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Challenge: Romance After Kids

Real romance: Supermarket flowers and taking out the trash

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As a newlywed, I used to want my husband to buy me flowers. Not just any flowers, mind you—but ones from the fancy floral shop. They come in an elegant white box, fastened shut with a gold seal and tied up tight with a big, shimmery bow. Back then, if he would have brought me a simple bouquet from the grocery store—decorated only with a bright orange clearance sticker—I would have concluded that he really didn’t love me.

Fast forward a decade or two. Now we had a mortgage. And three kiddos to feed. We were living on a budget so tight it squeaked. If my dear hubby would have purchased the fancy-pants flowers and brought them home to me during that season of life, he wouldn’t have been met with a thank you kiss, but with a wife coming ever-so-slightly (but rightly!) unglued, proclaiming, “What? Are you crazy? We can’t afford to drop that kind of money on flowers!"

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Over the years I have learned to now appreciate when he comes home with a neon-stickered, supermarket spray of on-clearance roses. His way of impressing me now lies in getting those babies at the lowest price possible. His current record is a dozen peach roses—the color we had in our wedding—for only two bucks! Better yet, my heart flutters when he is weeding outside and stops to pick a rogue daisy that is growing wild between the sage and rosemary in my herb garden. He knocks on the back-deck door and, when I open it, he presents it saying sheepishly, “I like you.”

Throughout the seasons of marriage, romance itself seasons—it grows up and matures. We can learn to notice the quiet gestures of love when we stop looking for the flashy and obvious long enough to notice the unassuming and inconspicuous instead.

Do you know how I now interpret my man’s love for me? It’s not measured in costly gifts or romantic weekend getaways. I’m not shown love by any eloquent speeches of all the qualities he adores in me. Nope. My guy is a man of very few words.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize his love for me in other ways. When I spy the kitchen counter, emptied of the heap of dirty dishes I just couldn’t seem to get to that day. By his willingness when the kids were small to serve on clean up duty after one of them got sick in the wee hours of the night. By the full tank of gas in our vehicle I rarely have to think about—let alone to pump.

Let’s determine to stop looking for the flashy, idealistic gestures of romance and hunt for simple signs of true love instead.

True love isn’t a man who will race through the rain down a crowded city street to passionately embrace his wife, beseeching her to return after a lovers’ quarrel.

Real romance isn’t tethered tightly to a hefty price-tag, showing its affections by emptying a bank account—or worse by going deep into debt—in order to prove its intense longings for another.

True love isn’t flashy, wanting others outside of your marriage to cheer and applaud for its intricate, imaginative gifts.

Authentic love isn’t proved by things shiny or perfect or expensive. Not at all.

So, what is it then?

True love is the steadfast presence of your lover; the willingness to stick it out when things get rocky in your roles as parents. It demonstrates love when no one else is looking. True love is wholly committed, costing the giver time and effort. It gives with no expectation of recognition or return.

True love seeks to lighten the other’s load. It attempts to understand the other’s feelings; to sooth the unsettled soul of its love.

Real romance takes out the trash without being reminded, changes the baby’s diaper when mama is plain tuckered out, or swings by the husband’s office just to drop off his favorite snack for his afternoon break. It recognizes that a dreamy date doesn’t have to include an extravagant restaurant, followed by a night of live theatre. It can be experienced while eating mustard-laden, concession stand hotdogs as you watch your child play baseball on a spring afternoon.

True love lays down its rights—and seeks to do no wrong. It places the other’s wishes above its own. True love is not a public fist-pump. It loves in the secret places of the heart and then shows it in quiet ways, right there in the microscopic minutes of mundane family life.

So, skip the costly. Reject the impressive. Learn to both look for—and more importantly to perform—simple acts of kindness and consideration that will demonstrate true love toward your spouse.

Karen Ehman is a NYT bestselling author, Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and writer for Encouragement For Today. Her new book, Keep Showing Up: How to Stay Crazy In Love When Your Love Drives You Crazy, is available for preorder now. Visit KeepShowingUpBook.com to purchase and receive exclusive preorder bonuses.

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