“I love the way you salt things,” he says to me as I stand over the heat of the cast iron pan at the kitchen stove. “It’s so cute. You’re like a chef.” He gives my shoulder a rub and passes by me on his way to settle a sibling dispute.
Later, he rubs my sore lower back while we watch an old sitcom in bed and says, “I love you pregnant. You’re so round and beautiful.”
I look over my shoulder at him, rubbing a hand over the two hearts and two sets of fluttering feet in my twin belly and say “Really? You really think I’m beautiful like this?” He smiles and nods and I say, “Well good. You’d better keep thinking that though, I’m not sure my body will ever be the same after this.”
He laughs and says “I will.”
“Do you promise?” I say with mock sternness, but real hormonal tears budding in my eyes.
“I promise,” he says without humor in his blue eyes, and the kindness in his smile reaches the new lines by his beloved eyes. And for once, I think I may actually believe him.
This is what love in year eleven of our marriage looks like. When we married, we were kids who had begun to grow up together, like two small trees reaching towards the great blue sky, not knowing how high it really was, not knowing where they’d end up, but letting our roots weave together deep in the earth—inseparable and intertwined, for better or worse.
We’ve seen both; better and worse. We’ve broken our promises and made them anew. We’ve hurt each other and failed to love well when push came to shove. We’ve pulled away and numbed, when we should have pulled together. These years have not been without their pain or struggles; in fact, they’ve been chalk full of them sometimes—so full we didn’t know how we’d ever be able to carry it.
I am not the girl my blonde haired blue-eyed husband married eleven years ago. The darkening of his hair and the growing of his beard is not the only change in this man I married eleven years ago. But our love has grown and changed and healed us in ways that have brought us closer to Jesus, as well as to each other. This is the grace I’m seeing now—when I look at a photo from us nine years ago still in our newlywed years and think; I loved him so much then. But it’s nothing compared to how I feel about him now. Even though there were times over these past eleven years, when I wondered if we really loved each other at all.
Now our love looks like me telling my husband that all his open tabs on our shared laptop stress me out, because I’m not sure which ones he’s okay with me closing and too many tabs makes my mind swirl with anxiety—and a few days later I open my computer to see a tab at the top: “Willy’s Tabs 🙂 ” under which are hidden from my easily overwhelmed eyes, the plentiful research he has been doing to know how to replace my mini-van’s busted alternator.
Our love looks like my husband buying me a new hose attachment to make watering my flower beds easier on my pregnant back. It looks like me picking up a six pack of a favorite beer from the store for him to enjoy with the first game of the NHL playoffs. It looks like me cooking dinner, and he doing the dishes. It looks like being the one to volunteer to clean up the toddler’s pee puddle off the living room floor. It looks like my husband reading pages and pages of health insurance legalese to see if we can afford to have one of my midwives attend what is now going to be a very expensive hospital birth. It looks like me reading the bedtime story, and him telling me not to climb into the boy’s bunk beds anymore because he’s worried I’ll hurt myself.
It looks like a few moments of quiet conversation over steaming cups of coffee before the day begins. It looks like emoji hearts sent in the middle of a hectic work day, just so I know he’s thinking of me. It looks like a simple text: “I wish we could meet for a lunch date today.” Even (and maybe especially) when we can’t.
This love doesn’t look a thing like a thought it would when we started out, young and in love and not yet seventeen. But it’s better. It’s not loud or boisterous or even overly romantic. It a love that folds laundry late at night. It’s a love that builds a life together; with threads of deeply earned and honored trust. It’s a love that holds us steady, when it feels like everything else might be crashing down around us. It’s a love that lets us dream of the future days, even as we seek to be present in these intensely beautiful days we are living in now.
It’s a love that plans a garden; that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty. It’s a love that plants seeds together, watching and waiting for them to grow in their time.
It’s a contented love, peaceful with itself. Okay with not being flashy or showy. It’s the kind of love that lets us get away for a weekend before welcoming two babies at once to our family, and we know if all we do is talk and sleep and eat together in blissful silence; it will be enough to give us a breath before this next, very intense plunge of our lives.
It’s a love that chooses every day small actions, instead of big ostentatious airport displays of affection. It’s a love that sticks with it—that rearranges the furniture as many times as it takes to make the room work.
It’s a love that makes room, in our home and our hearts for what’s next—whatever that looks like.
It’s a love that trusts that the good God that has brought us this far, will bring us through whatever challenges lie ahead: by His grace and for His glory.