The first gift James ever gave me was a honey-brown colored leather journal. He intended it to be a sketchbook of sorts because he knew that I occasionally like to draw, but at the time he didn’t know how much I love to write. He had no idea that I have been journaling my entire literate life, and that in my closet is a box full of old journals where I spilled out my inner most thoughts and feelings.
For as long as I have known him, James has been a thoughtful gift giver. He puts time into his decisions, deliberating over them until he is confident in his choice. I’m the opposite. My decisions are driven primary by rash impulse. I am not reckless or anything, I just see my options and go with my gut. Most of the time it works out for me; other times it doesn’t, and I wish I had taken more time deciding. James can doubt his decisions, of course, but not because he didn’t think them through. Every choice that he makes, especially when it comes to gift giving, comes from a place of thoughtful intention.
The journal was a Christmas gift, given just one short month after I told James he was going to become a father. Looking back on those days now feels like looking into another lifetime, but I still have that leather bound journal. I keep it on the bookshelf James built me after our son was born, another beautiful gift. In fact, this post was developed from my writings in that very journal. Jamesie’s birth story lives in its yellow pages. The letters James wrote to me while we were on a silent retreat, the letters that I cried my eyes out over, reside underneath its cover. These days I don’t find much time to write in my journal because toddlers happen and dinner needs cooking, but I cherish that gift with my whole heart.
My leather journal has seen me through the greatest challenges of my life; been with me in places that tested the boundaries of my personal strength. While this journal represents struggle, fear, and heartache, it also represents triumph, love, and the beginning of James and Danielle.
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James’s character, integrity and deep faith exceeded all expectations I had for my future husband. He is an honorable man who loves with his whole heart. He is playful and he is kind; he is strong and he is fearless. I am blessed to have him as my Valentine today and every day.
Without realizing it, James has become the man of my dreams. Not long after gifting me my beloved leather journal, he told me that he loved me. Instantly, I knew that I loved him too. Not the I want to stare adoringly into your eyes all day kind of love, but the I want to share my life with you kind of love.
My favorite prayer is the prayer of St. Francis. I think it is kind of poetic that James holds that same name. My faith in God has only strengthened since James came into my life. It was no accident that brought James and I together. We are too well suited for one another: we share the same beliefs, the same dreams, the same fears… It was certainly was no accident – it was fate.
In my teens and early twenties I thought of love as an all-consuming thing. I imagined this epic love as earth shattering and life altering. In some ways our love is like that, but mostly it is of another kind.
I know now that love isn’t always the giddy feeling we get when we first start dating. Love is in many ways a choice. It’s the you piss me off sometimes but I love you anyways. The playful love we have shared from the beginning is still with us, but we also have love built on faith and connection of who we are and who we want to become, together.
James and I aren’t perfect by any means. Just like any healthy relationship, we have our disagreements and we get mad. We are good at fighting, but we are better at loving. Being sensitive to each other’s points of view, and sharing the challenges of parenthood, has united us. We will always be a part of one another. Over these past two and half years we have developed a solid commitment to our love for both each other and for our son. In sickness and in health, until death do us part. I cannot wait to marry this man.
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This Valentine’s day I think of the beginning of James and Danielle. How far we have come since he first gifted me that honey-brown colored leather journal that sits beside me on the table as I write. How far we still have to go on this journey through life, marriage and parenthood.
Through all the bickering and diaper changes and late nights, I see my partner. My fiancé. My heart. I see the man who brings joy to the mundane and soul to the ordinary. The man who brings out the best in me (and points out the worst in me). He is an intentional man, who didn’t make his marriage proposal flippantly. Just like my leather journal, his gift of love was given with care and purpose.
Happy Valentine’s Day!