Happy Valentine’s Day

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A Sweet Message

 

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Although I have not eaten a SweetHeart in years, I was sad to learn that there won’t be any for the 2019 Valentine’s season.

I still remember the anticipation I felt when I opened the girly colored boxes as a child. I laid out all the hearts to read the messages and decide which ones I would give my friends.

One particular year, my sisters and I were each sorting through our own boxes and commenting on the messages. Like baseball cards, the messages involved degrees of rareness. While sorting, I discovered a rare SweetHeart in my box. I think it said, “Guess Who?”

One of my sisters instantly wanted the heart to give to a friend of hers. After a bit of begging, I decided to give her the piece of candy. She still owes me for this act of extreme sacrifice, which would probably be more believable if I could remember with a greater degree of certainty exactly what this oh-so-important message was.

Although modernbride-614918_640 hearts have messages like “Text Me” on them, original conversation candy wasn’t shaped like a heart and had a bit more to say. Some of the original messages included, “Married in pink, he will take a drink,” “Married in White, you have chosen right,” and “Married in Satin, Love will not be lasting.” (I’m not a poet, but do Satin and Lasting rhyme?)

Since these original candies were also larger, they could be broken in half. People would play games that involved finding the other half of their candy—and potentially their romantic other half as well.

Better yet, the couple would know exactly how to dress for their wedding day since both satin and the color pink were out—and white was in.

SweetHeart candy also makes an appearance in the book about my favorite redhead, Anne of Green Gables. After Gilbert presents her with a heart, she grinds it beneath her foot. So romantic!lady-1334240_640

Although SweetHearts will be back in 2020, you still won’t find now extinct phrases like “Hep Cat” and “Fax Me.” Nor will you find advice on what to wear to your wedding. But people will still use the candies to express their love to their sweetheart, or perhaps to drown their depression over their lack thereof.

One message of love that will never go out of style is found in Christ’s redemptive love for His people. Although not printed on candy hearts, this message is printed on our human hearts.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;  And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”  Hebrews 10:16-17

Have you ever given or received a SweetHeart?

Guest Post by April Kidwell

19 Unusual Ideas for Romance

by guest blogger, April Kidwell

 

Here are nineteen simple low cost ideas for creating a little romance in your life:

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#1 Hold hands while swinging. Not coordinated enough? Try the teeter-totter. Or merry-go-round. (Oh, wait! I’m showing my age.) How about hide and seek? Run. Chase. Grab hold of one another and hold on tight. Find secret places to share a kiss. Whisper sweet nothings. Let the world and all it’s worries slip away.

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#2 Learn something new. A language. An art. The other person’s favorite song. Share your personal knowledge or find an expert and learn together. Most everything is more fun together.

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#3 Laugh. When was the last time you laughed until your sides hurt? What makes your loved one laugh? Do you know?

Need some ideas? Watch a comedy you both know too well, and quote the lines with the actors.

Play the alphabet song game—where you have to sing a line from a song for every letter of the alphabet.

Or find a great romance and dramatically read the lines to one another.

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#4 Pray. Share your thoughts, your worries, or aspirations with each other and with God. Hold hands. Kneel. Sing praises to the Lamb. Worship Him who created you to love and rejoice in the love he has given you.

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#5 Watch the sunrise. I know. Most people go for sunsets, but how many sunrises have you seen together? Grab the fluffiest blanket you own, snuggle up on the tailgate, or in the front seat of your car, or on a wooden bench overlooking the sea. Lean on the rail of an old wooden fence. Wait for it. Watch. See. Breathe.

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#6 Try something you’ve never tried before. Never painted? Check out a paint
night. Eaten sushi? Chopsticks and wasabi. What about Snowshoeing? Cross country skiing? Ice Skating? Bundle up and cuddle up.

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#7 Find water.  Find a stream. Watch the ocean. Hike a waterfall. Swim. Relax
in a hot springs. Go fishing. A good old fashioned bucket of worms and a pristine mountain lake can be good for the soul.

