Happy Valentine’s Day

Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.  Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when other grovel, 
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.
I Cor. 13: 4-8, 13 (The Message)
Love.  It’s all around us.  Seriously….it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been bombarded with “love overload.”  Commercials urging men to buy their sweethearts expensive jewelry, stores filled to overflowing with stuffed animals, cards, candy, and assorted gifts.  It’s never bothered me until this year.  Guess that’s because my original valentine is not with me physically for the first time in 25 years.  
I remember the first Valentine’s Day he actually put “love, Mark” on my card.  That was a huge deal for us both.  You see, “love” wasn’t a word he casually tossed around.   It was a little over a year from our first date before he told me he loved me for the first time.  Considering I was head over heels for this Kansas farm boy a mere month after meeting him, this was hard on me.  But I respected his decision, knowing full well that when he did decide to tell me, it would be for life.  And it was.  He spent the next quarter century telling me, showing me on a daily basis how much he loved me.  
Valentine’s Day was never a big deal in our house.  Sure, he’d usually bring home flowers, and I’d get a lovely card, but since having the boys, we’d more than likely all go to a restaurant together to celebrate.  We had 13 married years before the boys to be just the two of us, so we enjoyed their company on most all of our outings.  
This week has been a rocky one.  Not so much due to the anticipation of Valentine’s Day, but more because I hit another milestone by probating his will on Tuesday.  I dreaded the finality of it all, and was in a major funk.  Our friend, Randy, has walked with me through all of this legal stuff, and he has been a godsend.  Tuesday was no exception.  Turned out the dread of it all was worse than the actual process.  I made it through relatively unscathed, had a good cry on the way home, and crossed off another hurdle on this grief journey.  
But after coming out of my self-imposed funk, I see nothing but hearts.  Symbols of love are everywhere! 
This morning, I went back to the old faithful I Corinthians 13, which was read at our wedding, way back in 1988.  The words, above, with a new translation, mean something totally different to me today.  It’s the model of love to strive for while on this earth, whether with your spouse, your kids, your friends, or your enemies.  It’s how Mark loved.  He’s no longer “squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.”  For him, the weather has cleared & the sun is shining bright.  He’s “seeing it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”  And for that, I am thankful.
Mark was practical, to say the least, and if he could incorporate something practical into a gift opportunity (while still maintaining a romantic theme, as well), that would be a big “win-win” for all involved.  Well,”Mr. Baseball” hit it out of the park one last time, as evidenced yesterday.  
I looked out into the front yard, seeing Perm-O-Green spraying my sad-looking grass.  I haven’t ordered any services with them, not sure why they are there.  I surmise they have the wrong address, but since I’m still in my pjs, I decide not to ask.  They leave the bill on my front doorknob.  Imagine my surprise as I see the name “Mark Howell” on it.  And then I remember.  He talked about signing up for it last spring, and must’ve gone ahead and done it.  
I laugh.  Here it is, 6 1/2 months after his death, and he’s giving me a practical Valentine’s present, a beautiful front yard without weeds.  It may not be as grand a gesture as a flower delivery, but it is oh so much more, coming from my naturalist husband.  He’s ensuring I have a nice yard, still taking care of me.  I’ll honor that gift by maintaining it throughout the summer.
So, don’t feel sorry for me this Valentine’s Day.  I’ve received my gift from Mark.  I will surround myself with his two sons, and remind myself of all I have to be thankful for.  Who knows what the future holds?  God only knows, and for me, that is enough.  
Happy Valentine’s Day.

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