Valentine’s Day is upon us once again, and everywhere you look, you see reminders of love and romance, of couples and togetherness. I was never much for celebrating the day in the traditional sense, as it is also my birthday. My mom, for as long as I can remember, mostly just glossed over the holiday because to her, the day I was born was more important. 55 years ago today, she didn’t even realize it was Valentine’s Day. I had been born at 6:35 am and it wasn’t until my dad showed up later with flowers and candy that she realized the significance of the holiday. She kept the heart in which the candy came and later put my baby clothes in it. I still have it today. Love has a way of lingering in the most unusual ways and symbols sometimes.
Today, after almost eight months since Mom passed, I decided it was time to start reclaiming an area of my home. It had been my room of peace for years, as I would write or paint, pray or study God’s word, or sometimes just sit in silence and breathe. When Mom moved in, I wanted her to have the best spot in the house, so I gladly moved my things and created a blended feel in the other bedroom that would work to some degree for those much-needed respites. I absolutely loved that Mom loved her room so much, and she would often tell me how peaceful and comfortable it was for her. It warmed my heart to have seen her enjoy her surroundings even though she was heartbroken to be living away from Dad for the first time in their 64 years together. After she passed, her room has been a source of comfort for me. I had spent countless hours in there with her, talking with her, laughing with her, and later on, caring for her most basic needs. Even in her absence, I could still feel her presence somehow. I could sit on the foot of her bed and pray or talk to her as if she was still sitting there with me. It was sometimes so beautiful, yet sometimes so painful to do so.
I’ve heard love described as the rational commitment to the well-being of another, and I have written often about the true nature of love many times in the past. Love goes far beyond the commercialized version of itself. Love walks in the hard places and the tough times. 1 Corinthians chapter 13 explains to us that “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” When I read those verses, I don’t see all the touchy-feely aspects of the holiday we know today. I see something that is hard to maintain at times. I see something that puts others first and readily forgives. I see something that is honest and hopeful even in the face of adversity. I see it not just in celebrating the sunshine in life but trudging through the dark and difficult places along the way. Love is a gift that goes much further than anything we can imagine. It allows us to stand strong even when we may be at our weakest.
My heart has been telling me for the past few days it was time to start transitioning things between Mom’s room and my “beach room” of peace. I just told a friend this morning that I felt the desire to do so but just wasn’t sure yet if it was time. I spoke for quite a while with my husband about how I was feeling and the overwhelming sense that changing anything meant I was erasing some part of my precious mom. I know that may sound silly to some, but the thought of transitioning things around brought feelings of guilt, as though I was selfish to disrupt things. I felt anxiety about losing the sameness of that space and that somehow, I would start to forget things I didn’t want to forget. His rational mind in a moment of my shaken one was such a blessed gift, and after we talked, I truly felt in my heart it was time to start working on the shift. I was actually excited to be moving things around and transferring the feel of one room to the other and had only the bed left to move, and then it hit me. It felt like everything just stopped, and I was completely frozen for a moment, then the tears poured from my eyes. God had been doing so much in my life over the past week, revealing so much and putting so many pieces of myself back together. The joy I felt was pulling me onward, and I felt great peace and growth, yet in a moment shorter than a breath, I was lying across my mom’s bed suddenly drained of my physical and emotional strength. I felt like a failure for not being able to power through the last piece of what I was doing after God had provided such clarity and strength for me recently. Then I remembered, love goes further, even when we can’t. Why? Because God IS love.
Our Heavenly Father loves us beyond comprehension. His love reached so far that it took Him to a cross to die for me and you, all because He wanted to make a way of redemption where we would be able to live with Him forever. His mercy and grace know no bounds, and He continually restores my strength and peace over and over again. Not once has He failed to fulfill His promises or keep His word, and it is Him that I find strength. His love continually goes further. He reaches out to us beyond our failures or our distress. He reaches to us beyond our doubts or fears at times. His hand is constantly reaching for us, to hold us up when we are weak or to direct us on our path when we are strong. He pulls at our hearts to recognize Him even when our vision is clouded by our tears. His love relentlessly goes further than our circumstances or the feelings with which we may struggle at times! In His word, we consistently see that it is everlasting, unfailing, generous, and sacrificial.
As the world’s definition of love swirls around us on this holiday, let us turn our eyes upon the One who loved us before we even drew a breath. As His children, He told us to love each other as He has loved us. It isn’t just in the unclouded days that we find God’s love, but so often it shows up in the cold, rainy storms of life and wraps itself around us. God’s loving embrace can be found in our spirits and our hearts, but sometimes it is in the hug from a loved one or in the words of wisdom and comfort from a trusted friend. Sometimes it simply finds us when a gust of wind knocks us to our knees for just a moment, as it did for me tonight. So let us step back and see love for not what it is, but WHO it is. When we do that, we cannot help but love Him back. As the song says, “You died for me, now I’m living for you. Lord, it’s the least I can do.”
Blessings and Happy Valentine’s Day!
- How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 36:7
- “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! “ 1 John 3:1
- “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11