It's not a secret that I love Valentine's day.
There's no reason for it at all, just the hazy idea that it's okay to set aside a day in honor of the thing that makes the whole earth turn.
Haters say it's fabricated, a ploy to sell imported, genetically altered roses and those crappy chocolates in the cardboard hearts.
I say, "Be gone, cynics!"
Yet for all my Valentinian fervor, the painful truth is that all my paper hearts met an early demise this year and I have nothing planned for my kids except cinnamon rolls from that lonely cart at the back of Kroger.
It's like this more and more.
Back when I lived in La-La Land, I would write for seven nights running about important and significant things like my rainbow/heart patterned dish towels from Target. I once spent an entire evening attempting to snip dehydrated pink grapefruit slices into hearts.
I'm still weird and frivolous, full of hair-brained ideas and silliness. But life was so much simpler, back then.
Back then, I didn't know actual people in jail or poverty or impossible situations. I didn't know teenagers whose love had been abused until it was unrecognizable, then altogether lost. I had never thought about 6-year olds in families too poor or distracted to grab a $2 box of valentines for the class party. My phone didn't buzz with text messages from young moms asking for help through their shame. I hadn't known the face of suicide, back then, or the soul-decaying invisibility of the condemned.
I also didn't know the hopeful beauty of a criminal and a police officer kneeling side-by-side for communion. I hadn't yet seen the vibrancy of an Ethiopian mama providing for her young with her dignity intact. I wasn't aware that sometimes being a good neighbor means nothing more than opening the door and other times it means nothing less than giving the last cash until payday. I wasn't fully aware that sisterhood can be born in the birth of a brown-eyed baby. I had no measure of my capacity to love and be loved by a big kid tethered with an ankle bracelet. I couldn't have guessed that my husband would grow a ridiculous beard and rise up to shepherd child molesters and common theieves.
My eyes were still closed to the particular bonding powers of shared suffering and easy celebration.
Though I'm still an unwavering advocate of heart garlands and small gestures, I'm maybe just slightly less so. I have peeled back the lid of the heart-shaped box and found actual beating hearts, hearts that are wild and pulsing and wounded, they might say, beyond repair.
I've sat quiet with my own bruises and been rescued over and over by a hand reaching out for mine, holding on until I trust I'm in good company.
I know that hand is the very body of Christ, outstretched by someone willing to shelve her own burdens so she can shoulder mine. I know now the only reason I walk this earth is to help cast His love about, and that sometimes the best I can do is receive.
Today, I want us all to be loved. I know some of you aren't feeling it today, or yesterday, not ever, really.
Or maybe life is mostly good except for the parts that aren't, the parts that torture your nights and cause you to cry at the kitchen sink.
Maybe we're all in some kind of pain, you know? Maybe we compartmentalize it differently, some carrying it in a vest pocket, some wheeling it around behind them in a tall stack of precarious emotion.
We're let down and we're letting down, a bunch of distracted humans sure to get things wrong.
But what if today, we did things differently? What if, in the midst of our celebrating or not celebrating or rueing St. Valentine himself, we held out a hand to one more person, intentionally, because it matters for each of us to be loved today?
If you're in, just leave a comment. Say whatever needs to be said, without pressure to say much of anything at all. Just make sure we know your name.
I can't say enough that I love you guys. You're my people. What we have here is community. We've done this sort of thing before . We've passed proverbial loaves of banana bread around the stratosphere. It just feels like it's time again.
Aim all your love to the person directly above you in the comments, then draw back and let it fly.
You can pray, if you happen to be a Jesus person. But I know not everyone is, and I happen to like it that friends outside my faith are comfortable hanging out here. So just send love, in its best and simplest form. You can comment to each other or send your virtual love through brainwaves and shallow breaths. There's no wrong way. We each have certain love to give and we need to know we're not alone. I want every single one of you to believe you've got a Valentine here among us, someone rooting for you today, cheering you on from a different corner of a wold that's ribboned with glitter and laced with drear.
Just know that you are loved, friends. Know today that despite every botched weekday and every closing door, you are cherished and special and so necessary to the lives around you.