I worry that I will be breaking a commandment by writing this. Last night, I read in Matthew about how we are supposed to pray in secret, how we are supposed to keep our faith private and to ourselves.
At the same time, Lord, I don’t think that I give you enough credit for what I have seen you do in my life. I haven’t shown you enough gratitude and appreciation for anything or everything or even something. I thank you, sure.
I thank you when I eat.
I thank you when I wake up.
I thank you when I see something beautiful, especially the sunrise.
I thank you when I fall asleep.
I also know that my thanks can be rather perfunctory, kind of like someone is prodding me to say “thank you,” much like how I ask my children “Was sagst du?” If I ask them in German, then maybe it won’t seem so obvious that my children need to be reminded to thank people for gifts.
Last week, a group of colleagues and I talked about our childhood memories of Valentine’s Day and I have to admit that I really don’t remember any of those days. I know that I participated in the class exchanges. I loved digging into the envelopes and finding the few morsels of candy, even the chalky conversation hearts that meant nothing to me just as they meant nothing to the person who dropped them into the thin envelope.
I know that in sixth grade I stopped making/giving Valentine’s Day cards to all of my classmates and made a few for only very special friends. And then one boy in my class gave me card and I was humiliated that I had nothing to give him in exchange.
I don’t care for the day because it feels so forced to show people that I love them. If I don’t give people cards or candy or doodads and thingamajigs, then I must not be a loving woman. But I love my family and I love my pets and I love my students and my colleagues and the place where I work.
I love my mountain that I haven’t seen in over a year.
I love the mountains where I will be hiking this summer, even if I am rather fat and flabby. I will still put one foot in front of the other and do my best to make it up and down mountains and hills.
I love simple things like rainbows, the smell of rain on a warm spring day. I love the way clouds will skitter across the sky or how snowflakes will tumble to the earth and look like heavy, gray freckles against a light, gray sky. I love the arch of a person’s smile, the way my husband makes woofing sounds when he’s laughing, how my son will poke me in the side or bump me with his hip when he’s trying to share a joke with me.
I love that today I took my son out to Maggiano’s because we were hungry and had the time and I had a little extra money that I had set aside for Disney World but, instead, I took my son out for lunch at Maggiano’s because I don’t do enough special things for my son. And he doesn’t hold it against me; instead, he stands by my side and just runs next to me. To the end of the street, to the end of the road, to the treasure chest that is the crux of a dream.
I love my daughter’s chuckle and brilliant joy. I love how she sat next to me and helped me finish one puzzle, take it apart, and start another one. I love how she is a mixture of little girl and young woman. One moment, she discusses literature or the news with me. The next moment, she uses a purple marker to “dye” Rapunzel’s hair.
But, Lord, I don’t know that I show it to you enough, show you how grateful that I am that I have these moments and these days strung out together in tidy little bead-patterns. As though my destiny-abacus is still full and perfect and wonderful.
I watch shows like The Walking Dead and am grateful that this is not the reality with which I am living. I watch the news and see the realities of Syria or the statistics that tens of millions of young girls and women have undergone female circumcision, even seen the picture of a toddler just before her surgery and am horrified that this is even a possible reality.
But not for my daughter or me.
I feel horrible and selfish that I am grateful that I have a very easy life in comparison to what other people have. I am grateful, though, that I have the life that I lead and credit you with this gift.
I am grateful that I lived in Germany and DC. I am grateful for my memories that cross continents and hemispheres and language barriers and time zones and cultural boundaries.
I am grateful that I was in a dolphin show.
I am grateful that I have a silly dog and a sillier cat.
I am grateful that I met a president and an architect and an Italian guard at the Vatican told me my hair was “fan-tahs-teesh.”
I am grateful that I have seen the Pieta and the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame and mountains and moors and swamps and oceans and meadows and beautiful sights and tragic sights and humbling sights.
I am grateful that I have seen the presence of your beauty when I suffered heartbreak and when I experienced the purest form of joy, I was in your presence as well.
I love you, Lord. I love for you for so many reasons that I feel like enumerating would be like writing a grocery list of happiness that ends up sounding like flattery or insincerity.
But if I were to give you a Valentine’s Day card, I know that it would still pale in comparison to what I could say or should say. I know that I make lots of mistakes and people don’t always “see Jesus” in me. But I try. And I hope that you see this. I also fail a lot, and I’m sorry that you see this as well.
The world is a beautiful place, God. And I don’t know why you have given me the privilege to live in this world. But, daily, I live in a three-dimensional, pop-up, living, breathing Valentine’s Day card that you gave me and everyone else.