My family experienced some minor medical drama the week between Christmas and New Year's while traveling out of state. On one of my many trips to the drug store, I had to stop dead in my tracks. I was perusing the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper on clearance. I turned around to look for more, and was faced with a shelf full of boxes of Valentine's cards that children will use to declare love for classmates. Before the confetti of the New Year's holiday is swept up, the shelves in stores are fully stocked with hearts, balloons, and all manner of Valentine props and paraphernalia.
Maybe it's age, maybe it's motherhood, maybe it's global warming, but I don't think of Valentine's Day the same way that I did as a young, single woman or newlywed. Valentine's Day is a fun, light-hearted opportunity to lavish love on those around you, but life has shown me that love rarely looks like the front of a Hallmark card.
Love is not running along a beach hand in hand. Love holds the flashlight in the middle of the night, make-up long gone and tempers flaring, holding your tongue while your sweetie attempts an emergency home repair. Love isn't demonstrated by dewy eyes across a candlelit meal, but rather by one more run to the doctor or pharmacy when you are exhausted beyond reasonable or rational thought.
Valentine's Day lends itself to romance. Romance is wonderful and exciting, but won't take you very far when the stomach bug hits, or your "Love Shack" floods, or one of your parents is critically ill and/or dies. Romance will not be found in any of those situations, but love is there larger than life. Love brings the cool wash cloth again and again for the stomach bug, and mops and covertly repairs damaged keepsakes during the flood, and cries and holds and works and loves with an ill family member.
Love is not rose petals and champagne, but aching backs and work gloves. Love at my house never dances in an evening gown or tuxedo, but love supplies the elbow grease, the patience, the encouragement, and the clean clothes to face each day and, Lord willin' a comforting place to come home to when the day seems to come out on top. Love is holding tight when no words will fix it, and tears the only language uttered.
Love is not a polished, glimmery state. Love is messy, inconvenient, and frustrating. Love is giving up the last ounce of energy, sleep, time, or chocolate for the well-being of another. Love isn't found in romantic restaurants or destinations, but in hospital waiting rooms, the lobby of funeral homes, and kneeling in prayer next to race-car or princess beds in the middle of the night. Love is less about flowers and cartoon hearts, and everything about the value of another soul on this planet. I guess that's a little harder to put on the side of a coffee mug.
I will play along this Valentine's Day, like all the others, and I certainly hope for you to feel cherished on that day. But, later in the year when the toilet overflows while the drama at school comes to a boiling point and work causes too many demands to keep everyone civil, love will be there with a plunger, Kleenex for the tears, and hugs, pats, and kisses for all the things the plunger and Kleenex won't fix. Consider that your own Valentine's Day — but don't look for Hallmark to make a card for it anytime soon.
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. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).
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