Crazy Little Thing

Love is in the air.

It wafts through February with not-so-subtle notes of fresh-cut roses, chocolate truffles and pricey cologne.

(And occasionally, a hint of desperation.)

Valentine’s Day looms, casting its candlelit shadows and sultry melodies, rendering hopeless romantics everywhere… lovestruck.

Quick PSA: If you haven’t procured a token of affection for your sweetheart, you’ve got about 24 hours to bring the magic. And a giant teddy bear with big brown eyes and a red velvet bow is – sadly – devoid of magic… unless the object of your affection possesses the emotional maturity of a third-grader. (In which case you have have much bigger problems than finding the right Valentine’s Day gift.)

Since there seems to be a fair amount of confusion (and endless debate) about what love is and isn’tI thought I’d try to sift through some sentiments/platitudes/poems/prose and toss a few of the fantasies/fallacies/falsities/fables.

(In honor of Saint Valentine, of course.)

Love is never having to say you’re sorry. (Erich Segal)

I disagree. Humility and mercy are pretty essential to love’s survival. Say sorry, mean it, make amends… start again.

Love is blind. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Nope. True love gazes intently, sees clearly… and loves anyway.

Love is friendship set on fire. (Jeremy Taylor)

Don’t really think so. I get the gist but… fire burns down. Love builds up.

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. (William Shakespeare)

Smoke vanishes. Love sticks around.

Love is a game and true love is a trophy. (Rufus Wainwright)

If love is a game to you… you’re a player. (And a jerk.) Thank u, next.

Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same. (George R. R. Martin)

Wrong. Love shouldn’t be toxic. Ever. (If it is, run for your life.)

Love is a flower; you’ve got to let it grow. (John Lennon)

Sweet sentiment… lousy analogy. Flowers wilt. Love is ever green.

Love is a serious mental disease. (Plato)

No, psychosis is a serious mental disease. Love, on the other hand, heals.

Love is a battlefield. (Pat Benatar)

Wrong. Life is a battlefield. Love is a bunker.

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. (Robert Frost)

I’m thinking this sounds an awful lot like objectification. (And isn’t that what we tell our daughters to avoid at all costs? Thought so.) It’s devotion – not desire – that lasts.

Love is a reciprocal torture. (Marcel Proust)

Nope. Love doesn’t inflict pain. It endeavors to ease it.

Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably s&*#. (Smart, Alec.)

Actually, I have no idea who said this. (I just really wanted to attribute one of these quotes to the aforementioned fictional character.)

While these sayings are oft-quoted (and make catchy memes), none of the above is actually, well, true.

And I daresay it’s not what love is that matters most. It’s what love does.

Love rescues.

Love rights wrongs.

Love banishes fear.

Love bears the worst… and believes the best.

Love never double-crosses or quits or falters or fails.

Love lasts. Forever and ever. Amen.

That’s real love. And there’s only one like that.

God’s.

(But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

God’s love is pure… profound… perfect.

And nothing in the entire universe can stop it.

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8:38-39, TLB)

It’s utterly indestructible, startlingly tender.

It can be shunned, mocked, betrayed, rejected or reviled… and it isn’t deflected, deterred or destroyed. In fact, it isn’t dimmed or diminished in the slightest.

In love, God fixes His adoring gaze on us – even at our ugliest and worst. (Which, let’s be honest, is often far more unsightly than what we allow to seep out into the public eye.)

Love refuses to be spurned. It simply… waits.

It doesn’t flinch in the face of rejection or rage. (Or even turn away.)

Because with God, there’s no such thing as “irreconcilable differences.”

In fact, there are no conditions for God’s love whatsoever… and no reciprocation necessary.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Who could possibly love like that?

Not a single soul on this spinning blue ball has the grace and guts to love that way.

Love is… and love does…

because…

I AM.

Love isn’t just God’s idea. It’s His very nature. It’s who He was, who He is… and who He will always be.

