This Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating the truest love of my life, Jesus Christ.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that the Lord loves me, but recently, He has gone out of His way to convince me. After all, if I don’t know love, then I don’t know Him at all. Like a suitor woos his sweetheart, God has demonstrated His love for me time and time again this year — perhaps most poignantly in these three stories.
Love Story #1: Father Mike
Father Mike is a priest at the Catholic Church down the street from our house. He and my pastor-husband know one another, not from the church world, but from the neighborhood Starbucks they both frequent.
One morning, Andy took our oldest daughter on a daddy-date to Starbucks, and introduced her to his friend.
“Father Mike,” Andy said, “I’d like you to meet my daughter, Anne.”
The priest smiled and looked directly into my 11-year-old’s blue eyes. “Ah, Anne!” he said warmly. “That’s a special name. Do you know what your name means?”
Anne looked shy. “I think it means ‘graceful.'”
“Yes!” Father Mike agreed. “Graceful. The perfect name for a beautiful girl. Anne, you are full of grace!”
Anne blushed, but loved every word.
When Andy relayed the story to me later that day, I was touched by the priest’s thoughtfulness. What a way to bless someone! What intentionality.
Immediately, I wondered how could I follow Father Mike’s example. My mind raced with ideas. I should write the story on my blog, I thought. Maybe I could even study a book of baby names, so I could bless others with the meaning of their names, too.
Then, in the middle of all my planning, I sensed a Holy Spirit nudge. “But what does your name mean?” the Lord prompted.
“Beloved,” I answered. “Amy means beloved. I learned that from the plastic pink bookmark I had when I was a little girl.”
All at once, I was awash with God’s love. He impressed on me, “Yes, child. That’s the name I call you. The perfect name for My beautiful girl. Amy, you are My beloved!”
Plans abandoned, I cried. How often I forget — or do I ever really know? — that God simply loves me. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,” wrote the disciple that Jesus loved, “that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
Love Story #2: Sweet Potato
I can’t grow plants.
I try. I picture my little concrete patio transformed into The Secret Garden. But mostly, I forget to water things, and they die.
I decided to change that this year, though, and I determined to bring beauty and life to our house and tiny yard. I bought a houseplant — one that said “hardy” and “needs little care” — but still, in spite of my good intentions, I notice too often that its leaves are limp and brown.
I can relate to the withering plant. Spiritually speaking, I’ve been in a dry season of my own, struggling to see God, and questioning His care for me. Has He forgotten me, like I forget that plant?
“Maybe I’ll grow a sweet potato vine,” I decided. I’d read about one in a book — poke some toothpicks in a sweet potato, stick it in a jar of water, set it in a kitchen window, and watch it grow a leafy vine that even I can’t kill.
I added “sweet potato” to my shopping wish list, but never got around to buying one. I either forgot or ran out of grocery money by the time I came to it. Weeks passed, and no leafy vine grew in my kitchen.
Then one morning, my neighbor stopped by. Arms full of groceries, she had cleaned out her refrigerator before leaving on a long vacation. She wondered if I wanted her leftovers. We chatted briefly, and I carried her food to my kitchen and unpacked it. Romaine lettuce and a bag of carrots. Bacon, several oranges, and there, in the very bottom of the bag … a sweet potato.
“Lord, why are You so sweet to me?” I whispered in my kitchen. What could be more random than a sweet potato? And yet, I felt like Hagar at the well. “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13-14). It was as if God said, “I have not forgotten you! I am here. I care about even the tiniest, most random detail of your life. You are precious to Me.”
Love Story #3: Lovely
One evening, in a devotional for mothers and daughters, my two girls and I read about the importance of seeing ourselves the way God does. The world gives us labels, the book said, but we need to know who God says we really are. To reinforce the lesson, the author suggested that we write on mirrors, and label our reflections with God’s truth.
Excited, Anne and Molly grabbed their markers and climbed up on their bathroom counter. “Pretty,” wrote one. “Smart,” wrote the other. Soon the glass was filled with life-giving, God-given labels, and Anne and Molly decorated their work with butterflies and rainbows. Leaving them to their art, I went downstairs. With tears in my eyes, I told my husband, “I wish I would’ve learned this lesson when I was their age. I think I’d be a lot farther along in life if I had.”
Andy hugged me, but didn’t say much. We cleaned up the kitchen, put the kids to bed, and finished the day. Headed for bed myself, I flipped on my bathroom light and stared in amazement. At some point that evening, Andy had taken a marker to my mirror, too. There, in big, green letters, he’d written one word. “LOVELY.”
He knew the mama needed to learn the little girls’ lesson.
I am lovely. Lovely to my husband, yes. But even more, I’m lovely to the God who created me. “The king is enthralled by your beauty,” wrote the psalmist. “Honor him, for he is your Lord” (Psalm 45:11).
In a month for chocolates, roses, and Hallmark cards, perhaps this is the truest Valentine: To hear God call me by name, and know He loves me. To see Him sweetly supply my every longing, and know I am precious. To believe that I am who God says I am, and know He finds me lovely.