The Frailty Of Human Love.

Crap. I thought to myself. I need three cups of flour and I only have two. It was 1:00 this morning and I was baking Valentine M&M cookie bars for the kids’ lunches today. I wasn’t going to the store because of one cup of flour. I had already mixed together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and two sticks of room-temperature butter. I was too far in to back out. So, I took a scoop of the pre-floured goop out, crossed my fingers, and hoped the mixtures would even out and bake properly.

While my cookie bars were baking, I finished setting up the kitchen table for this morning. Cute little decorative plates, a vase of tulips, a smattering of pink, silver, and red Hershey’s kisses, little mailboxes for each kid with their favorite candy inside, and little wooden paint sets (Target dollar spot never disappoints). Finished with a cake plate of freshly baked muffins and store-bought chocolate Valentine’s donuts, and handwritten note cards to each of my babies. It was late, I was still in my scrubs from a busy day at work, but I loved looking at my decorated table. It took quite a bit of work, but it is so worth it to see my kids’ faces in the morning. It felt like Christmas Eve all over again!

Why go all out for Valentine’s? Of course, I want them to know how much they are loved. But if there is one thing I want to teach my kids about Valentine’s Day, this is it:

“God allows us to feel the frailty of human love so we’ll appreciate the strength of His.” -C.S. Lewis

Think about it. One portion of the population is all about roses, rings, and chocolates. Then there are parents running around looking for that blessed box of Star Wars cards with glow stick light sabers in them that little Timmy HAS to have. And not just one box, he needs two. Because his class has 20 students in it and there are only 18 cards in a box. FOR THE LOVE!!! And then another portion of the population just wishes it was the 15th already.

We all have reasons we love, tolerate, or hate Valentine’s. And I’m willing to bet, many of those reasons are other humans.

Maybe this is a good year for you. Maybe you have a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day for the first time, or maybe the first time since whatshisname broke your heart a few years ago. Maybe you received a bouquet of roses at work today, and your dinner plans included candlelight and wine.

Or maybe this isn’t a good year. Maybe Valentine’s just reminds you of just how lonely you are. Maybe it stings to log on to social media and see all the gushy posts about “I’m married to my best friend and soul mate and I would die for him!” while you’re *still* single. Maybe it hurts to see pictures of Father-Daughter dances because you never got to experience that with your dad- maybe he wasn’t around, or- maybe he was, but emotionally and verbally abused you, and otherwise completely ignored you. Maybe your spouse left you. Maybe you’re happily married, but your significant other doesn’t do anything to make you feel important on days like today, so you steel yourself and put on a front and “Oh I just don’t even care about Valentine’s Day, it’s just a commercialized Hallmark holiday that people just waste too much money on. Really, it’s stupid. I would rather pluck my eyelashes out one by one.” (Calm down Susan). But really, there’s a part of you that really, really hopes there will be flowers when you get home… even though you know there won’t be.

The last thing I did before crawling into bed at 2 this morning was cut out red, white, and pink hearts. On each heart I wrote a Bible verse about love. And then I placed them on the wall next to the table in the pattern of a cross.

The Bible says that God “has set eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) What that means is there is a God-shaped void in every human heart. Every human has a longing for God- but we all fill that longing with other things. Often times these are good things. But if we keep filling a God-shaped longing with other things, that longing will never be satisfied. And those things have a nasty way of dictating our self-worth.

So, the cross shape on my kitchen wall and the verses on each heart are significant. Because even though I want my kids to know how much I love them, I’m also going to fail them. A lot. I want to point them toward the One who will never fail them, leave them, or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6). I want their hearts to stay steadfast in assurance of the love God has for them- that He loved them while they were yet sinners and had nothing to offer Him. He saw every dirty and nasty sin they could ever commit, and He said they were worth dying for. He sent His Son to live a perfect life that they could never live, to pay a debt they could never pay. And He did that because He loves them. He did that because He loves YOU.

Having a date on Valentine’s is wonderful. Sending your daughter with her daddy to a dance is precious. There’s nothing wrong with flowers and cards and candy. But ultimately, where are your longings for love being directed? Are you filling that God-shaped hole in your heart with other things, and other people? From my own experience, the more I fill that longing in my heart with God, the less I fill it with other things and other people.

Filling your heart with what God says about you will be an anchor for your self-worth, so no matter how you experience the frailty of human love, your soul will find rest in God alone and in the strength of His love for you.

It’s Time To Move.

February 2nd is a hard day for me. She didn’t pass away for 12 more days, but the 2nd is the day I found out she wasn’t doing well, and didn’t have long.

