Yesterday afternoon, Lila and a couple of neighborhood children sat in a circle on my lawn, faces downward. I walked over with Evaline on my hip to spy what had inspired these dirty kneed, bike helmet headed little girls to ditch their playing and sit so quietly. It was a pair of magazines – one a catalog for Disney scrap-booking (who even knew there existed such a thing?), the other, some modern version of TeenBeat or whatnot, which (much to my horror) had a full page spread of that Justin Bieber character.
The girls dispersed pretty much as soon as my shadow hovered near them, leaving their magazines on my grass. As they – quite literally – flipped and cartwheeled further from my direction, I heard the oldest of the bunch (a second grader) declare in a dreamy, Marsha Brady-esque voice, I loooove him.
I let them go twirl off into the sunlit afternoon, remembering my elementary school self swooning over enormous posters of NKOTB or Kirk Cameron in a pastel popped collar on the cover of Tiger Beat. Oh, and then the later declarations of love for Brad Pitt (before he was actually well known) or Gavin Rossdale.
Love, in masking-taped collages and lit by twinkling Christmas lights around my bedroom.
Oh, love. As a word, you are so overused, and as a truth, you are so undersold.
Last night, I read this beautiful Anniversary Anthem by a friend of mine, where she counts the reasons why she loves her husband, the final being, because she promised to.
Now, that’s more like it.
The theme of it has been on my heart for months now, quite possibly because my weekends are often filled with attending weddings and witnessing new marriages, new commitments made in love. I see sand ceremonies, unity candles, hand binding. I see family trees marked with thumbprints as guest books and table centerpieces enhanced by poetry, by pictures of the couple, by names of places they hold as special to their hearts.
I appreciate it all. I appreciate the way people express their love, how they do their best to include family and friends in their love. I appreciate how love is celebrated.
And as I look now, two days ahead to my own wedding anniversary, I am appreciating these eleven years of learning how to love one another beyond the celebration and more as an action, not a concept.
Because love isn’t the butterflies and it isn’t the warm fuzzies, it’s the redirection of focus from yourself to another person. It’s giving when you would rather keep to yourself, it’s bending a knee when you would rather stand tall, and sometimes it’s letting go when you, really, really, really don’t want to.
I have always loved Vinnie, and I have been especially lucky that I have always liked him too. But I don’t always have the butterflies in my stomach when he walks through the door. I often do, but that’s also a frame of mind, a focusing on him as my lover and best friend that is a learned habit.
Love is a habit.
Love is a purposeful, intentional, action that you practice. Daily.
And lest you think I somehow consider myself I’m an expert on any of this, let me assure you, I am writing this all as a reminder to myself, as a wife, as a mother and as a friend.
Love is selfless. I want to be selfless.
I want love to not ever feel like a duty and always feel like a natural extension of my heart.
I want to not grumble or sigh heavily while giving away bites of deliciousness from my dinner plate to the children who flock to my side the very minute they see me with a fork in my hand. I want to show them love, (without the eye roll.)
Love is gentle. I want to be gentle.
I want to always have a soft, kind word even as I step down hard right on the corner of a LEGO brick as I’m walking through the children’s bedroom to put away a stack of folded clothing that will no doubt wind up on their floor within the next half an hour.
Love never fails. I want to…accept that I will fail.
I want to accept that Vinnie will fail and that in our marriage and in our family, we will have failings. We are human.
Because the love that never fails, it’s not human love. It’s something beyond our capabilities. But it is a promise – that even in our flawed attempts at love, in our weakest moments and at our prideful best – we are loved. Perfectly and without exception.
I want my children to understand that kind of love. The love that didn’t go to the cross because he had butterflies in his stomach, or because any of us were just soooo pretty that he couldn’t resist. The love that didn’t go with resentment or an eye roll, but rather wholly submitted and sacrificial.
Perfect love, in action.
It might not be doable, but it’s certainly a great reminder to my heart, when my own selfish thoughts and desires creep in. When I am distracted, when love seems more like a distant concept than a daily exercise.
Because God so loved the world, he gave.
(And as an aside, I kind of hate that I can in some small way attribute this morning’s revelation to Justin Bieber.)