Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.
I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.
Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.
There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.
For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.
Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.
So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.
Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close.
I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.
The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders. But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.
If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.
Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.
I thought about Sarah often throughout the day, all of it a testament to her strength and resolve. Teary moments threatened a few times, but I banished them quickly. There’s a time for all that, but not during the Valentine Tea. In a gesture to bind together old tradition with new, I read the intro from Emilie Barnes, “An Invitation to Tea.” It perfectly expresses the heart of our Tea, and Sarah had always included it.
I wish I had taken more pictures, but here’s the thing about that: I haven’t figured out how to be fully present and live behind a camera. It’s one or the other but not both. The more accurate thought is I wish I had more pictures, but my mind’s eye still sees each precious face and my soul remembers every connection.
And, this, to me, is where Body Life is so beautiful–I don’t think we ever necessarily talked about God but we flat out lived it. Not to pat ourselves on the back – good googlie-mooglie, heaven forbid that! – but sometimes we need to recognize that living the gospel IS preaching the gospel, and all at once this little tea party tradition sparked something new in my heart, and I’m curious if it will smolder to ashes or blaze into fire.
Time tells that kind of thing. If it’s the real deal it’ll burn.
Can you scooch over here and let me admit something? I’m not quite sure how to say it, and I sincerely, truly, really really hope you hear me….
I’m worried some people who find their way to these words will feel their eyes turning green. Maybe they’ll wish they could’ve been there or feel void in their own lives, or maybe they’ll compare home or friends or gifts, or, I don’t know what, but click away from the page feeling less than or lonely.
If that’s you, darling…and I say this gently but firmly: stop it.
That’s the enemy of your heart talking, and I promise, his is a convincing voice. Don’t believe the lies.
I’ve felt the angst of all that. I’ve swum those dark waters.
I have wasted years wanting things never intended for me.
I loathe a victim mentality. What I hadn’t realized was me envying or coveting what someone else had was me playing the victim. Blech. The wallow is an ugly thing and accomplishes the work of your enemy by distracting you from the Lord has for you.
Be the one to BE the one. Ask a neighbor to come over and serve her leftovers for lunch; she cares more about time together than what it is you’re serving. Get a group of people together to go see a movie and dessert after. Stop wanting what other people have and create community by gathering together the people who are already around you.
Bloom where you’re planted. If you can’t be with the ones you “love,” love the ones you’re with. Okay…so now I’m resorting to song titles and clichés, but if the shoe fits wear it. (I’ll stop now…. ~ smile ~ )
Give from your void.
We could mine the spiritual dimensions of all this til the end of time – thoughts on contentment and joy and satisfaction and a million other things, but I’ll leave it at give to give and not give to get. I’m convinced that giving to give (glory to God, blessing to others…) brings greater gain than giving to get could ever accomplish.
The Valentine Tea Party is about giving who I am and what I have, which gives glory to God. The gain to me is an abundant satisfaction in learning that me being me is more than enough. It’s what the Lord has been trying to teach me for a long, long while. He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of, you know, creating me, if I didn’t matter to this world.
The same applies to you.
Click away knowing that who you are is more than enough, and get busy discovering who and what it is that God is prompting in you.
So sorry about your MIL. Both my parents had dementia of all sorts. Mom was confined to bed 2 years before God graciously took her home.
I agree we need to bloom where we’re planted. Do what we can when we can as often as we can for as many as we can. Don’t look on social media all the time-that’s what the devil wants-to get us all upset & depressed about what we don’t have. Be thankful for what we do have. We are richer than most people in the world. Get friends together & have fun. I have cooked a few meals for my in laws. FIL going through stage III bladder cancer & MIL not doing well herself.
I’m saying a prayer over your in-laws as I read your words… (((Hugs))) to all of you.
Thank you for this post! My daughter is in college in Seattle, and I found myself realizing I missed doing the “Girly” things (and I mean that in the most powerful way) I used to do with her for Valentine’s Day.
I invited my sister over with her two girls (ages 14 and 13) and hosted a “Galentine’s Dinner”
I set the table with the good silver, and my antique red champagne glasses, and even scattered pink sugar candy all over the table after it was set! Ah, “Girly” bliss!
The message I got from this post is that no matter how we love, as long as we do, and take the time to manifest it, we’re speaking for God.
Oh Shelly…I LOVE this! Not that you were missing all the Girly things, but that you DID something about it! #OYTO!! Your Galentine’s Dinner reminded me about what one of the little girls who attended ours called it–Glamentines :). With all the fancy things, that fits (though it doesn’t have to be fancy…that’s what I LOVE from time to time!!)
Thank you so much for taking time to read, process, and reply. I’m grateful.