For me, this day is actually harder than the day she passed away. I relive exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out… the confusion and shock followed by gut-wrenching sobs. Then the frantic gathering of my things- hair still wet, no make-up, no shoes, as I calmed myself just enough to press a quick kiss onto my then-three year old’s forehead before running out the door. I flew down Falls of Neuse Road, driving like a bat out of hell- weaving and passing in turn lanes and running lights. I was only six miles from Duke Raleigh Hospital, but it felt like an eternity getting there in the middle of lunch time traffic in Raleigh. My mom was dying.

I ran into the waiting room, and the front desk could tell by my face exactly who I was there to see. My sister appeared, her red nose and splotchy face giving away what her older sister brave face was trying to protect me from. I followed her to the back, and saw my mom curled in a ball on a gurney, her frail frame looking more like a 12 year old than a 61 year old. I curled up right next to her, getting as close as I could, tears soaking her pillow. Weak and barely able to speak, she quietly said, “Oh honey…”

Once my brother arrived, I excused myself. I couldn’t watch him fall apart, and I couldn’t watch her trying to comfort him. He was always the favorite… the bond between him and my mom was unmistakable. Just seeing her looking up at him was enough to drive a stake through your heart.

They moved her to a private room at the hospital, and the pain meds began to work. She was able to sit up, cuddle with her two grandbabies, and entertain an endless stream of visitors. She received a call from her nephew that his son had been born, named after her beloved grandfather. She faded in and out of sleep for two days, but managed to keep us laughing. My favorite story was when she went to the bathroom to “take a shower”, turned the water on, and suddenly we smelled cigarette smoke. I went and found the nurse, because what else do you do when your dying-but-stubborn mother lights up in the hospital?? The nurse looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said “Honey, she doesn’t have much longer. I ain’t about to tell her to stop now.” And I watched in amazement as the nurse knocked on the door and called out, “Ms. Marcia? You may want to put a few towels at the crack under the door so your shower steam doesn’t get out.” Followed by a surprised, “Thank you” from my mother. I swear she got away with everything.

Those two days were filled with friends and family, and visits from mom’s lawyer, signing the power of attorney papers, and making decisions about hospice care. We began the 12 days of saying goodbye and letting our sweet and stubborn mother go.

I was 26. I was too young to lose my mom. We had only just begun to heal from many painful years of estrangement. All of my teen years and the beginning of my twenties, I held on so tightly to the ways I felt she was wrong, and the things she did that I didn’t agree with. I wasn’t able to process them maturely and allow her to just be herself, agree to disagree, and not let it affect our relationship. Finally, after having my first baby, I realized how much I needed her. By the time I had my second, she had become my on-call doctor, my seasoned counselor, and my comedy relief. My love for my children showed me my mother’s fierce love for me and my siblings… and broke down my guarded walls as I realized that a mom can mess up, but still be a good mom.

I can’t get those lost years back. I wish I had known then, what I know now. That messing up and making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human. I have wept in sorrow over my judgemental years and how the plank in my own eye caused me to miss out on so much. But like the good mom she was, she loved me when I loved her least. Once I let her back into my life, she never held how I handled things against me. She acted as though it had ever happened. Her ever-present love was the forgiveness I never knew I needed.

How about you? Are there lost years? Maybe not with your mom, but perhaps someone else? Dear one, you never know when you will get that call. I never expected my mom to die at 61- and she had had cancer for 17 months. I am forever grateful to the Lord for softening my heart so I could have those three short, but precious years before she died.

But we don’t always get those chances. Don’t wait for that person to apologize, or apologize the exact way you want. Often times when we dig our heels in and want God to move someone else, He is waiting on you to move. To first, get that plank out of your eye, and then move toward forgiveness and healing. You may never get an apology… but you don’t need one to offer forgiveness. Don’t let your bitterness and stubbornness eat you alive and steal your joy, and rob you of precious years.

Make the move. Today. The enemy doesn’t want you to. He wants you to stay comfortable in your misery and indignation, and remind you of all the ways you have been wronged that the other person needs to right. Don’t wait. If you do, it could be too late. I know it’s hard. Forgiveness is costly. It’s costs you your right to be the judge. When you have a hard time forgiving, look to the cross. It was costly for Christ. But He willingly was beaten and nailed to a cross, to die a sinner’s death that He didn’t deserve… all to bring you to God. You were worth it to Him.

If you believe that, and you have been forgiven of much… then you have the power to forgive much. The more you see what all you have been given grace for instead of punishment, the more you are able to extend grace to those who sin against you. If you are struggling, know that you can ask God to soften your heart. Forgiving doesn’t make what that person did okay. Forgiveness simply takes the burden of being the judgment-bearer off of you, and rightly places it on God.

Don’t lose one more minute. Whenever your February 2nd happens, you will be eternally grateful that God softened your heart.