Before I was married, I had this romanticized picture of what my future husband would be like. Like a lot of women, I had a list of attributes I thought I wanted in a husband. I say “I thought I wanted” because my husband turned out to be totally different than what I imagined he would be, and I’m so glad! His differences compliment me (and yes, sometimes annoy me!). I never realized how God would use my husband to help me grow. His differences have helped me become stronger, less selfish and free to be the woman God created me to be.

I say that after 18 years of marriage. I must admit, over the past 18 years there have been times that I’ve been frustrated with him. I’ve had certain expectations of what I wanted him to be, and in my mind he hasn’t always measured up. I used to have a “heart-shaped box” mentality of love. A romantic, “Valentine’s Day” type of love with lots of hand-holding and gazing into my eyes telling me how beautiful I am. He would always understand my needs and feelings. Mr. Sensitivity. I think after about one year of marriage, we both looked at each other and wondered what planet the other was from!

There’s something I’ve learned over the years about love. The true love that we are all seeking is not a feeling. It’s the love that is characterized by the nature of God. A love that strives for the greatest good for another person. It’s kindness, patience, compassion, and a forgiving heart. It’s believing the best. And my husband has been a reflection of every one of those attributes through our 18 years of marriage. He’s not perfect, but he does love me. I just had to take love out of the “heart-shaped” box and see it for what it really is.

A few days ago, I was meeting my husband at our son’s basketball game. The weather outside was very snowy and the roads were getting slippery. My husband knows how nervous I get driving on snow-filled roads. By the time the game was over, it was dark and the snow had accumulated even more. My husband said, “Follow me home and if I’m driving faster than you’re comfortable with, flash your lights and I will slow down.” As I was following him, I flashed my lights and sure enough, he slowed down for me. I knew he was not the least bit nervous and didn’t feel the need to slow down, but he did it for me. He never once belittled me or made me feel silly or irrational. He just cared about me. As I was following him, I felt loved by him.

That moment reminded me of many other times he has shown his love for me. Not with lots of hand holding and eye gazing, but acts of kindness, compassion and self-sacrifice.

Often times we receive gifts for those special milestone celebrations. Sometimes they even come in a heart-shaped box.  They are beautiful things! But even more beautiful than those gifts are the loving acts we receive throughout the year. Whether from our husbands, families, friends, or God; whose loving-kindness is new for us every day of the year.

May you recognize and receive His love for you today!