Beautiful bright valentines pull our attention in all the stores. Hallmark cards, Jared’s and Kay Jewelers, and all the sweet delicacies tempt us on television. But there are innovative options. At our place beautiful music sweeps through the house, Mozart and Beethoven, Strauss waltzes, John Denver and his guitar, and our favorite hymns sung by George Beverly Shea and Jim Nabors, Sandi Patti and Amy Grant. Charles gave me a new Bose acoustic wave system as a valentine. We hadn’t been able to play CD’s for ages and I’m having such a good time! It’s so beautiful! And now I’m in a quandary. What, oh what, can I give him that will halfway express my feeling?
I would write him a poem, but I can only write a poem if, as someone wisely said, the poem “bites me on the leg.” This year, so far, I’ve had no bites. I would bake him a huge cake but he’s watching his cholesterol and that would be an awful lot of cholesterol to watch. I could give him a new tool, his favorite of gifts, but he’d have to help me pick it out and by the time we finished the transaction it would be as far from a valentine as the mountains from the sea.
Thinking back fifty years to when we were googly-eyed and dreaming of the future brings me straight to the verse I’m quoting today, Ruth 1:16: Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
These words are so familiar and precious to me partly because they were a vital part of Charles’ and my wedding vows in 1965. Perhaps you said these words, too, as you and your spouse-to-be lit one big candle from two smaller ones.
My mother saw a correlation between slowly simmered meals and good marriages. And that wasn’t just because she considered good food to be such an important part of one’s living. She loved symbolism and seeing pictures in one area of life to help in another. She used to worry that we young cooks never spent long enough preparing food. “Vegetables need to simmer at the back of the stove for hours,” she’d say. “You girls scurry around at the last minute and then wonder why your beans don’t have that robust flavor.”
She also said that young folks are not determined enough these days that their marriages will work. “If it doesn’t work” should never enter one’s head, she believed. She’d be the first to admit that building a strong marriage is not easy. She was eighteen and my dad thirty-six when they married. Raising ten children and caring for an aging spouse whose health was deteriorating was sometimes very difficult. More than difficult!
Whether making yeast bread, simmering roasts, or building relationships, Mamma would say they all take a lot of time and effort. Commitment means not giving up. “I do” means putting your all into making a marriage work. “You can count on me,” means you’ll be who you are in the right place at the right time, fully trustworthy.
Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…” This is the real key, Mamma would say. When God is part of the commitment then you’ll have His encouragement and His muscle behind you to push you up the difficult slopes and hold your hand in the rocky places.
Back to that valentine. Do you have yours ready? Of course a card with the very right words is really perfect. Or maybe an extravagant home-cooked dinner? Maybe just a simple home-cooked dinner? Maybe a salad at Zaxby’s or a night out at his favorite restaurant, like the Cairo City Grille? A letter, handwritten in red? I’m thinking….maybe a pair of new boots for my hardworking man. Every step he’d take would be blessed!
We’ll keep thinking, won’t we? We have a few days yet.
Lord, I pray for sturdy healthy marriages in America, among Your people, that we may again be the strong nation You desire us to be. Help us as we call on You and give us patience to take time in our relationships, in all our relationships. And, Lord, because I know You care so intimately for us in our daily struggles, please light an idea bulb for me so I’ll know the very best thing to give my very precious valentine. Amen.