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#8 Talk about your dreams and goals. Just talk. And listen. Take turns. Dream big. Ask what if? If only? And how come? Really listen to the other person, and understand what his/her heart is seeking. What is their deepest desires?

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#9 Hold hands. Feel the warmth of the other person’s skin. The rough spots and smooth. The shape of his/her fingers. Focus on the connection of being close to one another, sharing intimacy.  Friendship. Love.

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#10 Serve together. Is there a soup kitchen? A food pantry? A community shelter? Senior center? Single mother in your church? A lonely elder? Commit to helping others, supporting and encouraging others, together. Whether it’s one day, or one day a month. Serving others is a true Biblical expression of love.

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#11 Walk a dog. Pet kittens. Many communities have an animal rescue which needs volunteers to walk dogs, or pet cats. Or if you have the resources, find out what the rescue needs and go on a little shopping spree. Dog or cat food. Fluffy beds. Cleaning supplies. There’s a good chance you’ll make it big on their social media page for the day for being a fur-tastic donor!
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#12 Write a love letter. To each other. To your children. To your parents. To Grandparents. A special someone in your church. Show love, by encouraging and being the light of love to others.

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#13 Share your vision—make a vision board. Post affirmations, favorite pictures, inspirational words, quotes, and thoughts that represent your love. Include goals for the future, celebrations of what you’ve shared so far, and encouragement for the season you are in.

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#14 Lock out the world. Take time to focus on one another with no distractions. Maybe this means no kids about. Or no technology. Or getting out of town. What is it that distracts you? Focus on your loved one for a whole hour, a whole afternoon, or a whole day.

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#15 Spend time with those you love the most. Love is meant to be shared. A connection of hearts. Maybe this means family game night. An afternoon
sledding with the kids. Or a sit-down meal prepared by everyone, together.

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#16 Set a timer. Throw darts at a map. Draw names from a hat. Drive until you’re not sure where you are and find your way home—the long way. Play games along the way. Talk. Sing songs. Be quiet.

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#17 Ride bikes. Ride horses. Hike. Picnic. Sit. Spend some time in the woods, on the high desert, or on a trail. Get fresh air and exercise. Experience God’s creation together.

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#18 Indulge each other’s hobbies. Try something you haven’t tried before. Share your interests. Go to an art museum with her. Explore a Science museum with him. Ride motorcycles. Target shoot. Go shopping. If the other person loves it, and you love him/her, spend a little time doing what they love.

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#19 Visit a library or bookstore. Make a photo collage of book titles that tell your love story. Make sure you include some selfies for posterity.

 

Don’t let other people, and certainly not the world, define love and romance for you. God created us for relationship. Let Him be the author of your romance.

 

What is the most unusually romantic thing you have ever done?

Guest Blog Post by Stephanie Mack

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Singleness and Valentine’s Day

by guest blogger, Stephanie Mack

 

If you find yourself in a state of singleness this Valentine season, sister, to you I say – take heart and let me remind you that before any boy or man ever noticed you, the Lord your God knew you. For in the Bible, He said of the prophet Jeremiah (and no doubt of us as well), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

See, from the beginning of time itself God had us all, including you, in mind and attached a value and worth that can never be taken away.

What’s more He pursues us all the days of our lives for a good purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).  No one can lay claim to the same promise. Especially in a fallen world prone to trials, tribulations, and heartbreaks. Where else can you set your hope? In whom else can you find the unchanging truth that no matter what season life finds you in, you remain “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14)

With all that being said, dear sister, I exhort you one thing: though in this Valentine season it can be easy to grow discouraged in singleness, do take heart. Take heart and turn back to your first love. The first love of your life is Jesus Christ.

