My lovely wife is having a milestone birthday today. I won’t tell you which one as that would be indiscreet.

However, as a way of saying “happy birthday” (and another way of saying that I didn’t get her a card), I’d like to list 50 (*wink*) memories of our life together…in no particular order.

1). Skipping class during spring quarter with the coolest girl I knew and lying on the grass outside the Eagle’s Cage talking about, well, anything. We may have skipped more than a few classes.
2). The first kiss. Midnight. January 1, 1987. Church Street Station. Orlando, Florida. I remember every detail of that night like it was yesterday.
3). Watching her burst into dance immediately upon hearing any 80’s pop music, but especially Prince, The Go-Go’s, Madonna, Morris Day and the Time, or the Bangles. Hell, even Katrina and the Waves.
4). The night our 70-pound black lab, who shared our full-size bed with us (yep, we’re those people) and she had to put her hand and foot on wall as the dog was trying to push her out of that bed.
5). Her waking up at 6am for a week straight and having three telephones dialing six months in advance to ensure we’d have reservations to a character breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle for our Disney World vacation. Still the best breakfast I’ve ever had.
6). When she’d walk out on the porch of the host home and yell, “Hey, stoners, we’re about to get started” to the harder-edged kids we were having attend our early ministry events. They’d come in and talk about the Bible. You should see where most of those kids are today and how they’re doing in their spiritual lives.
7). When she fed our year-old frozen wedding-cake top to those same stoners who’d stop by our place on weekend nights. It was funny because she’d been meaning to throw it away. They devoured it and I couldn’t stop laughing at how she kept telling them how happy she was to give it to them.
8). When she got a croquet set because the kids who came over were spending too much time playing with the Nintendo 64. Teens would come over after school for epic games that lasted hours…and the others would come and watch. I have no idea what our neighbors thought with about 50 kids every afternoon going bananas after crucial shots.
9). How she looked when she stepped off an airplane in Dallas (back then you could meet your friends at the gate) as she was coming to visit during my first stint at DTS and she was finishing undergrad. When I saw her that moment on that day, I said to myself, “That’s the girl I’m spending the rest of my life with.” That’s when I knew.
10). A dinner at what was then Antares at the top of reunion tower where we discussed what it would be like to be married and in ministry together. It all seemed so mature to discuss. Knowing what we know now, it was a pooling of ignorance.
11). In what may have been the worst proposal of all time (I tend to justify it by bringing up that times were different and proposals back then were much more modest), she said yes. MTV was on in the background. The song playing was “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison.
12). The gazillion looks of amused annoyance when something like, “Me and the girls (ages 5 and 3) had banana splits for lunch. Did you have fun on your day out with your friends?” Or hozing them down with the handheld shower head while cranking up The Lemonheads.
13). What a fantastic photographer she was and how she grew that business. Talented and savvy, man. Always been that way.
14). The amused look she gets on her face when she has to explain movie plot devices I just don’t get. “Honey, a mole is somebody the bad guys put into the good guys’ organization. He’s really not on their side.” Things like this happen more than I care to admit.
15). The look of tension whenever our girls were involved in their things in the moment of their thing, and then the look of pure joy when they did very well in their thing…which was more often than not.
16). When I woke up after one of the worst work-weeks ever on Saturday morning, and she was sitting cross-legged on the bed and had been for a while, just patiently waiting for me to wake up so she could tell me we were going to have another baby.
17). How her “woman’s intuition” was deadly accurate. Me: “Kids get sniffles. Let’s see if it gets worse in the morning.” Her: “To the hospital, now.” Doctor: “Good thing you brought her in…”
18). The hug she gave me when Auburn won the National Championship, knowing how much it meant to me…but that woman loves her some Auburn football, too. Empty nest Saturdays are great as she’s footballed up from 11am to midnight.
19). How we were the only ones nervous at the 1986 Iron Bowl when AU took a 4-point lead with 0:27 left. We’d seen too many Bama miracle comebacks. All our friends were jumping around and going crazy. We each checked three times to make sure the clock said 0:00.
20). How beautiful that woman looked when she had visible pregnant belly. Manalive.
21). When she got the giggles because our wallpaper boarder for the nursery had teddy bears on it…and it worked out that somehow, in one of the corners one of those teddy bears looked like it had been smooshed into it.
22). How excited she gets when she finds a sweet deal on pricey home furnishings at warehouse clearance events. “Sure, it’s missing the hardware and instructions but I got it 90% off!”
23). She has a tendency to over-Christmas. I’ve come home from a trip the first week November to a fully decorated home. We have no less than three trees in our home during the season. I get to return some of those amusingly annoyed eye rolls she gives me.
24). How patient she is with me when we make big decisions. Me: “I’ve been praying and fasting for lunch for a week, and I really believe God wants us to move to Dallas and go to school.” *waits pensively for her reaction* Her: *smiling* “I know. I’ve been in that place for a week now, just waiting on you to get there. Let’s do it.”
25). Seeing her in her wedding dress when she walked down the aisle. I’m sure her dad was with her, but I don’t remember seeing him.
26). How tough that woman was during the delivery of Kid1. Very long labor, like 18 hours…and I griped about the lack of cable in the delivery room and how the dad’s lounge was out of grape popsicles. Enjoy your ice chips, dear.
