This is the best Valentine’s Day I never had.

While I did receive a few flowers this morning, I didn’t receive candy. I didn’t receive jewelry. There is no romantic dinner planned. Matter of fact, he isn’t even spending the evening with me. My husband and I might see each other one more time before I fall asleep, but hands down, I couldn’t have planned this day any better even if it's unconventional in the standards of generic romance.

A couple of weeks ago, my 19 yr old son, who never really had a chance to do normal little boy things like Little League or soccer practice (My ex-husband didn’t want any ongoing activity to interfere with his personal schedule. “Do we really want to be tied down with kid activities??”), was sitting in the living room with my husband and I and a conversation about wrestling in the 1980’s ensued. We talked about The Sheik, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Superstar Billy Graham, Jerry Lawler, and Randy Savage. (Thank heavens for a younger brother obsessed with WF wrestling when we were kids and for Saturday mornings with only three channels to choose from.) The conversation prompted YouTube video after video with a lot of laughter and memories from both my husband and I. This went on for a few nights in a row, and while I was wearing thin with wrestling ridiculousness, Nels was still all in. About a week later, I overheard Nels say, “Lawton, you should find out if they are touring anywhere near us. We could go.” My son’s eyes lit UP. Low and behold, a city near us was on the schedule…on Valentine’s Day. Nels eyes caught mine, disappointment crossed over his face, saying, “Dang”. I promised Nels it was okay to spend that specific evening with Lawton. Matter of fact, I thought was one of the best ideas he ever had.

Today is Valentine’s Day and this afternoon Nels took off early from work and they both put on the t-shirts Lawton wanted to buy before the event. I think both of them were as excited as 10 year olds with a brown bag full of candy.

My son’s Snapchat feed had all the feels.

The best part of this day is this isn’t the first time Nels has given 100% for teenagers he didn’t raise. Teenagers that didn’t start out being his own. Teenagers that sometimes have a little bit of unpleasant attitude. Teenagers that always seem to need something. Teenagers that started out mine and have turned into ours.

There was the time that Lawton wanted to join a gym, didn’t want to go in alone and Nels drove from work to the gym just to walk in with him in case he needed assistance.

There was the time that Nels took Lawton to a nationally known car auction. Lawton wanted to photobomb the live televised show and so they did.

Lawton photoing their photobomb.

There was the time my 22 yr old lived with us and went on a blind date. She wasn’t home at the time she said she wouldn’t be later than, so Nels got in his car and drove around three Southern California cities. He scoured every coffee shop within range just to make sure she was okay but also because he was just as worried as I was.

There are all those times he gets out of bed, takes my 16 yr old to school which lets me sleep a little extra because he wants to make sure I’m rested.

There are all those times he reassures my kids that they will have whatever they need, no matter what it is, no matter how old they might be.

Wanna know how they feel about him? There was the Christmas that my 21yr old gave Nels a t-shirt that said “My Paramedic daughter saves lives. What does your daughter do?”. She didn’t give that shirt to anyone else.

I came into this relationship with my husband as a broken woman. ( To read a little piece of my story, start here: 76feb6751ceb?source=linkShare-5bf8dee1c01f-1491249165 ) I was struggling to be enough for my kids. I didn’t trust the motivation of others. Nels stepped in and filled those places. There are a lot of things that make my heart melt but the everyday, in good times and bad, caring for my kids like his own, and caring for them better than they have ever known, clangs a big fat gong in my heart like nothing else. He’s the slow and steady, everyday servant-hearted, “I just want to make everything nice for everybody” man. He’s the guy standing behind me as my children move on to adulthood, ripping my apron strings into shreds. He holds my back steady while I watch them create lives far away from me, drying my ever falling tears and allowing this mother’s heart to sob while letting them grow into their own people. He’s the one who walked beside me as I traveled back to weekly church attendance, watching my mistrust of Christians in general start to soften. He’s the guy who allowed my so terribly scarred heart time to stitch itself back together and trust someone again.

Nels is the guy that waits on me. Somehow there is always a cup of coffee, in the very precise way I like it, steaming in front of me. He fills my gas tank every week whether I need it or not. He gives in to my DIY whims and pitches in to play along even if he thinks it’s a harebrained idea that won’t work. He plants the loads and loads of plants I bring home from the nursery knowing I’m going to kill everything with my black thumb. He goes with me to the grocery store just to grab the things off the top shelves and to load the sacks in the back end so I don’t have to lift things. He’s the guy that tells me he’s praying for me. He’s the guy that actually stops whatever is going on and does it.

If I had to choose between the once a year flowers and candy, or someone to daily support me and everyone I love so passionately, there is absolutely no question as to my choice. I do wonder why, as women, we perceive romance to be measured by a set of boring old standards which we judge whether our relationship is vibrant and healthy. Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice? Maybe I’ve changed over the years to see through the lens of experience, and long term perspective, in looking at individual motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts. But if someone is sending gifts because they just are filling a quota of what everyone else does, does it mean anything?

Maybe if we just looked a little harder we wouldn’t weigh our relationships based on what was given to us a few days a year.

Maybe if we started noticing how others serve us we’d be better spouses, friends and family members.

Maybe if we start trying to be a servant, we can change and soften the hearts around us. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with a budding bloom on a random Thursday.

By the way, Nels if you are reading this? I’ve got a great idea for the family room. I wanna take some dirty rusty galvanized piping and turn it into a curtain rod. I don’t have a pattern and I might want to change the color of the pipe with spray paint. Can you make that happen this weekend? After we get that finished, I’m thinking we need some new fruit trees in the backyard. What do you think, lemon or lime?