The clock on the wall was trying to make me laugh. The second hand would pause, then jump two seconds at a time. Every time.
Nice try, clock.
I watched as the minute hand dragged around the entire round body.
I laid on my back in the dark room listening to the strange sounds coming from just beyond the green curtain. Shadows rushed back and forth, and still I waited.
I looked to my left and studied the lines of color set in a dark frame. It was titled “Spring Flowers” and consisted of chunks of horizontal stripes.
I lowered my eyes further still and there he was propped up in the uncomfortable chair. His head was leaned back against the white wall and his heavy eyes were finally closed, his breathing sinking into a regular rhythm. He’d finally fallen asleep, and I was glad. He’d refused to go home and get some real sleep even though he had to be up for work in 3 and a half hours, and he’d been here all night with me.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…”
The bag above my head dripped steadily down the clear tubes into my arm, and I wondered how much longer it would be. I shifted on the narrow bed, pulling the thin gown lower over my legs. He had stood above me hours before, gently tying the white cotton ties down my spine as my taped hands rested on my lap.
I hadn’t expected to be there. I silently wondered if I’d have time to go home and change before my surgery, the one scheduled at another hospital in another town with another surgeon. I had to be there in just a few hours.
“That’s some bad luck,” the ER doctor had said.
I took a deep breath and watched the hiccuping clock.
Finally, we were in the car and driving the winding roads home.
My frustrations turned to liquid and I wiped my nose with my light blue sweatshirt sleeve, and he took my hand before I could set it down again.
The moon was cut perfectly in half, and I stared at the glow hanging there above the mountain’s silhouette and wished we were back in the woods, back to the places where he’d been taking me more and more often lately.
I’ve been in a battle with my body. For months and months, the four barn walls I sit within day after day have turned into a battlefield that he’s entered at the end of every long shift.
So he started taking me out of it. Driving me out to the forgotten places and lighting warm fires beneath the late spring forest leaves, offering gifts to every one of my senses.
It felt good to be out from under my tin roof and beneath the heavy canopy on the edge of the north cascades just as the warm spring breeze started sharing secrets with summer.
We’d sit on fallen logs and tie our happy dog nearby.
I’d take a deep breath and look at him in that Levi’s jacket beside me. Maybe he’d shoot me a crooked smile. I’d boomerang it back.
He’d pull out his guitar and the hours would pass easily. Peacefully.
I wished we were there.
Instead, we drove back to the battlefield in the darkness. He took my hand in the pre-dawn living room as our clock ticked softly in the background.
This marriage has been a funny thing.
I’ve learned more about love in these past 9 months of being married than in the last 9 years.
Crazy, wonderful, messy, humbling love.
I wasn’t as sick when we first started dating, and as my body began to fight harder and harder after our wedding, my soul became sick with grief.
It’s funny to me that I used to wait to call him until I was completely ready. I didn’t want to be caught unaware, I wanted everything to be ready. I wanted to be sure I’d swapped the baggy sweats for something cute. Made sure my hair was dry. The dishes were put away. The living room cleared of the evidence of last night’s sleeplessness. The record player ready on that perfect song and the twinkle lights on. I set the stage for a show that I put on again and again.
My ridiculous, inflated pride.
Vanity went out the window as my need for him grew. As my trust for him multiplied. He stepped up, and my pride grudgingly stepped down.
Friends, strangers, dear readers: The loss of your own vanity often makes way for the deepest and truest love. Love is showing your imperfections. Love is accepting others’. True love isn’t the twinkle lights. True love isn’t the fairytale, it’s endurance through the Grimm’s tales. Loving throughout the ugly, the dark, the dirty. This is the love of Christ in action.
Now he’s close while I throw up. He sleeps on the recliner when I’m stuck sleeping in the living room day after day. He wakes me up when I forget to take my medicine, watches the Food Network with me, tolerates my horrible sleeping habits, cooks dinner for me and serves me on the couch when walking burns like fire. He smiles the same way at me when I’m dolled up and out on the town as after I’ve cried all my makeup off in a tshirt I haven’t changed in 3 days. His love is constant in my ever shifting world.
Growing up, I could so clearly see the kind of woman, wife and mother I one day wanted to be.
Now in reality, my true self looks nothing like that old picture I used to have hanging in my mind. Sometimes I still grieve for that woman I’ll never be. And lately, I’ve found myself grieving for her for his sake.
I grieve for the silly little idea of normalcy.
For the dirty pair of imaginary hiking shoes that aren’t next to his by the front door.
For the backpacking trips that I’ll never join him on.
For the road trips that once required no planning.
I grieve for all the mornings he wakes up to find me on the couch again, watching movies to pass the time and pain.
The frozen dinners.
The canceled plans.
The half planted garden.
I grieve for the future them.
“Love does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”
Inadequacy is a sticky trap, and once you fall into the feeling it’s like fighting a quicksand tide.
As I spend my time dwelling on how much better I would be if only – then I become my greatest fear literally as I fear for it: an unhappy, unproductive shadow of the person I want to be. The person this body’s creator wants me to be. The clock is ticking and I’m wasting precious seconds two at a time.
I have to throw away that dusty photoshopped picture of what I thought I’d be at 28.
I have to practice facing the truth without resenting it. I have to practice facing the truth and finding real joy in it. I have to stop apologizing for things I can’t control. I have to stop worrying that the past will repeat itself.
I have to stop standing knee deep in questions about why God chose me for him.
Instead, I’ll marvel at the daily offering of real, sacrificial love that feeds my soul – in sickness and in health.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…”
I woke up a couple hours later as he was leaving for work. The sun hadn’t yet climbed over the mountain.
My face felt puffy in the darkness, and I began to stir.
He picked up his keys and walked over to the side of the bed.
Jesus’ hands are in many places. When he holds mine, I feel HIS.
“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”
The clock ticked in the background as I rose.
I Corinthians 13:4-7
3 thoughts on “Love Is”
Again…such honesty and beautifully written.
Thank you for sharing your pain and what God is speaking to you and through you with others, Randi. I am reminded of the poet’s words “They also serve who only stand and wait.”(John Milton, On His Blindness). I cannot begin to imagine how hard this road has been or will be, but know that God’s light is shining through you in spite of the enemy’s whispers to the contrary. Praying for strength, for healing, and for you to know the influence your life has on so many. Blessings!
So beautifully said Randi. I pray daily for you but I do know that the GOD that created the universe loves you deeply!!!!!! You are very very special! I love you my sweet and precious niece!!!!!!