And since He’s the inventor of love, He’s the one who gets to decide what defines and distinguishes it from all of its imitators: attraction, affection, camaraderie, chemistry, compatibility, flattery, obsession, esteem, loyalty, lust. It isn’t just sweet talk. It’s truth. And it’s true blue.

He shows us the essence of love by example.

Quite simply, He lives it.

(In epic proportions.)

Who He is… is what LOVE is:

Incredibly patient, exceedingly gentle, consistently kind. Strong and steady and wholly unselfish. Refreshing, resilient, restorative, relentless.

God lives and breathes love. And let His only Son die to prove it.

Because love will sacrifice everything for its beloved.

Jesus bore the shame and blame and excruciating pain, and He did it for those who were inflicting it. (You and me and all the rest of humankind.) He did it with no guarantee that we’d ever appreciate – or even acknowledge – His incomprehensible sacrifice. He did it, knowing we might never return His affection and adoration. (Or pass it on.)

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

God is love. (1 John 4:7-16, The Message)

Turns out that crazy little thing called love is… a crazy big thing.

The biggest – and best – thing ever.

Wendy

P.S. Be(Love)d.

 

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Every Blooming Thing

My dear reader,

Stop right now and look outside.

Do you see that?!

GREEN.

After all the dull and dreary and dead, finally, thankfully, the great outdoors has begun to bud/bloom/blossom. (Unless you happen to live in Iceland or Death Valley. In which case I suggest you stop reading altogether… and relocate.)

Spring has been a loooooong time coming. March didn’t deliver. April didn’t either. It did bring those showers it always promises. Along with snow, sleet, hail and high winds. (Which is different than hail and high water, though we did get a couple flood warnings.) And a tornado watch too. After that, I stopped following our local meteorologist on Twitter. Because she was blowing up my feed.

Just when it seemed we’d fallen under some nefarious Narnian endless-winter spell, spring up-and-SPRUNG!

I got the first glimpse when my pale yellow daffodils peeked out from the snow-dusted earth. Shortly thereafter, the snow melted and the purple crocuses sprouted and splayed.

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Then a lovely little magnolia stole the show.

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Not to be outdone, the Redbud blossoms burst on the scene the very next day.

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(Attention grabbers.)

But that’s not all, folks. The coming attractions include scents of lilac and lavender, honeysuckle and heliotrope. (< If you don’t have some, get some. The fragrance is heavenly.)

Early-bird specials to late bloomers, full-sun or shady characters, I wholeheartedly agree with Claude Monet: “I must have flowers, always, and always.”

Shrinking violets and knockout roses. Bee balm and butterfly bushes. Dianthus and dahlias and daisies… oh my!

Moonflowers and sunflowers, snapdragons and sweet pea. Pansies, petunias and peonies. All in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and designs.

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Hello, gorgeous.

My mom was a flower child. So I guess it isn’t all that surprising that I’d grow to love every blooming thing. (Yes, including dandelions. Especially when they’re twisted into a handmade garland by happy little fingers. What could be more lovely?)

From my very first seeds-sprinkled-in-a-styrofoam-cup-of-soggy-dirt kindergarten horticulture lesson… through years of planting/pruning/weeding/watering under the tutelage of my dear friend Jo… to becoming a full-fledged member of Newfields just so I can stroll the gardens whenever I please, I’ve been completely smitten by…

Flower power.

Flowers remind us that even when s%*t happens, something beautiful can come of it. (If only we will let God work when we’re deep in it.)

I think Lady Bird Johnson said it best:

Where flowers bloom, so does hope. 

Why? Because flowers just do what they’re made to do.

Beautify. (Every view – and vase – they grace.)

Gratify. (Gardeners, photographers, florists and prom dates.)

Glorify… God Himself.

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6:25-33, The Message)

Morning glories… and HALLELUJAH! He’s got you/me/us covered, clothed, and completely taken care of. Like every blooming thing.

