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It’s all about love

Valentine’s Day 2018 may be a memory, but February makes me think about love like November reminds me to be thankful. If it could only last longer than a month, I’d be a better person.

Sweet William and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a couple days before the event. We knew the 14th would be filled with appointments and obligations. We’ve been together long enough to know a number on the calendar is not as important as what is in our hearts.

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On the morning of the 14th I woke with thoughts of love on my mind. I put Steven Curtis Chapman’s All About Love on the CD player and hummed familiar tunes as I prepared whole grain pancakes with bananas for our breakfast.

 

I sent messages to my precious ones who are miles away, the texts a meager substitute for the hugs I want to give them on Valentine’s Day.  But it was what I had to give. I received a quick loving response from our son that made me cry. His words were like sweet oil on my heart, soothing and tender.

In a minute or so “I Will Be Here” began to play, a song that means a lot to Sweet William and me, the musical message of commitment that weathers storms and holds fast, no matter what. And I cried some more.

As I stood at the back door looking out the window while tears fell freely, I thanked God for His love that makes our love possible. For love is from God. If we would see God, we should look for love where it flows freely from hearts who know love, who have been loved and have learned to give love in return.

I think how God’s love has covered a multitude of sins, the ones that would have drowned me and sucked the life from my lungs. Because of His love, grace has taught me to love and forgive others, those sins covered as well. I stagger at something so amazing and struggle to grasp its enormity.

It is easy for me to see God in the world that often denies His existence. I look for love where it is being acted out. It isn’t just the romantic kind that made my stomach flutter at a glimpse of my special someone, though that love has a place.

Love shines brightly when it is hard to walk out, when it is an act of will that requires all we have to give. I see it in the mother who prays and belives for a prodigal to return. In the father who takes care of and provides for his family by working a job he dislikes. In the adult child who gives patient and tender care to an aging and sometimes forgetful parent. In the spouse who lives the promise of for better or worse. In the couple who leave all that is familiar to show Jesus to the world. In the family who opens their home to a troubled teen.

As I ponder the kind of love that comes from the heart of a loving God, the last song of All About Love CD plays and Chapman sings:

“A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe,

This is a moment made for worshipping.

Love is from God. He gives it to us lavishly through Jesus Christ, holding nothing back, like a rushing river flowing out of its banks. As I stand in His presence and refresh myself with a deep drink of it, I know I am loved.  It’s only through Him I am able to love in return.

This love, this day is a moment made for worshipping.

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Ending and beginning

I woke up with anxiety this morning realizing it was February 1st and I had missed writing a “January ending” post.

Yesterday was a full day. I had three potential writing projects I wanted to complete. I had piano lessons. There were the dailies: cooking, laundry, clean-up as always. I worked on what I thought was the most important in the afternoon. By evening, I was spent and writing does not come as easily then. I turned off the laptop and went to bed.

Thus my anxiety this morning. I began to talk to my inner self, reminding her that I am the boss of my blog. There are more important things than writing a post. I let myself off the hook, gave myself some grace and went about my day today.

There. I feel better getting that off my chest.

January 2018 was cold, and then it was warm. It snowed causing canceled appointments and kept us home-bound. Then we played catch up. It’s Kentucky. What can I say.

I bought a leather journal for the new year, first time I’ve ever had one so nice. After viewing all my journals in their various shapes and forms, I decided it was time to treat myself to something special since, obviously, my journaling is not a passing fancy.

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Sweet William gave me a custom-designed fountain pen for Christmas. It is my journal pen. I love the way it lightly scratches across the paper and the flow of the ink. I hope the rumors I hear are untrue, that cursive writing is out of fashion and obsolete in this keyboard generation. Cursive is an art form, one we should hold close and not throw aside because something new seems better, faster. Recognizing the writing style of friends and family or seeing a signature of a loved one is a sweet pleasure. Let’s don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

I am a whirling dervish in January, going through drawers and closets, cleaning out and repurposing things to the thrift store. It gives me a lighter feeling to let go of too much stuff as I head into the new year. It has caused me evaluate my thrift store “addiction” with a determination to use caution and restraint this year.

Sometimes I organize myself into a corner and forget what I’ve done with things. Like the jar of hand cream I still can’t find.

Sweet William and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary quietly this year. Take-out Chinese was our lunch menu, eaten in the comfort of home. We’ve celebrated lots of different ways these many years. In this cold, snowy month, I think to myself, “Who gets married in January?” We did.

Let me mention a couple of good books and movies I enjoyed while snuggled in at the Wright House.