Think back to the time you first noticed His wooing, not only toward salvation, but into His tender heart of loving-kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. Think back to the place where He has shown Himself a Father in Heaven. Think back and recall all the miracles and good He has wrought out in your life (Psalm 77:11). And as you remember the joy of your salvation,  remember the joy of your calling.

Reflect on the direction He would have you go.

Singleness is a gift, and I do not say this vainly. Looking back in my own life, I can say that oftentimes I have wished that I had been a better steward of that time. And I wish that you would see, as I have come to see, how precious this particular time can be. Therein you can find strength. The Lord will establish you. And once He has established you, will you have the special, time-refined wisdom for seasons ahead. Singleness does not last forever.

So whether you are attached in this world or not, does not matter, and it does not necessarily take from you or add to you. What is important is your relationship with your first love and learning to serve Him. In learning to serve, you learn to love, which will pave the way to the next chapters in your life.

Bio:  Stephanie Mack enjoys writing in her spare time and hopes to share the good news of the gospel and love of Jesus through her writing.

Guest Blog Post by April Kidwell

Time For Love

by guest blogger, April Kidwell

It’s that time of year.

Not the holly jolly festive time of Christmas.

Not the time for resolutions and starting over.

It’s the time when thoughts turn to love and romance.

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We live in a world that defines love and romance in a narrow way. And Valentine’s Day is the epitome of that very definition. Cards. Candy. Flowers. Candlelit dinners. In other words: romance.

I don’t know about you, but it’s also the time when my social media feeds turn to disdain and bitterness. Sometimes funny, more often sarcastic memes dissing love. Because…not everyone is in love.

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But love and romance are not synonymous. Feelings of love can happen without romance and romance can happen without love. Our world promotes “falling in love.” A state you can also fall out of.

The Oxford dictionary defines romance as “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.” And our culture promotes romance with and without the confines of a committed God-ordained relationship.

Often the definition and requirements of modern romance includes unrestrained sensuality, unrestricted spending, and unrealistic expectations. All of these things result in a false sense of romance and, too often, unrequited love.

So then, is romance a biblical concept?

Of course. All good things come from Him. And God created us for relationship. With him. With others. We are called to love.

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The Bible is full of proof of His love for His people. He is the creator of relationship, and the creator of marriage. Love is often mentioned. And Song of Songs is an entire book dedicated to romantic love! Therefore, God as the author of love, is a pundit of romance.

When romance is experienced in accordance to His will, His timing, and within His boundaries we can gain a deeper understanding of His love for us. When we understand His love, we can love more deeply. Out of that love we can find romance in the little things.

The key is connecting with one another. Not the price tag. Not perfection. Not the giddy feeling that passes. It’s love.

Whether you are “in love” or not, did you know that everyone can experience an unending and perfect love? Everyone. It’s there for the taking.

Why? Because God is love.

The Creator.

King of Kings.

Lord of all.

And He loves you. Every. One.

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Perhaps it’s time to redefine romance and focus on love.

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Does it inspire happy, giddy feelings of anticipation? Or is it a foolish holiday created to sell more candy and cards? Does it depend on how “loved” you feel this year?

 

The Legend of St. Valentine

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With Valentine’s Day just a week away, people are left to puzzle out how a martyred Christian from ancient Rome inspired a day filled with boxes of chocolates, flowers, and jewelry.

As with many traditions, the truth lies somewhere in a haze of legend and reality.

According to many stories, St. Valentine was a persecuted Christian who helped his fellow suffering believers. He was arrested and taken to stand before the Roman Emperor. The Emperor urged Valentine to convert to paganism to save his life. Valentine refused and shared the Gospel with the Emperor.

Valentine was then sentenced to death and taken to jail. There, legend has it, he healed Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer. She and forty-six members of her household came to faith in Christ and were baptized.

