By Eileen Finan
December 16, 2009 12:00 PM

ALAN & DENISE JACKSON

The gifts of faith & family

The couple reflect on reclaimed love and the strength of family–and count off the many things that bring them joy

1. THEIR 30-YEAR MARRIAGE

“When we started out, we were just kids and didn’t know what real love was,” says Alan, 51, who first met Denise in high school in their hometown of Newnan, Ga. “We’ve been a million miles and survived a lot. When you get to our age, to have someone you’ve shared all those years with is a great thing. We hope to carry it on until we’re real old.”

2. LEARNING FROM MISTAKES

“When you’ve had the experience of being apart [the two briefly separated in 1998 after Alan had an affair], then you know for sure that this is what you want,” says Denise, 49. “It makes you more accepting, more willing to be attentive. It keeps us from getting complacent. And now it’s wonderful.” “I learned to treat Denise like I’m supposed to and realized what the vow you make is supposed to mean,” adds Alan.

3. UNEXPECTED ROSES

“It’s the little things,” says Denise. “Last week I came down to get coffee and found he’d picked a little red rosebud and put it by the coffeepot. That goes a long way to a woman’s heart.”

4. SHARED COUNTRY ROOTS

“We both grew up appreciating the same lifestyle, hearing the same songs in church,” says Alan. “Plus Denise knows how to make cornbread like my momma!”

5. BEING RAISED RIGHT

“My parents were just good, hard-working people,” says Alan. “They didn’t drink. I never heard them say a cuss word. All they did was raise their children and take care of their little house and pay their bills. When my daddy died [in 2000], at his funeral I saw all the people in that little town that he had touched and realized his quiet life made a big impact. I wish I could go back as a young man and realize a good road to take is just to always be kind.”

6. THE SUPPORT OF FAMILY

“My parents didn’t hug you every day like everybody does now, but they’d do anything for you and made you feel like you could do anything,” Alan says. “When I decided to come to Nashville, that was like going to the moon to folks in Newnan. Everybody thought I lost my mind. I’m sure my parents thought, ‘I don’t know why in the world he wants to do that.’ But they never said that. All Daddy ever said was, ‘You know, you can always come back home.’ ”

7. DAUGHTERS MATTIE, ALI AND DANI

“When my agent is getting ready to book the year, he puts the calendar for the girls’ school on first, and they work my schedule around that. That’s just the way it is,” says Alan. “We’ve been blessed with sweet and healthy and beautiful girls that have been a joy to watch grow up.” Of course, he adds, “if I wear something they think is stupid looking, they’ll tell me. And they’ll tease me about goofy jokes I tell.” Says Denise: “Bless Mattie–she’s the only one who laughs!”

8. OUR FAITH

“I have no doubt that we would not be sitting here together today had it not been for faith in God to get us through what we went through,” says Denise. “I’m trying to instill in my children that it’s not about attending church every Sunday. It’s spending time in prayer and Bible study and having that personal connection.”

9. OUR PETS

“I’m a real dog and animal lover, always have been,” says Alan, who truly dotes on the family’s Yorkie, Coco Chanel. “I’m not one of those hunter guys. I don’t like killing things. I fish, but I usually feel sorry for the fish, too.”

10. THE CHANCE TO ENTERTAIN

“I’ve always been uncomfortable as a performer,” Alan says. “I still don’t like walking out on the stage. I’m kind of self-conscious. But when you see people singing along to songs you’ve written, that’s a unique feeling. As a songwriter it’s still really satisfying to create a song that people are affected by.”

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