“25” by Christopher and Leigh Mackenzie


23-year-old Christopher Patrick Mackenzie

1. In Europe, when you ask for bottled water, you can get flat water, or water with bubbles. I’m the flat water. Not too many ups and downs… pretty stable and calm. Leigh is the water with bubbles. Experiencing the highs and lows. I like it this way. If we were two flat bottles of water, life would be pretty boring. If we were both bottles of water with bubbles, life would be one crazy monkey party.

2. I’m convinced that wives dress up more for their friends more than their husbands. When Leigh and her friends get together, they gush all over each other about the fashion and style. I like my lady in Chuck Taylors, jeans, rock t-shirts and a thrift store bag. With all that said, whenever your wife dresses up, tell her how beautiful she looks. Because she does and she needs to hear it.

3. I tell Leigh she’s beautiful every day. Every day.

4. I’ve learned to put aside many of my favorite things in life in order to spend more time with Leigh and the kids: playing soccer, going to music venues to find the next coolest band, watching full games of English Premiere League soccer all weekend long, spending hours biking around Chicago… You know what? It’s really not that bad. I actually like it a lot! And to top it off, I get to hang out with a beautiful woman and two beautiful kids. #servantleadership

5. I try hard these days not to say “no” when we’re on vacation. I appreciate everything Leigh does for me and our family and want her to know that she’s worth anything on this earth – even that Gucci bracelet that costs more than a car!

Eating gelato on a recent trip to Florence.

6. We started our marriage off in a terrible way. We were the center and God was on the sideline. Actually, I’m not sure He was even in the stadium. If I could turn the clock back and get those first ten years back, I would. Praise God that our selfishness has been substituted out of the match and center field is the One that deserves all the attention. We’re a much better couple with Jesus between us.

7. I’m a planner. That’s what I’m paid to do – to help clients plan out their lives financially. Planning is great in that sense, but I am learning that I need to put the map down and grab the compass. If I keep looking at (and studying) the map, life’s going to pass me by.

8. There’s no better international traveling duo that “Logistical Christopher” and “Leigh the Communicator.” Before entering any city/country, I will memorize the subway systems, bus routes, or trams. I thrive on finding the best ways to reach our destinations. Leigh must be able to speak in tongues because she can not only communicate with anyone in any language, but she can endear them and always get a better deal than what’s offered. I’ve seen people in foreign lands offer up their firstborn with Leigh’s kindness, charm and beauty.

9. One of the most important acts in a marriage is forgiveness. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to haul a bunch of junk on your back for miles and miles. And you especially don’t want to run miles back to go pick stuff back up either.

10. I once read an article that interviewed people in hospice care. They were asked what regrets they had. Most regretted anything that got in the way of spending time with their loved ones and spending time with God (like work, acquiring and taking care of their belongings (car, house, stuff), watching television or surfing the internet). I’m lucky that I found someone that I like spending time with. I pray that we will be able to answer that question differently when we’re that old couple in the nursing home. This life is just a breath. Breathe…


21-year-old Leigh Ellen Walton.

1. Marriage is hard: You have to work at it every day and commit to the long haul.

2. Marriage isn’t for quitters–well, sort of. I was a “quitter” when I started this covenant and as a daughter of a single parent, thought that divorce was an option. There have been times when I wanted to end it all (did I mention, Marriage is tough?) but Christopher is so faithful, so dedicated and loyal and committed to it, he never allowed me to opt out. It’s why I was so drawn to him in the first place.

3. Love/Hurt: Outside of Jesus Christ, I have never loved someone nor hurt anyone as much as I have loved and hurt Christopher.  My capacity for destruction with those I love the most is unparalleled; I have to always be on guard and remember it. This is one of the big lessons of 25.

4. Savior Complex: If you’re looking for your spouse to “save you” from your past or from your demons, he can’t. Humans makes terrible Saviors…they have no power!! Christopher was an awful Christ and I should have never placed that role on him at the beginning of our marriage. #nowinsituation In doing that, I set him up for failure and myself up for disappointment. He is much better as husband and head of our home!

5. Teamwork: CMack is the BEST at logistics. When you’re traveling worldwide, you always need someone to get you from point A to point Z. Chris Mackenzie is that man! I have marveled at his ability to maneuver public transportation beginning 27 years ago in the NYC Subway system and most recently in Rome, Venice and Florence. I’ve been on almost every continent with Christopher—17 countries!—and he has mastered getting us there, traveling through, and returning us back home every time.

6. Personality: Over 25 years, you find your personalities rub off on each other. Over the course of our relationship, that is a great thing for both of us.

