Once upon a time I found the perfect Valentine. It was unusually large and square and felt substantial in your hands. The cover was a collage of art and script on a midnight backdrop. I like uncomplicated cards and inside this one it simply said, "I love you." Perfect. Only later did I discover tucked quietly in the collage a profound little fragment of verse by W.B. Yeats. It spoke my heart for my husband and for our marriage. Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. Romantic sentiment, however, was not a strong part of my husband's vocabulary at the time. A short time earlier in our marriage he had earnestly declared, "I choose to love you." I was crushed. I did not want him to "choose" to love me. I wanted him to adore me, to be hopelessly in love with me, to have no choice but to surrender to my beguiling charms. I wanted romance. I wanted feelings, not decisions. Choosing to love me sounded like a chore. I wanted him to be smitten, not obligated. I pouted. He was confused. Like all young brides, I wanted a fairy tale but I got something better. What my intense young husband was really telling me was, "I love you and I choose to never stop loving you." Now that is real love. That is weak-in-the-knees, tears-in-my-eyes love. True love that lasts is hard. Romantic love is beautiful and thrilling but unless it is anchored to a choice and a commitment, it has the lasting power of a cut flower. We celebrated 15 years of marriage last September and I am so grateful for a man who made a choice to love me. Feelings are fickle and time can un-beguile one's charms, to put it delicately. Fifteen years of marriage are rarely an unending high of bliss and romance. I doubt we are the only ones that feel like we are riding a roller coaster of ups and downs, highs and lows. Choosing to love is what makes it last because sometimes you just don't feel like it. Often we are madly in love with each other. And sometimes we are just really mad. I try to remember that "love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1Corinthians 13:4-7) I want to love like that. I want to be loved like that. My once-upon-a-time Valentine was perfect because it said back to my husband, "I choose to love you too. I will take the risk of laying my dreams at your feet and trust you to be careful with them. I will exchange some of my dreams for your dreams. Together we will chase our dreams." We've been through a lot of life since then, great times and very hard times. This little poem now sits in a frame reminding us that true love is a risk, is a sacrifice and is a thrilling adventure. It's a choice to stay on the ride. Jennifer Zach lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and three children. They are members of Bridgeway Community Church. She can be reached at jennizach@yahoo.com.

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