I'll never forget my first Valentine's Day present from a man I loved.
I was a senior at Iowa State University, and he was in his first year of law school. He had carried my present up three flights of stairs to my apartment.
He rapped his knuckles on the door, and I pressed one eye to the peep hole in the door, to see that handsome fellow standing on the other side, with his chin raised high and his chest heaving. What in the world could he have carted up those stairs? I couldn't see what he'd brought, but I had dreamily guessed it to be chocolate in a heart-shaped box, or flowers, or maybe something he purchased after many grueling hours hunched over the glass cabinets at Kay Jewelers.
I slid the chain on the door, and threw it open, to find him standing there with a giant grin ... and a giant black rectangle standing in front of him.
You know the old saying, "Every kiss begins with ... a filing cabinet?"
Yeah. It was a filing cabinet. A two-drawer filing cabinet. For Valentine's Day.
"I ... um ... don't know what to say, honey," I muttered. "Thank you. This is so very ... practical? And shiny."
That same year, the movie Forrest Gump came out, and my boyfriend sometimes quoted this line to me: "I may not be a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is."
Turns out, he was right. Turns out, love is more than a date on a calendar box, more than chocolate and roses, and more than a pendant around your neck -- or even a ring around your finger.
Love is not always what you think you want, but it's always, always what you really need.
I still have the filing cabinet, and it's the only Valentine's Day present that I really remember getting.
I also still have the man -- and a ring. I married him two years later, on a warm June day in Iowa.
Our love story has been full of romance and wild adventure and filing cabinets and slammed doors and passion and dark chocolate and red-faced fights and making up again with feet tangled under the covers.
But we didn't really know how far love would go, until we began to understand how far Jesus came for us. We didn't really understand love until we began to give it away -- by walking across the room, and the street, and the church aisle. By crossing oceans and prison walls and our comfort zones. God is still showing us new ways to love like He loves. And we've only begun to learn.
I wrote a book about that, about how when we get our hearts turned upside-down by Jesus, we are turned right-side up for the Kingdom. The gospel changed us.
And we, the changed ones, are now the change agents.
Jesus says to love our neighbors as ourselves, and I'm finding that my neighbor lives in the nursing home, in a South Dakota prison cell, at the end of thorny path in Haiti, and around the globe in Maubane, South Africa.
I don't want to settle for BEING in love. I want to LIVE in love.
God’s fathomless love changes how we will live in our moments, how we’ll love in our neighborhoods, and what we’ll be known for in eternity.
This Jesus, who voluntarily left heaven for us, shows us what it means to really fall in love. And how the very best gift might be the most practical one. There is no greater love than this: That Jesus laid down his life for his friends.
And we are only beginning to learn what it means to lay down our lives and our comforts and our wallets and desires and our compulsions and our wills, in the name of love. In the name of Jesus.
(Photo: Magnetic poetry, on that filing cabinet given to me twenty years ago today)
This year, I'm thinking about what it means to give the most practical gift of all.
How can we fall in love differently this year?
Maybe it means some of us will take a meal to a widow, or reach out to a post-partum mama at the end of the cul-de-sac, or play Bingo at the nursing home.
Here's what we're doing this year.
Our family is joining Lisa-Jo Baker in the most audacious Valentine gift ever. And we invite you to join us. Lisa-Jo is a dear friend, and the author who wrote the foreword for my upcoming book. Today, she kicks off an impressive fundraising effort called "Fall in Love with the World Next Door."
Meet Lisa-Jo... I'll let her tell you about her invitation -- to give our hearts away. To become someone's ridiculously generous Valentine's Day gift.
MY GIFT TO YOU
If you donate $20 or more,
I will enter your name in a drawing to win one of five prizes, including:
This Noonday Collection necklace.
This ViBella Jewelry "Cupid" necklace.
An advance copy of my forthcoming book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval - and Seeing Yourself through God's Eyes. (I'll draw three winners for the book giveaway).
TO ENTER THE DRAWING:
Forward the email you receive after you donate to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the amount you donated. I'll draw FIVE WINNERS tomorrow and will notify the winner by email.
Happy Valentine's Day, friends. There is NO PRESSURE to donate to this project, only an invitation to be a part of something really cool. Love you all.