It's Valentine's Day, y'all!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

I had a cool stock photo picked out that I was going to use with an inspiring Bible verse about love for today's blog post—something like this: 

Instead, I decided to be real honest about what it's sometimes like—yes, even on holidays—in our household.

I gave the boys a bubble bath this morning—because it's the only bath they've had this week. Then I dressed them in their V Day duds and attempted to take their photo, and the above photo is the best I got. It's a stark contrast to the usual precious smiles I post regularly on social media.

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means that the perpetual internal battle I wage every holiday has reared its ugly head. It’s every holiday that my worth as a mom is challenged as I wring my hands about all of the super special things I should be doing with my kids to celebrate, all of the Pinterest-inspired craft projects and recipes we should sit around giggling and making together, so I can fill their proverbial scrapbooks full of handmade items they’ll treasure for years to come. (Because we all know tons of grown men who sit around gushing over their baby books.)

The first project I attempted was stressful enough, but I was having fun so I ignored the gnawing feeling that something was off. I had decided on an idea for a buddy valentine for Liam to give to his best friend. It involved me setting up a photo shoot in the kitchen of his wooden Thomas and Percy trains. I was so excited, and with my laser-sharp focus I set up a white backdrop against Liam’s anywhere chair, right in front of the kitchen window. I set Percy and Thomas right next to each other, and laid down right in front of them so I could get the perfect shot. I let Liam help, of course. And by help, I mean that I told him to get his trains so we could take a picture. He ran to get them, but then he wanted to play with them. When I set them down on the floor, he wailed. I tried to explain in my best upbeat voice the vision for my our project, but he crumpled over the side of his chair and sobbed. I found this odd and funny and even snapped a couple of photos of his toddler meltdown.

The second project was a Pinterest-inspired valentine for my husband from the boys. I “got the boys involved” by outlining their hands, and then I cut them out, shaped them in the sign language symbol for “I love you” and then glued them onto a piece of paper. I wrote out the words “We love you” in glue and sprinkled glitter over the letters, even making the “o” in love a heart. During this process, Liam asked to hold the cut-out hands, but I snapped them out of his fingers once he tried to put them in his mouth. Liam asked to hold the glue, so I twisted it shut before I let him hold it. 
Right then I had one of those moments where God gently and kindly whispers to me, “This isn't what it's all about.” (Those probably weren’t His exact words, but that’s my translation anyway.) This wasn’t really a valentine from the boys. I wasn’t letting them be involved at all except as bystanders eager to get their hands dirty. This was a valentine from me in hopes of impressing my husband and everyone else with my knack for handmade crafts (which, in all honesty I have NO knack for). Of course, he would love seeing the boys’ handprints, but would he enjoy more seeing something that Liam had colored himself, or glitter that Liam had glued down?  

Sometimes I can get all caught up in what we're supposed to be doing to celebrate a holiday that I miss the point of the day altogether. While today is a day devoted to celebrating love, love rarely looks like flowers and chocolate in our family. Instead, love looks less like heart-shaped cookies and more like me clipping the boys' toenails while they squirm and try to steal the nail clippers from my hand. It looks less like chocolate-covered strawberries and candlelit dinners and more like kissing my husband goodbye as he rushes out the door for work and I, covered in some avocado-banana mixture, try my best to feed Riley his breakfast. It looks like spilled coffee, spit-up on my pajama shirt, and a pile of laundry that my husband and I will tackle together this weekend.

My husband sheepishly presented me with a bouquet of a dozen white roses (my favorite) last night, but when I inquired about his odd demeanor, he explained how he went to two different stores to get them because Liam threw a righteous fit in the first store when he couldn't ride in the racecar buggy. That's real life. It's beautifully messy.

In the midst of meltdowns and daily chores, my heart longs to be still and just listen. My soul is aching to sit at the feet of Jesus and absorb the revelation of His love. The love that He generously and selflessly and resolutely pours out on us, not because we deserve it, not because it's expected or earned, but because that's just Who He is. It's a love that covers over all wrongs, breaks through the darkness, brings us freedom, and compels us to pursue Him and His holiness. It's a love that realizes we'll never get it completely right, and chases us down anyway. While flowers wither and chocolate gets eaten devoured, the love of our Heavenly Father endures forever. It's the only love we can count on.

I hope your day is filled with that kind of love!