27). The laughing sound in her voice when she called me at the office (back when your office landline was how you got in touch) and said, “Can you knock off after lunch. Mom’s coming over to keep Kelsey and I’m pretty sure I’m in labor. Can you give me a ride?”
28). OH at Sam’s Wholesale Club: “Seriously? Pay the extra $100 for that bigger TV. You never spend money on yourself. I mean, the money you’ve saved this family on fashion for over two decades entitles you to the bigger screen.”
29). We were *that* couple during what they used to call Lamaze classes.
30). I like that she leaves the TV on for the dogs when we aren’t in the house because she doesn’t want them to feel lonely.
31). How she puts up with my constant barrage of statements like this one at the World Series game (a bucket list item for me): *after a crucial three run home run that landed a section over from us* Me: “THAT MIGHT BE THE COOLEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!” My friend, Chris: “Wait. Seriously? What about her (points at Tracy) in her wedding dress?” Tracy: “I’m pretty sure he meant what he said. I’m okay with it. That was pretty cool.”
32). I love how she gets into binge-watching on Netflix or whatever. “I know it’s 11:30pm, but we only have two more hours until the end of season three. We can’t stop here.”
33). During the lean early student ministry years, she never complained about me paying my staff before myself or getting paid $140 for two weeks’ worth of work. The first time she did, I knew it was time to go. That woman did without (and still does) so much of what other women take for granted. I maintain that lesser women would’ve been gone long ago.
34). How excited she gets when the final details are nailed down to get to a beach vacation. How excited she gets when we get in the car to leave, and how she’s kinda sandy sad when we drive away from the view on the way home.
35). She’s taught me to appreciate a good wine and a great margarita.
36). I love that excitement she gets when one of the kids calls. She goes out on the back porch, paces, and laughs. She was a fantastic mom when the girls were here and she may be even better now that they’re grown ups.
37). Ask her to tell the story about how one of the parakeets died. The story is pretty funny, but the way she tells it is great. It involves a white elephant Christmas gift exchange, a dog and a parakeet heart attack.
38). I like it when she’s had a hard day and puts her head on my chest, lays down, and hands me the remote. It’s her way of saying that she doesn’t want to talk about it but she just wants me to hold her. The greatest feeling in the world is to be “gotten.” The second best is to be “needed.” In that action, she kinda does both. She’s my lobster.
39). I love it that she put a 7-foot life-sized canvas photo of the marlin as the first thing one sees when coming into our home. Such a strange and wonderful story we get to tell.
40). When adventure is afoot, she’s on it. Free airline tickets to Paris for a 3-day trip? She and Kid1 were on it. No questions asked.
41). How she eases into her day with early morning news/infotainment shows like Good Morning, America. No words needed. Just let her watch. Dogs in her lap. Lets me know all is right in my world.
42). How she’ll laugh out loud at some video someone sent her a link to and follow that up with, “Here. *hands me her phone and presses the arrow* You gotta see this baby eating her first birthday cake!”
43). How proud she looked when we walked our daughter a few blocks to her wedding venue down 6th Street in Austin. What a gracious hostess she was that entire weekend and one of the best days of our life together.
44). When she squeezed my hand a little tighter when the girls names were called for graduations…and how proud she was of Kid2 at her valedictorian speech. Three more of the best days of our life together. How proud she still is of both of them, and I can tell by her voice when I overhear a conversation where she’s telling someone else about them.
45). After the first time my girls ever saw me play softball (after hearing the stories of my earlier baseball years), I’d had a very good game. Kid1: “Dad, you’re really good at softball!” Tracy: “You should’ve seen him when we were dating.”
46). You know how most wives really don’t like your idiot friends who are the funniest and best people you know? She thought (and still thinks) they were just as funny as I did. They actually like her better than they like me.
47). After I made a decision not to pay the extra $10/day to upgrade from the Kia Sephia my church paid for during the conference in San Diego to the Mustang Convertible, we took an afternoon to drive up the PCH. We had our windows down and some kids in a convertible pulled up next to us at a red light. They were singing and dancing to whatever music they had going. Tracy: “They’re not having nearly as much fun as we are in the car made of Legos.” This is my life.
48). Upon asking her if it was okay with her that I’d be traveling to a city which had been taken over by, then reclaimed from, guerrilla rebels: “Sure.” This is also my life…she understands the risks and appreciates the rewards.
49). If any of you knew the quiet strength she has continually displayed by not responding to some of the asinine things people say to, and about, her husband in his pastoral role (and often in front of her children), you’d all give her an award. Her grace and dignity in our small fishbowl is staggering and encouraging.
50). She can take my breath away walking through the family room on her way to do a load of laundry. I say that often. It’s true. She has gotten more beautiful to me over these 27 years and change of doing life together. And I don’t have the words to accurately describe that.

That’s just 50 off the top of my head…there could be more if I had the time. But trust I love that girl more than I ever thought I could love anybody, and I’m grateful she’s stuck around. I’m no day at the beach and she’s loved me far more than I’ve loved her.

So, happy milestone birthday, Tracy! I got my mind set on you… 😉