|a surprise from my friend Kate|
This challenged me. By God's grace, my beloved still owns my affection and admiration, but with the losses and brokenness we have sustained over the past 12 years, sometimes it seems the brokenness is our identity. As we take up our crosses to follow Jesus, as we die to ourselves in the daily endurances of life, we (or at least I) may be tempted to forget that the Gospel of Christ does not end at the cross.
As the angel said to the women at the tomb,
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here (Mark 16:6, ESV).The brokenness is not the end of our story. Affliction is not our identity. The trials of life are instruments in God's blessed hands that we might realize more fully the life of Christ in us. No matter how things appear, no matter how things feel, our story has a happy ending which ought to bring hope and that "positive spin" to our interpretation of today. For the Christian, every cross ends in resurrection; every broken place makes room for more of God's glory.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Col. 3:3-4, HCSB).Taking up Bonnie's challenge, I pulled out the notebook of our love letters. Actually, they were love emails. I don't recall when I printed them, but it's a good thing I did, because those accounts no longer exist. Where did we come from as a couple? Besides books and coffee and seminary chapel, what did our first love look like?
The notebook has lain open on our table since Thursday, each of us paging through by turns. The joy of revisiting them has surprised and blessed me.
It has encouraged me to see more continuity than I expected between the then and the now. The endearments we still use were selected in the very earliest days of courtship, and their number has only multiplied. Our first Valentines to each other fell out of the notebook when I picked it up, and the inscriptions were so similar that A. asked if we had planned it intentionally. We still do that, taking words out of each other's mouths on a regular basis. Sharing coffee and tea, exchanging prayers and counsel, trying to make him laugh with mixed results, printing on both sides of the paper--none of these things have changed.
Discovering some troubles during courtship which had been completely forgotten in the intervening years also strengthened my heart. Sometimes forgetfulness is a grace, too.
The words of our younger selves have also edified me in surprising ways. The great, gleaming faith of those days humbles me and makes me a little wistful. Our faith now is smaller, perhaps like a mustard seed, but it may through grace be a truer faith because a tested one. May God grant that our seeds of faith would grow and mature into bigger trust again.
We have enjoyed laughing together at our naivete and mushy romantic talk. I did not remember my non-fiction, deep-thinking husband being so smitten! My own silliness, on the other hand, was no surprise at all.
Last of all, the nostalgia has reminded me of the preciousness of exclusivity. We are each other's first romance. Excluding my dad, A. is my first and only Valentine. There are no other love letters, no other roses, no other kisses. Not everyone has that story, and I don't at all mean that ours is better. God gives a variety of tailor-made gifts; this happens to be one of ours, and I had come to take it for granted.
If you are still reading, I pray that this has encouraged you in your own relationships in some way. We are all living a romance, and the same need to remember and refresh our first love applies to our relationship with the Lord who loves us just as much as to our human relationships.
Speaking of which, another week means another list of the silly and serious ways He loves:
~our truest, eternal Valentine, the God who sings love songs over us
~red roses on the table
~laughing with A. at the emails we exchanged through courtship and engagement
~husband who still opens doors for me, assists me in and out of the car, and helps me into my coat
~my one and only human Valentine
~our own words speaking back to us to strengthen and encourage today
~Faith Barista's post that prompted me to revisit them
~grace for lots of things left undone last week
~a week without medical appointments
~two long phone conversations with crumble friends
~"upheld," the word and the truth behind it (Is. 41:10)
~choosing Valentines to send
~God ministering to two online friends through comment prayers
~a blurb from my Hawk and Dove review making a surprise appearance in the Kindle edition of the new book in that series
~my dad for discovering that and sharing the news
~having attended four for four Bible study meetings
~kind words affirming my involvement in that small group
~community's answered prayers for husband's colleague
~plans for coffee with a neighbor in a few weeks
~full bird feeder with lots of visitors
~a friend making herself available for intercession at any time of day or night: "My phone is always on and always with me. Just text, 'Pray now,' and I'll pray." God's grace at work in His body.
~strong hot tea on a cold, grey day
~addresses known by heart
~handwriting I recognize without seeing the return stamp
~more love in the mail, sent by a friend from long before the blog
~opportunity for more physical therapy help the next two weeks
~pleasure of anticipating a visit with family and my grandmother, come the weekend
~your patience with my unanswered comments
Sharing with the communities at Ann's, Laura's, and Bonnie's: