Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

That’s a lot of clothes

Clothes on a clothesline

While visiting the compound where Weldu lived before we brought him home, I was struck by how many clothes were hanging up to dry. They were hanging everywhere. It was like a web of clotheslines as you walked through the compound.

In my heart, each one of these clothes that I saw dangling on the clothesline represents a child who has been left dangling. I saw many of them face-to-face while we were there. They are children who have no family, but desperately want a family. They need a family. But because of a variety of reasons, from red tape to health concerns, these children have been left dangling.

Adoption in Ethiopia is unpredictable. It’s a roller coaster ride, to say the least. And there’s always a chance it might become even more unpredictable.

That’s why I need you to pray with me.

Continue reading That’s a lot of clothes

Brotherly Love

Mom Aiden and Weldu at Cultural Dinner celebration

I was driving Aiden to school one morning shortly after we had brought Mihret home from Ethiopia. I was a little shocked at the words that came out of his mouth.

When are you going to bring home a brother for me?

Uh…

I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.

I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. I mean, we had just brought Mihret home. And the transition wasn’t exactly going well. Truth is, we were still exhausted from the flight home and from the continual lack of sleep. How could he be thinking of adding another kid to our family already? As I thought about it, though, I understood. The balance of power had shifted. He was the only boy in our family. He was outnumbered. And I started to see his point. He needed a brother.

He had me convinced. All it took was that simple, innocent question.

Some six years later, we took Aiden with us as we flew to Ethiopia to bring his brother home with us. And it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

Two brothers playing soccer. I mean, football.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Aiden and Weldu posing in front of a school

They became instant friends. In some ways, it’s almost like they’ve known each other for years. I mean….they even have their own secret handshake.

Hanging out during a flat tire

Weldu meeting Mihret

Weldu and Aly Aiden and Weldu - first meeting

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero!

I think Marc Brown is right. Sometimes being a brother is better than being a superhero! It’s also pretty cool to have a brother. I know both from experience.

Todd family of SIX

You know, it’s taken far too long for us to be able to say this, but WELCOME HOME, WELDU! We’re excited to have you part of our crazy family. Our journey is really just beginning, but you’re already a pretty amazing brother. I now there will be some rough days in the future. That’s a given. Everyone goes through them – especially in the teenage years. But there will be some pretty amazing experiences we’ll have along the way, too. During the easy, happy times and the tough, sad times, I know this: we’re going to walk through them hand in hand.

Together.

As a family.

Because that’s what we are.

All six of us.

My day in court

Dad and Weldu  - first trip last day

On Tuesday morning, December 22, I joined a dozen other families from around the world in a small 30 foot by 30 foot room on an upper floor in an Ethiopian courthouse. All of us were there for the same thing. So one by one, families were ushered into the adjacent judge’s chambers for an interview. When the family would complete their interview, they would leave the judges’s chambers with smiles on their faces. And they were greeted by congratulatory handshakes and the occasional high-five from the people around them.

When it was finally my turn, I was escorted into the judge’s chambers. The door closed and I shook the judge’s hand as I sat down in a chair in front of his desk. He began to ask me questions in order to confirm our family’s eligibility to adopt “W.”

None of the questions were tough. And none really came as any surprise. But they have me the opportunity to share my heart and show how we hadn’t entered this adoption journey without serious thought and prayer. I love this boy. And Christy loves him, too. Our whole family loves him. And that’s how it should be. Right?

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Weldu Josiah entered the world more than a dozen years ago. He entered our world about a year ago. In our hearts, he’s been our son since that day we first laid eyes on him. He was our son when Christy met him in July. He was our son when I met him shortly after stepping off the plane in Addis.

And on December 22, we were legally declared capable of adopting Weldu into our family. On December 22, Weldu became a Todd.

Dad and WelduIn a few weeks, we’ll have an appointment scheduled with the US Embassy in Addis. Then we’ll be making one more flight to the Land of Coffee and 13 Months of Sunshine. And we’ll take Weldu into our arms and bring him home. 

It’s been a long journey. But this kid is worth it. He’s so worth it.

 

Our biggest adoption update yet

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, let me tell you.

On Saturday, we received a letter from the Immigration office. It included this phrase:

USCIS is pleased to inform you that we have preliminarily determined that the beneficiary child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States as an orphan…

I’ll admit that it’s hard to celebrate some of those words. They’re full of loss. And hurt. And sadness. While that phrase “as an orphan” breaks my heart, this determination is a big deal. It means that we have cleared the PAIR investigative process. It means that one more hurdle has been cleared. We are one step closer to bringing “W” home as our son.

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

Then we got a call Monday morning. Courts in Addis were closed Monday and Tuesday, but our agency was convinced that there would be a very quick turnaround on the next step, which is a court appearance in Ethiopia. Because Christy already met him, I am to fly out to Ethiopia, meet my son for the first time, and then tell the Ethiopian government that yes, our family does intend to adopt “W” and that we will bring him into our family as one of our own. The agency staff was so convinced about the possibility of a quick turnaround, they were pretty sure that I would be due in court sometime early next week.

That meant that I needed to book a flight out of the States as soon as possible. Of course, there was a chance that the court wouldn’t schedule me to appear that week. So there needed to be some flexibility. But I needed to buy a ticket as soon as possible.

After some drama in trying to find an available seat, we were finally able to purchase a ticket on Monday night, some six hours after learning that I might have a court appearance very, very soon.

And then we waited.

I’ll be honest. Tuesday was a very long, emotional day. It was full of anticipation. But it was also full of caution. We couldn’t wait for the courts to open. Hopefully they would do their scheduling very soon. But in the meantime, I listened in on a travel conference call with our agency, learning as much information as possible in preparation for a potential visit this weekend.

Christy got the email Wednesday morning. She called me right away.

I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!

I get to meet my son for the first time this weekend!

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An adoption journey ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip. And I’m going to miss out on a few family functions, but I’ll be home for Christmas (hey, isn’t that a song or something?) and holycowIgettomeetmyson!

I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I won’t be bringing him home with me. There’s one more step after this one. It involves travel. Again. But this time Christy and I get to go together. And we get to meet the fine folk at the US Embassy again. And hopefully everything goes as expected during our visit to the Embassy.

And then we’ll head home. And our family of SIX will finally be together.

But first things first. I’ve got to get to Ethiopia and meet my son (HOLYCOW!). And then meet with a judge. And sometime after that, assuming all goes as it should, we’ll (hopefully) be named “W’s” legal guardians in the eyes of the Ethiopian government.

And then the clock starts ticking to that final trip to Ethiopia to bring this boy HOME!

The update we’ve been waiting 11 months and 15 days for…

"11 months and 15 days..." -  hourglass - Original image credit: Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons
Original image credit: Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons

 

11 months and 15 days.

Almost 50 weeks.

Close to 350 days.

Approximately 8395 hours.

That’s how long we’ve been waiting for a document from W’s home region. It’s an important document that’s required for the US Embassy to be able to complete their investigation for the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process. Submitting to PAIR is the final hurdle to clear before we’re able to travel to Ethiopia and bring W home.

We received notice that our case was submitted to PAIR today!

This is HUGE news.

It seemed like the timeline for completing this adoption had been in a holding pattern while we waited for this document to be completed. And now it’s finally submitted and the clock can start moving again!

While it’s not time for me to start packing my bags just yet, we can now confidently say that it should be happening soon. Like, within the next few months (barring any unforeseen circumstances). That’s a big-huge deal.

Adoption ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all. And I am excited to meet my boy! I’m hoping and praying that I don’t have to wait very much longer.

Then I watched God move a mountain. Again.

A “moved mountain” in Durame, Ethiopia

This adoption journey has been quite an emotional roller coaster with many unforeseen twists and turns. There might have even been a corkscrew or two thrown in there for good measure.

And it ain’t over yet.

But that’s OK. It’s kind of par for the course when it comes to international adoption. I’d imagine domestic adoption is a similar roller coaster ride.

Christy finally met “W” face-to-face. It’s been great for the soul and I hope that it will continue to warm his heart after she returns to the States.

Jeremiah 29:11. I’m sorry you had to wait so long…but I am so thankful God blessed us with you.

A photo posted by Christy Ooley Todd (@ooleytodd) on

Two more trips are required before he comes home with us. Sometime in the Fall, I hope to be able to meet “W” for the first time. During my stay in Ethiopia, I will appear before a judge and declare that yes, he is the child we’ve been trying to adopt. If all goes according to plan, “W” will then be declared our son in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. Then I’ll return home shortly after that court date. A few weeks later, we should have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis. Christy and I will fly to Ethiopia, meet with the Embassy, and bring “W” home after that. Hopefully that will happen before Christmas of this year.

That’s the way things are supposed to happen. That’s the way the timeline generally goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happens for us. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen that way, either. Because here’s what we’ve learned during this journey: God is writing this story. We are not. And the Author is going to weave this story together in whatever way He sees fit.

