How Our Family Celebrates Valentine's Day

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Our family likes to celebrate. We celebrate holidays and people and babies who haven’t yet seen the light of day. Valentine’s Day is no exception. In the course of homeschooling, we taught our young girls about St. Valentine and the historical basis for the celebration, but we also focused on Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate the love of God and the love of family. 

Love is Giving

Our sweet little ones grew up and somewhere along the line, our gift of miniature heart-shaped boxes of chocolates morphed into bags of Lindt truffles and Valentine’s cards carefully chosen by Dad and signed by both of us. But that’s not what my girls are looking forward to this Valentine’s Day. 

Love is Sharing

I’m not even sure when our tradition began, but I remember thinking that girls want valentines. They want to feel special and valued and loved. I figured that if they didn’t get that at home, they would search for it elsewhere. So 10-plus years ago I decided to share my valentine. 

Love is Faithful

Yes, I think it’s important that our girls know that their dad and I are in love and that I am his #1 woman, but celebrating Valentine’s Day with overpriced restaurant dinners and red roses isn’t the only way to show our love. The girls see how my husband honors and prefers me every day of the year, how we serve each other, how we have faithfully planned date nights every month for the past ten years, and how we want to be together. Just the two of us. As much as possible. So I don’t mind sharing for a few years, because after that he’ll be all mine.

Love is Honoring

Since my birthday falls during the week of Valentine’s Day, we have a date to celebrate both occasions and then we celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. We try to honor the girls as we would someday expect their husbands to, by making it a special evening with dinner served in the dining room on china or our nicer plates. The menu usually includes a new recipe of something elegant, sometimes several courses, and always concludes with a delicious dessert. Sometimes the girls dressed up, sometimes dad cooked, and sometimes we moved a table into the family room. But the best is what happened after dinner. 

Love is Belonging

Every year Harold turns on the same CD, one that he and I often listened to while we were engaged, and then he takes a turn dancing with each daughter—yes, I get a turn, too! I love to watch the whispers, the giggles and the smiles as they each have their moment feeling special, and treasured, and loved. Sometimes the daughters went back for a second dance, sometimes they dressed up in my old bridesmaid gowns, sometimes sisters danced with sisters since our family is sorely lacking other male dance partners. But at the end of the night, each girl knew that they belonged to a family who loved them dearly.  

Love is Preferring

This year we were honored to be invited to participate in a special dinner event at our church on Valentine’s night. Of the two daughters at home, one was working late and we considered having the other join us at the event, but we realized that our youngest would probably only have two more Valentine’s Days with us. She was overjoyed to learn that we had chosen to stay home and that we will be continuing our Valentine Family Celebration tradition.  

Love is Timeless

Life changes so quickly but we never outgrow love.  Last year we celebrated with only the youngest. The other daughter living at home had chosen to be a part of an amazing regional event of Christian young people who were gathering for prayer and worship, another daughter was settled in Dallas, and another was serving as a missionary in Mexico. In April, our missionary daughter returned and that night, her Dad put on the “dancing CD,” held out his hand and said, “We missed our Valentine dance.” As I type this, I am still teary-eyed as I remember the love in his eyes and the tears on her face as she was once again reminded that she was special and treasured and loved by our family. Some would say that it was a little late, but love is always on time.

She May Have Alzheimer's but She's Still My Mom

My mom and I celebrated her 69th birthday on Sunday, but today she probably doesn’t remember.  Dementia has been slowly stealing my mother.  Just four days before her birthday my dad moved her to a full time nursing facility in a town near his PA home.  I had already planned to make the five-hour trip from VA to celebrate Mom’s birthday, and her change of residence didn’t change my plans. On Saturday night, I got my first glimpse of mom since Christmas.   Her eyes were still vacant, her mobility nearly gone, yet she still wore a smile.  Dad, one of my brothers, both of my sisters, and I sat around the table exchanging conversation and trying to piece together a conversation from her short, sometimes nonsense responses.  She stayed awake the entire time and enjoyed the cake we brought.  It was an unusual but sweet birthday celebration.

On Sunday, I returned to have some alone time with Mom and “to have church”.  She never missed a Sunday and most were spent serving the body of Christ with her exceptional musical gifts.  Her face showed surprise and a big smile when I found her sitting in the dining area with the other residents.  I greeted her with a hug and a kiss and then pulled up a chair to sit beside her.