7. Good Enough: HUGE LESSON: When he doesn’t do things the way I do them, it’s okay. I just have to be humble enough and willing to see it. (Shhh, don’t tell him, but sometimes, he does it WAY better!!)

8. Shift: If you have ever heard me talking about my husband, you know I think he walks on water and can do ANYTHING as a leader better than anyone (except sing—don’t ask him to do that!). It wasn’t always this way in our relationship. I rebelled against his authority for almost two decades and rejected his leadership.

Recently in Venice, Italy

What happened?

What was the reason for the massive swing?

Once Christ got ahold of me and I allowed the Holy Spirit to work in my life, everything that was upside down began to get right-side up, not just with my husband, but my entire life. I took God at His Word and relinquished control to Jesus where my marriage was concerned. I let Christ work on me and trusted the Holy Spirit to do the work in Christopher, too! Praise Jesus, He is faithful! Praise God—He gave me such a humble, gentle, patient husband!

9. Gift: Christopher has always role-modeled Christ for me…it’s in his name meaning: “Christ-bearer.” In his humility, with his gentleness, modeling patience, kindness and goodness, with self-control, and in his love, great joy and peace, my husband has demonstrated and reflected what a man of God is like for me.

For the record: He’s still a sinner…he leaves the toilet seat up occasionally, forgets to make the bed when he’s the last out, and likes to drink out of the milk carton.

10. Better: I have always been better WITH Christopher than without him. He just makes me a better human being. We complete each other’s puzzles. #simpletruth

It’s the same with Jesus Christ. I am always better WITH Jesus than without Him. Christ was always the missing piece in my life and my King just makes me a better woman! Though still flawed and sinful, I am a saved-by-grace-and-faith wife.

And that makes all the difference in a marriage.

November 28, 1992


1. The 80-20 Rule: As much as we would like to think it should be 50-50 in a marriage, it never is. It’s more like 80-20 at any given time with laundry, housekeeping, grocery shopping, cooking, or parenting. The thing is, that’s okay. We know we are both 100% in–so don’t keep score.

2. Movies: Leigh: “Christopher loves rom-coms and documentaries, and he cries like a baby at sad and sappy drama shows. He’s the one who is avidly following ‘This Is Us’ and who has bawled through the years at My So-Called Life, Party of Five, and Parenthood.” Christopher: “Leigh Ellen gets all jazzed up about movies with ‘muppets,’ guns, and space rockets.” (Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Star Wars, action adventure flicks.) We may rarely agree on movies and entertainment but we always agree on Jesus.

The Kiss. 1992.

3. Decorating: Though she only sleeps with one, Leigh Ellen loves to build a kingdom of pillows on our bed. Christopher Patrick is a minimalist but needs at least two pillows every night. Christopher: “I think at one point in our marriage I noticed that we had about seventeen pillows that we put on and took off every single day. I didn’t need gym membership that year.”

Are pillows worth a fight? Is anything? Is the issue mission-critical, soul-crushing, or deal-breaking? No? Make laughter instead. Don’t focus on the trivial; address REAL issues.

(BTW: We’re down to about six now on the bed…)

4. The Steak and The Salad: 100% of the time, no matter where we are, when the waiter arrives at the table with a steak (or a full rack of ribs) in one hand and a salad in the other, s/he automatically puts the steak in front of Chris and the salad in front of Leigh. (Leigh) “I ALWAYS have to say, ‘No, the salad is for my girlfriend, here,’ pointing at Christopher, and laughing.” Just because he’s a guy doesn’t mean all he eats is meat and just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she’s always on a salad diet.

We surprise others when we defy their expectations of us. That’s what being in Christ is all about, though, isn’t it? As new creations, we can defy labels and behaviors that can hang like an albatross around our necks.

We can be patient when others are losing it, and have peace when the circumstances are blowing up. We can dole out forgiveness when everyone is expecting anger, rage and malice.

THAT is the POWER of Jesus. 

5. Parenting–not for the faint of heart: Kids do not make a marriage easy; they complicate everything. They split the focus, manipulate emotions, and occasionally try to divide their parents. That being said, they are your greatest pride and joy (YAY!) right alongside your most harrowing and fearful days (PRAY!). If we are to raise them into Christ-honoring future leaders of the Church, our children will keep us on our knees, dependent on the grace and favor of Jesus. We have to PARENT and that means taking the road less-traveled, making the hard decisions, and not being popular.

Opposites: Although we are polar opposites in just about everything, God brings us into alignment under the banner of Jesus Christ.

We adore one another and look forward to recapping the next twenty-five years…

2017 Family Photo.  J (15–almost driving!), Christopher, Leigh and B (10)

So that’s our 25. What lessons have YOU learned from 25 (25 minutes, 25 weeks, 25 friends…)?