Monday, February 20, 2017

On valentines and love

We baked cookies in the old neighborhood and delivered them on Valentine's Day.

My kids and I would walk from house to house and drop them off at doors. If the weather was too cold, I'd drive. My kids learned about giving and about thinking of others. And while the door to friendships I had hoped would open didn't, we all learned a valuable, valuable lesson on love. Do it anyway.

When we moved here, my kids still wanted to deliver cookies to our (new) neighbors. That first Valentine's Day here, that first year here, that walk to a neighbor's house seemed the longest and hardest. I had to remember the example it set for my kids--do it anyway. They were excited, and always had been, to be bearers of treats to people. This was no different for them.

I still remember my utter amazement and delight the time we came home to find a red box gifted to my girls. I probably cried. (Oh, hope restored!)

This year, unexpected sadness. My dad died. I had a funeral to plan. I had his affairs to wrap up in a county an hour and a half away (each way). A sister to check on. Appointments at offices. Homeschooling my kids. An upcoming portfolio review. And then Erin got sick with flu. (And even this list is not the full list ...) When Valentine's Day came, I already put off our tea party for a meeting with an advisor. Erin wasn't even sick at that point, but the week ahead was weighty enough on paper.

My kids still got the Valentine morning trail of hearts to the breakfast table. They had, each, a little box of chocolate and small gifts waiting for them (water bead bracelets and Beanie Boos). We celebrated, still, but it wasn't in the way I hoped or planned. And we didn't get around to baking anything for our neighbors (in hindsight--a good thing with flu at our doorstep!). I was surprised how heavily that weighed on my heart. It felt like failure. Because it's not about the cookies.

A neighbor invited us over to give gifts to the girls, and a potted plant of lilies to me. How I wished to muster up lightness in my very heavy heart.

"I didn't even have time to bake the cookies," I said, lowly. I felt so bad. So bad. A Valentine, lost.

Erin came down with fever on Wednesday. Everything felt like heaviness in the house. The review. The estate tasks. The next steps. The appointments. Thursday I went out to meet again with the lawyer--sick kid at home on the couch. I went by the store on the way home to load up on gingerale and crackers and other things in case we all succumbed. I went to the mailbox.

Inside, chocolate hearts for me attached to a gluten-free cake mix and a card. I thought the handwriting belonged to my best friend, but I opened the card and saw it was from my next-door neighbor.

She was wishing me a happy Valentine's day and thanking me for being good to her. She wrote some other things. I texted her immediately. She didn't know my dad had died and that these few weeks had been a hustle and blur. I wanted her to know how much, oh, how much, her words and gift touched me.

Thank you, God.

Your promises are true. Love anyway. That if we don't give up, in time, there will be a harvest. This year, I saw fruit--and it wasn't only a package of cake mix, it was a pouring out of love from all my friends and neighbors, letting me and my family know that we are loved and not forgotten.

Not only a Valentine's Day message, but a Gospel one.

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