Words cannot adequately communicate the reality of our time together.  On paper, her words are neatly strung together, one after the other.  In reality, there were many stops and starts and pauses.  Though the paragraphs here flow together swiftly, there was actually much silence and hand-holding during the course of my 45-minute visit, with little more conversation than what I recorded.  This woman was surely not the intelligent, vivacious, creative mother who raised me, but I saw glimpses of her.

I made some small talk with Mom about her birthday, how old she was, and what she had for breakfast. (She couldn’t answer, but the nurse had told me).  We sat quietly together observing the surroundings—a TV blared in the corner, a nurse was taking a resident’s blood pressure, and several residents walked aimlessly through the room.  It was hardly a setting for church, but I opened the service with some hymns.  I started with, “Heavenly Sunlight,” her favorite hymn and one she and her sisters had recorded on a CD about a decade earlier.  I repeated the chorus very slowly.  She knew many of the words, but she watched my mouth intently to help her keep up. She still loves to praise her Lord.

Next, I read from Psalm 34:  "I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together."  Then I read the first few verses from Isaiah 61, her life chapter.  All the while I read, she nodded her head and said “uh-huh” at appropriate She still loves the Word of the Lord.

Next, I gave her the updates of my girls.  When I told her that Victoria’s graphic design work had won a contest and that she was excited, mom replied, “That makes me happy, too.” She still rejoices with those who rejoice.

When I told her that Elisabeth had her own piano studio and was giving lessons to young children, she remarked, “I know she’s good at that.” She’s still an encourager.

I mentioned that Anna still wants to be a nurse and go to Africa.  Africa holds a special place in her heart since her sister had been a missionary there for 15 years and mom had traveled there on a mission trip in 2000.  She responded, “Oh, I hope she can make that happen.” She still has a heart for the nations.

Lastly, I told Mom that my musically gifted Abigail was still playing violin and that her talent must’ve come from her (Mom).  Mom played piano by ear with only 3 months of lessons and had a beautiful singing voice.  Mom’s response was that she got it from me.  (I have a degree in Music Education.)  When I disagreed, she said, “She got it from both of us.” She’s still humble.

There was a lot of activity in the community room where we were sitting.  When someone walked close to the stool where her swollen feet were propped, she moved her feet.  “Every time they walk this way I have to move my feet,” and she flexed her foot slightly to demonstrate. She still thinks of others.

Later, one of the patients knocked over a chair and she remarked, “Some of them don’t know how to act.”  When I mentioned that the staff thought she was pleasant, she said, “I’m glad you told me that.” She still brings peace in chaos.

Before I left, I asked her if she wanted me to pray for anything.  She said, “No, I try not to hold onto anything,” and proceeded to hand me the wet washcloth she had been holding in her hands.  Maybe she was talking about the washcloth, but it really is how she has lived her life. She’s still teaching me how to grow in Christ.

I prayed with her and she agreed throughout the prayer at appropriate moments.  She was clearly in her element with her Savior.  For years her days began around 4 am as she spent time with her Savior in my old bedroom turned prayer room. She’s still in love with her Jesus.

After the prayer, I leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.  Through tears I told her how special she is, how I glad I am to be her daughter, and how much I love her.  She responded, “I love you, too—well, you oughtta know that.”  As I stood to go, she kept repeating, “I love you. I love you so much.” She’s still my mom.

My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

My mom and I before she was diagnosed.

Sweet Words from Abba Father

February is the month our culture has designated to celebrate love.  I am so glad that Jesus showers His love on us throughout all 12 months of the year.  He sends us love notes nearly every day, whether we recognize them or not.  He calls us to Himself and longs to spend time with us.  What more could we ask for! During the past two years, I’ve been on a journey with God.  I’ve learned so much, but I’m still learning about His unconditional love for me and for you.  I’m learning how to balance, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)  and "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  (John 15:15 NIV)   Ultimately, I want to be so close to my Lord that He would call me His friend.

Recently during one of my quiet times, I confessed to God I didn’t feel close to Him and asked Him what that meant.  These sweet words came from my Abba Father.  Though I was the receiver, I believe He would like me to share these words with all of His daughters.

Being in My presence goes beyond feeling.  Quiet yourself and focus on Me—on who I am, on My faithfulness, on My never-ending mercy.  Sit in My lap and be at peace.  Nothing else is required; nothing else is expected.

Lean back.  That posture is not one of warfare, but of intimacy.  It is easy to whisper in your ear what others cannot hear.  When you lean back, you can feel the warmth of My breath; you can hear the beat of My heart.

I didn’t say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you STRENGTH.”  No, I said, " I will give you REST". (Matt. 11:28 NIV, emphasis mine)  Even in the midst of so much to do, I ask you to rest and trust in Me.