One legend states that Valentine wrote Julia a letter the night before his execution and signed it “Your Valentine.” After his death, Julia planted an almond tree on his grave. almond-tree-3308361_640

 In another embellishment to the legend, Valentine performed marriages for Christian soldiers in the Roman army. Although these soldiers were urged by their commanding officers to take advantage of captured women, Valentine presented parchment hearts to the men to remind of their wedding vows and God’s love. Valentine also gave these hearts to persecuted Christians.

I don’t pretend to have any definitive opinion on if these legends are truth, fiction, or some mixture of the two. What I do know is that — true or not — Valentine can serve as an example of a godly man who stood before an Emperor and shared his faith. He led a woman and her household to Christ, and created paper hearts to point people to God’s love.

So while we celebrate the holiday that bears his name with chocolate and cards, we can also be inspired by his faith. book-900386_640

 “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”  I John 4:7-8

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day tradition?

The Emojis of the Victorian Era

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Before you head out to buy your sweetheart a Valentine’s Day bouquet, you might consider what your flowers are saying.

No, I am not referring to an Alice in Wonderland-esque conversation.

I’m thinking about the forgotten art of communicating one’s thoughts, hopes, and dreams by stringing together a floral message. Most popular in the Victorian era, flowers became more than just pretty posies. They took on meanings that enabled one to communicate without words.

In essence, flowers were the emojis of the Victorian era.

Red roses are a safe bet for enduring love, pink for a beginning love.

rose-818709_640Steer clear of yellow roses though. Traditional flower language dictates their meaning as love betrayed or forsaken. And yellow carnations mean rejection or disdain. Marigolds signify grief. Sunflowers mean haughtiness.

Someone had a real problem with yellow flowers.

Now for single people, I suggest the cornflower. Single ladies sporting the bloom were announcing that they were available for marriage. Bachelors would place the flower in their pocket if they were in love. A flower that survived the pocket was good news since it meant he should marry his ladylove. If the flower died, he needed to move on.blue-1418732_640

Another way a bachelor knew he needed to pursue someone else was if he presented a bouquet and the lady of his affections returned a snapdragon—a flower that meant “No.”

No word on what to do if the cornflower survived and the lady gave him a snapdragon. In that case, he’d be caught between a blossom and a bloom.

The Language of Flowers has fascinated me since I was a girl and even made it into a few of my book manuscripts. Modern flower language has morphed many of the less-pleasant meanings into more palatable ones.

Frankly, I love all flowers regardless of their meanings. For me, they are a reminder of the God who loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins—and create flowers of all shapes, colors, and sizes to bring us joy.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”     Isaiah 40:8

What’s your favorite flower?

Adopt a Word

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Travel broadens the vocabulary.  After growing up on the mission field, I speak both English and Portuguese.  Travel has added other layers to my vocabulary and made it even easier for me to sound like an idiot without even trying.

For example, I was once talking to a friend about a writing book that I had been reading.  The book has had a lot of helpful ideas for me. I told her so but warned that the book also contained “big words.”

As an author with a master’s degree in English, she probably wondered why I thought her incapable of understanding “big words”.

Later, I realized I had used the English translation of the Portuguese word Palavrao. Literal translation: big words. Actual meaning: cussing.

I inadvertently did cuss in England when I jokingly said my newborn niece was screaming a particular type of murder.  Thankfully, I think my sister was the only one that heard that slip-up, but I had to be on guard the rest of the visit.

There are also the words that my family adopted from Portuguese and sprinkle throughout our conversations. 

One of my family’s favorite borrowed words from Portuguese is Isopor, a Styrofoam ice chest.  I think the original might only mean a Styrofoam ice chest, but for my family the word has morphed to mean any ice chest.  The word is so ingrained in me that it once took me half a minute to recall the actual English word so the people I was talking to could understand me.

My family doesn’t just limit our foreign words to Portuguese either.  One of my sisters married a man of Ukrainian descent.  She now uses Ukrainian words for things like “calm down” and “pierogi.” Another sister married an Englishman and now uses words and phrases that are completely British.

