Thanksgiving Leftover Hot Brown

“Do you have something planned for dinner?  Or should we stop and pick up something from the store?”  

Pretty typical question from my hubby, making sure that everything was covered for the evening. But I chuckled this time, because this wasn’t a typical day- it was the day after Thanksgiving. A Thanksgiving we hosted. And that meant our fridge was crammed full of containers of leftover food. Do we have food in the house? That’s funny.

I’m a leftover lover, but even I wasn’t really excited about a repeat of last night’s dinner. But it seemed the financially wise decision, so I was going with it.

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New Year’s Resolutions: Smart or Pointless?

We are quickly approaching that time of year.  That time when we get super ambitious and idealistic about the upcoming year, and then set unrealistic goals to match our misconceptions of ourselves and the year.

For a season, I just threw my hands in the air and said ‘screw it’. Why set goals when I had no anticipation of going through with them? Am I not being more real by just not setting any at all? Maybe so, but I don’t foster much personal growth.

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Bethlehem: Where Hopes Are Realized And Fears Relieved

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead the worship at church the past few weeks.  And we are in the full swing of Christmas music!  We’ve been singing everything from my favorite Sovereign Grace Christmas album to the classic carols proclaiming the Savior’s birth. 

When I’m leading, I like to get there pretty early to run through the music, make sure the keys are right, and just get a little bit more comfortable with the set before the band shows up to practice. I was doing just that this past week, when the Lord showed up and totally changed my Christmas season.

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Tree Snobs And Mountain Dew

As a kid, Christmas officially began on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Boxes and crates were dragged from the basement, and the red and green takeover began. It was great fun to embarrass my brother over his ‘pouty angel’ homemade ornament each year. And just maybe my mom would trust me enough to help with the invaluable nativity set that her mother painted. But I believe that my most favorite memories involved our Christmas tree each year.

You see, my parents were proud ‘real tree’ snobs. We picked out a fresh tree every year, looking down on those who pulled one out of a box each year. For a while, we would purchase one from the Kroger parking lot. But that was a little bit like tree roulette. You never really knew what that tree would look like when you cut the netting off from around it.

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#ThisIsValentinesDay: How To Love In Real Life

This past weekend was Valentines Day. So many people have different opinions on the holiday. Some love to show their special someone how much they mean to them on this day. Others feel more single than ever. Still some just see it as a holiday that Hallmark invented.

I personally love the holiday….I always have. The splash of red and pink as you enter any store for the preceding month just makes my heart happy. I have to resist the urge to buy all the little knick knacks that are advertised. I always buy my employees little Valentines, hoping to make them smile just a little bit at the gesture. Sometimes I get an eye roll and a ‘thank you’, but normally a smile after.

My husband has a completely different view, though. In his opinion, Valentines Day is an opportunity for guys to make up for all that they should have been doing throughout the year. And pay a pretty penny for it. He would rather pass up the holiday all together.

He was an attentive boyfriend when we first started dating- paid an outrageous amount of money to have roses delivered to my work. Probably a good move since we had only been dating a month. By the next Valentines Day, we were a newly married couple and we still did the flowers and dinner thing…just saved on the delivery fee this time. I mean, we were spending joint money now.

After that, Valentines Day became a little bit different. We would walk into Walmart together and see the sea of red and say the same thing, just two totally different ways. “It’s that time of year again….” He would say, accompanied by an eye roll. “It’s this time of year again!” I would proclaim with a giddy little grin. But he’s a trouper and plays along for my sake.

As someone who was chronically single throughout my 20s, I’ve wondered why Valentines Day has always been so special to me. And I think I can point back to the holiday as kid. You see, my parents treated Valentines Day like a family holiday, not necessarily a date night. Maybe there is some truth to what my hubby said. My parents did ‘date night’ right all throughout the year, so they didn’t feel the need to make up for something lacking just because a holiday presented itself.

Here’s how my Valentines Day looked as a kid….

We cooked a special meal, steak or something fancy that we normally didn’t eat. Chicken from my brother who doesn’t like steak….weirdo. We all exchanged Valentines Day gifts, with the emphasis on the gifts from my dad and my younger brothers. My dad wanted to make sure that my brothers knew how to properly honor the women in their life, which was me and my mom at the time; so he made sure that they had cards and a little gift for us. I still remember my brother getting me my first pocket knife when we were teenagers.

But it was more than just teaching them how to act, it was teaching me what to expect. I knew what it felt like to be respected and honored by the men in my family, and it made me a lot less likely to allow disrespect from men outside my family. I think my dad’s primary purpose was to teach his boys respect, but it had a profound influence on me and my worth as a woman and an individual.

To finish the night off, we would compete in the Annual Heilman Family Mario Kart Tournament. We had a system. All five of us rotated through the twelve courses of Mario Kart, kept score, and declared winners. My mom or brother normally placed first, while I held a solid second or third each year. The whole event was an act of love on my dad’s part….as he disliked video games and almost always placed last.

