Mac and Carol have been married to each other for over 35 years, and their relationship is surprisingly optimistic, under the circumstances. In fact, one of the first things people notice about Mac and Carol is that their outlook on life is so positive.

Carol lives with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that makes things like washing dishes seem to be an entire morning's project. Her hands curl up as if they're clasping lemons, and her joints are in almost constant pain. Mac has Multiple Sclerosis, which eats away at his vision, speech, balance, and coordination. He uses an electric lift for the single flight of stairs in his home, and sometimes a cane isn't enough help when he wants to walk.

Still, Mac and Carol have a key something figured out-so much that when you spend time with them you barely notice the physical battles they're fighting.

A few years ago, Mac and Carol went to dinner at the home of some mutual friends. After a good meal and some good fun, the couples sat around a table to chat for a while. During their conversation, it was noted that Mac and Carol had undergone a fair share of trials in their years together. Mac responded by talking about some of the things that he and his wife had been through. He spoke particularly about how Carol braved her arthritis so well. Carol, true to form, cut in here by shaking her head and saying, “Well, we're not as strong as we used to be, and these hands are old and withered now.”

Without missing a beat, Mac reached for Carol's hands and took them into his own. He looked down at them and then began to talk about how much he loved her. Running his fingers over her arthritic ones, he said, “I know what these hands have done. I've watched what these hands have been through. I've seen them keep a home and wash clothes and care for children.” As he softly traced some of the darkened spots on Carol's hands, Mac went on, matter-of-factly.

“I love these hands,” he said, “more today than I did when I put this wedding ring on her finger, because I've seen all the things that she has done for me over the years.”

The room was silent when Mac finished speaking. His words lingered on the air in one beautiful and tender moment.

That is a marriage. In Technicolor.

It may take a while for you to even hope that your marriage could produce the kind of cherishing that Mac and Carol display in theirs. You may feel like you're worlds away from such tenderness and esteem.

That's the point.

Cherishing isn't about jumping from Level One to Level Twenty in a single day or in a single week or even in a single year. Cherishing is about always reaching for that next level in your relationship. It's about valuing today better than you valued yesterday. Then as years pass and you keep reaching toward next levels in your marriage, you'll discover that you've arrived at a place that you didn't even think was reachable.

It happens. It can happen in your marriage. When you choose to value your spouse over time, you're carrying your wedding vows out of the ceremony with you and turning them into everyday actions. In doing so, you communicate that your marriage is bigger than the both of you, bigger than yesterday's big brawl, bigger than today's mountain of a disagreement, bigger than tomorrow's unforeseen disaster.

You're showing that you value them in the present tense and you want to be valuing them in the future. You're saying (most of the time without using words), “I will choose to cherish you for all of my days.” You might even call it “until death do us part.” That's a vow worth taking.

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