Love is

Love is perhaps the most over-used and least understood word in any language.

And today, Valentine’s Day, it is especially overworked. Love is the key word in all the cards and messages that go out across the world.

But what is its essence?

To love without condition means selfless reaching out, a giving up, putting the other person first.

Love forgives, and doesn’t look back.

Love holds on, and doesn’t give up.

Love doesn’t measure past faults.

Love stands up and braces against the challenges of life.

Love is strong.

Love is soft.

Love is amazing when you feel it flowing out, and overpowering when it comes in like a tide.

The greatest love is not found in a season of new. It can only be fully discovered and revered in maturity. How can we know what we have without comparison, without recognizing we’ve weathered and grown? And how can we know how strong love is unless it has been through the fire?

We can only know we love unconditionally when we’ve confronted conditions.

The beautiful moments make the photos, the Facebook page, the Twitter feed.

The hard times make the love. 

It is the hard times that tell you if you have the real thing or the pretty thing, the last-a-lifetime connection or the last-as-long-as-it-feels-good relationship. There are plenty of those around, and yes, it is easy to mistake one for the other.

Who doesn’t like it when it feels good?

No one has the answers, a formula worked out neat and predictable, least of all me.

But I know it when I see it.

And I know it is worth having, worth working for.

On a day of icons, roses and chocolates and pretty cards, if you’re receiving or giving, I hope you’ll enjoy the moment.

Just know…the real thing is likely to show up on a Tuesday, disguised as something not glamorous, not photo-worthy, even unexpected.

And I guarantee…the Tuesday moment when love is demonstrated, not with beauty and ceremony, but in a flash of nitty-gritty, real life, and inconvenience…look there for the meaning, for the stamp of belonging.

Look to those moments to see love in all its power, showing up without the disguise of romance, standing in the gap and holding firm when you need it most and maybe deserve it least.

We can all be pretty and sweet on date night. But on a Tuesday…that’s when the real thing happens, and the bonds are forged.

Happy Valentine’s Day, to all the romantic souls who dress up today and celebrate the moment.

And may your Tuesdays be beautiful too, full of opportunity to give and receive real love, without condition, with all your heart.

Love is Blind

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Love is

Love is many things and comes in many forms. On this day, Valentine’s, there’s no escaping the commercial message. While I don’t get excited about the day myself, (my personal take) there are so many ways to express love, and thankfully, none revolve around a date on the calendar. These are a few of the joys I celebrate.

Love is:

~ 32 years of marriage: ups, downs, roller-coasters, tears, smiles, joys, kindness. All that, and we still laugh together. We still connect.

~ Love and support for family, and from family: the ties that bind.

~ Watching our son and daughter thrive.

~ Discovering childhood again through the littles, Riley and Jack.

Snow bunnies

Snow bunnies

~ Watching our daughter play with her babies, build her family.

~ Seeing the relationships of generations ahead of me…enduring, stabilizing, nurturing.

~ Friendships that have stood the test of time.

~ Faith that grounds and secures. I’m not secure in myself, I’m secure in my relationship. Thank God, and grace.

In honor of the day, here are a few new favorite words:

I have seen the best of you, and the worst of you and I choose both. ~ (Pinterest)

I believe in love at first sight…because I am a mom. ~ (Pinterest)

The problem with love these days is that society has taught the human race to stare at people with their eyes rather than their souls. ~ Christopher Poindexter

True love isn’t Romeo and Juliet. It’s Grandma and Grandpa, who grew old together.  ~ (Pinterest)

Eventually, soulmates meet, for they have the same hiding place. ~ Robert Brault

No Valentine, please

My husband is off the hook. I don’t need, expect, or want a Valentine’s Day gift. This is just my personal thing. If everyone else in the world wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day, please, enjoy. I know couples who put thought, effort, and love into the occasion, and I think that’s wonderful. For them. But not for me.

I have never been a fan. I’m not speaking about the traditions of the day for kids. The little Valentines that kids give out in school…well, I guess that still happens. Maybe not. I haven’t had an elementary school age child in my house…oh, for the past dozen years. But the small gestures of Valentine cookies, or Valentines for children to exchange…those things are fun, and are another marker of childhood.

I’m not a fan of the manufactured and obligatory gift giving that is milked to death in the name of love. Last week I had the thrill of having access to cable TV, an experience now limited to hotel stays or visits with family who still subscribe. Since we pulled the cable plug last summer, my TV exposure has been minimal, to say the least. But I digress.

All week I saw commercials for Valentine’s gifts suggesting that the perfect thing this year is a HUGE stuffed teddy bear; or footed pajamas; or edible fruit; or the ever popular trio of jewelry, flowers, and candy.

I love gifts, and I’m happy to be on the receiving end on my birthday, my anniversary, or any other day that has meaning to me, or to me and my husband. (Christmas doesn’t count in this scenario as everyone in the family gets gifts at Christmas.) In our culture, there is a tradition of giving gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, which are personal events. But I don’t like to feel that my husband and I are buying gifts for each other because of a commercial expectation that isn’t even personal. I don’t like the messages some commercials give when they show gifts being delivered in an office setting, and the lucky woman is envied for the gift she’s received. I don’t want my gift giving, or receiving, to be a competitive sport, thank you very much.

And most of all…this is specifically addressed to my husband, but anyone I know…please, please, listen carefully: do not, under any circumstance, ever give me a life size teddy bear to cuddle with. I can’t imagine what I would do with it, other than find a place that accepts new and unwanted bears for donation. If this is your idea of a great gift, you may have my bear. But this is definitely not for me. Take me to dinner, give me my favorite tea (that’s Republic of Tea Ginger Peach, in individual tea bags, if you’re interested); give me a gift card if you’re stumped. But please, don’t send giant bears my way. And the same goes for footed pajamas. Who comes up with these things?

One last word about gift giving. In my opinion, the best gifts are those given “just because.” Because someone saw something that reminded them of me. Or because I saw a need and filled it for someone else. That giving is straight from the heart, and without obligation or expectation on the part of giver, or receiver. Or one step further, in this day when most people have what they need, and even what they want, maybe the best gift, regardless of occasion, is the gift of time and presence: the gift of self.

Well, even though I don’t want a gift, I’m a sucker for Valentine’s cookies. I think I’ve previously admitted my guilty love of Lofthouse sugar cookies…you know, the ones in the grocery bakery that have garish colored icing, but are so soft and delicious? Well, that’s how I celebrate the day. Nothing like a little red and pink food coloring to make a cookie look inviting.

Boy, do I feel better. Now that I’m pretty sure no bears or pajamas are heading my way, off to find some cookies.