Posts Tagged ‘Valentine’s Day’

blue sky branches

Ash Wednesday felt incongruous to me this year.

I’m sure it was partly the jet lag: I was only 36 hours out from a late-night arrival at Logan. I wasn’t quite back in step with the daily round, and I was so tired. And, as others have noted, Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day this year, for the first time in decades. Talk about mixed messages.

I walked across the Yard to Memorial Church for Morning Prayers, where Florence Ladd gave a graceful talk that invoked the film Chocolat (which fit perfectly with the day’s conflicting identities). I came back on my lunch break for the brief Ash Wednesday service: readings from the prophet Joel, a quiet Lenten hymn, Alanna marking my forehead with ash, repeating the traditional words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The sun had come out after a grey morning, and I paused on the steps after service and looked up into the suddenly blue sky. It, too, felt at odds with the day’s somber message, though I welcome the sunshine any day, especially in the winter.

Walking back to work, I wondered how to reconcile the messages of these two coinciding days. Remember that you are dust; that everything is temporary; that grief and sorrow are a fundamental part of this human life. And also: remember, even after the chocolate has melted and the chalky candy hearts have all been eaten, that you are loved.

That afternoon, I walked down to Darwin’s for a cup of tea. “Ash Wednesday?” asked the barista, nodding toward the smeared cross on my forehead. I nodded, and then complimented her red sweater and vintage pink earrings. We talked a bit about the odd confluence of dates, and she said, “It’s all a form of love, isn’t it?”

I thought, then, of a line I’d read several days before, in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s fifth mystery featuring Russ Van Alstyne and the Reverend Clare Fergusson. During a scene set in Clare’s kitchen, where Russ is wrestling with guilt and doubting that he deserves forgiveness, Clare tells him, “We none of us get what we deserve, thank God. We get what we’re given. Love. Compassion. A second chance. And then a third, and a fourth.”

We none of us get what we deserve. We get what we’re given. Those words have stayed in my head for days now, and when Lauren mused that it’s all a form of love, I thought: Yes. This.

The ashes; the sobering reminder of our own mortality; the blue sky arching high above; the love that comes to us unbidden from family members, friends, acquaintances, partners. We don’t earn any of it; we simply receive what we’re given. Call it grace; call it forgiveness; call it blessing. In the end, all I can say is thank you.


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My name is Katie and I am a stationery addict.

stationery notecards

I have a whole drawer in my desk dedicated to notecards, spare pens, stickers and envelope seals. (There’s a separate drawer for notebooks and notepads.) I have a snail mail pen pal with whom I exchange long, newsy handwritten letters. And despite the fact that I didn’t manage to send out Christmas cards this year, I think handwritten notes are always a good idea.

I’ve been looking for a challenge to pep up February – since the shortest month can feel awfully long when you’re caught in the grip of a New England winter. Since Valentine’s Day falls in February, it seemed like the perfect time to write love notes – not just to my husband (though he’s definitely on my list), but to lots of the people I care about. So, this month, I’m writing one snail mail love note a day.

This project will force me to use my stash of stationery and notecards instead of hoarding them, and I’m hoping my increasingly chicken-scratch handwriting will improve with a bit of practice. And, of course, I hope my loved ones will smile when they open up the mailbox and see a note from me.

The month has already started, and so far I’m right on target. (Here’s hoping I don’t lose steam after Valentine’s Day has come and gone.)

What are you doing to make February a little brighter? Want to join me in writing a few love notes?

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forests of love

Last night I was at Hobby Lobby searching for a picture frame, and it occurred to me that Valentine’s Day is literally around the corner. (Besides, Tessa surprised us all at work this morning with baskets of candy.) I considered buying some Valentines, but in the spirit of the craft/handmade kick I’ve been on lately, I decided to make them. So:

“Heart Tree” stamp (on sale): $2.75
Red cardstock cards and envelopes (also on sale): $2.99 for both
Gold ink: free (since I already had it)
Blue brush pen: free (bought at the Broad Canvas in Oxford last year)

Spending an hour on a slow workday stamping cards and writing variations on the message “sending you forests of love”?


