I used to operate under the belief that love had to be earned.

That means I spent a great deal of time doing things for others (to try and manipulate their perception of me) and feeling always like I wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough housekeeper. I wasn’t a good enough seamstress. I wasn’t a good enough conversationalist (less is more, Alicia). I wasn’t a good enough friend or neighbor or leader or house guest or visiting teacher or or or or…

So I would do stuff for others to earn their love. What’s more (and this is the part that really breaks my heart) I would do things for myself to earn my own love. And MORE (read: MORE heart-breaking) I applied this same principle to my Father in Heaven.

In order to have Him love me, I had to read more, pray more… to have a relationship with Him I must and would be better! more! stronger! wiser! worthy!

That’s all over now. It all ended in a sort of gigantic heap of a train wreck in my soul, sirens wailing and all. I think it was even raining…

But now I see clearly (because the rain is gone?) (sorry, couldn’t resist)… and now I can rest.
Love is the most powerful driving force on earth. It can bring heroes to the front line, give mothers strength to lift cars, and pull families so close together their hearts beat in rhythm and time.
Love isn’t about couples or sex or some sappy sentiment plastered on the side of a cardboard-shaped heart box full of chocolates. Love is about seeing someone intimately and knowing who they are.

I love my children. They don’t earn it… my love for them simply IS, no matter what, when, how, where, or why. They can be stinking rotten and I still love them. They can be angelic and sweet, and I love them.

I have a relationship with them ALWAYS.

A few weeks ago, I sat in church and listened to a teacher pose the question, “How do we strengthen our relationship with Heavenly Father?”
I sat back and listened to the answers.
“Read our scriptures more.”
“Pray more often.”

And I KNOW they didn’t mean it like this, but my Old Self began crying out from within, “earn, earn, earn… work harder and more and when you feel shame because you’ll never EVER reach that goal… self-medicate with chocolate or Downton or even a nap because you’ll never be enough, Alicia, no matter how hard you work at it. You simply exist to BE LESS.”

So I raised my hand and told God and everyone about the file in my computer. The one labeled “Valentines.”
Because the more I learn about LOVE, the more I come to appreciate Valentine’s Day.
And although I still spend time in my scriptures and on my knees, I don’t do it to try and manage any kind of relationship with anyone… I do it because I need it.
Instead, I take my phone out with me into the world and look for God’s hand in MY life. I look for Him reaching out to ME.
The pendulum has swung the other way for the time being, and I’m sure someday I’ll find that happy medium of reaching out and seeing Him reach back, but right now I’m cleansing The Earning Pool.

I’m looking for His hand in my life EVEN THOUGH I haven’t earned it.

And when I see it, I snap a picture, label it, and put it in my file. I’d like to share my file with you today, if that’s all right with you. These are my Valentines (sometimes called Tender Mercies by other Mormons, ha!).
Today I’ll be on the lookout for more Valentines from my Father in Heaven as I spend time with Mom in the hospital. She officially has TWO new knees (whereas she used to only have the one).
Enjoy my pictures, and maybe snap a few yourself. And I won’t complain ONE little bit if you send them my way. I already have a file full of other people’s Valentines, and I love looking through them. (You should add yours to the mix, just sayin’)

And then there’s the Valentines I make just for fun… it’s a hobby of mine. Is that crazy? Maybe. But I can’t stop the crazy.