Between Heaven and the Real World is by singer/song writer Steven Curtis Chapman. We’ve been a fan of Chapman’s music for years. In his book he revealed an honest look at a family who achieved fame and success, who struggled with real life issues of marriage and children, who faced unbearable tragedy, and who still believe in a good God.  I appreciate the words to Chapman’s songs even more now.

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Church of the Small Things, by Melanie Shankle, was not what I was expecting. But it was entertaining and made me giggle. Melanie has a funny writing style, while telling great stories of life. She’s been a blogger for years and has written other books, some that made the New York Times Bestseller List. I will look for her again.

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Finding Normal was a DVD from my library. It was family friendly, and I just like Candace Cameron Bure.

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered was another movie we enjoyed with a redemptive theme, because sometimes I want to feel good after I’ve spent two hours of my time.

And now February begins with more weather weirdness, temperatures fluctuating from 50 degrees this morning and plummeting to the teens tonight, rain that turned to snow while my piano students wish for another snow day tomorrow. The good news is, as some celebrate the prophetic tendencies of the Groundhog tomorrow, winter will be half over and on the downslide.

Stores display their Valentine reds and pinks, and I wonder if the second month of the year could truly be dedicated to showing kindness and love? We are all fellow travelers on this earth, and the road can get rugged and long. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “on the good days and the bad days and the mad days, the happy and the sad days,” we could use some courtesy and forbearance, a little patience and tenderness.

If we try, if we make a concerted effort, February might turn into a gentle reminder that sweetness is not just something covered in chocolate.

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About Valentine’s Day

Culture will try to tell us what to think and how to act. The media, in all its various venues, formulates ideas they want us to accept. If they say it often enough, we tend to believe it is true, especially if it is on the internet.

How does that relate to Valentine’s Day?

We are told the day is for lovers and sweethearts, couples and spouses.  We must buy things, like candy and cards.  Spend money on jewelry and flowers.  If you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something costly, well you just must not be loved.

Please, don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  It is His essence, who He is. Anything good in this world, any smidgen of kindness, any beauty, any joy comes from the Creator of good and perfect gifts who first initiated love.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my Sweet William’s embrace, in the smile of a friend, and in the strength to take care of another.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with grace all day long, gifts like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, finding our Maisie who was lost, and a phone conversation that encourages.

But the very most extravagant love God ever demonstrated was the life of His Son to a world that did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in this fact: He loved us when we were unlovable, unfaithful, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He gave love. He lavished it on the ones made in His likeness, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His beckoning arms of forgiveness and mercy.

Stories and legends abound about the man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving, and so we celebrate him with a special day. We call him a saint. We are enticed to spend money in his honor.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing our own wants for someone else.

Love forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. Love does not get offended easily.  Love is patient and kind, not jealous or prideful.  Love causes us to consider another first and act in loving ways, no matter what.  Love longs for truth and doing the right thing.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when words wound.  Not when distance or misunderstanding or unresolved conflict separates. Love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from His love.

This love is worth remembering and celebrating on a day in February and every other day of the year.

Revised and reposted from February 2015

 

 

February begins

The origin of the word February is surprising to me. I’ve always simply thought of it as the month of love.

With the advent of Valentines Day, merchants discovered another way to entice us to spend money, reds and pinks showing up in stores early last month. Cards to honor the day of hearts and flowers flood the isles, and TV commercials encourage us to make diamonds the proof of undying affection.

But what if . . .  what if we really did practice a little more love during February? Not the gushy, mushy vaporous emotions or the once-a-year expensive gifts that last but a little while before they are forgotten and we move on to other “more important” endeavors.

What if we tried scattering a little more kindness this month, without it turning into a spending spree or a guilt trip? What if we gave out of the abundance of our hearts, out of the grace we have been given?

We take on the character of God when we become givers. God gave. God gives. God will give eternally.

“What if the truth is every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” — Ann Voskamp,  The Broken Way

Chapter 5 of Ann’s new book, a gift from a friend, ignites something this morning as I read about her and her children leaving unexpected gifts all over the city, creating smiles and joy in their wake.

One of the dots on my Bucket List is “Always be kind.” I wish that just writing that down and marking it a priority made it always be true in my every day. It isn’t. I need a reminder. Often.

Scatter Kindness 8x10 Canvas Quote[purchase the canvas at this Etsy shop]

So I am challenging myself to Scatter Kindness in February, to find unusual and unexpected ways of giving to others out of my own abundance. Thoughts, ideas already drift in my head. I would gladly bring a few more smiles to the faces I encounter regularly and those who just happen along my pathway.

This month, February, I will make it my goal to Scatter Kindness, to Sweet William first for his is the face I see most often and the one I can so easily take for granted. I will endeavor to Scatter Kindness to those I know and to those I don’t, to the ones in my circle of  influence and to those I may pass only once in this life.

