It is obvious which holiday is quickly approaching, for the red and pink cards in the seasonal greeting card section remind all shoppers of the latest sentiment to give. The hearts of chocolates are enticing me to buy a little something for myself. Soon the tents with flowers and stuffed bears will arrive in grocery store parking lots encouraging all sweethearts that is isn’t too late to say, “I love you.”
The gifts that keep giving
Some loathe the holiday, which I can appreciate. I always secretly wished the flowers filling my sorority entryway on Valentines’s Day in college were for me. I dreamed of a secret admirer out there somewhere who was finally going to tell me that he could not keep it a secret any longer. But of course, as I read each card, none were for me. It can be frustrating when secret admirers won’t make themselves known on a day like Valentine’s Day! But one thing I have learned during my 21 plus years of marriage is that flowers do wilt and chocolates… well, don’t last long either.
The last post was related to having healthy relationships when the relationship may be difficult or challenging. This writing is more about the relationships we hope to thrive, and the things that can make them healthier. The Valentines and chocolates are great, but we need to be reminded of everyday gifts we can give the people in our life that really set the relationship apart to a world that longs to experience love and connection. And Valentine’s Day is here– the holiday of relationships. So here are some “better than chocolate” Valentines to give to the special someones in our life (be that beaux, friend, spouse or family).
A Thankful Heart
Have you ever thought about how a thankful heart is not just for our own good, but also for the good of our relationships. Thankfulness does help encourage our hearts and keep things in perspective. It changes our countenance and attitude. In turn, our thankful heart blesses our relationships. It can bring joy in the midst of the most trying of circumstances. This is love.
Often Brian and I will say to each other, “What are you thankful for from today?” Make it a habit to share something you are thankful for from the day with your roommate, boyfriend, spouse or child.
Thankfulness makes our hearts lighter. It is a gift that is contagious.
Appreciation for the Small Things
At the root of appreciation is the desire to be accepted, noticed and loved. In appreciation we hear, “You are valuable.” If we desire to be valued, so does the person next to us. Showing appreciation is an act of kindness that can inspire a person to live as the person they were created to be. It affirms their gifting and uniqueness. This is love.
Make it a habit to notice things, the little things, and use words to tell why you appreciate it. Who doesn’t want to be appreciated?! My husband usually does the dishes, which I am grateful and also want him to continue doing! It does serve me. There is always something we can appreciate in a relationship, it just takes learning to pause, observe, and then speaking sincere words.
Appreciation is one thing we all crave, even more than chocolate.
Serving when not asked
It is funny how small things that need to be done can feel like such a big deal. My boys dread taking out the trash, but it really only takes a couple of minutes. Things we don’t want to do we like to put off or hope will disappear. Yet, if we step in and do those little things for another it can feel like such an encouragement. I like to spend the least amount of time in the kitchen, so the dishes my husband does speaks love to me. Becoming people that fill in or do a task that is not “ours” speaks volumes. This is love. Serving is not natural for most of us, but it is a sign of God’s spirit at work in us.
Find tasks to do regularly, that need to be done, when you are not asked to help. Love is communicated the most clearly when sacrifice is involved and no payment is expected or wanted in return. Love is an action that looks to the good of the other– a willingness to let go of temporary pleasure for the well-being of another.
Service is love demonstrated.
Speaking Positively of Others
There is always something to be negative about or worry over. We don’t have to look far to find problems in our world. We also live in a complaining world– a world in which it is a “right” to be honest or “just saying.” There was a student in a Bible study I lead that always seemed to have gossip to share or other negative comments to deposit. It felt awkward as I tried to change the subject. I could tell it bothered everyone. Really, negativity weighs others down as well as ourself in the long run. I think a way we speak love in our relationships is by being people that build up others and not tear down. This is love. Practicing speaking highly of those you have interacted with, remembering a positive interaction, or praising someone’s gifting is an act of love in relationships. It helps the relationship to think well of others and avoid negativity and comparison. We like to be around positive people.
Uplift a friend by being positive, especially of others. Form a habit of saying things you appreciate about others. If I have had lunch or met with someone that day, I like to tell my husband something I appreciate about that other person. It may leave the other person wondering what positive things you say about them.
Love does not seek to be the center but chooses to spotlight others.
Praying for Them
I feel loved when someone out of the blue tells me they prayed for me that day. There are also times when I notice a shift in my attitude or circumstances for the good, and I later find my husband was praying for me during that time. Praying for another affirms our faith that God is the one who can meet our needs and not us. This is love. He is in control and we can trust him.
Consider praying on the spot with your friend when they share a concern or some struggle in their life– be that in person or over the phone. Pick a day of the week when you pray for them specifically. Prayer could be the best way to love someone at that moment– especially when there is nothing tangible we can do for them.
Love desires a person’s best, which is God’s best.
A Little Box of Chocolates
Actually, a “little something” goes a long. When I was young, my mom would always have a Russell Stover’s box of chocolates for me on Valentines day – just a small one. But it felt so special because I had been thought of, it was waiting for me and I love chocolate!
Chocolate is good, especially when accompanied with gifts of sacrificial love- the gifts that keep on giving.
Much of these “gifts” are about being and becoming a generous person. A generous person is growing in outward focus- offering thanks, speaking appreciation and positive words, serving when it is not my “task” or offering prayers. Love is generous and sacrificial. None of do this perfect or even very good much of the time. But as a follower of Christ, we are being shaped more and more to be like Christ, who is the perfection of love and sacrifice.
Love is so much more that the feelings that our world communicates. Love involves self-sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, goodness, and even self-control among many things. Healthy relationships involve these things. Chocolates get eaten. Flowers do wilt. But these “better than chocolate” gifts last longer than a box of chocolates.