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True Romance, True Love

It was one of those mornings. I crunched my way through the snow back to the house in frustration, knowing that my husband and girls were watching me as they drove away. I blew a cursory kiss at them and mumbled under my breath, “Yes please, please, all just go away.” I sighed as guilt washed over me. I was still harboring bitterness from the night before when I pulled a snowman ornament out of my daughter’s backpack that had been her show-and-tell object for the day. I had picked it out for her the previous Christmas and carefully wrote her name on it. That morning when she plucked it from the tree, I helped her wrap it delicately in a towel and warned her (in as nonchalant a tone as possible to sound like I was giving friendly advice more than a lecture) that the arms would break off easily. I almost knew it the moment the words came out of my mouth. I knew that the little guy wouldn’t make it home in one piece. For some reason, when I pulled it out of her backpack with one arm missing, this only made me angrier. Because I know my daughter, and I knew it hadn’t happened on accident. When confronted she confessed that she had to prove how NOT delicate his arms were and twisted one off, hours after I had mentioned it. I had yelled and sent her to bed without fixing things between us which laid heavily on me the whole night as I debated whether to wake her or wait until morning to work things out. In the end, I did neither. Instead in a very mature and nurturing way, I gave her the cold shoulder all morning. Good parenting 101. Fail.

My other daughter had climbed into the van for school and looked at me with all the pathetic puppy dog face she could muster and told me she had lost her gloves. Again. I told her to go in and look for them, which I also knew was a lost cause. Her idea of looking for things is to scan the walls and turn in a circle before pronouncing that she “just can’t find them”. So while my husband and I went on a hunt for her gloves, she turned circles and played with the cat. They never did show up and when I told her (admittedly thinking, This will show her), “Well, I guess you are just going to be cold today,” she responded with an apathetic, “Okay,” and a good old fashioned shrug of the shoulders. I wanted to scream, but instead, as my husband went to kiss me goodbye, I grazed his cheek with my lips and I could feel it bubbling up inside of me. Though that little voice cautioned me not to, the urge was just too great and I succumbed to temptation. The words tumbled out of my mouth in a hot, boiling stream of lava and I spewed, “Gosh, I am so sick of this. She twirls, Sam. TWIRLS! That’s how she looks for gloves, and the other one-well…she’s just her. Why does she have to defy me just for the sake of it? Why does she have to tear the arms off just because I told her to be careful? What is it that drives her to be so vindictive just because I told her to be careful?! I don’t want this. I don’t want to be this wife…this mom…I just nag and-” I was cut short by the look on his face; the one that said, “Yep. Heard it yesterday. Twice. And the day before that, and the day before that….”

So as the van drove away, I grumbled the whole way to the house with a “good riddance” in my heart for the people I love most in my life.

So many days I think,”How did this happen? When did I become this…..this…wife and mother?” When I dreamed of being a mom and wife, I pictured baked cookies and home-cooked meals, playing games and kissing boo-boos and being a lifelong friend to my husband. I didn’t picture explosions over broken Christmas ornaments and lost gloves. I didn’t picture my days being filled with “please find your socks”, “don’t put that in your mouth”, “didn’t I just ask you not to throw the cat?”, “work it out with your sister”, “if you say please”, “seriously? I just bought you those shoes! How do they have holes in the already,”, “I already answered that question six times! No, it is not time to go yet”, “no, this is my chocolate. I just gave you a cookie! Can’t anything in this house be just mine?! You broke three things of mine today. Can’t I just eat this chocolate in peace?”. I certainly didn’t picture my husband giving me that look. The one that says you have officially moved from being one love, his friend, his companion, his comfort to his wife.

