then comes Valentine’s Day

For this Friday of love we have asked two women we love and respect to write just a little something for you in addition to what we’ll offer. Sit back and soak in the Love?

The love of God for his people is the most glorious, incomprehensible love in all of history.

Hear God’s affection for you…

“For the Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; the God of the whole earth he is called. ‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ Says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:3) God, your husband, promises to love you eternally and compassionately. Amazing grace.
-Jessica Thompson, Give Them Grace

***

I’ve always had strong feelings for creatures that need help, whether they are hungry, dirty, sick – you name the affliction – I’m all about it. This has led to numerous animal adoptions since I was a little girl and in no small part, led to my going back to work full-time as a middle school teacher.

I now care for (with my sweet husband, who by the way, only has minor afflictions) one 17-year-old cat, one feral cat, two orphan kittens, one dog with pancreatitis, and one fairly normal pup. As you can imagine, their care is a constant thing – daily and unceasing. But to me, the comfort I can provide these innocent creatures that God made gives me comfort and satisfaction. I’ve become the crazy cat lady – no, that’s not right – I’ve always been the crazy cat lady.

Not only have I always been drawn to needy creatures, but to quirky, vulnerable, seeking people – sounds like middle schoolers, doesn’t it? They are on the brink of LIFE, but still need comfort and confirmation. This age bracket is messy – they can barely eat lunch without finishing the meal looking like a food-covered mess. Forget the academics, they are trying to fit in. Something about the struggle they go through everyday touches my heart. Even though they go through enormous lengths to not show any of their enormous emotions, they still look to their significant adults for comfort.

And there I am – waiting to help them decide today
who they want to be and how they are going to get there.

So for me, my heart moves to step in for those in a mess. Does this make me a shepherd like Christ? Yes, I believe it does. A crazy cat lady shepherd leading and loving kittens and middle schoolers!

Today, on the day of love, I hope you get a chance to serve and bring comfort to those afflicted creatures in your life! Happy Valentine’s Day!
-Margaret Baggett, Lauren’s mom

***

On Valentine’s day I’ve found myself thinking about the power and importance of words. As I contemplate having children of my own I imagine the words I will say to encourage, discipline and lead them with. I also think back to significant words spoken over me. The ones that God ordained to plant deep into my sinful heart that eventually grew into marvelous good fruit.

In ninth grade I loved sports and reading. I took both to extremes. Playing soccer, running cross country and taking weight training class I wore down my hips and couldn’t run in our state meet. God humbled me and I began to understand that sports could never satisfy me. That same year I started reading romantic fiction online. My curiosity and sinful appetite led me from PG to R ratings over that same semester. One night I was sitting at my computer screen, all of the lights were off when my mom opened the bedroom door. I could barely see who it was because of the light pouring in behind her. She said “Lauren. Stop that. Turn off your computer. Come join us for dinner.”

She didn’t know what I was doing, but the Spirit spoke through her words. I kept my computer shut off for the next six months. The word of discipline that the Lord spoke through my mom that night saved me from so much sin. The Holy Spirit used that word to affect repentance in my life even though I was not yet a Christian. My freshman year of college was the first time I could even admit to someone that this was me – I did this. Since then, God continually leads women to me who need similar freedom from shameful sin. It is with such JOY that I get to share how He disciplined me in love and led me to freedom! And He can do the same for you today, Beloved.

The Holy Spirit used that word to affect repentance in my life even though I was not yet a Christian.

-Lauren Rogers

***

As soon as the last Christmas clearance has cleared. As soon as our hearts are settling into those New Year resolutions, shaking out the details of who we were meant to be, become, this year. As soon as we feel ready to face the world.

Then comes Valentine’s Day.

Sea of red and white and pink and brown. Chocolate. Greeting cards that say mushy things that no guy could ever come up with on his own.

It’s hard to handle, and sometimes I just buy flowers and chocolate for myself. Yes, I’m married, but it’s still just so silly to let Hallmark decide when and how we express love. So I take it upon myself to splurge just a little (I buy the clearance flowers!!!!) on the fake love because the real love cannot be bought.

The real love is rarely so pretty, but it is so much more beautiful.

The real love is hardly wrapped neatly, but it unwraps the deepest parts of my soul.

The real love is never so greeting-card easy, but it is worth the effort to be expressed in words and sacrifice all our own.

No, the real love cannot be bought because, like the Real Love, it comes only as gift.

We never earn the Real Love, though we might squander it. We never deserve the Real Love, though it makes us more like Him who does. And we never exhaust the Real Love, though we might run, be chased by it, around the world, back again.

Never a sickeningly sweet binge. Never a bouquet of promises that wilt, wither, waste. Never a disappointment.

The Real Love, the good God, He makes promises so huge. Not one handful—He gives all the flowers. And He says, I love you.

Not with a prepackaged poem full of flowery nonsense. He expresses the Love in Word all His own.

The Word became flesh.

Writes Real Love on our hearts.

And the Word, He undoes all the damage of the fake love, how we have been wounded, wrecked, and wrought asunder by the lesser lovers.

Bleeding, Real Love beautifully unwraps us.
Because He does not buy us expensive gifts.
He buys us. Expensively.

So when Valentine finds us abrasive, abused, and undone, we can rest in the Real Love who saves us. Rest affirmed, adored, and so very deeply loved.

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