My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**

Quiet Time

It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon here in “The Plains”, as we like to call the community where my husband and I live with our three small kids.  Not that there are actual plains anywhere nearby, but whatever.

We’ve just returned home from a busy play date at the home a new friend from church.  Seven mommies and eleven children under six, all together under one roof.  Coffee mugs, bottles, sippies, nursing babies, and one very special water bottle, purchased for somebody’s first soccer game last weekend.  In a sequence of moments that were anything but quiet and serene, we spent our morning together.

“Is that happy squealing or hurt squealing?” we asked one another repeatedly as our young children played together.  We took turns investigating odd sounds coming from the rec room, and alternated intervening in mild disputes over toys and snacks.  We replaced articles of clothing that had been discarded, questioned them as to why their socks were so wet when they hadn’t gone outside (had they?), coached them on appropriate social behaviours, encouraged cooperative play, and passed around the six babies, all of whom are at various stages in their first year of life.  We chatted, we laughed, we sympathized, we shared, we interrupted, we encouraged.  “Chaos!” you imagine.  “Lovely!” I tell you.

We are both right.

How my expectations for social gatherings have changed these past four and a half years!  A “lovely” morning out used to mean something very different.  I would arrive on time and already relaxed after having spent well over an hour getting ready, choosing a flattering outfit that fit well, applying make-up, and styling my hair while Bach’s cello suites floated over the sound waves in my immaculately clean house.  It usually involved quiet chit chat where sentences and stories were finished, the smell of spa products or freshly baked treats from a local café filled the air, and I would be in the delightful company of one, or perhaps two, girlfriends who had spent their mornings in much the same way that I had.  Then there would be a quiet drive home to an empty house, still immaculately clean but painfully quiet.  I would then turn on some music to fill the silence.

By rather extreme contrast, the drive home in our mini-van today involved “Silly Songs With Larry” and was liberally peppered with questions shouted from the back row of the vehicle where my two small sons sat in their car seats within easy slapping distance of one another.  My tiny daughter somehow managed to fall soundly asleep, despite the decibels, while I tried to think of something other than the fact that my clean-this-morning shirt now smelled faintly of regurgitated green peas, breast-milk, and bananas.

And now we’re home.  My bitty princess has been tucked into her crib and my small sons are having their regularly scheduled afternoon “Quiet Time”.  This can mean different things on different days, but the one aspect that remains the same is that they are not allowed in Mommy’s kitchen until summoned.  Even more than they do, their Mommy needs quiet, and their Mommy needs time.

Time to do what?  Many possible answers come to mind: our normally tidy house is, well, not so much.  In our hurry to arrive at our friend’s house “on time” (yet another phrase whose meaning has changed dramatically over time!), we left our beds unmade, small pajamas on the floor, breakfast dishes in the sink, clean laundry on the stairs in a basket, dirty clothes on the floor in the laundry room, and toys on the floor.  My hard-working husband will be home in a few hours, and his supper is, at this point, a good idea but far from a reality.  It is, however, neither of these tasks that will fill my sacred hour of “Quiet Time”.  That is not to say that they aren’t there, nagging, pulling, and distracting me as I sit at my counter with my cup of tea growing cold beside me, but that today I choose to put them aside, because this hour is not for tasks, or for doing.

This hour is for stillness.

This hour is for re-focusing, and not for planning.

For listening, and not for speaking.

For repenting, and not for regretting.

For forgiving, and not for nursing hurts.

For receiving from Him, and not for demanding of Him.

And always, this hour is for choosing to embrace with both arms this season of diapers, mini-vans, sippies, Treehouse, tantrums, questions, snuggles, night-time wakings, wonder, and the joy that comes from giving of myself to these little ones until it seems impossible that anything remains.  It is for knowing that there is still this Faithful One who gives to me so that I may keep giving to them.  For knowing that while I strive to meet their needs, that my own are likewise being met.

This hour is for deep thankfulness for seven mommies and eleven little ones to share my morning with.

This hour is for Quiet Time.

-Amanda