A 6:00 A.M. Kinda Love

I’m in a not so crowded café on a blustery winter Friday. From the window, I can see the Rocky Mountains still snow capped from last week’s snowfall. A storm is rolling in and I’m hoping the French Onion soup and hazelnut latte I just ordered will warm me. Red and pink paper hearts dangle from the cafe’s ceiling and single white roses in tiny clear vases are at every table. I send my husband a text in all caps: THANK YOU. We aren’t big gift people but I told him I’ll consider this my Valentine’s day gift. He’s giving me the gift of time, away from it all, and in this moment I recognize just how loved I feel.

Love has looked like many things over the years. Our story begins with a friendship formed while washing dishes on a summer missions trip. That friendship led to candlelit dinners and sunset walks on the beach and dozens of flower bouquets in the following year. It led to a proposal on the front step of his parents house and my enthusiastic yes. During our engagement, we passed a notebook of love letters back and forth and tucked away in an ivory colored memory box at the back of our closet, is the poem he wrote to me on our first Valentine’s Day together. Next to it is a mixed CD of love songs (remember those?) he made me while we were dating. We’ve kissed on rooftops and danced under moonlight and buried underneath the romance we found a love worth keeping. Love was certainly in the romance. But it also wasn’t. And I didn’t know then that the lights would fade, the flowers would die, and love would have to be tried to be proven. I didn’t know that my favorite kind of love was going to be found in so many cups of coffee.

Almost eight years into marriage, love looks like an hour tucked away at this coffee shop right now. It’s a deep breath, a sigh of relief, a thank you. It’s Friday, his day off and the start to our weekend. By the end of the week I crave time to myself. No touching. No requests for water. No “Mommy, can you open my fig bar?” Nothing. As I sit here listening to Ed Sheeran through the speakers overhead, I think: this is love, too, because my husband sees me enough to take care of me in this way. This gift reminds me of who I was before fruit snacks and potty training and Paw Patrol took over. It’s a gift he knew to give because in 8 years of being together, he’s seen how to love me beyond flowers and sunsets and moonlight. I’ve learned how to be loved beyond the flowers and sunsets and moonlight. And I can see love in every hour of the ordinary days in the life we have built together. I see it in our kids. I see it all around me.

I notice love at 6:31A.M. It looks like a freshly brewed pot of coffee he made before I even got out of bed. It tastes like thoughtfulness and each ounce brings life to every tired bone in my body. Love looks like a hug for the Early Riser, our six year old, who joins us at the kitchen table to play Legos and finish homework, while we finish our cups of coffee, Bible chapters, and morning pages.

Love looks like making coffee. 

I notice love at 9:52 A.M. It looks like a drive across town. The Preschooler wants to go to Costco and wants their hot dog for lunch. Usually he requests new Legos and cupcakes and to eat the sprinkles straight from the jar. Those requests almost guarantee a no but this one I can say yes to. “Mommy, can we do this again tomorrow?

Love looks like saying yes.

I notice love at 1:32 P.M. It looks like a naptime request for snuggles through muted tears with bottle in hand from The Toddler. I pick him up and bring him to my chest. “He won’t be little for much longer.” So I squeeze him tight, whisper a prayer, and say goodnight.

Love looks like extra snuggles. 

I notice love at 4:42 P.M. It looks like a crockpot full of carrots, potatoes, and a hearty beef roast. The Four Boys clear the table of Legos, and crayons, and scraps of paper, and action figures. They balance cups and plates then carry over dishes one by one to collectively set the dinner table.

Love looks like teamwork. 

I notice love at 8:53 P.M. It looks like curling up on the couch after the kids are asleep. He picks the show and I pretend to like it. He makes my popcorn, though I’m the only one who will eat it.  I move over so he can sit by the wall and charge his phone. And next week, when our date night budget is only $5.95, we will grab some snacks, light a candle and play cards remembering the romance from the candlelit dinners of past and thanking God for all the days we’ve had together since. The love that smiles across the table is built from 8 years of trust forged through stumbling, fighting, falling, and finding our way back up together.

Love looks like togetherness. 

I notice love at 1:03 A.M. (on Monday, 2:13 A.M on Wednesday, AND 11:30 P.M. on Thursday)- “I had a bad dream” / “My leg hurts”/ “Can I sleep with you?” as The Preschooler crawls into our bed, asks for a pillow, asks for a blanket, asks for a prayer. 

Love looks like presence. 

I notice love, again, at 6:31 A.M. He makes the coffee, again. I make breakfast. He reads the Word. I write the pages. Then a kiss before work and an “I’ll shovel the driveway so you can take the boys to school.” 

Love looks like a shoveled driveway.

In a span of 24 hours, I notice love at it’s core is service. It’s the way my husband changes a diaper without being asked. It’s the way my kids play together as Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain America helping each other with their costumes and accessories. Love rises like the steam from that first cup of coffee, and it all fits together as the perfect puzzle pieces of my life, and no part is missing. I spent so many years wondering where Prince Charming was. I was looking for him while making out with a boy in the backseat of a truck in high school (sorry, Mom). And in college, I was looking for him in my sociology lectures and in Bible studies and at coffee shops. I watched my friends find the Loves of Their Lives and marry them one by one. I watched The Notebook and Sweet Home Alabama and made mental checklists of every thing I wanted my future husband to do:

Buy me flowers.

Kiss me in the rain.

Write me poetry.

Leave love notes on my pillow.

I didn’t know then that my Prince was waiting for me at a Bible school in Kansas City on a warm day in July. And one day, there would be a morning cup of coffee and a shoveled driveway, and I would feel seen and loved and known to the deepest part of my bones. And while he would indeed whisk me away with a treasury of love letters, it would be our ordinary life together with our house full of little boys that would reveal the depth of real, abiding love. The type of love that serves one another with sincerity and a glad heart.

In those lost and lonely years, I couldn’t see that one day that Prince would give me The Kindergartener whose love looks like helping. A thoughtful and kind six year old. One who runs up the stairs to grab the phone charger when asked, and sets the table for dinner without complaint. One who curls up next to me on the couch with limbs that no longer fit in my lap and eyes that look like his daddy’s. 

One day, he would give me The Preschooler whose love looks like wrestling. One who loves with every bit of his forty-five pounds when he jumps in my lap to tell me his latest joke. One who loves with tickling and hide-and-seek-ing and with his constant requests to “please carry me up the stairs”- ing. 

One day, he would give me the Toddler with a head full of curls whose love looks like snuggles and kisses and laughing so hard he gives himself hiccups. One who loves by holding my hand everywhere we go, and still fits in my lap for story time. 

One day, he would do homework with The Kindergartener and go to a therapy session with The Preschooler and read a story with The Toddler and I would fall in love with all the ways he shows up with his full presence and his full heart.

One day, he would give me a glorious two hours away at a coffee shop on his day off. Just so I could write. Just so I could rest. Just so I could feel seen and appreciated. In those early days of our relationship, I felt seen in the romance. Now I feel seen in his sacrifice. I didn’t know then that he would love through his service, and lead with his laughter and what I thought love looked like was only the gateway to opening up to the love I know now. It’s steady and secure, covering me in safety as I navigate the twists and turns of motherhood. It’s reliable and dependable, like a cup of coffee that warms my whole exhausted, sleep deprived body. It’s been forged through service and sacrifice and the vows we made to each other all those years ago. It’s weathered job loss and death, financial strain and depression, and a pandemic we were grateful to get through relatively unscathed. Love looks like the ocean blue eyes of a husband who loves me with how he sees me and the bright blue, deep green, and light blue eyes that peer up at us for reassurance. Love looks the five people who fill up this home. And tomorrow when I wake up, I know that love is waiting in the 6:00 A.M. freshly brewed pot of coffee.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Love Looks Like”.

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