone deeply and experiencing his or her love in return.

I am continually being challenged in my ability to love perfectly and unconditionally. Loving others when they’re kind to me is not a hard thing. The difficulty comes in repaying unkindness with kind deeds. If we only show love when we are treated kindly, then why do we need Christ?

Marriage is the perfect place to practice showing true Christ-like love.

I believe God loves bringing together complete opposites; this is what He did in my life, with my husband and me. It’s kind of funny when I think about how totally opposite we are. My husband is an introvert. I am an extrovert. He is a morning person. I am a night person. He is a reserved, more serious person. I am a free-spirited person. He is a ‘plan every detail’ kind of person. I am a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person. He is more of a spender. I am more of a saver. He is more laid back about housekeeping. I am the ‘wants everything in its place’ kind of person.

I could go on listing more differences in our God-given personalities. And I didn’t even mention the natural differences there are in men and women.

There’s a reason we said, “For better or for worse,” in our marriage vows. When two people come together with completely opposite natures, there will be friction. There is no way to get around it. One time, I heard someone say they preferred to have a mate with a similar personality to theirs. Not me. It would be totally boring to spend the rest of my life with someone like myself. I have no doubt that my husband Michael was made for me. But knowing we were made for each other doesn’t keep us from being tested in our ability to truly love one another.

The marriage relationship is the most powerful way to live out our Christianity. As husband and wife, we are bonded like no other bond.

When God began healing our marriage and tearing down the walls between us, a deep level of spiritual and emotional intimacy began growing in our relationship. We began sharing our deepest fears, our hurts, and our wildest dreams with each other. We laid out our most valuable treasures to share with the other, trusting that they would be delicately treated. There is no one on this earth that knows me more intimately than my husband.

It has been a beautiful thing. But as the depth of our marriage has grown, so has the cost. Our ability to hurt each other is much greater now. When we were holding tightly onto the deepest parts of our souls, it was safer. There wasn’t so much at stake.

Now my husband holds the most valuable part of me in his hand: my heart. I have given all of it to him, not small parts. He has it all. The only One who exceeds this bond is Christ. It is my bond with Christ that has allowed me to open my heart fully to my husband.

Without Christ’s love, I would have to keep my heart guarded and protected, living in mediocrity. I did that for many years. I lived and loved halfheartedly. I was too busy trying to protect myself from hurt to really love the way I know Christ intends for me to. The cost was too high for me. I knew that if I dared to love as Christ loves, I could end up getting hurt; therefore, I didn’t take many risks.

Things started changing when I allowed Christ to begin healing the wounded places in my heart. As He healed each wound, a piece of the protective shield that surrounded my heart began breaking away. I began opening myself to my husband in ways I never had before. I began letting him see my bare soul.

I consciously made a decision to love with all my strength no matter what the cost. It hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. My unguarded heart is vulnerable and when hurt is inflicted, it can go deep. Loving hard, loving fully means hurting sometimes. That’s part of it.

The marriage relationship is the place that love is tested the most. The closeness in the relationship forces us to face our differences. The only other option is to grow apart, living together in the same house. What’s the point in that? We didn’t get married to be roommates. We want to be lovers and best friends.

I remember a pivotal time in my marriage that changed how I related to Michael. He had hurt my feelings, and I was having a hard time letting it go. I just kept thinking, “I have a right to feel this way.” My flesh was demanding its way. I wanted my husband to come to me and make it right. Instead of loving him unconditionally, I allowed a wall to go up between us. The protective barriers were creeping back around my heart.

I had an option; I could either keep waiting on him to come and make it right or I could let go of my hurt and be the initiator of the reconciliation. It’s so much easier to wait, let him come to me, and let him admit his wrong. It feels better that way.

After contemplating my choices for a while, I ended up in my secluded place with the Lord, praying softly. “Lord Jesus, what would You do in the situation I am in?” He immediately whispered His words to me. Love him, expecting nothing in return. It hit me in my spirit like a ton of bricks. My mind was bombarded with thoughts. How can I do this? Everything in me wants something in return.

The Lord flooded out my thoughts with a Bible verse I had memorized during my high school years…I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

As I pondered the Bible verse, Christ continued speaking to me in my heart. I felt His Spirit nudging me to read 1 Corinthians 13, even though I had read it dozens of times throughout my life. I sensed God asking me to read it in the Living Bible translation. I went into our office, pulled my old Bible off the bookshelf, and began reading the beautiful scriptures about love.

“Love is very patient, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly ever notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” Corinthians 13:4-7

By the time I got to the end, I was weeping. I asked the Lord to forgive me for the mistake I had made. I had gotten so caught up in what wrong had been inflicted on me that it was all I could see. Since that day, I have prayed often for the Lord to allow me to continually be an instrument of His unconditional love.

Letting go of hurt is difficult. Loving someone regardless of the hurt that may have been imposed is hard. It means I have to die to my desires to be heard and die to my desires to be understood. It means putting others’ feelings before mine.

Mother Teresa knew how to love. It’s obvious that she understood that sometimes loving hurts by the words she spoke, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”  Her words echo in my soul, reminding me to keep pressing on in this journey of unconditional love.

I want to love with no boundaries, take every risk possible, and love at all costs. The awards are amazing. The irony I see in all of this is that when I hold back from loving purely, I am sabotaging my chances for the deep connection my spirit is craving. At times, I still get caught up in the belief that holding back will protect me from hurt. In reality, when I hold back on love, I am hurting myself more and I miss out on a fulfilling marriage relationship.

When I dive in, loving my husband as fully as I possibly can, the desires of my heart are fulfilled. Each time I take a risk, it hurts at the moment to deny my own needs, but in the long run my marriage is blessed beyond measure; the romantic love returns, the passion comes alive, and our relationship flourishes.

God made no mistake when he chose my husband for me. He knew my weaknesses needed to be my husband’s strengths and that my strengths needed to be his weaknesses. We need each other. This is what oneness is about (Genesis 2:24). Loving unconditionally is a process that takes a lifetime to learn.

It’s amazing—this thing called love. There is no greater power than the power of love. It’s worth the risk. It’s worth the tears. It’s worth diving in as deep as you can go…because no matter what, love never fails.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge; it will pass away.”  1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)

This piece has been revised and was originally written in 2008. Today, I am so thankful for the love I have in Christ and for the way it spills over into my marriage after twenty-eight years. The photo was taken the day my husband and I renewed our wedding vows.