I start my day reading and praying and reflecting. I promise myself and God that I will try harder today. I will practice patience. I will be more forgiving.
I sit down at the computer and it starts. The screen is filled with flowers and cards and gifts of love.
It's Valentine's Day.
I tried to prepare myself for this, but I quickly realize that I should have just stayed off of the computer. I simply can't remove the woman in me that longs to be pampered and loved.
The kids still need to be dressed and fed and loved and led. They wake up wanting and needing. It's the same dance that we do everyday, but today I try harder to focus on the sacrifice instead of the stress. God called me to this life, and I want so desperately to make my Father proud.
I realize that Buddy is taking a little longer at the gym today, and I fight back the urge to hope for a surprise. He walks in and greets me.
"Good morning!" he says with a smile, oblivious to what day it is.
I try to let the disappointment escape without him noticing, but who am I kidding? It's written all over my face. He asks me what's wrong and I return his greeting by saying, "Happy Valentine's Day."
He apologizes for forgetting and I do my best to forgive and move on, but it lingers. All. day. long.
For the most part, we stopped celebrating Valentine's Day years ago. When we were kids, young and in love with money to spare, he did roses and chocolates and stuffed bears with red hearts. He would blindfold me and drive me around (in what felt like circles) until we arrived at the restaurant he picked out for us. The hostess would seat us and a bouquet of flowers would suddenly appear in front of me. He spent all day planning for this moment with me. He would hand me the card he picked out, and I would fight back the tears as I read of his promise to love me forever.
As I think back to those days, I can't help myself. I fight the tears that come from those memories. Who would have guessed that something that made me so happy at that moment, would make me so sad in the years to come?
We go about our day like it's any other day. It's almost dinnertime, and we still haven't settled on what to cook. The kids have been fighting a stomach bug off and on for over a week now, so I live in fear of what to feed them. Buddy and I settle on a plan, and we work together to get food on the table.
As we sit down together, we make the Sign of the Cross and begin to bless our food. In the middle of the prayer, I look up to witness our children praying. The two year old is my favorite to watch. His hands are folded, and his head is bowed. He is quiet and still and focused. He finishes by doing the Sign of the Cross in a way that more closely resembles someone swatting away flies, but he is doing his best and that's all that He ever asks of us.
We talk and eat together as a family, and I remind myself that this is my gift. It's not roses or candy, but it is definitely a gift. Flowers will wither away, but these family dinners are not only a blessing in the moment but also an investment in our future together.
Buddy goes into the living room with the kids and I stay to clean the kitchen. I am exhausted. I pray silently as I clear the table. I ask God to help me love better. I want Him to take away the part of me that longs for flowers and appreciation. I want so badly to do it all for His glory, but so often I find myself beaten down by the frustrations of this life. I beg Him to bless me with the grace to practice patience and forgiveness when I'm struggling.
We get the kids ready for bed and say our prayers together as a family. We begin by taking turns saying what we are thankful for and I listen anxiously to hear their prayers. These are the moments that help center me. Their prayers fill my heart better than any flower or candy or card.
When Buddy and I finally climb into bed, I lean over to kiss him goodnight, but instead of a quick kiss, I melt into his arms. He holds me tight and kisses me hard. He strokes my hair and touches my skin and makes me feel like I am his. We both know that we can't be together right now; I am fertile and we have agreed that we need to abstain. I cry because I am worn down at the thought of waiting. He holds me in his arms and reminds me that it won't be forever.
I didn't get flowers or candy or even a card this Valentine's Day, but I know that I am loved. I am loved by a man that is willing to sacrifice for me and for our family. I am loved by a man that leads us with his courage, strength, and commitment. He is mine and I am his. God has blessed me with this incredible man to share my life with, and tonight, as I fall asleep in his arms, I remind myself that that is enough.
Real love isn't found in flowers or candy or cards.
It is found in patience and forgiveness and sacrifice.