I’ve always been a romantic and a sucker for Valentine’s Day, not as a solely romantic day, but as a day to spread the love to whomever you really care about. My mom always left a little heart-shaped Russell Stover box at our places at the table on Valentine’s morning. My parents always gave cards to both of us girls. And my freshman-year roommate, who was Japanese, was so excited by the idea of Valentine’s Day that she made up packages of candy and gifts to give to me and even several of my friends.

This will be the sixth Valentine’s Day in Jeremiah’s and my relationship – and only the second one we’ll ever have spent together. (2004: I was in Oxford. 2005: We were broken up. 2007: He was a Sing Song host and rehearsing madly. 2008: I was in Oxford again.) So we’re heading off for a romantic getaway – down to the Hill Country for the weekend. We’ll browse funky shops, spend the night in a B&B, visit my grandparents (they live in Kerrville), and come back feeling recharged and refreshed.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

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A dozen red roses from Jeremiah, hand-delivered before his 10 a.m. class…after he left Moody at close to 1 a.m. last night! All together now…”Awwwww…”

-Bags of Hershey’s Kisses – double chocolate and caramel – from Carlene and me, to everyone. We’ve dumped them into candy dishes galore and told everyone to help themselves.

-A bar of dark chocolate from Carlene…yummmm.

Nerds candy and matching Valentines, from me to the profs on my hall…they were a hit! Larry Henderson actually taped his to his shirt and wore it like a nametag. They’re nerds, but they’re proud of it!

-Surprising my fellow staff members, and various friends, with handmade Valentines.

-Today’s Real Simple Daily Thought from Tom Stoppard: “It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst. ”

-A darling bucket of yummy truffles and caramels – homemade! – from Charity, delivered by Seth.

-A trip to the Writing Center to share the wealth and deliver Valentines to Cole and Julie S.

Birthday cake! Larry Henderson is 56 today, so we all partook of yummy made-from-scratch chocolate cake in the break room after lunch.

-An unexpected lunch with J…warm vegetable soup and corn muffins at Cracker Barrel. Just the thing on a day of snow flurries and chill winds.

This loveliness on 3191.

-A lovely big box from my mom, containing oodles of fun stuff, including notecards, K-shaped Post-Its, chocolate, the movie French Kiss and a tres chic new beret…cream with sweet black flowers.

Plans to surprise Jeremiah tonight…he knows I’m bringing him dinner at dress rehearsal, but I’m throwing in a few special little extras. 🙂

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my blogosphere friends. I love you, and I hope you’ve been able to both give and receive loveliness today.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Read Mike Cope’s post from Henri Nouwen about the true face of selfless love – and what it requires.

I don’t have any profound or original meditations on love. It probably tops the most-written-about, most-talked-about, most-cried-about lists through the centuries. And as all of us know, it can cause real heartbreak at times. But love in its many forms has been the single most profound shaping influence on my life. And because of that I say: It is worth it.

I have been fortunate to grow up incredibly loved, first by my parents and sister, then by my extended family and church families and friends and teachers and so many others along the way. I spent two years off and on in a coffee house where the love between co-workers was as strong as our espresso. I spent a whole semester in Oxford learning what love in community means. I live with a darling little pixie named Bethany who is daily teaching me what gentle, forgiving, kind love is. For the past two years, I have been patiently and faithfully loved by an amazing man…with whom I finally get to spend a Valentine’s Day today. 🙂 And I have watched my church family rally around one another in authentic, persevering love through a hard year of loss and grief and questioning. The lament service a few weeks ago was among the most beautiful acts of love I’ve ever seen.

“To love anyone is to hope in him always,” Madeleine L’Engle remembers in Walking on Water. And it’s true. To love someone is to trust and hope that they are still growing, that they can continue to discover more about life and themselves and God, and who they are meant to be. To love is to stop categorizing, stop labeling, stop limiting. It means letting people be who they are, instead of who you wish they were – but not forcing them to remain always the same.

I really should get back to work – but will close with some lyrics from a song we sang last week at Come As You Are chapel:

How deep the Father’s love for us!
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss!
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom!

Yes, this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

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