In high school, I wanted to do something “big” for God. I never knew exactly what it was, but I was going to shock the world with the gospel. So I kept searching for that big thing I could “do” for Jesus. I don’t think I was wrong in my desire. I might have been a little misguided in my approach. But hey, I was a teenager. I think we all were a little misguided as teenagers, weren’t we?

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

This desire to “do” something big for God continued into my preaching years more than a decade later. I firmly believe that God can work miracles. I’ve seen them happen. It was my hope and prayer that I could somehow put God on stage and allow the congregation to see what God had done. It was almost as if I was expecting Him to perform some great act so I could shine the spotlight on Him.

Again, not a bad desire. But maybe the wrong approach. After all, God is God. He doesn’t have to perform a miracle in order for us to shine the spotlight on Him. He is worthy of worship because He Is who He Is. And that’s enough.

Then we saw God move a mountain.

God orchestrated things in such a way that He provided for Mihret’s adoption in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.

So when we started pursuing “W,” I kind of expected things to work out in a similar way. I mean, that was a pretty cool story the way everything was woven together so perfectly.

But that organization didn’t award us a grant this time. No worries, I thought. There are other opportunities. So we applied for more grants. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We had the yard sale that was hugely successful. But it wasn’t enough to cover the rest of the fees.

So we waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

Then things started to get a little…oh, what’s the word?….tense…around here. If Christy was really going to make this trip before the courts closed in Addis and school started here, we were going to have to figure out a way to cover the rest of the fees and travel costs. Maybe we were going to have to make this thing work on our own.

Then it happened. God moved mountains.

Not only did God move the mountains, He obliterated them. He caused them to melt like wax.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord Psalm 975

We were confident that God was going to use the matching grant from Hand in Hand to make a big dent in the need. But we didn’t know how much was actually going to be donated. There was still a lot of uncertainty. And maybe some doubt.

But the donations that were contributed to the matching grant were over the amount necessary.

Then we started getting notifications of approval for grants that I had totally forgotten about. And I’d definitely forgotten that we’d applied for their assistance. But they started sending in money.

And the next thing I knew, everything was paid for. The agency fees. Christy’s plane ticket. Even the in-country travel fees. Everything was covered within a matter of days.

Yes, God is in the mountain moving business.

As I sat and watched the whole thing unfold, I started to realize something. Sometimes “doing” something big for God simply means being obedient and stepping out in faith. You do what you’re supposed to, planting seeds as you go along the way. But in the end, you sit back and watch God do what you couldn’t even possibly imagine what would be done.

All week, I’ve been humming this song. It makes sense when you look back on the events of the last few weeks. It starts at the 5:58 mark…

God is writing a story, friends. And it is bigger than any of us even realize.

If you get a sense that God is calling you to “do” something, then go do it. By all means, do.it. But if you think God is calling you to go and watch and listen, then do that. Watch how He works. He’ll let you know when it’s time for you to do your part. Because He’s already at work. He’s already telling the story.

 

16 ways you can support our adoption

16 ways you can support our adoptionIt’s no secret that adoption can be expensive. Of course, it’s also no secret that giving birth to a child can be just as expensive. It’s just paid in different ways by different people. So as we’re waiting to meet “W” and ultimately bring him home, we’re busy finding the funds to complete this journey. And that’s where you come in. Just like are plenty of ways you can help orphans without adopting, I’ve come up with 16 ways you can support our adoption. And most of them won’t even cost you a cent! Here they are:

1. Buy Coffee.

Just Love Coffee Roasters
image via The Cultureist

When you buy coffee from Just Love Coffee Roasters, we receive a portion of the profits. It’s that simple. In addition to high-quality coffee, they also have apparel, mugs, and hot chocolate available. They make special blends for different occasions, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day. And you can even sign up for a year-long subscription. You’ll have high-quality coffee delivered to your doorstep every month. Oh, and they also have single serve cups.

Just Love Coffee Roasters has all the coffee you’ll need. And it creates a win-win-win situation. You are supporting Fair Trade coffee growing co-ops around the world. You’re helping to cover our adoption expenses. And, you get some pretty tasty coffee. As one former co-worker (who claims to be a coffee snob) of mine once said:

It’s yummy.

What more do you need to convince you? If you’re a coffee drinker, please try Just Love Coffee today!

2. Give us your books.

If you live in the Greater Indianapolis area and have extra books sitting around gathering dust, we’ll gladly take them off your hands! We’ll re-sell them to Half  Price Books for cash money. If you live in southwestern Indiana or the Louisville area, we can also arrange a pick up. It just might take a little bit of time.

