On Love and War and 70 Years (& a book giveaway)

February 12, 2016 | 20 comments

My friend Stephanie Rische wrote a hilarious book about the funny and bizarre blind dates she ended up on. But her book is more than a book about dating. It’s a book about God’s love. It’s called I Was Blind (Dating,) but Now I See. It’s a great read, and we’re featuring her here today, right in time for Valentine’s Day. How perfect! She has a wonderful love story for us.

Welcome, Stephanie.

On Love and War and 70 Years
By Stephanie Rische

The year was 1946. The Nuremburg war trials had begun. Wartime price controls were being lifted in the United States. And America’s boys were slowly trickling back from the war . . . including the tall, dark-haired Lieutenant Voiland, having defied the odds and survived countless bombing missions on the European front.

His fiancée, Cay, had been waiting and praying anxiously, day after day, month after month, year after year, longing for her sweetheart to come home. She’d been planning their wedding while he was gone—the ultimate act of hope in the midst of a war in which half a million men never returned. With her trademark spunk, she refused to let the scarcity of silk prevent her from having a wedding dress, so she arranged to have a dress made from the unlikeliest of sources: a used parachute that she’d asked her fiancé to mail home.

For most of my life, I assumed Grandma and Grandpa’s February wedding date had been scheduled around Valentine’s Day. Whenever we gathered to celebrate as an extended family, we marked the occasion with red decorations and a heart-shaped cake, and I never heard anything to indicate otherwise.

It was only recently that I discovered their wedding date was determined not by Valentine’s Day but by Ash Wednesday.

“Ash Wednesday?” I asked Grandma. The dots weren’t connecting for me.

“Things were stricter back then,” Grandma said. “You couldn’t get married during Lent.”

Of course—Lent. The church took seriously this 40-day period of sacrifice, fasting, and repentance, and it was not the time for weddings and feasts.

Grandma winked at me. “I’d been waiting long enough,” she said. “I wasn’t about to wait until after Easter!”

And so, on a Tuesday morning, just a day before Ash Wednesday, they squeezed in a simple ceremony at the campus chapel. I’ve always been enchanted by the lone black-and-white photograph of Grandma and Grandpa on their wedding day: Grandma looking beautiful and big eyed in that one-of-a-kind gown, and Grandpa, serious and handsome as ever in his classic suit.

This year Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall only four days apart from each other, just a week before my grandparents’ 70th anniversary. For the first time I was struck by the tender intersection of these occasions: Valentine’s Day. A much-anticipated wedding. Ash Wednesday. Lent. An anniversary marking seven decades of marriage. And it got me to wondering: maybe Ash Wednesday is the perfect backdrop for a wedding after all. Valentine’s Day offers fine sentiments, of course—an appropriate reminder for us to express our love each year. But real love may be more aptly captured by a day marked by sacrifice and surrender and the choice to lay down one’s life.

Grandma and Grandpa know this well. The war showed them the cost of love from the very beginning: the agonizing separation—both by an ocean and by endless days, when the only threads connecting them were their love and a string of handwritten letters. And just because the war ended, that didn’t mean the sacrifices did. With the ratio of one income to twelve children, they sometimes had more month than they had money.

And now, as my grandparents are in their golden years, they are dealing with the sacrifices of caring for each other’s needs as their bodies and minds aren’t quite what they used to be.

But if you asked them about the cost of love, they’d likely look at you with a bewildered shrug. That’s just what love does. It’s the very nature of love to give, to sacrifice, to lay down one’s life for one’s beloved.

And that is, after all, what we celebrate during Lent. This season marks the greatest romance of all time: the Savior who sacrificed everything to show us his love. The one who fought courageous battles on our behalf. The one who laid down his life for the ones he loves.

Love and Lent. Perhaps they’re more connected than I realized.

So happy 70th anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa.

And happy VaLENTine’s season, everyone.

headshot for Stephanie Rische
Stephanie blogs at StephanieRische.com. She’s the author of I Was Blind (Dating), but Now I See, a memoir that chronicles some of the more mortifying moments of her life, but ultimately the ways God revealed his love and grace in the most unexpected ways.



Book Giveaway

Stephanie and her publisher, Tyndale Momentum, are giving away two copies of her book!