Why must you go at breakneck speed?  I didn’t set that example.  The spirit of the knowledge of good and evil enforces the need to earn your value and title of being exceptional.  You are exceptional!  I created you.  There is no one else just like you in all of creation.  I made you in my image.  You need not do anything more than breathe and smile.

It is my prayer that you’ll join me as I learn how to be a human being and not a human “doing”.  Make time to sit in the lap of the Creator of the universe who just happens to be the Lover of your soul.

A Father's Love (By: Harold Moore)

By: Harold Moore February – the month of love.  At least that is what we are told.  Funny how one day of the year, February 14th, can become a reason to buy cards, candy, flowers, etc., to show how much we love those in our lives.  Shouldn’t we have a life-style of showing love throughout the year?  The obvious answer is, “Yes!”  The way we show true love must go way beyond the purchasing and giving of “things” on a special day.

As a father I’m often challenged as to what to give my wife and daughters on Valentine’s Day to express how much I truly love them.  I will again this year give the ladies of my life cards, candy, and maybe a little gift for my wife.  But all of those gifts are meaningless and futile in expressing love if my wife and daughters do not know in their hearts the love I have for them throughout the year.  I believe they know in their hearts how much I do love them, but it didn’t just happen by accident.  I was intentional.

How can a father intentionally express his love to his family in ways that reach the heart?  I asked God that question one morning and I believe He answered my questions with a very simple acrostic of “FATHER.”

F:  Faithful

A father’s love is shown in faithfulness.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God, our Heavenly Father, shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still in our sin, He died for us.  A father is faithful to show love no matter what.  His love is not conditional or provisional, nor is it based on the performance of those whom he is called to love.  A father is faithful to provide for the needs of his family.  He provides security.  He is faithful to provide appropriate affection to his wife and children so that they have no need to search for it from any other source.  A father is faithful to keep the covenants and commitments to his wife and family so that his word is true and dependable.

A:  Accessible

A father’s love is shown in accessibility.  Hebrews 4:15-16 tells of our Heavenly Father who understands us and cares for us, even in our weaknesses and vulnerability to temptation.  He bids us to fearlessly and confidently draw near to Him and find help for every need.  A loving father is accessible to his wife and children.  He makes time for them and gives his time to them.  He creates an atmosphere of accessibility and openness.  He loves them; therefore he is accessible to them.

T:  Tender

A father’s love is show in tenderness.  Isaiah 40:11 and other scriptures give us a picture of how tenderly the Lord cares for his own.  Jesus looked over unfaithful Jerusalem and spoke of a tender desire to “gather her under his wings”.  He wept.  He had compassion over the sick, broken, and hurt.  A father who truly loves his family will be known by his tenderness toward his loved one’s emotions, hearts and spirits.  He will be tender with them physically, particularly his wife and daughters, and not treat them as “one of the boys.”

H:  Honoring

A father’s love is shown in the honor and value he gives to his family.  They are not just his; they are daughters and sons of God.  He treats his family with respect and honors their thoughts and feelings because they are created and valued by God.

E:  Excited

A father’s love is shown in an excitement about the things that are important and exciting to his family.  In Zephaniah 3 there is a wonderful picture of God dancing and singing over you with joy and excitement.  What an awesome picture of God and his delight over His children!  A loving father shows an excitement and enthusiasm over the things that are exciting and valuable to his family.  He celebrates and shows excitement about their life and their destiny.

R:  Relational

A father’s love is shown through an abiding relationship with his family.  We were created by God to be in relationship with Him – to be His sons and daughters – so that He could bestow on us the inheritance of His Kingdom.  God’s greatest desire was to show His love toward us by giving us a relationship with Him, not just gifts and pleasures.  Sin separated us from that relationship but God’s love for us was so great that He gave Jesus to restore that relationship with Him.  A father who truly loves his wife and children loves them through relationship.  It is relationship that wraps it all together.  Love must be given through relationship and not just an event or a check mark on “to do” list.

FATHER

In looking at this acrostic I realize that this doesn’t just apply to fathers but to all who call themselves Christians.  I also realize the many times that I fall short of these ideals.  Only our Heavenly Father fulfills these attributes perfectly and constantly.  Yet even in our weaknesses and shortcomings, He still calls us to show acts of love beyond a card or gift on a special day.

My prayer for you is that in this month, and the months that follow, that you will be filled with both giving and receiving love.  I pray that you reach the hearts of those you love with your faithfulness, accessibility, tenderness, honor, excitement, through genuine relationship with you.  And the card and candy are a nice touch.  =)