Do you have books you’d like to donate? Don’t hesitate to contact me! We’ll get something worked out.

The next three have to do with an upcoming garage sale.

 3. Donate items to our garage sale.

We originally planned on having a garage sale on Saturday, April 25. Because of a scheduling conflict on my end (I’ll explain in a later post. It’s a really really really good conflict), we’re going to have to host the sale at a later date.

In the meantime, we need your stuff! If you’re like us, you’ve been doing some Spring Cleaning and discovered all kinds of stuff that you really can live without. If you live in the Indianapolis area, we’ll be happy to take it off your hands. Just shoot me an email and we’ll get the ball rolling.

4. Help promote the garage sale.

Once we have the date nailed down, if you could help tell all of your friends in the Indianapolis area to come buy our stuff, that would be awesome.

5. Show up. Buy stuff.

That kind of goes without saying. Right? If we’re going to have a garage sale, we need people to buy our stuff!

Here are some ways you can provide support without any effort at all.

This is going to sound silly, but supporting this blog is a great way to help our adoption. I have had the opportunity to use this space to publish some sponsored blog posts. Over the last year, all of the money from those compensated posts have gone to help pay for adoption expenses. The more “reach” and engagement that I can show potential advertisers, the more likely they are to hire me. And that’s a good thing. So, here’s what you can do to support this blog…

6. Subscribe to the email newsletter.

Did you even know there was a newsletter associated with this blog? Probably not. I haven’t done a great job at letting you know about it. That changes today.

Subscribe to Life in the Fishbowl

* indicates required


7. Follow me on twitter.

8. Do you use tumblr? You can follow me there, too. 

9. “Like” my facebook page

Get involved in the page. Like the articles you like. Leave comments. The more you’re involved on the page, the more facebook’s algorithm will allow the page to show up in your news feed.

10. Follow my Pinterest boards.
Visit Matt Todd’s profile on Pinterest.

11. Engage.

Keep reading posts on this blog. Comment on articles. Share posts on your social platforms. You can start by sharing this post, if you want.

12. Buy from affiliate links.

Most links to Amazon are what are known as affiliate links. That means we get a very small percentage of each purchase made from that link. It doesn’t really add up to much right now, but if you’re going to buy the product anyway, why not help us out in the process?

Prayer might be last on this list, but it’s what we need most.

13. Pray for “W.”

I can’t imagine what it’s like to know that your have a family that’s pursuing you, but you still have to wait. And while you’re waiting, having to watch other kids leave with their forever families. Please pray for his sweet spirit. Pray for his health. Pray for his safety while he waits. Pray for his transition as he makes our family a family of SIX, while moving to a strange country with a strange language, customs, and food.

14. Pray for the governments and agencies involved. 

International adoption involves a lot of bureaucratic red tape and hoop-jumping. Please pray for all agencies involved, that all the ‘i’s will be dotted and the ‘t’s will be crossed and that everything will be conducted with the utmost of integrity and honesty. Pray for roadblocks to be removed and that this adoption journey will be smooth.

15. Pray for our family.

Pray for our nerves as we wait. Pray for the transition. I have no idea what it’s going to be like adding another teenage boy to our household mix. But we’re going to do it. Because he’s worth it. Please pray for our family as we get ready for this transition.

16. Pray for God’s provision.

We have applied for several grants and no-interest loans to help pay for these expenses. Many of these ministries and agencies are looking at and praying over our requests as we speak. Please pray for open hearts as they hear our story.

I know God is going to show up. In some way, some how, He always does. He provided in unexpected ways during Mihret’s adoption. I’m confident He’ll do it again. I’m hoping it’s through these grants and our fundraising efforts. But maybe that won’t be the case. However He chooses to provide, I look forward to seeing Him work through His people.

That’s all. For now.

So there you have it: 16 ways you can support our adoption. Most of them are pretty painless. Right? But I promise, if you do even a few of them, you’re going to make a huge difference.

Thank you for your ongoing support. You have no idea how much it means to us.

The paper chase: A big adoption update

This whole adoption process has definitely been a marathon and it is not for the faint of heart. There have been days, weeks, and even months where it has felt like nothing was happening. That’s part of the reason I haven’t given much of an update on this blog recently. There really wasn’t much to report, other than the fact that we were still caught in the grueling process that is known in adoption circles as the paper chase. Now, we aren’t new to the paper chase. We’ve done it before. But I guess I’d forgotten how long the process actually takes. Or maybe I thought it would be quicker this time around. After all, we had all the documents from before.

