The kitchen calendar has just been turned to February, and though I've accepted how fast time flies, I still marvel. Some nights pass so quickly, I believe the Lord is pushing the fast forward button so He can hurry up and bring us to our forever home with Him. Of course that means somewhere on the other side of the world, someone's days are rushing by!
My fondness for winter is non-existent, but my heart is warmed midway by the celebration of Valentine's Day on the 14th. I enjoyed the cartoon Valentine's Day cards exchanged in elementary school and I've relished the romance of grown up gifts of love. At Sallas-Mahone Elementary School, in a building which no longer exists, we'd color Valentine themes on a paper bag, tape them to the window sill and on Valentine's Day they'd be filled with cartoon cards and if one was lucky, a heart-shaped lollipop would be threaded through one or two.
In 2009, the older of my two brothers was buried on Valentine's Day, and remarkably, it was one of the sweetest Valentine's ever. My husband quietly presented me with flowers, candy, and a card on which he wrote that he was so sorry these came on a sad day for me. His gesture of thoughtfulness was the first thing I saw the morning of my brother's funeral, waiting for me on the dining table. The way my husband artfully expressed both his love and condolence at once has been one of many beautiful treasures he deposited in my heart.
I have an affinity for all things heart related which dates to a pink plastic locket my daddy gave me; I wore it proudly on a plain string necklace. It was perfect for a little barefoot princess who'd rather climb a tree than wear a tiara. There were roses embossed on that little locket, which may have come from a box of Cracker Jacks, but was a treasure to me nonetheless.
On the first Valentine's Day my now husband and I celebrated, he presented me with a gold floating heart necklace, encrusted with tiny diamonds. We knew each other barely a month then, and the gift was a sweet predictor of the future we would share together. I handmade a card for him that year, 1983, and it is now falling apart, but he has held on to the symbol of my love as I have the necklace.
When our love grew our family by two, I began a tradition of making Valentine's baskets, little square red plastic buckets with a chrome handle, lining those with heart-dotted tissue paper and filling them with candy and little trinkets. They'd be on each family member's respective dining chair Valentine's morning and it appeared they were anticipated with as much joy as the Christmas stockings we'd dig into each Christmas Eve.
I don't recall the year, but my late mother-in-law began distributing important papers and photographs to each of her seven children, and I thought it so appropriate that my husband's baptismal certificate was dated February 14th. He's so sweet! I close my eyes and imagine how blessed his mother must have felt holding her fifth child. She and my father-in-law both said they would have had more children than their quiver full of seven if time and biology had permitted. Being that I am a fourth child, a surprise baby at that, I've never frowned on large families, but rejoiced in the number of blessings!
Our blessings have grown up in this speed of light passing of time, and one of the things I've done to fill the time suddenly available is work on photography skills. The picture taken above captured a Valentine the Lord made for me in a 'gator filled swamp, 2012. I am captivated by the natural beauty of His creation and I was in awe of this unfurled lily pad, shaped in love. It wasn't until I examined the picture more closely on a computer screen that I saw the shining star, further depicting His ultimate love for mankind, the announcement of the birth of His Son, glowing over Bethlehem.
Sometimes I am overcome by the hate in the world, but February reminds us to look for and express the love! It's there, and to allow it to be blotted out by unkindness, well, that's a shame. I need to respect my Lord more than that! This life is spotted with heartbreaks and loss, but His love is expressed so deeply and so dearly, it deserves priority focus! Like the overwhelming beauty of a delicate lily in a swamp fraught with dangers is His all surpassing love for us as we traverse this world on our way to Him.
Look for all of life's sweet Valentines He blesses us with--all month long, all year long, all life long.