Friday, February 14, 2014

All the Ways I Love ... A Valentine's Reflection

Heart shaped balloons and bouquets and chocolates adorn the front shelves in the market.  Men come to unfamiliar territory, hunting through the floral display for just the right way to express the emotions they have on this day.  One man, in line in front of me, has a box of chocolate covered cherries and a dozen red roses.  In the lane next to us, the man holding white roses interspersed with lilies asks the man at the checkstand if this looks good enough.  They long to show their love -- an awkward and difficult, yet urgent task on this day of love.

I'm thinking about love.  All the ways I love.

I love this man.  He wasn't "my type" when I met him.  We made dear friends, skating, hanging on the beach with a group of young people, enjoying talks and never even imagining that we would sweep one another away.  Love crept up on us.  It snuck into our friendship and surprised us and scared us a bit too.  I love this man.  He has been through all the highs and lows of growing together.  We have hurt one another, but we have outlasted the hurts.  We have raised children together and prayed together and laughed together.  This is the love of my life.  Some days, when life gets hard and we are tired and lists are long we can forget the amazing gift of one another.  Other days, when storms blow at us, we stand shoulder to shoulder and we are the stronger for the company of our love.  We own a quiet strength and bond in our love.  He isn't a romeo or a superhero, but he is all I ever want in my lifelong partnership.  I dated others in my early years and I'll tell you not one of them could hold a candle to the wisdom, tenderness and inner depth of this man.  I love my husband with a deep and abiding, life-long, no-words-needed love.

We have two boys.  They light up my life with their antics and their friendship.  Our home is alive with their goodness and boyhood.  We are a family because of these two.  My oldest is wise beyond his years, a deep thinker, a great athlete, a devoted friend, who loves God and helping the poor.  My youngest is always singing and creating.  He is silly and snuggly and full of joy.  He has a kind and giving heart and loves playing with his buddies around the neighborhood.  I could say I have given much to them, but they have given me more.  Because of them I grew a mother's heart.  I ache with the love I have for these two boys.  They are gifts from God and I eat up as many moments as I can while they live here in our home during this sweet season.  I love these boys bigger than life.  As we say around here, I love them up to the moon and back.

I have some friends -- choice friends -- these kindreds who came into my life through common events or interests.  Not everyone is a kindred.  We don't get to choose.  When they come, you know.  My mother used to say if you could count your real friends on one hand, you were blessed.  As I have grown older I see the wisdom and truth in her statement.  I have a prayer partner who is like a sister to me.  She stands with me through hard times.  We share our burdens and they are broken in half.  We celebrate successes and joys together and they are doubled.  I have a walking buddy who moved to another town, but she and I meet by phone and walk in the mornings now.  My day isn't quite complete without a text or call from her.  I have a friend who meets with me for private Bible Study and we pour out our hearts and longings and seek God together.  She has helped me get back into God's Word in deeper ways and to see Him as my loving shepherd.  She has given me blessing upon blessing through gifts and care for my boys.  I have a friend who meets with me for tea once a month.   We share our memories and our hearts and our dreams.  We talk about our children and our lives.  I have friends who are pastors wives or missionaries and we don't see one another because we live on other sides of the globe, but we pray together or pray for one another and we connect every year or so by phone or in person.  We pick up right where we left off when we finally connect.  I have friends who home educate and we share our joys and struggles.  Because of their presence I have grown and made it through.  Each of these friends is like gold.  Last year I was feeling a bit low about friendships and I devoted myself to praying.  I asked God to deepen friendships in my life.  God has reminded me of true friendships and filled my life with new friends too.  I love each of these friends for who they are and for the good they bring out in me. 

I have a mentor.  She is like a mother to me in my spiritual life.  We both are getting older and our relationship continues to develop and change as we grow and mature as well.  She has seen more of my heart than most human beings alive.  God has used her touch and presence to love me into more wholeness.  I love this woman with unspeakable gratitude and tender intimacy.

All of these loves are so dear to me.  On this day of love I think of each of them and thank God for sweet relationships.  Each of them is a gift to me.  Beyond and above these loves, I love Jesus.  What can I say about the love of a God who stoops to bless me, touches me in the most intimate places, seeks me out, calls me forth, made me and redeemed me and gave me this life abundant?  This is love:  Love that goes to a cross for me when I was unworthy.  This is love:  Love that touches my heart and makes me into all He would call me to be.  This is love:  Love so patient and kind and forgiving and jealous.

At times I have had difficult relationships in my life.  You know.  Not all relationships are compatible and even the best of relationships will sometimes go through hard times or misunderstandings.  It may seem odd to mention those kinds of relationships on this rose-colored day.  Yet, in these very relationships God has taught me to love in ways that He loves.  I may not be able to act on the love He extends in these relationships at all times, but I can learn what it is to love and there is nothing higher in life than love -- maybe even it could be said there is nothing higher than love for those who do not love you in return -- after all, this is the Love of God in highest form. While we were His enemies, He died for us. 

On this day, Valentine's Day, I pause and thank God for His love and for the many loves He has allowed me to have in this life.  His name is Love and His heart is love.  It is because of Him that I truly know how to love.  I pray I would live in such a way as to reflect His love to all people in my life. 

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