Fall in Love Differently This Year

February 14, 2014 | 13 comments

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.

photo (59)

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.

The Maubane Community Center – a human blue print of hope

This plan has been a year in the making and the goal is to raise $150,000 to fund the entire project between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – because love is more than a date on the calendar, and it never leaves anyone out. And Mother’s Day is a 365 days a year adventure, always worth celebrating.

Phase 1: Community Vegetable Garden{watered by a water point that Lisa-Jo’s community built last fall}

Phase 2: Community Kitchen and Welcome Center

Phase 3: Community Outreach Hall

Phase 4: 12 Classrooms

Phase 5: Playground

Click here to donate.

Because there’s a whole community of women who are raising more kids than just their own and still have all the same hopes, dreams and fears that we do.

And there’s a whole community of kids who would tell you that there is nothing ordinary about being a mom. Especially when you don’t have one.


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.

Ruth necklace Noonday

This ViBella Jewelry “Cupid” necklace.

Vi Bella 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).


Forward the email you receive after you donate to [email protected] 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.

by | February 14, 2014 | 13 comments


  1. Joy B. Rudolph

    I love a good love story. Thanks for sharing yours and for your generosity in supporting Lisa in this project.

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for being here, Joy. A privilege to stand with Lisa-Jo in this effort.

  2. ro elliott

    Yes…His love does change how we live our moments…I have been pondering His Scandalous Love for us…this unfathomable love…and the more I…we let this Love overcome our hearts…our hearts for others will be overcoming as well. Again…i have come to these truths a little late in life…but never too late for Him…but how awesome it is to see the younger generations grasping this foundational truth so early…this is the life changing truth…and this is the truth that will impact the world around us. Let’s go and love scandalously today!!!

    • dukeslee

      Indeed, Ro! Love scandalously… xo

  3. Lisa-Jo Baker

    Um gulp. I’m a hot mess of gratitude today. A HOT MESS!

    • dukeslee

      It is so much fun — SO MUCH FUN!!! — walking beside you on this, Lisa-Jo. We are here on Earth for a vapor of a moment, and it is our obligation, no it is our PRIVILEGE — to pour out our lives as offerings. You’re leading the way, world-changer.

      Last night at the TobyMac concert, Sammy from Nigeria (a live-wire spokesperson for Food for the Hungry) talked about the fact that if the human race were represented by 100 people in a room, then every person in that arena would be at the front of a line. We’re all in the top one percent, and all of us would have 99 people behind us, simply by virtue of the fact that we are living HERE in the USA. And if we are to do what Jesus did, we need to go back and help people at the back of the line. That’s what Jesus did. He left the front of the line, to come to us in the back of the line.

      The first shall we be last …

      I love you, dear Lisa-Jo.

  4. Karrilee Aggett

    It always feels like I should say more – but “Love” seems to always sum it all up quite nicely!

    • dukeslee

      That’s the just-right word for the day, Karrilee. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet friend.

  5. Kris Camealy

    This is beautiful, my friend. Yes!

    • dukeslee

      Isn’t this exciting? I couldn’t help but join in with Lisa-Jo.

  6. melody hester

    Oh I loved hearing about your first Valentine’s gift – ha, ha, a filing cabinet. Love it! And I love what Lisa-Jo is doing on behalf of the World next door. I’ve just been introduced to her blog recently and I love her spirit. Praying for God to provide the goal by Mother’s Day. I cannot contribute financially but I can pray and will. I love the bold obedience she is walking in because I know that’s a huge goal in a short amount of time and her willingness to move forward with what God put inside her is a beautiful inspiration to me.

  7. Paula Gamble

    Sweet story!!! This is so true, “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…” I’m so thankful that God has made my heart soft so I can feel loved and accept His gift, and there’s nothing I want to do more than give it away! Jesus really does turn our hearts upside-down so we can live loved and love right-side up! The Gospel is the only true motivator – we love because He first loved us! I am so thankful for His love.

  8. kasmith03

    What a beautiful story!!



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