This week my wife turns 42. This officially ends the three-month period every year when she gets to say she married a much older man and that I robbed the cradle. I turned 42 on February 1.
As I scribbled out her birthday card I began to list things I love about her. Some were obvious, others much less so. The more I wrote, the more came to mind and suddenly I’d challenged myself to list one thing for each year she’s been alive.
But could I really do it?
The first few would be easy, right? I love her faith (1) in God and her (2) unwavering loyalty to his son, Jesus Christ. I love that she prays (3) often, reads (4) her scriptures daily and has filled many journals (5) with her insights on life, family and love.
I also love that she attends church (6) no matter the obstacles and fulfills her assignments there (7) with every ounce of energy she’s got.
My wife lives to serve (8) others and never hesitates to step outside (9) her comfort zone. She’s a terrific teacher (10) and equally stellar student (11). For every pesky weakness, she has an even more powerful desire to turn them to strengths (12).
I love that my wife is a marvelous mom (13). She is patient (14), but always forgiving (15). Because my work often puts me on the road, my wife carries an extra burden (16) that would cause me to murmur. Does she complain about wearing a dad hat sometimes? Never (17), and I love that about her, too.
Before I even knew her name, I knew my wife had gorgeous eyes (18) that could stop a man in his tracks, and hair (19) with a personality of its own. When she laughs (20), it’s impossible not to laugh with her. And when she simply smiles (21), you don’t return the smile because manners require it. You grin because your mouth has no other choice.
I’ve learned to love that she insists on holding my hand (22), even when I’m grouchy. In fact, she insists on holding my hands especially when I’m grouchy.
Even as we dated, I grew to love my wife’s respect for schedules (23). She always strives to be on time (24) and her organizational skills make that easier. I’m also in love with her work ethic (25) and the fact that she never quits (26) until a job is done.
My wife is considerate (27) of my siblings and their spouses and doesn’t love them because she has to — she loves them because she sees their goodness. She also honors (28) her mother and mine. What husband doesn’t love that?
I deeply admire my wife’s sense of patriotism (29) and her desire to understand both history (30) and today’s complicated political issues (31). I love that she jumps (32) into fights worth fighting and keeps her distance from those that aren’t (33). Will she compromise? (34) Yes, but only on preference, never on principle.
I love my wife’s sense of adventure (35). Join me on a trip I led to Peru? Why not? Want to drag our entire family to Hawaii, even while nursing a baby? Of course. How about driving across the country with kids but no husband? Sure, sign her up.
But I also love when she recognizes (36) her own limits and life’s responsibilities and simply kisses me goodbye at the airport, no matter who’s looking (37).
My wife doesn’t watch R-rated movies (38), rarely sees anything PG-13 and has refused to see some PG movies if she’s heard they’re not as clean as advertised. As a writer, I especially love her dedication to only read uplifting literature (39) and applauded her when just two weeks ago she gave up on a book she dearly loved after a sharp turn toward the morally bankrupt.
I love that she doesn’t pretend to be perfect (40), but works each day to be better than the day before. I love that she’s happy to be 42 (41) and doesn’t mind that it’s being published online and in a major U.S. newspaper.
Finally, I love Kodi Erekson Wright because she loves me back — even on the days I make that difficult (42).
As I scribbled my final items, I realized the problem wasn't coming up with 42 things I love about my sweetheart, the challenge was keeping it to such a low number.
Happy birthday, Mrs. Wright. I hope I’m still making lists when you’re 62, 82 and 102. And I hope you still insist on holding my hand.
Readers, if you’ve never made a list like this, I invite you to take the challenge. You just might be surprised at how long your own list can grow.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or jasonfwright.com.