The pink sweater I had planned to wear ended up flopping, so I raided my sister Corrie’s closet and stole a read dress. I then raided the bedrooms of other sisters, trying to find matching jewelry. I was running late and ended up getting in the car ten minutes later than I had planned, flustered because the preparation time hadn’t gone quite as smoothly as I had wanted.
I wanted it to be perfect, this night of nights. It was Valentine’s Day. The Holiday of Love. I looked forward to it every year. But this year was different. This year was going to better than the last twenty-something years of my life.
Part of me thinks it might be neat if I could continue this story with me going to meet the man of my dreams at a candlelit dinner for two. But the majority of me is bursting with joy that I received more than candied hearts from my sister, lingerie from my mom, and flowers from my dad for Heart Day. The days and nights spent preparing for this day in which I would participate in “serving” were more fulfilling and more fun than preparation for a long vacation or any other event we might look forward to.
You see, the singles were throwing a Valentine’s party for the widows at church. In a humorous light, the “odd balls” of the body of Christ were banding together, with the younger serving the older with our energy and time, while the older served us with their encouragement and wisdom.
As I headed towards the location of the party, my frustration about running late began to ebb away. In its place, excitement about the evening began to fizzle in the pit of my stomach. That excitement increased when I arrived at what, for that night, was to be the fairy-tale palace.
I saw the cars of my good friends parked along the street and, after parking my own car, made a run for the side door that led to the kitchen. When I entered, I saw the faces of my fellow singles, and I knew the evening was going to be grand.
Everyone had dressed their best and everyone was smiling. But that didn’t keep the last minute preparations from being done in a frenzy. Thirteen princesses were soon to arrive. Everything had to be perfect.
And it was perfect. Even the unplanned mishaps and the typical mistakes of a big dinner party were part of the perfection of the evening. Playful laughter accompanied those mistakes and we had to be reminded several times that we needed to keep the noise down when the widows arrived.
The doorbell range and the first two ladies came inside. I think I experienced a little nervousness that increased by my imagination thinking these women were somehow royalty. Maybe, in the kingdom of God, they really were. There had to be more than practical reasons why God gave them a special place in His domain and commanded us over and over in His word to give them specific honor.
I was also experiencing another emotion when I stood with my brothers and sisters as we crowded around the guests of honor, attempting to make them feel as if, that night, they were the most important people in the world. That emotion was pride. I think I can say it was a healthy pride. I’d been proud all week and had beamed happily every time I had a chance to tell someone what I was doing for Valentine's Day. In an email to a friend I said, “I love to see my fellow singles taking advantage of their singleness and doing something with it.” Doing something with it. Taking a situation that many of us would gladly lay aside and making the best of it, in every sense of the word. It thrilled my heart. I was blessed by the ladies that allowed us to enjoy their company on February 14th, but I was just as blessed by the girl on my left or the guy on my right who seemed to be enjoying their time just as much as I was.
As the throng of the ladies entered our home-made palace, I tried to think of questions to ask them that would give me a glimpse into the hearts that had been alive three and four times longer than mine. I knew we had little time and I wanted the questions to mean something.
I saw a group of ladies sitting on the sofa so I pulled up a chair saying, “I’m going to come talk to you ladies.” As soon as I had a seat, one of the ladies caught me completely off guard when she sat forward with enthusiasm and said, “Now tell me about your life.”
I wanted to cry, “Are you crazy? Tell me about YOUR life!” But we were called to the kitchen to prepare for serving the meal.
I don’t remember that lady’s name, but my expectation of sitting and gleaning wisdom from my elders was met in a different way. I realize now that the greatest gift she could have given me was given in a single sentence by a single question. When she had a chance to share all the things God had taught her, she didn’t. Instead she set an example for me by taking an interest in me and showing me in a few tiny seconds that she considered me more important than herself. If I remember anything from the evening, I’ll remember her question and hopefully let it effect me to the point that I’ll consider others more important than me, just as she had done.
With that treasure to ponder, the evening proceeded with a three course meal, complimented by entertainment, games, and singing.
At the conclusion, the grand duchesses departed on the arms of the young armored knights--dressed in coats and ties--who had chauffeured them to the party. I was sad to see them go. It was over so fast. But Cinderellas in their sixties, seventies, and eighties can’t stay out till midnight. So we said goodbye and talked of plans to do it again soon.
With all my hopes for what it would be like, I think it turned out better. I’d always loved Valentine’s Day. Now I love it even more. A holiday that might bring dread to the single woman or single man had become a day filled excitement and joy. It was a holiday of love, but maybe not the love we fantasize about. It was an evening where we received more than we gave, though we didn’t know it and maybe didn’t even expect it.
It is a day that I’ll remember with fondness and even now the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. Delight in God for His goodness can’t be expressed in a little blog entry. It’s because He delights to give good gifts to His children that some overlooked widows and misfit singles were able to love on each other. It’s because He delights to give good gifts to His children that an uncertain season of life received a shining touch to make it bearable, even lovable.
And I’m just a little awed that I got to be a part of it.