I know that some of you will nod your heads in agreement while others might curse me for acting like “wife” is a four letter word (though technically, in my defense, it is) :). But I think you still know what I mean. The old ball and chain. The old hatchet. The old lady. I hate that look more than anything and I am married to the most patient man in the world and he can still give me that look, often accompanied by a sigh. It kills me a little every time. Literally every day of my life I ponder, I pray about, I worry about how I can be a better wife to my husband, a better mother to my children. Still, I come up short, which only frustrates me more and makes me have a shorter fuse and the cycle continues! As my family drove away, though I was grumbling, my heart was sinking. No matter how many times my poor husband had heard it, it didn’t make it any less true: I didn’t want this. I want them, but I don’t want this version of me.

By the time I had climbed the stairs to my bedroom to get ready for the day, I was no longer frustrated but defeated. I sat down to Facebook (of all things) and saw two separate articles posted by friends; one about marriage, the other about parenting-both cautionary tales to not take for granted your spouse or children no matter the conflicts that might arise. One had a happy ending, the other did not. I cried heartily reading both.

I am a deep romantic at heart. Someone told me not too long ago that romantics can truly enjoy life sometimes and feel things deeply, but they can also be disappointed easily by unmet expectations. It is my romantic side that measures the roundness of Evie’s face and how she has changed and studies her ears because they have changed the least since she was a baby. My romantic side caresses Nora’s cheek and recounts to her stories of when she was a baby and how I used to hold her closely and stay up with her at night. My romantic side leaves notes in my husband’s office with little doodles or puts surprises in his truck to find on a hard day. But sometimes, when I am caught up in those moments, the girls don’t want to be bothered with my stories and Sam might be too busy to thank me for the notes.There is nothing more crushing sometimes than being on a plateau and being ripped down by carelessness, thoughtlessness. I am disappointed and I pull away. I might try again, but find myself disappointed again. I am forgotten, I am taken for granted, I am ignored. I think this is a curse of a lot of moms and I don’t think I’m alone.

But today, as I was reminded again, romance can be found in the lonlieness, in the disappointment. Love and relationships are never easy. Isn’t there something romantic about a difficult relationship? Isn’t there something sweet about muddling through a difficult time in life together and coming out the other side stronger, more committed? Who wants to watch a movie where a couple gets together in the first five minutes? Isn’t that boring? Even when my children push me away, I know there is something in them that just needs me to pull them back; to love on them a little harder.

When I first started dating my husband, I fell hard and fast. I fell in love with him through snail mail!! Being in love was easy. Love, true love, takes work. Love is choosing to kiss a scraped knee, even after I have been ignored, given attitude, harassed. Love is choosing to make a home-cooked meal after I was forgotten. True romance is still leaving little notes in the girls’ lunchboxes with little pictures and notes so they know I love them after they have broken ornaments and lost gloves. Love is getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away nightmares and clean up vomit. Love is cooling a warm forehead with a wet rag. Romance is forcing yourself to wrap your arms tightly around someone who has said hurtful things and choosing to forgive them. Romance is running someone else a bath when you want nothing more than to soak in it yourself and soothe away the aches and exhaustion of the day. Love is staying up into the wee hours of the morning to work through painful words or misunderstandings and grasping for reconciliation in the dark. True romance is a hot cup of tea for a sore throat or a look of encouragement across the room when you feel all eyes on you. Love is cleaning up a mess so someone else doesn’t have to.

Love is messy. Love is dirty. Love is painful; and there is something so romantic about the melancholy, lonely, day to day struggles to keep your family and marriage together.

True love is taking a beating when you did nothing wrong for those you love as your own; true love is teaching, mentoring, comforting and loving those you know will soon abandon you in your greatest moment of need when you have never asked anything of them; true love is crying out for a different plan but still choosing sacrifice for the deep, grueling love and salvation of others; true love is nailing my sins to a cross, cold, splintered and bloody and finishing it all on the darkest day in history just so that I might have life everlasting.

I love, because God first loved me, and I know better than anybody that that ain’t easy. So I will love and find the true romance in paying off a debt that can never fully be repaid. Love is grueling, painful, sacrificial-love is tough. And I think that is pretty darn romantic.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 8:13

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