Marriage Series with Al & Donna Ricks

Today in the Love Always Wins Marriage Series I’m featuring a couple with one of the most unique love stories I’ve yet to come across, Al & Donna Ricks.  Al and I worked together for several years in my former life and I had the privilege of getting to know him and meeting Donna.  Al is one of the most kind and thoughtful people I know.  His love for his family is evident when talking with him, especially his grandkids!  I introduce to you, Al & Donna Ricks’  marriage story!



1. How long have you been married?

In September, 2014 we will have been married 40 years.

2. Tell us about your love story.

We enjoy telling people that we were married without ever having a date – and it’s true.    We were good friends in college, but did not date.  Al joined the Peace Corps immediately after college, and was assigned to Ethiopia.   As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  He proposed by tape recording from Ethiopia, then waited six weeks for the return mail to bring an answer.   Donna was working in Cedar Falls, and when Al got home, he immediately took employment in southern Iowa.  So, for the next several months we would meet to  plan the wedding, but never to “go on a date” like going to a movie or going bowling.  We were married in September – and it stuck!

3. Tell us a bit about your wedding (color, location, attendants, etc). Is there anything you would change?

We were married at First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls.  Our wedding colors were forest green and emerald gold (very popular colors then).  Relatives and close friends served as our attendants.  We held the start of the events a few minutes to make sure that Donna’s grandmother had arrived.  The ceremony was presided over by the pastor of the church and a favorite college professor.  The professor’s wife (also a college teacher of ours) sang.  After the ceremony we all went to the church basement for a “traditional” reception of cake, punch, and homemade mints, while the aunts unwrapped and displayed our gifts – just the way it was done in those day! What would we change?  Being able to open our own gifts!

4. What is your favorite wedding memory?

For Al:  Having communion with family and wedding attendants in the chapel of the church prior to the actual ceremony.

Donna’s:  Having family and close friends all in attendance was and remains very special.  Additionally, Al thought he was clever by asking the best man to hide his car so no cans could be  tied to it nor rice thrown on it.  Little did Al know that the best man, who went to get the car following the reception, plotted to  throw rice all over the inside!

5. What is the key to making your marriage successful?

Trying to be supportive of each other’s careers and life choices in our marriage.  We have had very distinct careers – but have tried to find ways to make sure we have been supportive of the other in following her/his dreams.  Also, keeping a strong focus on faith and family.

6. What are some of your favorite things to do together as a couple?

Now we enjoy every minute we can get with grand kids!  After retirement we moved so that we could be closer to them.  It has been wonderful.  We enjoy spending time with our family.  We also like to work in our home and in the kitchen (sometimes together – and sometimes it is best to keep a bit of separation!)  We sing in the church choir and we both play in a bell choir.  We enjoy traveling as time and resources permit. We have season tickets with a couple who have been friends for  35 years  to the Des Moines Civic Center and enjoy seeing a variety of plays/shows each year.

7. What would you tell the younger you on the eve of your wedding day?

Al:  Be ready for lots of surprises!  At 24 I thought I rather had life figured out.  Boy, was I wrong about that!  There have been so many surprises in the “script” – but they have been ok, and, ultimately, I believe they’ve been in God’s keeping.

Donna:  I would agree with Al’s take on this.  Our marriage and lives have gone in many directions that  we could never have predicted!

8. What does LAW (love always wins) mean to you as a couple?

Through the years – the ups, downs, the routines and the challenges, the joys and the sorrows,  there’s that bedrock sense that “we’re in this together.”    That’s a commitment we made 40 years ago, and by doing so we’re not walking through life alone.

9. How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?

Al:  I knew from the way she “hit it off” with my parents.  They had it figured out before I did.

Donna: My best friend was Al’s girl friend his senior year of college (I am a year older). When he went to the Peace Corps she told  me they had decided to halt their relationship since he was leaving.  She told me he and I would make a good team.  Seed planted! Al and I had been good friends for several years. Marrying your good friend with like backgrounds, goals, and beliefs seemed the right thing to do.  No regrets!

10. What is your best marriage advice for couples soon to be married or considering marriage?

Keep some laughter going.  There are more than enough serious challenges along the way.  You’d better be able to still be friends at the end of the day.  Interjecting some laughter and fun into the relationship really helps.

