My husband knows I would much prefer a new plant for my garden over cut flowers–but the fragrant bouquet he gave me on Valentine’s Day was certainly a lovely way to remind me of his love for me and fill the wintery gap between now and the time when I can play in the dirt outside.
As my Valentine’s Day flowers begin to droop and fade, I am reminded that Valentine’s Day can be difficult for some. In my personal circle of friends and family, several were bereaved of a loving spouse in the past year or two. Others are going through a valley experience in life and wondering whether their Valentine will be there to love on next year. None of us knows whether we have the next breath. Romantic love is wonderful, but temporary. Finding ways to express Christ-like love is the best. I love Paul Tripp’s article filled with 23 ideas for sharing love with others in 2023.
There are people in my life I am having great difficulty loving as I should. This list reminded me of ways I can show Christ-like love to these prickly-hard-to-love people. I plan to print it and put it in my prayer journal as a guide, not only to prayer, but for putting love into action.
My hope and prayer is that this post will encourage someone who reads this to greater love in your circle of people who need His love.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17 (ESV)
I’m not going to sugar-coat it. This leg of mom’s Alzheimer’s journey is rough. To this point in our journey together, there has almost always been a spark of recognition and joy in mom’s eyes when she sees me. In her mind’s eye, I am not always her daughter, but I’m always someone special: sometimes her mom, other days her sister or best friend. Gina, co-owner of BeeHive, and also Mom’s nurse, pointed out that I am all of mom’s favorite people rolled up into one. That was a sweet thought – something I hadn’t thought of before.
Not today. The light was gone out of her beautiful brown eyes. In those eyes which once held kindness, joy, and sometimes a bit of mischief, today there was only a blankness, ambivalence, and a lack of recognition that goes deeper than the momentary blips I’ve seen thus far. I know that this is part of the disease process as Alzheimer’s claims more of her mind and beautiful spirit, but it’s still rough on the heart.
God, in His grace, knew I would need extra encouragement today, so He had prepared three special gifts for me.
The first gift was breakfast with Maureen, a friend I haven’t seen in a few decades. We met up at Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton and enjoyed one another’s company and two hours of sharing where our individual journeys had taken us over the past few decades of life. What a blessing.
My pastor met up with me in the parking lot at BeeHive bearing today’s second gift: encouragement in the form of a favorite salad he had purchased for me. BeeHive is under precautionary lock-down due to the coronavirus threat, thus the parking lot meeting place. Truth be told, the greatest gift was actually not the salad – it was his listening ear and being wrapped in a prayer in the middle of a parking lot.
God had my momma deliver the third gift. Mom hadn’t recognized me at all today, so this gift was quite unexpected. I was watching her blindly fiddle-footing around in her wheelchair when she sidled up to where I was seated and, without a word, took my hand in hers and began examining it and stroking it with gentleness. Patting my hand in hers, she looked into my eyes and let me see the love in hers.
Seventeen letters from her and eighteen letters from him later, and it was time for “he” and “she” to finally meet one another in person. The letters between them had been filled with bits and pieces of thoughts shared and information that helped them “get to know” one another. Each letter revealed just a little bit more about the person holding the pen.
About a month before he came home on leave, he sat down to write. The mood struck him to write another poem. The poem took her by surprise – for it was on the theme of love. To this point, none of their letters had even hinted that they might at some point date, let alone fall in love. Yet, she read with interest what he had to write and wondered if it was a measure of what was in his heart:
“Love” – what is it? A word that’s used so frequently, By many quite confused They think they use it properly, And yet “love” is oft abused.
How can I spell the meaning that, In just a couple words, Relates exactly what love means, And not destroy the word?
It seems the dictionary lacks, Enough vocabulary, To even start this giant task Or end it properly.
Is friendship love or vice versa? A miracle in thought? Or is it even greater still To think of things Christ taught?
On earth we’ll never really know, The sparkling magnitude, Or what it really means or does. It seems I’m more confused.
Where does “love” come from, or “love” go? From heart to heart perhaps? Does anyone pretend to know? There are no “Atlas” maps.
I think love is being loved A little brings a lot. And God planned and started it, Or else we’d be without.
Was he falling in love with someone he hadn’t yet met? Was he thinking about the possibilities? Was he already thinking about taking their relationship to the next level? Was she?
Sunday, August 5, 1973 finally dawned. Today was the day… and I don’t think she heard a single word of what was being taught in Sunday School that morning. Nervously fidgeting in class, she kept thinking about what would happen next. In less than one hour she would meet in person the guy she had been writing for the past 7 months. There would now be a face and a voice to the name scrawled at the end of the letters she had read in earnest. She was excited, nervous, eager, scared and a jumble of other feelings all at once.
To help him pick her out in the crowd, she told him she would be wearing a pink dress. It was her favorite dress, the one she had worn to the church “senior banquet.”
In their last letters to one another before he came home on leave, they made plans to meet at church between Sunday School and the morning worship service. Now, with her best friend next to her for moral support, she timidly walked down that long second floor hallway scanning the crowd looking for him. Her heart skipped a beat as her shy eyes caught a glimpse of him standing there at the far end of the hall – tall, handsomely tanned, and dressed in his Navy whites. He was looking for her too!
Intense nervousness set in. Even though she had agreed to meet him in that hallway just outside the church library, she still felt apprehensive and awkward. What should she say? Should she shake his hand, or give him a hug? Should she say, “Hi, I’m Cindie, and you must be Wayne” or just simply say “Hi Wayne”?
Nonchalant! That’s what she decided she would be. She would just turn her head and engage herself in deep conversation with her friend (nervous, nonsensical babble, actually) and just walk slowly past him and wait for him to make the first move.
He thought she was a bit of a scatter-brain walking past him like that, but he stopped her and soon the introduction was history. Little did they know, as God would have it, this was the introduction to their future.