The truth is many of our English words have been adopted directly from other languages.  So I guess my family and I come by it honestly.

What’s your favorite foreign word that either is or should be a part of the English language?

Pictures vs. Words

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If the old cliché were true that a picture is worth a thousand words, my life would be so much easier.  Writer’s Block?  No problem! Grab a camera, snap ninety photos, and I’ll have a book.  Finding what to take pictures of might be difficult, but I can always head to social media for inspiration.

Most of the photos fall into one of several categories.

  1. Selfies.  I’ve taken and sent one selfie in my life, and that was to show my mom the hair I’d singed off while burning wood in the back yard.  I’m just not a selfie person.  In fact, I prefer to avoid all photos of myself.  I have perfected the casual glide that helps me avoid being captured by any lens.  Last week, a total of seven ninjas showed up at my door to request I teach them my methods.
  2. Food.  Okay, so I have taken photos of food.  Mostly when I’ve been in a foreign country and gotten food unusual enough it should be remembered.  When I was in China, I ordered a brisket noodle dish and was startled when all the brisket was actually fat. I later found out fat is considered the more desirable cut there.  I do not generally take photos of food at home. After a long day followed by dinner prep, I am more excited to eat the food than take a picture of it.  I also don’t think that tuna noodle casserole is high on anyone’s list of photos they’d like to see
  3. Artsy.  I consider myself an artistic person, but I feel kind of silly taking a picture of a stick or a rock or a half-eaten cookie.  I’d far rather eat the cookie than preserve its image for posterity. Even so, I have to admire the beauty someone found in the mundane.
  4. Accidentals. I do try to smile politely at the camera when I cannot escape it. On the other hand, I own the fact that I posed for said snap. Nothing cracks me up more than the perfectly composed, perfectly styled photos that are claimed to be purely accidental.
  5. Kids. I love this category. Somehow, a photo or a video of a happy baby or child just creates joy–and sometimes tears. Watching a baby giggle as they hear their mother’s voice for the first time will turn even the hardest heart into goo.
  6. Pets. Second to children are pet videos and photos. I’m not sure why humans revel in seeing a cat stuffed into a box only big enough to fit its head. My theory is that cats usually come across as so superior that allowing these photos to be taken and shared communicates their willingness to lower themselves to our level. It’s also possible they’re just really weird.

For all the power contained in an image, God chose a book filled with words to take the message of the Gospel to the world. Yet, I believe that He also gave us pictures–living pictures–to accompany those words. A sunset, a tree, the face of a loved one…all of them point to the wisdom and power of the God who created them.

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”   I Corinthians 2:9

What’s your favorite type of photo?

 

 

 

 

 

From Lederhosen to Tartan

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This week I had to hang up the Lederhosen and don a kilt. After years of hearing about our German blood, my sister took a DNA ancestry test and discovered that the grand total of our German blood is 4%.

Instead, our family traces back to a mistress of a Scottish king. My dad intended to use this as an excuse to claim a throne somewhere. We talked him out of it. He does insist that we bow in his presence now. Fortunately, I use this as an excuse to get my daily squats in.

My mother insists that she didn’t marry dad for his royal connections. This is probably true since she had no clue they existed until yesterday. Besides, she is connected to the famous author, Ernest Hemmingway.

I’m not sure if this puts her on my dad’s level, but then again, everyone loves a good Cinderella story.

In spite of their royal connections, two of my sisters opted to marry men with criminal blood coursing through their veins.

One is connected to Jesse James and is threatening to steal any throne my dad manages to claim.

Another brother-in-law is connected to Vlad the Impaler. Yes, that kind soul who inspired the Dracula legend and whose name pretty much tells you all you want to know about him.

Yet with all the fascination that genealogy holds, I am reminded of the verse. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

God knows every drop of blood that runs through our bodies.

And He’s always known it wasn’t German.

Do you have any famous ancestors on your family tree?