Marriage Series with Blake & Sally Hollis

Today in the Love Always Wins marriage series I’m featuring my neighbors, Blake and Sally Hollis.  I can’t say enough about this sweet couple.  Not only are they our neighbors but they’re also our landlords since we sold our house and are renting until we find or build something we like.   They’re the best landlords we could’ve asked for and they’ve managed to make me re-think country living and that’s not an easy thing to do!  They share a unique aspect as a couple in that they work together since Sally left the corporate world to join the family business a little over a year ago. They are parents to two active and kind boys both of whom, my boys look up to and admire!

 I hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I enjoy knowing them!Love-series

hollis Note:  Sally personally answered the questions and Blake concurred with her answers

1.  How long have you been married? 15 years

2.   Tell us about your love story                                                                                              

We met at Iowa State University and first developed a strong friendship.  We hung out with the same group of friends and got to know each other very well.  Blake graduated one year before me from college but we continued to keep in touch.  My dad and I were in Waterloo the following November so we invited Blake to join us.  It was that evening that Blake and I decided we should start dating.  We were engaged seven months later and our marriage continues to get better every year!

3.  Tell us a bit about your wedding (color, location, attendants, etc). Is there anything you would change?

We were married on August 15, 1998 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Spencer, Iowa.  We had our reception at Okoboji at what was then Village West.  Our colors were black and white and we each had four attendants.  We love music so it was a big part of our ceremony.  We had a trumpet and strings along with several piano/vocal solos.  Blake surprised me by singing The Lord’s Prayer as we were kneeling at the front of the church.

4.  What is your favorite wedding memory?    

My favorite wedding memory is hard because I loved so many things about that special weekend.  I loved walking down the aisle with my dad at the rehearsal to “Mustang Sally”.  I loved the intimacy of our rehearsal dinner.  I loved the reception with our family and friend’s toasts and lots of excellent dancing!  However, my favorite thing was just having all of our loved ones in one spot helping us celebrate!

5.  What is the key to making your marriage successful?

The key to making our marriage successful has been including God.  We have each grown individually in our relationship with God over our marriage and as a couple with God at the center.  We have also been marriage mentors at our church for the last four years which has been an excellent way for us to continue to focus on our marriage.

6. What are some of your favorite things to do together as a couple?                        

We enjoy doing outdoor activities and going to dinner together as a couple.  We also enjoy going to movies.  We recently went on a hike in Phoenix where we got lost and were able to enjoy each other’s company for longer than we had expected.   It was challenging physically but totally enjoyable to just be together!

7.  What would you tell the younger you on the eve of your wedding day?                

God is going to be key.  I didn’t have as strong of a personal relationship with Christ on the eve of my wedding as I do today.  I am very thankful He has been along the entire time.

8.  What does LAW (love always wins) mean to you as a couple?

Marriage is the most wonderful thing and is life-long.

9.  How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?                                       

I can clearly see how we are meant for each other.  We once attended a marriage conference where it was explained that marriage is like sandpaper.  We each have our rough edges but God puts us together so we can complement each other and help rub off our rough edges.  Blake and I work together very well to help support each other.  We are better people today because of each other.

10.  What is your best marriage advice for couples soon to be married or considering marriage?      

Pray together.  There is book called “Pray Big for Your Marriage” where it discusses a study on divorce.  There is not statistical difference in divorce rates between Christian and non-Christian couples.  However, there is a statistical difference in couples that pray together.  It provides an opportunity for you to hear your spouse’s inner most thoughts/desires and helps you grow as a couple.

11.  As a couple that works together how do you handle the day-to-day pressures of work, family, and marriage?

Strong communication skills are key to handling the daily pressures of work, family and marriage.  We try to take time to talk as a couple and clearly communicate each of our expectations.  We are big list makers which we use to document what each of us needs to do.  We have one for work and one for home.    We also work on positive conflict resolution skills.  There are going to be disagreements and we work on trying to have different opinions without having arguments.  We are sometimes more successful than others but it is always good to have as a goal.

Thank you so much Blake & Sally for sharing your story and experiences!

The love always wins series features couples at various stages of marriage and tells their stories of love, perseverance and making marriage last.  Marriage isn’t always a walk in the park but it can be one of the most rewarding things in life.  Join me each week as I share the stories of some of my most favorite married couples who share with you why Love Always Wins.