I received something for Christmas this past year that I've always wanted. In fact, I've spent my whole life searching for it, but could never quite find it.
The perfect sweatshirt.
And now I have it, thanks to my husband. It's the perfect weight...light, but still warm. It's the perfect color...the cozy gray that says "go ahead and stay home all day, you deserve it." And it has the perfect sentiment written across it in large, black, block letters. It says, "I LIKE TO PARTY. AND BY PARTY, I MEAN READ BOOKS."
Oh yes. I told you it was perfect for me. It's everything I've ever wanted in a sweatshirt. That's why it's the first thing I put on when I get home from work. Every single day. I have become the sweatshirt person. But, I don't judge myself. It's too perfect to permit judging. I only regret I didn't own it sooner.
But, how did this man know me so well? How did he know just what would make my introverted heart so exquisitely happy? Well, besides the secret Pinterest board entitled "Things I'd Like To Own" that I created just for him, he probably knew because I read. I read a lot. It's the way I learn best, and it's the way I relax the best. So, it makes sense that it's also the avenue that has taught me quite a bit about love. When I read people's stories, either in works of fiction or non-fiction, it's what I'm always looking for. The love story. The relationship that redeemed the past and made things new. The heart connection that turned everything around.
And I know I'm not alone. Our culture celebrates love stories, and I think it's because deep down, we're all searching for a love story.
Whether we realize it or not, every heart yearns to hear the thread of narrative that echoes the truths of the greatest love story ever told. The story that stretched from a far-away realm to our world, right here in all of its ordinariness. The story of an epic battle between good and evil. The story of a man who came searching for His bride, to redeem her and make her his.
The story of Heaven, looking to make its home in us.
Author's Note: As our culture celebrates love this week, I pray you will enjoy this collection of my favorite quotes from fiction that echo the happy ending we've all been offered. And if you're looking for a sentiment to pen into a Valentine's card, you can't go wrong with any of these. You just might also want to make sure the card is attached to the perfect sweatshirt, if you want it to be a holiday long remembered.
"Was he willing to blend into the life of another human being for the rest of his days, and have hers blend into his? That, of course, was the Bible’s bottom line on marriage: one flesh. Not separate entities, not two autonomous beings merely coming together at dinnertime or brushing past one another in the hallway, holding on to their singleness, guarding against invasion. One flesh!" - Jan Karon, A Light in the Window
“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out. Just as they are—chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away." - Dinah Mariah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1826–1887”
"Love, in its truest form, is not the thing of starry-eyed or star-crossed lovers, it is far more organic, requiring nurturing and time to fully bloom, and, as such, seen best not in its callow youth but in its wrinkled maturity. Like all living things, love, too, struggles against hardship, and in the process sheds its fatuous skin to expose one composed of more than just a storm of emotion–one of loyalty and divine friendship. Agape. And though it may be temporarily blinded by adversity, it never gives in or up, holding tight to lofty ideals that transcend this earth and time–while its counterfeit simply concludes it was mistaken and quickly runs off to find the next real thing.” - Richard Paul Evans, The Letter
“I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be yours.” - Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
"My love isn't a weapon, it's a lifeline, reach out and take hold, and don't let go!” - Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
"I lived with visions for my company,
Instead of men and women, years ago,
And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know
A sweeter music than they played to me.
But soon their trailing purple was not free
Of this world's dust, — their lutes did silent grow,
And I myself grew faint and blind below
Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come ... to be,
Belovèd, what they seemed. Their shining fronts,
Their songs, their splendours, (better, yet the same,
As river-water hallowed into fonts)
Met in thee, and from out thee overcame
My soul with satisfaction of all wants —
Because God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese, 26