For My Valentine

Dear Valentine, 
Here we are, our 13th Valentine's Day together, last week...except in a funny twist of fate, we weren't together at all this year! You were working and so was I.  You with 100 or so students and volunteers, me with 3 little Armstrongs...both of us equally exhausted! It's funny and beautiful how life keeps moving and rolling along and sometimes this day is big and grand and well celebrated and sometimes, it's quiet and business as usual. What's funny is that as we age and our hands spin all the plates, we have a new definition of what romance really is.  The date night dinners, an occasional movie, flowers,'s all wonderful and so appreciated when we can make it happen.  But there is also something deeply romantic about knowing that you are doing what your job requires and so am I, and this is our real life and sometimes it's not all roses and chocolates.  Sometimes it's more like diapers and tantrums and late nights and junior high kids and below zero temperatures. And yet, in the absence we feel from one another, the romance is in the grace that we extend each other, the quick dance in the kitchen before you leave again, the texts to check in and the excitement of knowing that having you back home will come soon enough and that will be all the Valentine gift we both really need. Truly, real life with you is the best kind of Valentine's Day, every day.  Over the years our celebrations have changed and adapted to whatever season we are in, whatever state our bank account is in and whatever we need most at the moment. I'm so thankful that while it may look different year to year, the celebration has never ceased to exist. It's so easy to just do this thing called parenting and never make time for the two of us, beyond giving one another a reprieve when we need a break or just time alone. Those gifts are important, but what could and sometimes does slip through the cracks is our time together. Who knew we'd long to go out much more than we do and yet the work involved to make that happen just overwhelms us more times than not?  It won't always seem that way, we've definitely forgotten what it's like to have a baby in the equation...hello, unpredictable living! 

But here is what I want to tell you today, on the day we finally get to celebrate Valentine's Day...

13 Valentine's Days later, I am still excited to go on a date with you. My heart still races when you come in the door and leaving with you (and no children tagging along) feels like I just won the lottery! I have no idea what we'll feel like doing tonight, dinner, movie, errands, whatever...but I know that being with YOU, will be the best part. We heard the pessimists when we joined lives together who warned that some years get dull and marriage is work and kids are exhausting...I think we could agree to most of that, but while life may be dull, you've never been dull for a moment. In light of the most cliche phrase uttered, I've never loved you more than I do right now, at the season in our lives. All these years of history and the growing together and the ups and the downs, they mean something to me and they make us who we are becoming together. I laugh when I see pictures of us from those early years...maybe we were young and reckless like Taylor Swift  says we were, but mostly we were just young and only part of who we are today. There is risk in marriage, in not fully knowing who you are marrying and what the years will bring.  But seeing glimpses of who God was already making you then have turned into satisfying realities of who you are today. If there has been one thing that's stayed constant all these 13 years of celebrating love together, it's that we've seen nothing but change year after year.  Changes in life, changes in circumstances, changes in you and changes in me. Thankfully, God is still our steady rock, our unchanging foundation that holds us and this marriage together. Changes come and go, but He has stayed faithful and by His grace, He has kept us faithful to one another too.  

I couldn't imagine how good marriage could be, or how much more I'd love and cherish you and this life we have together. No, it's not perfect and it's certainly not without struggle and heartache. But it's all WITH YOU and that's the part I love the most. 

This couldn't be more sappy, but it's my blog and I'll do sappy if I want to, thank you very much. These are exactly the words I want our three kids to squirm through some day while secretly loving each and every word from the heart of their sappy Mom to their hero Dad.  

You are the Valentine of my dreams, babe.
You are my one and only, for always and forever. 

And I love dating you still. 

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