See this man beside me:
Today is the 11th anniversary of when we first met. At a church Valentine's dance. We both laugh when we tell the story because it feels so cliche. I saw him across the room, introduced myself, we connected like I'd never connected with anyone before, and now we've been married for ten years.
In the eleven years since we've met, we have been through a lot. Four children, 20+ surgeries, so many ER visits I've lost count (for real), sleepless nights, anxiety, stress, medications to names I still can't pronounce, fainting, home health nurses, bills, and a plenty of difficult experiences I hope I never have to relive.
We've also had amazing, fun times together. Beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. But though our day-to-day actions and decisions are what make us who we are, I believe that we can truly see what we're made of in the difficult times.
And my husband is made of courage, strength, and love.
Here's a snapshot of real love:
It's sitting beside me in the doctor's office and hearing that our plans weren't going to be what we'd thought. That our son had Down syndrome with major medical issues. It's him comforting me, researching every little thing he could about the procedures our son would have to go through, and being there with me every single step of the way even though it was scary and difficult.
It's him staying overnight at the hospital with our son when it's my turn, because he knows how exhausted I am. That I can't face one more night with IVs beeping, bad news, and doctors coming in every hour, and even though it'll mean two nights of almost no sleep, he does it for me.
It's him working all day, then coming home and making dinner, taking care of the kids, taking care of me while I lie on the couch with an IV pumping vitamins and fluids into my arm for over six weeks. And being willing to go through something like that four times so we could bring our children into this world.
It's watching him hold each of our babies, then wrestling and tickling them when they get older, then helping them with their endless school projects and dreaming up new projects (like rockets or dance parties) to do on the weekends.
It's seeing him reach out to someone who is grieving, knowing that he grieves with them.
It's listening to me, really listening, when we need to talk.
It's always seeing the best in me, even when I know I'm not always at my best. He has never put me down, not once. He is a builder, not a destroyer.
It is knowing that I can trust him completely--emotionally and physically. He is my safe place.
It is in all the little, selfless decisions he makes every day that add up until they equal the kind of love that makes me thank God every single night that I went to that Valentine's Dance 11 years ago.
Don't settle for anything less than real love. There's a lot of counterfeit ideas out there trying to parade themselves as love, but love is patient and kind, trusting and hopeful. And it is a gift. One that if we have, we should cherish and treat well because love is worth it.