The gift for the 35th anniversary? Used plates, loaded with love.

Jim and Marge Vanderberg got stranded in Austin, Texas, in the early 1980s. They had moved from Minneapolis because of Jim’s job with Braniff Airlines. When Braniff ceased operations in 1982, Vanderbergs were without a pension. In their fifties, they found work, and persevered.

When they moved to Austin, they started attending a church called Faith. And they took care of other Texas transplants. Which, in early 1983, included Nancy and me.

BraniffIn August 1982, I had moved to Austin to start my doctoral work at the University of Texas. We had been dating for two months at that point, engaged for one month. We got married in March, during my spring break. After two nights in Chicago, we loaded Nancy’s car and drove to Austin. And were adopted by Jim and Marge. We were 1200 miles from our families, they were far from their two children. Often during the next two years, we went to their house after church on Sunday evenings. We laughed with them, debated a little, and had encouragement in our early days together.

Eventually, we moved to Fort Wayne, and eventually, they moved to Florida.

This story all came back to mind for Nancy and me last weekend as we stood in the clearance corner of the last thrift shop we visited on our short 35th anniversary getaway. We found two stoneware airplane meal dishes, made for Braniff International. They had been marked down to $1 for the two plates.

Marriage often isn’t about how much you spend on the celebrations of its milestones, either at the start or along the way. It’s often about how you walk together through the debts and deaths, leaning on each other. We saw this early from Jim and Marge, caring for others in the midst of their own uncertainty. We’ve seen it in our own lives.

And we’re grateful to God, to our models and mentors, and to each other for three and a half decades, with more to come. .