You take care of the earth and send rain to help the soil grow all kinds of crops. Your rivers never run dry, and you prepare the earth to produce much grain. You water all of its fields and level the lumpy ground. You send showers of rain to soften the soil and help the plants sprout. Wherever your footsteps touch the earth, a rich harvest is gathered. Desert pastures blossom, and mountains celebrate. Meadows are filled with sheep and goats; valleys overflow with grain and echo with joyful songs. (Psalm 65:9-13, CEV)

Cultivate beauty. It’ll make the world a better place. Get your hands dirty. It’ll make your heart happy. Do a little weeding. In your garden… and your life.

What are you waiting for? Get growing!

Wendy

P.S. Just for you… a little SPRING FLING contest! 1. Comment your favorite flower(s) or gardening tip(s). 2. Follow my blog – or if you’re already following, share the link via email or social media. 3. You’ll be automatically entered to win an assortment of annual and perennial seed packets selected by yours truly. (Winner will be announced May 11.)

Ready, set, grow!

Sweet Talk

My dear reader,

Today is the day you’ve all been waiting for…

TACO TUESDAY!!!

Kidding. Or not, since your local Mexican joint is probably the only restaurant within a 50-mile radius that has any last-minute reservations available… in case you forgot to book a table for…

VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

That red-letter day everyone anticipates with fluttery hearts and flowery expectations… ok, maybe just the starry-eyed lovebirds who met their soulmate on Match.com a couple weeks back (and a handful of Hallmark and Hershey’s stockholders, perhaps).

Last week, my daughter came home from school and told me her girlfriends were buying up Val-o-Grams like clearance lip gloss and bubble gum.

“What on God’s green earth is Val-o-Gram?” I tried to hide my concern that some enterprising sixth-grader was selling his mom’s anxiety medication out of his gym locker. Again. Yes, this had already “been a thing” when one of our older boys was in junior high. (I’ve made a couple trips around the block, kids.)

“It’s really just a blank valentine. You buy it for a dollar and write a note to somebody, then the Val-o-Grams get delivered on Valentine’s Day.”

I can hear the sales pitch now:

Here, kid, buy some blank paper for a buck and scribble a note on it…

You’re a Bae/Hottie/(flame emoji).

I Heart You

Be My Boo

I Like Big Butts I Cannot Lie (you just know some 7th grade boy is gonna go there. Punk.)

Student Announcer: “And our Valentine Valets will hand-deliver your sweet sentiments all the way down the hall and around the corner to Mr. Brown’s science lab.”

Enterprising, indeed.

My brain leapt from felony prescription drug charges to ill-fated junior high crushes… and then my heart sank.

“I remember that whole scene. Only for us, it was carnations. Red for true love. Pink for friendship. And white for secret admirer.”

Chloe gave me the question-mark eyebrows. Kid was clearly not tracking.

“‘Secret admirer’ means you’re crushing hard.  Anonymously,” I added for clarification.

“Mom, I know what a secret admirer is.” Sigh. Eye roll.

“But you did that thing with your eyebrows,” I insisted. She did. I  swear she did.

“Yeah, because…  Flowers?! For guys too?” Apparently the manly men at HIJH (nearly all of whom are doused in copious amounts of Axe Body Spray and sporting peach fuzz) wouldn’t be caught dead clutching pink carnations on February 14th or any other day of the year.

“The guys dug it,” I said, matter-of-factly. Because they did. And because I thought it was a cute little play-on-words. Flowers. Soil. Dig?

“That’s weird.” Meaning, Mom’s weird. Her friends are weird. The 80s were weird. She has a point there. (But we can talk about women’s shoulder pads and men’s mullets and Brooke Shields’ undies and Madonna’s armpits another time.)

“I’m not gonna send any Val-o-Grams. I’m gonna save my money and do my own thing.”

Smart cookie, that one. (She’s got 60 bucks in babysitting money, and she isn’t gonna blow it on BLANK PAPER.)

What I didn’t say was… WHEW!  Thank God you’re not (literally and figuratively) buying into the Public-Proclamation-of-Pubescent-Popularity Contest. Because honestly, that’s what it is. It’s a social hierarchy spectacle and not-so-subtle indicator of junior high-and-mighty. And the Valentine Valets know it. And they are profiting from the vulnerability and insecurities of 11 to 14-year-olds. For shame.

