Today marks ten years that my then boyfriend, and now husband, said the words "I Love You" to me for the first time.
We have always been sappy about celebrating little (or big) anniversaries within our relationship and this one is no different. We call it "Love Day" Because without it, perhaps neither of us would have learned what it truly means to love faithfully, fruitfully, unconditionally, and without reservation.
Now, don't get me wrong. At the tender young age of 17, we certainly didn't view those three words in the same way we do today. But, thanks be to God, it was the starting point for us in our journey of sacrificial love for the Lord in our relationship and for one another. Ten years later, I sometimes chuckle at our young selves and how naive we seemed, yet, by God's grace, we were bound that day for the rest of our lives and I think we both knew it deep within...
It was a humid and sticky Friday evening in late October. Matt had asked me if I wanted to go on a mini date with him and, of course, I obliged. I say mini date because we were both scheduled to take the ACT test the next morning and had to be home by 9:30pm (how fun right?). I arrived at Matt's house to see that there was a table set up for dinner for two in his dining room, and after letting me believe for a seconds that it was for us, he informed me it was for his parents. We ventured out for a walk to the nearby park instead. It was nearing sunset and although it was rather hot outside, it was nice to be outside and spend some much needed time together amidst our busy high school schedules.
As we made our way around the trail inside the park, I noticed our friend Jason's SUV in one of the parking lots and excitedly told Matt that I thought Jason was there and we should go say hi. Matt, however, took this as his cue for pulling out a blindfold and making me wear it for the duration of our adventure. Not realizing until that moment that this was indeed going to be an adventure, I began to get excited about any upcoming events. After all, Matt was (and is) known to wittingly pull things off that I could never pull off in a million years so I knew then, that he had something up his sleeve.
As we continued walking with me still blindfolded, I felt us starting to go uphill and stop at the top. At this point it was twilight (my favorite time of day! probably because of these events) and Matt asked if I was ready. At that moment, I was seriously thinking that someone was going to come dump a bucket of water on my head or something ridiculous, but I said yes and he proceeded to take the blindfold from my eyes. Immediately I noticed the light of the moon shining on the grass at the bottom of the field, and then I saw them. In the valley below the hill, were twinkling tea candles that spelled out the words "I love you" and my heart just soared. I was taken aback and speechless so I didn't really respond until probably 15 minutes later (poor Matt!) but it was quite the special moment for us. We spent the rest of the evening on the hill talking, laughing, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. On that day, our relationship was elevated to a whole new level and the doors were opened for us to begin learning what sacrificial love was all about.
Its been quite the journey and I still feel like it has just begun! Matt and I's relationship, and now marriage, has stretched me in ways I didn't know I could stretch and thanks to his excellent example of selflessness and gentleness, I have learned what it means to choose to love the other, to choose to love his soul and not just the things on the surface. Its not just about the fuzzy and warm feelings inside - although those are nice - but rather, about making the conscious decision to love one another daily, for the rest of our lives, regardless of what twists and turns life may take. In fact, real love is found in the depths of the most challenging moments: in the tough conversations, in the fog of sleep deprivation due to a newborn, in the days where one of us is so sick that the other must pick up all of the slack. When we choose to put the other's needs ahead of our own regardless of how much it hurts, that is where the heart is stretched to capacity and God gives the grace to enable love to multiply.
What a wonderful gift that Matt gave to me on that evening of October 22. It is most definitely a moment I will never forget =)
I was especially elated when I found out that October 22 would be designated as the feast of Saint John Paul II, whose writings on Theology of the Body were the foundation that God used to build Matt and I's relationship so early on. Saint John Paul the Great, Pray for us!!
"It's not enough to Love, people have to feel that they are loved." -Saint John Bosco
Shout out to Elise and Molly of BlairBennet's photography who made our wedding come to life in such a special way =)