Monday, February 10, 2014

With Love

Have you heard the whispers? They’re rustling in the seasonal aisles and near the check-out counters. Scads of heart-themed products—candies, balloons, jewelry, and more—are competing for our attention this week. Listen! There they go again. “February 14 is almost here. PICK ME!”

With so many Valentine’s options, how do you choose the right gift?

My husband and I have a simple solution. We don’t choose.  That’s right. No Valentine’s gifts for us. After twenty years of marriage, it’s difficult to find fresh ideas. Besides, we’re on a mission to de-clutter, to shift our focus from material goods to what matters most—God, family, friends. Plus, we’ve earmarked our surplus dollars for more urgent purposes, such as paying medical expenses to treat our chronically ill daughter.

But we do set aside a quiet time to exchange greeting cards.

FFF Feb 11 pic 1

That’s why choosing the right card is a serious undertaking for me, and this year, I found the perfect one.

I didn’t select it for its graphics. A heart is a heart is a heart, after all. So what captured my attention?


FFF Feb 11 pic 2c

“Real love isn’t found in the falling—,” the American Greetings sentiment begins.

Jake Wilson would agree. Co-owner of a small-town florist in my debut novel Delivery, Jake depends upon business thriving in February. He earns a significant portion of his yearly income from Valentine’s sales. But while his wife Ida receives one of the most stunning bouquets in town, he knows expressing love isn’t that simple. In fact, he learns it requires much more than he ever expected.

FFF Feb 11 pic 3

“It’s found in the staying . . .” the greeting card message continues.

Jake Wilson stays. Even after his sweet Ida grows inappropriately suspicious, argumentative, and sometimes hateful. Even after her mysterious behavior turns her into someone he no longer recognizes. Even after her illness steals her ability to remember he is her spouse.

Jake stays considerate. He stays compassionate. He stays committed. He loves, honors, and cherishes his wife through the darkest of days.

But he’s a fictional character! He can do whatever I make him. Can real people love like that?


Last fall, I met a gentleman who could have been my inspiration for creating Jake Wilson, if only our paths had crossed earlier. In recent months, I’ve witnessed this man caring for his ailing wife of 55 years, brushing her silver locks with tenderness unexpected from such farmer’s hands, wheeling her with compassion to the breakfast table on days she couldn’t walk, lifting her with dignity onto a bedside commode after she lost the ability to attend to her own personal duties. Yet he never helped without first asking her permission--even when she could not recall his name.

A few days ago, I stood with my new friend beside his wife’s casket, her wispy hair brushed smooth, her slender hands folded at rest, her lovely face at peace. As his shoulders quaked in grief, my tears also rolled. I wept in sadness. I wept in awe.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for over half a century he offered his heart as our Creator intended us to do. With patience, with kindness, with perseverance. With love.

What Valentine’s gift can top that?

Let’s talk about love! Are you making plans to surprise someone special on February 14? Are Valentine’s gifts a tradition for you? What are some of the most memorable tokens of love you have given or received? Please share! Who knows? Maybe your ideas will help a fellow reader touch someone else’s heart this week!


  1. Your comment about "no gifts" resonated with me. Some would laugh and call Chuck and me "weird!" We take a date to Walmart and peruse the card/flower/candy aisles and choose what we would pick out for the other. We laugh as we read through cards, drool as we gape at the candy choices, and sniff and sneeze at all the flowers. But we don't purchase; we simply enjoy looking and laughing. Actually, we typically DO end up with candy, since that's our favorite.

    When it comes to commitment, I find none greater than my father-in-law's love for mom when she suffered from Alzheimers and cancer. By her side caring for her, like a captain in charge of his troops, he monitored medicines, appointments, diet, and respected her even when she did goofy things. They loved and lived together for 50 years, faithful "until death due us part."

    Thanks, Diana, for sharing this meaningful and timely post!

  2. Eileen, sounds like your Walmart date with Chuck is much more meaningful than any material gift would be. What a fantastic idea! Time spent with loved ones is one of the greatest gifts of all.

    Your father-in-law sounds much like my character Jake Wilson and my new gentleman friend. How heartwarming to hear such love and devotion exists. What a special man, a blessing for your family. Thank you for sharing!

