Mention Valentine’s Day and you will get a variety of responses. Some love it. Others tolerate it while others think it is silly, a waste of money or just dumb. Whatever the opinion, it seems feelings about February 14th are very strong indeed. Whether you enjoy chocolates, cute cards or heart-shaped anything, love seems to be in the air during February….or, at least, the idea of it. As Christians, we are supposed to love – everyone from our neighbors to our enemies – and to show love in order to reflect Christ’s love for us. With that idea (and, yes with Valentine’s Day as well) on my mind, I have been considering my display of love for those I love the most – my family. Sometimes we can be guilty of so consciously working to love our neighbors and the world around us, that those closest to us almost seem overlooked. Or even forgotten.
Here are two ideas for loving the ones you call family – that do not even require a valentine!
1. Give Them Your Best – Not Your Leftovers
How often do we “hit the ground running” in the morning – with our energy, thoughts and focus on everything, and everyone, else other than those we love? We go and give of ourselves to others all day and then return home “done” – depleted and drained. Our spouses…our children…our family – they get whatever might be leftover at the end of the day. Leftover energy. Leftover sweet attitude. Leftover effort. This can happen whether you leave the house or hustle at home all day.
When my children were young, this scenario played out at our house more than just a couple times. I would be tired or aggravated and everyone knew it from my poor attitude. Until the phone would ring. I would pick up the phone (which was attached to the wall, by the way!) and answer with, simply, the sweetest hello. My children jokingly called it my “telephone voice”…..but it wasn’t funny. Why could I muster up kindness, even patience, for a telemarketer but not for my children?
Yes, our homes are a haven where we can relax – even decompress – but not at the expense of loving our family. I want to serve my husband – be my best and give my best – and then, with the time and energy left, seek to show love to others.
2. Appreciate Their Differences
If you met my brother and me, it would not be hard to see we are related. We share enough physical traits, to be sure. There are other similarities as well. (We both hate raw tomatoes and we sneeze after just about every meal. Go figure.) But there are also plenty of differences. We have different thoughts and opinions on everything from finances to raising children to favorite restaurants. We certainly have different worldviews and, ahem, political opinions. In many ways, “different as night and day” suits us perfectly. I can say similar things about my own three children. Or about my cousins. Or even sets of grandparents. Each member is unique but the one common thread of being related – we are family.
Instead of allowing differences to distance you or to cause tension – even constant friction – how much better to appreciate what makes each member of the family special. The hobbies you could never imagine trying, and certainly not enjoying, make for great stories. The opinions so opposite of yours can challenge, even strengthen, your own but might also help you understand differing viewpoints.
When my son died, all of us grieved. Obviously. But we each grieved differently. Uniquely. Those differences have been, at times, challenging but also have been helpful. No matter the differences, though, we have all greived together. As a family. Some differences are not quite as complicated. This past Thanksgiving, I finally began to embrace all of our (very) different eating styles and tastes. There were plenty of times, I allowed the differences to irritate and even dampen an entire special event. Appreciating individuality made a huge impact. It also expressed love.
I don’t anticipate a day of chocolate hearts or pink roses next week – but I do hope to show my family how very much I love them. Donuts with sprinkles would only help. Right?!