We are not quite to Valentine’s Day yet, but the lessons I learned about joyful giving sprang out of preparing for Valentine’s Day a number of years ago. That year – 1984 – I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Christmas had come and gone with my shopping and making gifts for family. With a husband in a very intense doctoral program and managing our young sons mostly on my own, that was just the way it was….and I knew there would be little recognition or love tokens for me on Valentine’s Day either.
I had tried hinting…and even outright telling, that I longed to have flowers occasionally – something I had often been the recipient of when Dick and I were dating, but had been a rare occurrence over the years since we had been married.
Rather than become a nag, I began journaling my frustration and sharing my hurt with the Lord. As I processed with him, reading scripture to find comfort, I turned to Luke 6:32-33, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” I heard the small whisper of the Holy Spirit – “Judi, what are you giving out of love to others – without any thought of return?” That prompting was all I needed to turn my thoughts outward and begin thinking of ways I could give and make someone else’s day special.
With that in mind, I decided to make that year’s Valentine’s Day the best one I could for my husband and my boys. I began by tucking small notes or candy conversation hearts into lunches and placing silly notes around the house, like “You light up my life” on a light switch or “I just love that face” on the bathroom mirror. I even wrote love notes in sidewalk chalk up the driveway and to the front door for them to find as they returned from school and work.
There were many more creative things I did and gifts I gave that Valentine’s Day, and I remember them all well – enjoying seeing the surprise and delight on the faces of my husband and boys. What I don’t remember? … I don’t remember if or what I received that year. And it didn’t matter. I discovered joyful giving without thought of anything in return! In fact, that was the very best gift I have ever received!
Since that year, I have learned to ask God to help me listen for his heart for people – and to reach out and give to others who are needing that special gift of love and encouragement. It truly is better to give than to receive! – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist