I’m going to be honest: this last year has been anything but easy for my husband and me as far as finances go. In fact, this last Christmas, we opted to skip the gifts for each other and just concentrated on shopping for our girlies instead – a much better choice, we both agreed. But I have to admit, a small part of me missed opening a gift from him. It’s not so much the “getting” of more “stuff” that I missed, but rather, simply the unwrapping of that special gift from the person who holds my heart and discovering something he picked out specifically for me.
I once read that most relationship break ups occur shortly after a major “gift-giving holiday” as it exposes a lack of "paying attention" to what the other truly wants or needs. While this is true, I hardly think it would be something to base the existence of a relationship on.
So now, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. My husband has never been very big into the “Hallmark holidays” – neither of us really ever knows when Sweetest Day is – but he shocked me last week when he told me he knew exactly what he was going to get me this year for the holiday designed to celebrate love.
Get me? I thought in shock (and slight panic) as I hadn’t even thought about what I would get him in return, assuming we would be “skipping the gifts” again this time around.
But then I balanced the check book. After multiple trips to the vet for not just one but both of our dogs last month, two tuition bills for Mike’s classes this semester, purchases for desperately needed “winter-related” gear and a few other unexpected debit transactions, we’re once again left with barely enough money in the account to cover the mortgage this month. All we can do is pray that one of our tax returns comes through sooner rather than later and that nothing else unexpected happens in the next few days.
But what about the Valentine’s Day gifts?
Just as I was thinking about all of this the other day, something interesting happened. Mike and I had a busier-than-normal Saturday. Due to the financial struggles of the past several months, he started waiting tables a couple nights a week this fall to help ease the burden. Sometimes this involves coming home from his day job with just enough time to shower and change clothes before leaving again. Sometimes it means breaking from the fun of a Saturday (in this case), leaving our cozy home and his adorable daughters, and heading to work. I rarely make him “dinner” on these nights since he has to leave the house before 5pm and I’m usually busy doing something else at the time. But if there’s one thing I should know about my husband by this time, it’s that he is happiest when his stomach is full.
I think it came as quite the surprise to him when I asked, “Do you want me to make you anything to eat before you go?” and then proceeded to present him with several options – none glamorous, mind you, mostly frozen meals or reheated leftovers. “Sure!” he said with more enthusiasm than I had anticipated.
As I proceeded to fix him a bowl of chili, complete with sour cream and cheese, I remembered him mentioning that he had needed to throw his uniform in the washer that morning from the night before -- a uniform which was still in dryer. I quick ran to the basement, grabbed his shirt and pants (which were thankfully dry enough) and ran upstairs to deliver them shortly after he got out of the shower.
The smile that spread across his face was worth it all. It was such a little thing, but made such a big difference – in both his heart and mine.
I cannot even remember what I had been doing beforehand…maybe reading a book, maybe I was in the middle of a cleaning project. I could’ve continued whatever it was and let Mike take care of himself in the small amount of time he had before leaving for his shift. And he probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
But what I chose to do for him that afternoon, he did notice. And it felt wonderful.
That’s when I realized: maybe it really isn’t the exchange of “gifts” I’ve been missing, but maybe the daily exchange of “little things” I’ve been overlooking.
After all, this is my very best friend. My life partner. Why should he get the leftovers of my energy, my heart, my mind?
Proverbs 3:27 tells us:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.
How many times do I “withhold good” from my truest, most loyal friend? How many times has it been “in my power to act” and to show my husband love but yet I’ve failed to do so? When he thinks of me or talks about me to others, does he describe a godly, selfless woman who puts his needs above her own?
Perhaps we could all use a heightened sense of awareness to the little things that can be done everyday to show love to those who know us best. Perhaps this year during Lent, rather than “giving something up”, we could give more of ourselves.
I’m not sure how this Valentine’s Day is going to play out for us this year. But whether or not there will be gifts exchanged, what I do know is this: there will be lots of little things. And I pray that it lasts, not just for tomorrow, but for each day to come.