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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Dearly Beloved

It’s wedding season.

Which means the “Wedding March” and “Love Shack” are topping playlists everywhere. I happen to be a fan of the B-52s – and Mendelssohn too – so I’m ok with that. (I draw the line at “Turn Down for What.” Just… no.)

I love weddings. The solemn vows, the sentimental toasts, the sacred union. The blushing bride, dashing groom, teary-eyed parents. The dress, the flowers, the CAKE. That last, lovely daddy-daughter dance, the crazy kid doing the Worm, the bevy of bridesmaids clap-hop-stomping to the Cha Cha Slide. The bouquet toss, the clinking glasses, the joyful rice/bubbles/sparkler sendoff.

But first – barely above a whisper – the seating of the guests, the lighting of the candles, the sprinkling of the petals to herald the bride’s slow, sweet stroll down the aisle. And then the pastor/priest/rabbi/internet-ordained-second-cousin-of-the-groom begins the ceremony… and at that point, I have to suppress a little giggle.

Because I’m envisioning the bishop from “The Princess Bride,” that’s why.

Mawwwage… Mawwwage is what bwings us togevver today. Mawwwage, that bwessed awwwangement. That dweam wifffin a dweam…

(Well played, Peter Cook.)

There are lots of terrific films about engagements and weddings and brides and grooms but “The Princess Bride” is my favorite… (six-fingered) hands down. It’s action, adventure, romance, comedy, fantasy and fairy tale all delightfully mined and cut into one brilliant little cinematic gem.

Brandishing a stellar cast, quotable script, and enduring lessons on life and love, the film adaptation of William Goldman’s book was a sleeper hit. It opened just a few weeks before Steve and I were married in 1987 and had a mildly successful run in theaters before gaining widespread fame and “family classic” status following its video release. Perhaps that’s the reason I remain so enamored: the story harkens back to the beginning of my own “happily ever after.”

(You may heretofore refer to Steve as “sweet Westley” and me as Buttercup. If you wish.)

“The Princess Bride” launched Robin Wright’s award-winning career and brought Columbo’s to a satisfying and splendid close. It introduced us to the dangers of shrieking eels, fireswamps, and iocane powder, and the wonders of MLT sandwiches, swashbuckling swordplay, and chocolate-covered miracle pills. And it bestowed a rich stash of witty and iconic film quotes (which serve as regular retorts in our household).

I’m not a witch; I’m your wife!

Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates…? Morons!

When I was your age, (YouTube/Netflix/Xbox) was called books.

We are men of action. Lies do not become us.

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

But I digress.

The reason I find weddings so captivating is this: they remind me what matters most. Family, beauty, devotion, worship. They make no apologies about what we ought to do: keep our promises, cherish our people, love big and bold and brave… ever after.

Sadly, things don’t always turn out as swimmingly as they did for Buttercup and Westley. There’s a whole lot of living that happens between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” and it requires copious amounts of grit and grace. Day after day after day after day after day.

Every so often, I watch the bride and groom wave goodbye to their guests, and I think…

Have fun storming the castle!

Do you think it’ll work?

It would take a miracle.

The odds are stacked pretty high against lifelong love and devotion. Two people are drawn by their differences, then dashed by them. Or by the natural (and/or manmade) disasters that inevitably strike every living thing on planet Earth.

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Some couples grow apart, others grow bitter. And a few – those rare and lovely few – grow old together. They hold tight – for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health – ’til their very last breath. Gladly. Gracefully.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Yes, that’s the hard holy work, isn’t it? Loving the people under your own roof.

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. To serve, sacrifice, set me-me-me aside.

For us-us-us.

Love – real love – costs. (The people who say it’s free are… well… morons.) Love costs a bundle.

A willingness to risk your life… and lay it down. Risking your life may be the easier thing. It’s the laying it down, day in and day out, that’s really hard. Choosing to selflessly, relentlessly love an imperfect person. Someone whose flaws have become glaringly apparent. Someone who has failed you time and time again.

It’s an impossible task, really. Unless we are filled and fueled by Love Incarnate.

Here’s the hitch:

We must be fully loved before we can love fully.

This is true love. You think this happens every day?

Yes.

God loves you, truly.

Nothing you accomplish could make Him love you more than He already does. And nothing you do will make Him love you any less.

Inconceivable, isn’t it?

All He wants from you, beloved, is that you… be loved.

So, soak it up. And splash it all around. It’s what you were made for.

All you ever really wanted was to be loved (just the way you are)?

As you wish.

Wendy

P.S. You can quote me.

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.)