The Gift of Love

by Christie Shumate McElwee

It’s a frigid Valentine’s Day here in the Midwest, and most of us are hunkered down under heavy blankets trying to keep warm. Me? I am sipping hot coffee while pondering the perplexities of this thing called love. I have many questions and no real definitive answers. Billions of words have been written over the centuries on the subject. Poets, philosophers, and scientists have studied the heart, how it works and the countless ways it breaks. We humans claim to know love, but we continue to stomp on each other in the name of it. It’s staggeringly complicated and stunningly simple, this love of ours. All I know of it is that I am still learning, still practicing, and still offering up love. It is a journey I hope to never relinquish.

The dictionary definition of love mentions words like tender, passionate, attachment, and affection. Phrases like “Love wins” and “All we need is love” are often glib testaments to our total confusion of the meaning of the word. If only it were as simple as loving one another. Wars would end. Guns would be stored away. Hate would return to its grave. But, because we do not understand love, we stumble blindly through life, hanging onto jealously, fear, regrets, and pain. Those we understand. Those we can keep close. They are our identity, our stories. Love, though, is often hazy in its message. Do we want to be loved or do we want to love? Is it selfish or selfless? Do we set contingencies on love or do we offer it up unconditionally? Do we love naturally or does it require daily practice?

All I know is this…love is a mystery worth knowing. It is a feeling, a presence, a pricking at the heart. It’s worried days and sleepless nights. It is the infinite stars we can never count. It can break us into a billion fragments and sloppily repair our damaged souls with crooked stitches and sticky glue. Love is believing in our brokenness, and not surrendering to hopelessness, to cynicism, to despair. Love is an impossible puzzle with missing pieces and no instructions. It is a simple gesture, a hand to hold, a wish before blowing out the candles.

Love, in all its crazy incarnations, is the reason we are here. It offers us hope. It serves up joy. It is all we hold in our hands when the sun sets, this love of ours.

Love is a gift, both given and received. And as the years pass, I hold this precious love close to my imperfect heart, knowing it is all worth it.

The Gift

by Mary Oliver

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.

Earth and heaven are both still watching

though time is draining from the clock

and your walk, that was confident and quick,

has become slow.

so, be slow if you must, but let

the heart still play its true part.

Love still as once you loved, deeply

and without patience. Let God and the world

know you are grateful.

That the gift has been given.

A peek at my collections of hearts and books. Love is often scattered across pages, years, and memories. It is both comedy and tragedy, fire and water, and lost and found. I find love everywhere, if I bother to look up.

Drunk on the Idea That Love Can Heal Our Brokenness

 pixabay.com
pixabay.com

“O brawling love! O loving hate!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

This love feel I, that feel no love in this.” -Romeo, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

Romeo’s despair has been swirling in my head this Valentine’s Day. How can we celebrate love with so much hate seeping into our existence? I gaze out at the gloom and my heart aches, so I close the drapes, turn off the internet, and stumble around in the dark.

But then…but then I remember the words. Those exquisite, brilliant words writers and artists and peacemakers have given us throughout the centuries. Words celebrating the heart, the soul, the complicated and the simple pieces that make us human. They ponder love and all its miraculous adaptations. 

Words will save me. Words will save us all, because we cannot let love die. We must fight against the harsh winds to gather love up and hold it close, because love is our only hope.

You’ve got to love life to have life, and you’ve got to have life to love life.
― Thornton WilderOur Town

You can have other words – chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it. – Mary Oliver

Where there is great love, there are always wishes. -Willa Cather

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold. -Zelda Fitzgerald

Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live. – Tom Wolfe

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love. -Marc Chagall

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. -Neil Gaiman

He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even with looking. – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. – Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up. – James Baldwin

The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live. – Auguste Rodin

There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Henry David Thoreau

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. – H.L. Mencken

Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears. 

“After all this time?”

“Always,” said Snape. 

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 society6.com
society6.com

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

-e.e. cummings

(Revised and updated from February 14, 2017)

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Hearts and Words and Sighs

As the author of a blog called Drunk on Love in the Kitchen, I knew I had to post on Valentine’s Day. This holiday conjures up dreams of kisses for some and animosity in others. Me? I’ve always adored Valentine’s. I loved exchanging those silly cards in grade school. I prayed a boy would slip me a love letter in my locker as I grew older. My children still get care packages and cards filled with chocolates and candy hearts and gifts. It’s a festival of love, whether it is romantic, friendly, or family. A day cloaked in pink roses and red hots. Oh, what’s not to love about this day?

And the words written about love….oh, the beautiful, heartbreaking, breathtaking words that have flowed from writers’ pens to readers’ hearts….These words fill me with such passion. I pause to consider life’s wonders as I share a few of them…

He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even with looking. 

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering. 

– Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth be a liar; But never doubt I love. 

– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. 

– Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. 

– Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you. 

– A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night. 

– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I just want you to know that you’re very special…And the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has. 

– Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane. 

– John Green, Looking for Alaska

And I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget, forgetting any other home but this.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

 – James Baldwin

Always. 

-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows



So sulk not, my dear friends. Embrace the warmth of Valentine’s Day. Write a letter to a friend. Bake cookies. Read a romantic tale. Watch a sappy movie. Choose joy. And me? I’m going to bake a lemon tart and sip some wine because I wish to be drunk on love in the kitchen.

 There seems to be some DISCREPANCY on who wrote this. no matter. It’s beautiful and so true.
There seems to be some DISCREPANCY on who wrote this. no matter. It’s beautiful and so true.