To enter, tell us in the comments how you celebrate Valentine’s Day — or if you DON’T celebrate it. We’re cool with that. 🙂

by | February 12, 2016 | 20 comments


  1. karen

    We rarely celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional ways, but rather on the couch in our sweats with good take out and a movie! I also try to be keenly aware of my unmarried friends for whom this day is NO FUN!

    • dukeslee

      That sounds like my kind of Valentine’s Day. Also, I love your heart toward unmarried friends. I feel the same way about my widowed friends.

  2. Casey Snyder

    I am a single mom and not currently dating. So I will spend it with my daughters we usually spend it volunteering somewhere.

  3. Lorilee Torgerson Mundfrom

    Beautiful story of love. Thank you! 70 years is a good long time. I celebrate my children on Valentine’s Day now since my husband of 40 years passed away two years ago.

  4. Martha Orlando

    St. Valentine was willing to sacrifice his own life in the light of Roman persecution because he continued to perform Christian marriages despite the emperor’s decree. His love for Christ, dedicated and determined, cost him his life, but brought eternal reward. May we all love each other as St. Valentine did.

  5. Katie Heath

    This year I told my husband I would plan our date. He was relieved to not have the pressure all on him. So dinner and a play it is! 😀

    • dukeslee

      Katie! You won Stephanie Rische’s book. Can you email me your mailing address to [email protected].


      • Marie Gaffney

        Thanks so much Jennifer & Stephanie! i can tell that i’m going to love the book because not only do i love to read, it sounds as though it doesn’t have any of the unnecessary-yet-always-stuck-in-fornication-garbage!

  6. Alana Morgan

    I am a single, divorced Grandma so my Valentine Sunday will be spent attending church and gifting my daughter and granddaughter with some cheery flowers! Thanks for the chance to win your book!

  7. Marie Gaffney

    As a single Catholic gal i’ve always loved how brave St. Valentine was in his martyrdom, nearly as brave as He was in His offering to us! Since it will be Sunday, i will go to Mass and anytime i am given flowers by friends or anyone who has been dating me in the past, i’d give them to His mother Mary since it was she who He loved the most. Let’s none of us forget to wish our family members happy St. Valentine’s Day and thank Jesus Christ for offering His Sacred Heart for us!

    • dukeslee

      Marie! You won Stephanie Rische’s book. Can you email me your mailing address to [email protected].


  8. Brynn Greene

    Three years ago God blessed us with a baby girl on the 16th. We will be celebrating her all week! And one night my husband and I are going to have a cheese and wine night after the kiddies are in bed!

  9. Paula

    Usually with chocolate and cards. This year my diamond had to be fixed so going to get that back…..

  10. Tyna Begley

    We have 6 children, so we usually stay home. But I make a red dessert (Jello & applesauce & Red Hots) or heart shaped cherry tarts

  11. Jenna

    I went on a blind date once.. Which ended up working really well for the girl (not me) he married!! I got to be part of his Jesus story, and she gets to be the “rest of his life story”.. It was a good trade off!! 🙂

  12. Alicia Mason

    We went to a nice restaurant for dinner and then afterwards we went and played an arcade game , big buck hunter to have some fun. He was much better than I was so we definitely had some good laughs.

  13. Stephanie Rische

    What fun to hear everyone’s stories! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Deborah Will

    Every year is different but 50 years with this valentine and this year was amazing. He came home with mums – I loved them and a small box of millionaire candy and strawberries just in case I didn’t want to indulge on Wed, and on Thurs we went out, then on Fri he calls and says let’s drive south or east and spend the night in a hotel. Say what! We went to Magnolia Market in Waco and then came back Saturday. Our adult kids and two grandsons came on Sunday afternoon for pizza and his mom. The boys are 1 and 2. A most memorable Valentine’s Day.

  15. Nancy Ruegg

    Loved this heart-touching story! What faith, perseverance, and courage this couple has demonstrated, not just in the early years of their relationship that coincided with World War II, but raising twelve children on barely-enough wages. Also loved the intertwining thoughts about Valentine’s Day and Lent–right down to LENT in the middle of VaLENTine. (I never noticed that before!) Thank you, Stephanie!


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