When I was a kid, I loved Valentine's Day. Decorating the card boxes, cutting out hearts, gluing, glittering, addressing my own cards...it was all wonderfully magical at the elementary level. In middle school and high school it was relatively fun. I still exchanged Valentine's with my friends and there was always the hope that I might get one from an actual boy.
As I got into college and decided not to date anyone for a while, Valentine's Day lost a little of its luster. My mom, of course, managed to make it special for me and I often chose to do something fun with my other single friends. The older I got, the less enamored I was with the day.
And then came Nelson. He was an over-the-top romantic as well as an over-the-top gift giver. Combining those two qualities with the day itself was a total win for me. I was in love and truthfully, that was all I needed. The gifts and celebrations were just icing on the cake.
Sometime along the way in our marriage, we changed the way we celebrated. It was one of those seasons when flowers, jewelry, and candy seemed entirely too trite for the love we shared. We decided that instead of giving each other gifts, we would do something together to commemorate the day. Some years we splurged on a night at a local bed and breakfast, other years the splurge was dressing up for a nice evening out.
This year Valentine's Day fell the day after our Icepocalypse, as we southerners refereed to it, as well as three months post birth of our fifth child, and the flooding and catastrophic disorganization that ensued in our home. In other words, I had nothing. There were no heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast, nothing red at lunch. My idea for dinner was for Nelson to pick up some sushi.
Not my best year.
Of course, this was magnified by the power of Instagram and Facebook to make me feel like a loser as I viewed photos of everyone else's banners, flowers, etc. I don't usually let that stuff get to me, but between the hormones and lack of sleep I'm getting lately, it was enough to prevent me from feeling the love.
I was in that moment when I got a text from a dear friend who said she had a strong sense that God wanted her to tell me He loved me. Totally out of the blue - right in the middle of me seeing the tenth picture of kids holding up their magnificent homemade Valentines (my kids totally did the boxed card with Starbursts this year). I was so glad she had the courage to send that to me. She was right on the money and just like that, I was feeling the love again.
I got up, made some sweet homemade cookies for my kids and started feeling just fine about take home sushi. Then the doorbell rang and it was the furniture company returning my bed - the one the flood repair guys broke and I hadn't slept on in over a month. I took a picture, sent it to Nelson with the message, "Happy Valentine's Day!" Done.
Until...I got a text from my brother, whose power was still out. He was worried that their house was too cold for their baby and could they stay another night. Y'all, their house was 47 degrees. I didn't hesitate. I sent a text to Nelson that there was a change of plans since neither of them eat sushi. Luckily, I had a large package of beautiful pork chops, which happen to be one of Nelson's favorites. My parent's power was still out so we asked them to join us too.
That night, as the 12 of us sat around the table enjoying a candle light dinner, the thought occurred to me that this is what Valentine's Day is all about. If we are going to celebrate love, why not do it in the truest sense of the word? Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing in the towel on romantic dinners for two, flowers, or chocolates. Those things are wonderful, but they're not love.
Love is knowing someone well enough to complete each other's sentences. Love is holding the crying baby and washing the dishes. Love is sacrificing the one free hour you have to make red and white swirled cookies for your kids.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.
When this is the love you have, it truly is all you really need.