A Letter to my kids
We began Valentine's Eve at the Orchestra and I end up sick in bed on Valentine's Day.
My favorite holiday.
That's actually a great picture of marriage.
Sometimes thrilling and fancy, sometimes needing tending and always worth it.
My husband flew in and out of the house preparing for our long awaited Couple's Luau, handing me chocolates and flowers in bed, checking in on me through the day and making sure everything was as it should be for the event.
In pajamas I cut out pineapples, taped paper flip-flops to paint sticks for the games and stayed in bed as long as I possibly could until I had just enough time to look presentable for the Luau.
After everything was said and done, my oldest calls from college asking his Dad to go out after dark to grab me some flowers and apple pays him.
He doesn't understand why a tired Dad cannot slip out to get them until morning and then when he does "grab" them they are more buds than open flowers, he wanting them all to be bloomed and picture-perfect.
My husband and I giggle about Mom being the proving ground for his budding future romance and how he will learn that apple pay may be instantaneous, but closed flowers bring a greater joy in the days to come.
We bring out the cough medicine, my husband knowing year after year that colds become bronchitis for me, and I scan youtube videos wondering if I can really let more gray come and feel lovely when my two older sisters now look younger than I.
I decide I CAN get out of bed and begin school if I have the promise of bacon and coffee and off he goes to get bacon to make me my normal everyday one egg, one piece of toast with just a swipe of orange marmalade and two pieces of bacon breakfast of champions.
And my nose and upper lip are chapped and red and he leans over breakfast to kiss me, apologizing for getting aftershave on me.
It is at this time that my daughter catches it.
"He's not worried about getting sick, He's more worried about leaving aftershave on you!"
She's weighing this mound of Puff's Plus against some aftershave and thinking that I got the better end of the deal.
How right she is.
And when He hears her he tells her something wonderful like, "I'd rather have her germs than anyone else's," and my heart begins then to prepare a letter to these hoodlums starting to fledge for flight.
Dear Isaac, Abigail, Caleb, Nathan, Anna Lee and Alayna,
I hope you always love Valentine's Day and hang paper hearts on windows and from ceilings and think of your Dad and I.
I hope you laugh as you tell your own children about how Dad and I got engaged in a musty castle-like hotel turned restaurant with cleaning ladies vacuuming in the middle of our "happily ever after," and that you've learned to just keep the ring quiet until your true love tries it on her finger first. Ahem.
I hope you also learn from us that you DON'T need a "Do Over," if the first proposal doesn't go viral. Viral things are associated with sickness anyway. Ten years in, we didn't need to get the same flowers, wheel a very expectant wife to the same flower garden for that iconic picture only to set the camera timer, him get on one knee and us both giggle as he nervously mistakingly asks his wife to be his "husband." We were crazy nervous for him to ask me to be his, even though for ten years we had lived as husband and wife in the midst of the biggest struggles, changes and diaper changes of our lives.
Maybe that's why we needed the reassurance again of the keeping our hearts for each other. The reminder, eyeball to eyeball, of the most precious things you somehow forget to say to one another amidst busy but need to keep living side by side.
And now twenty years in, with some of you looking for a marriage of your very own just around the corner, I hope you are taking note of just how exciting boring love is. The love that kisses chapped lips with colds and doesn't care about germs. The kind of love that gets socks out of the bottom of the bed in the morning because no one wants to fall asleep with cold feet. The kind of love that pays the house payment and then comes up with interesting dinners for two weeks.
I wish for each of you a love that keeps you laughing at each other and with each other because laughter is some amazing glue. I wish for gray hair and squishy middles to only remind you that you have been blessed with children to raise for the Lord and moments that you will hang onto long after those children fly the coop. I want your respect for each other to grow and your frustrations over being so very different to lessen as the anniversaries tick by.
I want you to know that unless the Lord builds your home it will fall prey to the devil. He's always looking for ways to get his grubby hands into your thoughts and hearts and if you leave the back door open just a smidge he will make himself at home. Don't give him ground. Forgive because you are commanded to do so. Forgive because you need forgiven. Forgive because you see the twinkle in their eye again and love them to the moon and back.
And as a side note, "I forgive you" smooches are almost better than the "for no reason" ones. Take my word on that.
The Lord brings people together to make them more like Himself, not to make them happy, but in His grace he blesses with heaps of happiness as well. Just keep in mind that happiness isn't the goal. Sometimes that's hard and sometimes you will refuse to clean the toothpaste out of the sink in frustration- but let those be the exception and not the rule. The more time you spend privately with the Lord the more you will see how gracious your spouse is and how grateful you are to have toothpaste to scrub out at all.
You will grow and change each year that the Lord gives you together. Sometimes you will feel that the change is too great to enjoy closeness again. That's okay. You just need to spend more time together learning more about this one whom you've chosen to cherish with all that you have. No change is too great for love to learn again and again and again.
Service is the language of love. Oreos and steak dinners don't hurt, but when you serve one another you serve the Lord and that brings lasting fulfillment long after the steak is forgotten. You'll be amazed how your heart will set itself upon a long walk, a shared ice cream or an unexpected coffee as the bedrock of deep connection remembered for years to come.
Sometimes you will have lots to enjoy and at other times little to spare. You will make it work and it will make you who you are as a couple. You'll have a memorable "tuna noodle casserole" story Grandpa and Grandma have shared with you to share with your own children. It will evolve into something horrific and will make you laugh, but you'll know that you couldn't have loved deeply without it. Your house won't look like your parents house looks several years into their life together. Give yourself time to make your home. You don't have to have a style and for goodness sakes you don't have to plaster pictures of it all over the internet. Just enjoy your little nook from the world and paint it whatever color you both love. You'll tell yourself a million times that once you have the money you'll buy an amazing kitchen table but once you do have money and you can buy a new one, you'll most likely keep the old one in the basement because you cannot bear to part with it. Your kitchen may need years of banana bread to get that "smell" you love, and that's just how it should be.
No other couple will look like you and that's fantabulous. If you live and serve in Africa or in Detroit, enjoy ice cream for dinner or read late into the evenings, it's no matter. You hold tightly to the Word of God and to each other and you will have one very blessed life.
Make peach cobbler every once in a while and throw in The Muppet Christmas Carol because they make a wonderful thing over the top amazing.
I love you and pray even now for those who you will share a life with. You stop looking for the one and keep becoming the one someone will want to ask to share a life with.
And maybe even twice.