Yesterday I asked Daniel if he was expecting us to get something for each other this Valentine's Day (a little late, I know). He said "no."
"Good, me neither," I said.
It's not that I don't like Valentine's Day. It's actually quite the opposite. Both of us love holidays and celebrations, so we try to make something out of any occasion, even Valentine's Day. This year, real life has taken over and we are simply thankful to spend a quiet evening at home.
This is our sixth Valentine's Day together. We've never gone out on Valentine's Day, but instead have continued a tradition of Daniel making dinner for us. Every year it becomes more of a treat for me that someone besides myself makes dinner. But this year there won't be any flowers, there are no cards, and their certainly aren't any presents. Three months from today our third son will, Lord willing, be born and we just replaced our heater. Real life has eclipsed candy, cards, and flowers.
I used to not be okay with such ordinary efforts. In the days leading up to Valentine's Day, anniversaries, or my birthday, expectations were high and emotions were tense. Especially on Valentine's Day, I had a real time means of comparison in the form of Facebook and Twitter. With every poem written, bouquet displayed, and gift shared, envy and disappointment simmered inside me.
It's not that my husband isn't romantic or thoughtful. He's actually quite the opposite. But no husband or wife can live up to the perfection displayed on our computer (or phone) screens. And I felt the sting of not living up acutely. Sometimes I would forget about Valentine's Day and fail to write him a card, only to be met with a heartfelt letter from him over dinner that night. Sometimes he would rush to buy the ingredients for dinner and hurry through preparation because work doesn't stop for Valentine's Day.
The truth is we haven't had a "normal" Valentine's Day in a couple of years. Two years ago, the twins were in the NICU and we hurriedly ate a meal brought to us by a church member before heading to the hospital for our nightly visit with them. Last year, I was six weeks pregnant and could barely stomach food. This year, I'm pregnant again and we are smack in the middle of a busy work season for him.
But this year, unlike previous years, I'm okay with the ordinariness of our celebration. For too long I have lived for the mountaintop experience in every facet of my life. My marriage is no different. I have expected the unattainable romance of my imagination, when what I really needed (and had all along) was the steadfastness of covenant keeping love. What I'm learning is that life is not made up of the grand moments we all expect as much as it is forged by the ordinary moments that comprise our days. Our marriage isn't headed down the tubes because we long for the quietness of the ordinary, it simply means we are growing more comfortable in the safety of this life God has called us to.
It's easy to succumb to the pressure of the mountaintop experience. And I'll admit, there are some days that are such experiences. But they can't always be that way. Most of the time our days are fairly ordinary, but there is beauty in that. There is purpose in that.
I know that, for us, this is a season. So much of our disappointment over the ordinary is owing to the fact that we can't see our season for what it is--a season. There will come a day when we have more time for each other than we do now. There will come a day where we may have more money to buy things for each other than we do now. I imagine, from what I've heard from those older than me, that we will look back on these ordinary, routine days with sentimental joy knowing that it was in these moments that a family was made.
For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I'm thankful for this ordinary Valentine's Day. And I wouldn't want to share our ordinary with any other.