Nope.

Almost everything had to be redone. And sometimes they had to be redone again because people had trouble following directions the first time (let’s not talk about how difficult it was to get the form for my physical filled out properly by the doctor’s office). I’m pretty sure it took twice as long as Mihret’s paper chase. And the stress of getting other offices to correctly do what they’re supposed to do just might’ve taken a few months off my life.

But it’s all OK now. Because it’s out of our hands.
Adoption Paper Chase Complete
That’s right. We have finished the paper chase! Our dossier is complete! After months of feeling like we’re marking time, there’s finally some movement. We’re starting to see some momentum in the adoption process. Things are starting to move a little bit quicker. Hopefully, momentum keeps going the right direction.

What’s next?

Now that our dossier is in the hands of our agency, they’ll go over it and make sure everything is there and nothing needs correcting. Then it will be translated into Amharic. Once it’s translated, it will be sent to the Ethiopian government. That’s the next milestone – the DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia) date. Once they receive the dossier, they’ll do their due diligence to make sure everything is in order. That could still take a while. After that’s completed, there will be two separate trips to Ethiopia. In the first trip, we’ll meet “W,” our son, for the first time. We’ve been communicating with each other since late last year and we’ve even been able to send some small care packages with other families who are flying to Addis, but we have yet to see each other face to face.

I have to admit, I’m having a hard time waiting for that day. I can’t wait to look into his eyes and tell him that he’s mine. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around him and welcome him to the family. I can’t wait to smile at him and tell him how loved he is. I can’t wait.

Of course, I have to wait. Because we’ll stand before the Ethiopian court the first time and they will declare “W” our son. But then we’ll have to wait some more while the US Embassy does its due diligence to make sure everything is in order. That takes several weeks. So we’re supposed to go home and wait.

That’s going to be tough. I had a hard enough time leaving Mihret at the Care Center that was adjacent to our hotel after meeting her. I can’t imagine leaving our son half a world away after meeting him. But people do it. And everyone survives. I suppose we’ll survive, too.

Actually, I know we’ll survive. Because it’s what we have to do. It’s the process we have to go through. We’ll do whatever it takes and jump through whatever hoops are necessary in order to bring “W” home to his forever family.

We’ve achieved a major milestone in our efforts to adopt “W.” But there’s much more that has to be done before he is home with us. Many of you have asked how you can help us on this journey. I’m putting together a post that answers this question. Hopefully it’ll be ready tomorrow.

In the meantime, I ask you to pray. Pray for all of the bureaucrats and diplomats involved in this process. Pray that the paperwork is correct and it is translated accurately and quickly. But most of all, please pray for “W.” Pray for his health. Pray for his spirit. Pray that he knows without a shadow of a doubt that he has a family who loves him and is working to move heaven and earth to bring him home.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

A lifetime of romance [Guest Post]

Christy and I have known Jon and Cindy for more than a decade. Cindy was at the airport when we brought Mihret home. She took some pretty amazing pictures. They have a similar heart for orphans and adoption. Oh – and they happen to have just started another amazing adoption journey. You really should check out 2000 Tutus, which is their fundraising effort. Who knows? Maybe you’ll buy a tutu

or two.

See what I did there? 😉

Cindy wrote a great post about romance. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might laugh some more. Enjoy. I know I did. Thank you, Jon and Cindy for sharing your story.

 

Cindy and Jon - 25th Wedding Anniversary

My husband and I started dating just before Valentine’s Day.  Twenty-eight years ago.  Wow. That sure sounds like a long time ago, eh? Before you categorize us as those old folks who are about to impart marital wisdom, though, don’t. First of all, we aren’t that old.  Just so you know, we ancient ones have a one-year-old daughter waiting for us on the other side of the world.  Secondly, while we’ve learned a thing or two about marriage and relationships, either of us will be the first to tell you that we’ve probably got a thing or two left to figure out.

So back to that first Valentine’s Day.  It was our first “official” date.  It was wildly romantic.  It included flowers and candy, my favorite Mexican food and the company of a handsome young man who seemed pretty taken with me, as well.  It was perfectly perfect.  It was the beginning of the two of us spending every opportunity together.   Within weeks we were talking about our future. Within months we were shopping for rings. And on the following New Year’s Day, he asked me to marry him. On a beautiful fall afternoon in 1988, we sealed the deal.  Husband and wife.  Till death do us part.  No take backs.  We were so ridiculously giddy.