I remember Carnation Delivery Day like it was yesterday. (Actually, I don’t remember that much from yesterday. Except the hot yoga and cold pizza. I highly recommend both.) For me, February 14th eerily resembled the rising action of “Sixteen Candles.” Plenty of awkward moments and mortifying embarrassment and maybe, just maybe, a little thrill of hopeful romanticism thrown in. But for the most part, Valentine’s Day denoted a whole lot of dread. I dreaded the possibility of getting a red or white carnation from someone who – like me – was gawky and geeky and self-conscious… and mingled mainly with the “Mathletics” crowd. I dreaded the thought of getting one pink carnation from a well-meaning, merciful, misguided friend trying to deliver me from enduring an entire day empty-handed and forlorn. Or the worst fate of all. Zero carnations. None. No love, no friendship, no admiration. Another high-level equation for me and my mathletics team:

0 Carnations + 7 (48-minute) Class Periods = Valentine’s Day Despair.

One girl I knew regularly collected bountiful bouquets during the annual school-wide flower shower. It was an embarrassment of red, white, and pink riches for this girl. I think she topped out at 37 carnations* one year. (If you’re reading this, Hi Gretch!) She was one of those perky/pretty/popular/party girls who made all the boys’ heads turn and cheeks burn (and caused other physiological and anatomical responses as well, but it would be inappropriate for me to elaborate in this family-friendly corner of the world wide web).

*I feel obliged to place an asterisk beside this statistic because she may have already begun dating the guy she eventually wed, raised a family with, and remains happily hitched to. (Hi Scott!)

Chloe went off to school this morning sporting her sparkly valentine necklace and bearing candy conversation hearts and Ring Pops for her friends. She may or may not return home with a Val-o-Gram or a flower (of any color or variety). Either way, I hope she will bound in the front door with a bright smile and a happy heart, because she is loved. Like crazy.

But if my girl comes home empty-handed and forlorn, I will tell her this:

You know what carnations and Val-o-Grams (and fancy chocolates and fine jewelry) do, sweet girl? They make us feel noticed, cherished, wanted… wonderful. It’s not really the swag we crave; it’s the kindness, care, and crazy-about-you vibes. Not the expense, but the esteem.

I read once that there are only two things in life we really long for:

Security and significance.

Every single one of us wants to feel safe and special. We want to be protected and prized. If we’re completely honest, we are all quite desperate for attention, affirmation, affection. We want somebody to tell us we matter, notice beauty in us, talk sweetly to us, and listen and truly hear us. Someone trustworthy to unburden ourselves – bare our souls – to. Someone who will uplift and refresh us, or comfort and console us. When we’re lovable and lovely… and when we’re ugly too. Someone who will look past the unbecoming and see the hidden exquisite. Someone who gets us; who’s got our back; who’ll help us become the very best version of ourselves.  Somebody who’s willing to run the whole 26.2 miles with us, pacing us, cheering us, giving us water, urging us onward… toward the finish line. (And then stick around to hug and high-five us in the post-race party tent!)

Someone.

Someone who’s near.

Someone whose love for you will not fade or falter or fail.

Someone who will never, ever leave. No matter what you do or say or don’t do or don’t say.

He has written you a soul-searing love letter… and grown fields of wildflowers for you.

He sees you. Knows you. Hears you. He defends you. And He delights in you. He adores you, draws you close, sings sweetly over you. When you call out, He will save and strengthen you. Hold you and help you. He gives hope when you don’t have a razor-thin glimmer and drenches you in His good grace. He loves you so wildly and boundlessly that…

He would die for you. (Already has.)

He’s the love of your life… and ever after.

His name is Jesus.

Be His.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

With all my heart,

Wendy

P.S. I do hope Chloe gets at least one Val-0-Gram. But far more than that, I hope she knows how dearly and deeply and endlessly she is loved. By the One whose name is Love. And a whole bunch of others: family, friends, maybe even a secret admirer. On second thought, let’s postpone the latter. (Her Daddy is so not ready for that.)