It will be challenging because I am too often self-centered. Perhaps the focus on others will alleviate my struggle for a while. At least for the next 28 days.

And like the dandelion fluff I’ve scattered with my breath on scores of summer days, perhaps one seed will take root in another heart. Perhaps Scattering Kindness will grow and flourish in someone else.

This morning’s radiance splashes pinks and oranges in the sky from my eastern window. The Spirit whispers, “I love you. This is for you.”

The world is chaotic and dysfunctional. I cannot fix it or make people happy. But I can show them they are loved by simple, kind deeds. And “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone is just asking if they can be loved.”*

February could turn into a bountiful opportunity to show God’s love through small acts of kindness. There is the chance it could change me and my little corner of the world.

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* Quote from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Sunday grace

Love.

God is love.  Not that God loves, an action, but that love is His essence.  He embodies love.

When He moves, creates, judges, offers grace, it is Him being true to His nature.

Love.

When we move, create, judge it is more often out of selfish interest.  Our concern for ourselves motivates us too much.

When we give grace, we imitate the God who is love.

Give grace today.  Give grace to those who look different, who think differently, who act in a way different from us.

Give grace to those who offend and hurt us with their words and actions.  God will judge rightly.

Give grace to yourself when you mess up for the umpteenth time.  Accept the grace given by God, the forgiveness He offers that covers a multitude of sins.  Don’t keep carrying that dead weight around.

The cross testifies to the love of God, the essence of God, that He loves us so much He was willing to die and take our punishment rather than live without us.

Oh the wonder of love.  The wonder of God.

Sunday grace.

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All about love

I’m listening to Adele on a DVD from my public library’s collection.  Believe it or not it’s my first time to hear Adele.  I know! Where have I been?

She takes my thoughts to Valentine’s Day with all the songs about love.  Unrequited love.  Disappointed love.  Love gone wrong.  Love that came and then went.  Makes one wonder, is there really a love that lasts?

While there are couples who have stayed together to celebrate 50, 60, even 70 years of marriage, how many have gone by the wayside?  Too many.

In a perfect world, we would all love with a pure love, without expectations, simply loving for the sake of love.  And wouldn’t the world be a better place?

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment – and there were so many the Jewish people were concerned with following – there were only two He mentioned.

The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.

Everything else hinges on these two commands.  Love God.  Love others.

What if we asked God for the power, the ability to do that?  What if everything we did was first measured by “what would love do?”  What if this kind of love changed our hearts and made us different in every way?

Jesus beautifully did exactly that.  He loved God perfectly, and He loved others perfectly.  And the world killed Him for it.

But the power of love is greater than death.  He proved it to us.  He lives and loves still.

While I am in my lenten season of being present in the moment, I hope I can focus on loving better.

Loving like Jesus is a high calling, more than celebrating Valentine’s Day or the wedding anniversary each year.  It’s not something I can do naturally because I’m too self centered.  It will require a heart transplant.

His heart in me.  It’s the only way to love.  The only way to really live.

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Valentine’s Day is not about sweethearts

Of course, the media in all of its intrusive forms would make us think Valentine’s Day is for lovers and sweethearts and couples and spouses.  We must buy candy and cards.  We must spend money.  Jewelry and roses are expected.  And if you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something expensive, well you just must not be loved so much.

NOT!  Please don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  I’ve been recognizing this more since doing a Bible study by Kelly Minter and gathering weekly with sisters to talk openly and be real about our lives and our relationships.

Anything good in this world, any smidgen of love displayed, any beauty, any joy all comes from the Creator of every good and perfect gift.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my husband’s embrace, in the endurance and strength to care for him, in the kindness of medical professionals and visitors to his hospital room.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with gifts all day long, gifts of grace like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, my little dog snuggling close, by a phone conversation with my grandson-too-far-away.

But the very most extravagant love God has demonstrated was the gift of His Son to a world that did not receive Him, did not know Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in that He loved us when we were unlovable, unlovely, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He initiated love and lavished that love on the creation, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His welcoming arms of forgiveness and grace.

Many stories try to tell us the origin of a man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving and so we celebrate him with a day in February.  We call him a saint.  And then we ask you to spend money to show your love.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing your own wants for someone else.

Love forgives, does not hold grudges, hardly notices when others do you wrong.  Love is patient and kind.  It’s not jealous and boastful.  Love helps you think of others first and act in loving ways no matter what.  Love longs for truth and right living.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Because Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when I am wounded by words.  Not when I am separated by distance or misunderstandings or unresolved conflict. God’s love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, no nothing can separate me from His love.  And that is worth remembering on Valentine’s Day.

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