What is the most romantic gift I’ve ever received?  I could never answer that in a sentence.  I could never qualify one thing as the most romantic.  How could I pick? That’s akin to choosing the most significant moment in my life.  ONE??  No way.  For the same reason, I resist personality tests.  I prefer questions that have only one answer.  The ones where it’s based on interpretation?

Kill me now.

I can tell you we’ve lived a lot of life in the past 28 years.  Army life, wartime deployment, infertility, cross-country moves, childbirth, unemployment, loss of parents, international adoption.  These are just the biggies.  Each of these is a chapter of its own. And, as in any good story, the chapters are interwoven, with one pivotal moment evolving into the next.  In between are the everyday moments that fill you with such emotion that a chapter wouldn’t contain your thoughts.  And then you find yourselves nearly three decades down the road.  There was definitely romance at the start.  So where’s the romance now?  Wait.  Refresh my memory.  What is romance?  I’ll admit it.  I looked it up.  On a side note, back in the day, that would have meant touching an actual book.  We are that old.   Blessedly, the internet is at my fingertips because I probably couldn’t even find that book in a reasonable amount of time.  Anyway, if we’re talking the textbook definition of mystery and excitement associated with love, then, as the cliché goes, how do you keep the romance alive over the course of a lifetime?   In that regard, I can say that romance has managed to maintain its presence in our relationship in the company of one or all of these things: commitment, forgiveness, a healthy sense of humor and a willingness to take a leap of faith here and there.  And anything that falls into any of those categories qualifies as the most romantic gift ever.

Jon and Cindy Martens wedding

Let me explain.  That mystery and excitement? It definitely ebbs and flows.  It’s easy to earmark the big ones.  Flowers on holidays.  Dinners out.  Breakfast in bed.  Sweet gifts.  It’s definitely flowing on those days.  But those other things take work and a daily effort to keep on keeping on.  And those other things help you to claim that romance on the days when it’s ebbing a bit.  Like that first week of married life where we thought it sounded romantic and adventurous to drive through the night to Fort Lauderdale.   Round about 2 am, we discovered we were not drive-through-the-nighters.  Reality washed over romance in an ebbing sort of way.  Or the first Valentine’s Day after we were married.  Remember, the bar had been set high, so I had pretty hefty expectations. My sweet budget-conscious young husband came home with a little bundle of grocery store flowers accompanied by a frozen pizza with a coupon on the box for free tickets to the latest John Candy movie, “Who’s Harry Crumb?” Um, we’re ebbing here. Or the year he brought me a new blow dryer because I’d mentioned I needed one. Thoughtful, but ebbs-ville, dude. Or the year we were too sick to even consider a romantic dinner out, let alone breathe through our noses, and curled up on the sofa with our fellow runny-nosed little ones.  Blew right past ebbing on that one.

But I can just as easily name the times the romance flowed that weren’t accompanied by a gift or romantic gesture.  The day we were baptized together, incidentally on Valentine’s Day of the year we were married. The time he stuffed a tiny black puppy under his coat with an air of permanence and headed to the register to pay for her.  The card he wrote to me on our tenth anniversary, listing a significant life event for every year.  The willingness to go with me to a concert he knew nothing about just to make me happy.  The way he didn’t run the other way when I told him I heard God speak to me.

Out loud, people.

The obedience to pray about my crazy idea.  The tears in my husband’s eyes the night I knew he was in it with me. The night of our 25th anniversary in a hotel room in Florida…on the one “only us” vacation we’ve taken since becoming parents…he made sure we took the time to complete and submit our adoption application for our second adoption and our fifth child.  Mystery and excitement associated with love? You bet.

I think the frozen pizza story may be my favorite marital anecdote. I was so annoyed at his seeming lack of romance at the time.  Now it just seems silly.  There have been plenty of days since I would have knocked someone over for a frozen pizza and free tickets to any movie, let alone flowers on top of it.  More than his sense of romance, it showed a lack of my own.  Being married is hard work.  As much as we love each other, some days, I dare to say it’s hard to like each other.  But it’s still for keeps. No take backs.  This is where the commitment, the forgiveness, the humor and the faith come in.  Those things filter out our imperfect human ways and leave the one gift that’s always perfect, love.  Now that’s romantic.

p.s. If you’re wondering how we’re celebrating this year?  We’re grabbing Qdoba take-out, lighting the fireplace and curling up in our pajamas with a couple of our kids to watch a movie.  And we’re using a coupon.