  3. What a beautiful, touching post, Diana! Made me cry...reminded me of The Notebook.

    As for Valentine's Day, after almost 40 years, hubby and I do pretty much what you and yours do. Cards...sometimes not even those. But we always spend special time together and we always wish each other Happy Valentine's Day. I think those wishes become more meaningful every year, because every year we become more truly each other's Valentine.

  4. Yes, my love language is time, so that always trumps gifts. Chuck's is touch, so we touch a lot as we stroll the store. :)

  5. Thank you, Diana, that was a wonderful post. My husband and I will do cards but not gifts. Sometimes I can spend a couple hours looking at cards trying to find one that says what is in my heart. I have found several through the years. But this year I am going the home made route and I know that the card will say what is from my heart. You are right that the love is in the staying. My husband has been with me through all my medical problems. He has held my hand, he has cried with me when we got the news that I would not be able to have any more children. He has uplifted me through the years, he has been my rock throughout many medical problems. That is what true love is all about. The staying...the being there....the walking through times of unknown....the holding of your hand when you have received bad news....the staying is what is it all about. too many today do not want to stay, they think the grass is always greener on the other side...let me tell you it is not. Take the time to get to know each other. Do special things for the one you love. It doesn't have to cost much, but your time. Your time, going the extra mile for them....that is what love is all about. Putting the person you love first above all else....that is what love is all about.
    Again, thank you Diana for the wonderful post.

  6. Delia, I thought of The Notebook multiple times as I witnessed the love my new gentleman friend showed his wife in her final months. What a beautiful thing to see firsthand. Tears well each time I think of his devotion. Thanks for sharing your Valentine's tradition. Time is, in my opinion, the most precious gift of all! Hope you and your hubby share plenty of it this Valentine's Day.

  7. Eileen, what a blessing that you two have identified each other's love languages and honor them. Taking time to do that is a gift all its own!

  8. Betty, homemade cards are such treasures. What an awesome way to personalize your Valentine's message. I couldn't agree more. Giving a little extra effort can mean so much. I know about some of the incredible challenges you and your husband have faced, and let me tell you what an inspiration it has been to have seen you deal with them together--with God's guidance.Those who are beginning to feel that staying is too hard NEED to hear stories like yours. We all do! I'm so glad you joined us here today and shared a bit about your journey. Thank you, and please come back next week!

  9. That was beautiful, Diana. It brings to mind much reflection about my idea of what true love is. There was a time when I was very idealistic and thought that love meant having a perfect mate who totally adored me, no arguments, no troublesome times... But after 39 yrs of marriage I realize that "true love really is in the staying." True love is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up no matter what.

  10. Noni, you hit on something that I think is key to so many failed marriages. I'm afraid too many people carry unrealistic expectations into relationships, so of course they are disappointed when real life hits. Marriage involves work. Commitment takes effort. And sometimes, the challenges are incredibly hard. I LOVE your statement, "True love is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up no matter what." SO VERY TRUE! Thanks for stopping by, my friend, and may the next 39 years be filled with blessings.

  11. We live in a fast and exchangeable world. It is so wonderful to hear of and see stories of couples who stick with each other no matter what over the long haul. Some young people think if it doesn't work i will just trade my spouse for another, so sad! John and i have been together for 33 years. There have been times when we didn't like each other so much but we always chose to love each other. Both our parents were married 50 years or more.
    Our Kids all know the D word is not one to even consider if at all possible.
    This year John has been working out of town cents thanksgiving so my gift was to go spend the day with him know he might not have much time. but just being there was enough for him to know i cared and love him dearly.
    Thanks for sharing your very touching story and reminding us all to stick with it and always chose to keep loving.

  12. Renette, you brought up several key points to successful marriage. I believe many marriages fail because too many people misunderstand love. Marital love involves so much more than emotions. It takes commitment. It is a choice that we make daily, not just at the moment of taking our wedding vows. Spouses are bound to experience times they don't like each other, but that doesn't mean they've stopped loving each other. It warms my heart to hear your story, to know you have 33 married years and counting, to hear that you and John value time together as a precious gift. Congratulations to your parents and John's. How rare to find TWO sets of parents whose marriages lasted half a century or more. What an example they have set for posterity--the same example you and your husband are setting now. Your story makes me smile. Thank you so much for dropping by!