He would put on one heck of an awards ceremony though, gracing each participant with a ‘trophy’ of some sort picked out from none other than the Dollar Tree. My parents are now empty nesters, but just this year, my dad went out and bought an updated Mario Kart game for whichever gaming system is now at their house. They picked back up the tradition- just the two of them!

Let’s fast forward to today. This year was probably one of my favorite Valentines Day’s as my own family. It’s proof that the day isn’t always big gestures and grand declarations of love. It’s real life love.

We planned on having our one on one Valentines Day dinner on Thursday.  I found these super thick porkchops at the store, and grabbed some easy, but delicious sides to go with it. I told him that I didn’t want to watch TV while we ate, but rather spend the evening enjoying each other’s company and eating dinner. Nothing fancy, just some quality time and a nice dinner at home.

But then the allergies of the Ohio River Valley attacked. I had felt bad all week, and it wasn’t going anywhere. The night before, as I took PM allergy meds, I groggily told him not to worry about the next night, it didn’t have to be anything fancy. We could eat a frozen pizza and watch TV if he wanted. I’d just be lucky to make it through my day at work. But the next day, I got this text…

What a sweet hubby!

And I smiled. Love isn’t always romantic and lovey-dovey. Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure I have a nice dinner when a pizza would be easier. Sometimes it’s being a servant to your partner and sacrificing what you want for what they want or need. It wasn’t the romantic evening I had planned, but it was real. We were loving each other in real life. So that evening, we sat on the couch and watched TV…..eating a big fat juicy porkchop. I believe I closed my eyes at 9 and let the meds take over for the evening.

But the meds did the trick, and I felt much better by Friday, which was actually Valentines Day. I was excited this year, because it fell on the weekend we had the girls. We tried to create an evening that made them feel special and loved, much like my dad had done for me growing up. Brandon cooked a BOMB dinner- steak, shrimp, asparagus, broccoli, baked potatoes. And he served it to us as we sat at the table. He had gone to the store and spent the inflated prices on flowers and cards for all the girls in his life. I had a couple of little Valentines goodies for them too. I had a lot of fun setting the table up ahead of time, prepping it for dinner with the nice dishes and displaying their gifts. It was important to me that they knew how much both their dad and I loved them.

They ate it up. We stuffed our faces with food and laughed around the dinner table. Hallie questioned whether or not we eat the udders of cows and how exactly cows die in order to create steak. Perfect fancy dinner time conversation.

I believe we were successful in communicating to the girls what we were trying to say. They are special and valuable. Not just because we love them, but because God loves them.

Ava was in the car with me the next day, talking on the phone to her best friend. She was relaying the events of the evening before. “We had a fancy steak dinner, and my dad served it to us while we just sat there. It was soooo good. He even grilled asparagus and broccoli. And there was shrimp. And he got us flowers, a card, candy, and souvenirs from his vacation. And a cool water bottle with a heart on it.”

For a twelve year old who hates to admit that anything is cool right now, this conversation said it all. She and her sister both fixated on the part of their Daddy serving them. They felt special, and loved.

And that’s what Valentines Day is about. It’s not about who spent the most money or topping last year’s events. It’s about showing the people in your life how special they are to you….wherever you are in life. You may be in a stage where flowers, fancy dinner, and jewelry are what shows that love. You may be at a stage where just finding an hour to go to Fazoli’s to talk is showing love. Or maybe you need to call up that friend who is struggling, pick up some Chinese food, and have her over to watch a movie. It may be that friend who you’re thankful for, who’s always there for you. Tell them that you’re thankful for them. Maybe you need to take a moment and tell your kids how much you love them, focusing on how they will best understand it, not how you’re most comfortable saying it.

Whoever it is that’s important to you, make sure they understand that. Make sure they never doubt how much you love and care for them. And find the gesture that best says it to them. It can be simple or grand. Inexpensive or costly. Quiet or a spectacle. Culture doesn’t have to dictate how you say it. Be real, say it in the context of your real life.

But above all, don’t pass up saying it. Make the gesture, whatever it is. And don’t wait until next Valentines Day to do it again. Make the gesture next week. Tell that friend how important they are next time you talk. Stop for a second and hold onto that hug a little longer. Fix that dinner tomorrow night. Tell your kids why they are special when you tuck them in tonight. Say ‘thank you’. Do that chore that he hates doing. Watch that show you know she loves but puts you to sleep. Send that text when you think of that friend. Call that person you haven’t seen in a while.

Whatever it is, just do it. Put into action the love we say we have for each other. More importantly, put into action the love that God He has for the world. How else will the world understand it if they don’t see it lived out among us?

“In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation* for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)

*Propitiation- Appeasement, making up for a wrong doing