Day Eleven: Take good care. Whatever that care might look like. Sometimes, romance is just being there for your person.
I dropped Geo off for his morning class and headed down to the church to touch bases with our church administrator. Get a feel for how Sunday went–just a quick check in before heading back home to my day jobs. Since we were iced/snowed in this Sunday, I had left instructions with staff for all my kiddos to use their activity bags (stuffed with fun things to color, a snack, stickers!) if I didn’t make it down the hill to teach Sunday School.
Clearly, I didn’t.
So, I was a little surprised to find our Sunday School classroom trashed. Art supplies everywhere — small children had clearly been making things in the space last Sunday when they should have been hanging out with their parents using their activity bags.
Which, for the record, I’m typically cool about. The kids know they’re allowed to use the craft supplies just so long as they put everything back. I’m more than happy to let you play and create when I’m not there: but I’m not keen on picking up your messes. We’ve had this conversation. More than once. And as a church, we have this conversation every February: we call it Stewardship!
And as if it was not enough, I walked into the girl’s bathroom and found my feet sticking to the floor. Oh, the ewww factor. The more I looked around the space, the more I knew that it needed some real care. It’s not my job to clean those spaces, but it was clear those spaces needed some love.
After talking with our administrator, I headed home and told IZ, “I’m so peeved at the moment, but it would be a really good idea if I went back and cleaned right now. I just hate to strand you at work.”
“It’s OK, you should go. You clean better when you’re angry anyhow.”
Oh, did I mention I clean best when I’m angry? Yeah, I do.
Here’s the thing, I had plans for today. Plans for my job job, plans for Mirieo and this blog, plans that did not involve deep cleaning a public bathroom and classroom at church.
But I also knew that these things needed to be done and well, I might as well do it now when I’m motivated.
As IZ shooed me out the door, I realized: sometimes plans fall through. And sometimes, true love is about taking good care of the people and things in your life.
Caring for a church and the children in it: even when they trash rooms when they shouldn’t.
Caring for a loved one and making room for them to do the important things to them, even when it doesn’t fit your agenda. Saying, “GO!” when it would be better for you if they stayed.
It’s now 3 pm. The girl’s bathroom is less sticky. My classroom is picked up (thanks to the lovely ministerial staff who saw the problem and fixed it for me). I’m a bit spent from all the cleaning and if I’m honest, all I really want right now is a Starbucks.
As Valentine’s Day approaches we are all focused on the beautiful — and so we should be. Cards and flowers and poetry, these are the things we cherish. These are the gestures of love. I’m not a skeptic, I think these gestures have staying power. It’s why we keep doing them: they work!
But I also treasure that romantic gesture of being “seen”. Of having someone understand what is important to me (even if it’s being a bit OCD about a bathroom at church!) and supporting me.
When that same person can say, “Really? You just need a Starbucks?” — well, that might just be love in a paper cup.
How do you take care of the ones you love?
Day Six: For you procrastinators, free printable adult Valentines via Camille Styles.
Despite all my posts about romance this week, the heart of intimacy really isn’t about the gifts you give or the how they’re wrapped. It’s about connecting with your loved one at a deeper level: and that means romance can take on lots of different forms. One of my favorites is something I call a “Remember When Walk.”
It’s nothing formal we do, although that would work too. But, sometimes when IZ and I are walking the riverfront, we fall into a pattern, “Remember when. . . ” one of us will say and then begin to share a memory that binds us. We ping pong back and forth, reweaving the connective threads of our combined story. After nearly 30 years of friendship and love, there’s a lot of story to recall.
We remember the beauty: a baby born, a favorite trip to our beloved Santa Barbara, a cherished moment when we felt connected and loved. We recall the hard times: babies lost, moves and changes, the times when we felt most distant from each other. And we retell all the tiny little “inside” jokes that would make no sense to anyone but us –yet make us laugh, over and over again.
Here’s the thing, though — sometimes, I don’t remember when. IZ will share something and the memory isn’t fresh for me. Or even recognizable! For whatever reason, what stood out to him about a particular time didn’t find its way into my memory bank. In the early years, this would have hurt some feelings. Especially on my part. Feeling like we should share the same memories, that somehow we might not be on the same page if we hadn’t prioritized the same set of moments. But through the years I’ve learned what a gift it is that we are so different! In these rare moments, I get to see the world differently than I normally would: through his eyes, his memories. And his point of view never ceases to amaze me!
We have both learned to ask the deeper questions, “What made you remember that?” “What about that moment was important to you?” Even “What on earth brought THAT up?” In the process, we’ve learned more about each other; because here’s another thing — it’s always MORE than the memory. There’s always another thread to the story, waiting to be told. Waiting to be remembered. When you look deeper and ask those questions, you learn something (often something new!) about this person walking beside you. Every time! What you learn becomes another reason to love this person walking beside you. And if you need a reason to fall in love again, remembering how you did so in the first place is an excellent way to begin.
So, this Valentine’s Day–I encourage you to consider taking a long walk to remember when. No matter the length of your relationship or the depth, your story is one worth remembering, repeating, and in the end, rejoicing over. You found each other. And that’s something worth celebrating.
Need some help? Here are some questions to get the ball rolling:
- Do you remember when you knew, for certain, that I was the one?
- Remember our first fight? (have a good laugh at the hard times… or a good weep!)
- Remember when we decided to have babies together?
- What do you think has been the biggest obstacle we’ve overcome together?
- Remember our first kiss?
- Remember when. . . (I bet you can fill in this blank!)
PS: sometimes, this is a lot of fun to do while holding hands. Which, as it turns out, is also a romantic thing to do!
Day Two: Love Letters
Years ago (26 to be exact!), IZ began writing me these lovely, lovely letters. We weren’t dating yet, but far away from each other at college. And every week, I would find a letter in my box written on the softest rose colored paper. They smelled faintly of his cologne, his tiny script so familiar. The distance between us bridged by words on a page.
I was so lonely at college. Lonely for home, lonely for the familiar, lonely for him. His words made it easier to be apart, easier to stand the distance between us.
Eventually, his letters would be full of his heart for me. I returned his feelings in kind. We romanced and courted (such an old fashioned word!) on paper first. Our letters filled with our hopes and dreams and our growing love for each other. And if you wonder how a long distance relationship can work: well, I would tell you letter writing doesn’t hurt!
It became our tradition: to write love letters to each other whenever we were at a distance. When he traveled for business, or I would leave to visit family: there was always a packet of letters waiting. We mailed things in advance or tucked notes into suitcases. Little love notes shoved into hands at the airport, or hidden in coat pockets to be found later.
I don’t think we’ve ever broken the tradition. I cannot recall a time apart from him that I didn’t also have a stack of love letters to keep me company. Typically with directions written on the envelope, “Open when you miss me.” “Open on Wednesday.”
We travel less and less on our own these days: our life has let us spend what little time we do on the road, together. So, in the past few years the volume of actual letters has dwindled. But I remember all those love notes fondly. I read them from time to time: remember who we were when they were written. And I know he keeps all of my letters as well.
Someday, our grandchildren will read our letters to each other (well, most of them!) and know that their grandparents loved each other enough to put pen to paper. It’s a lovely thing to hear “I love you.” And perhaps, even more lovely, to read it. On rose colored paper — in the cramped hand of the one you adore.