But it was a beautiful one.
And a redemptive one.
One that perfectly preceded today, a day dedicated to the celebration of love.
On Tuesday night, I was online far later than I should have been when a message popped up from someone I have not heard from in months and months. I eagerly opened it, thinking it might be a fun piece of good news.
I read the first line and my heart dropped into my stomach. What followed were four of the briefest, most critical words I have heard in a long time. No greeting, no "How are you guys doing?" Just abrupt words of judgment and condemnation.
And just at that moment, B woke up crying.
My insides quaking, I went to comfort my baby. I breathed in his baby scent and relished his night-time-only cuddles as I rocked him back and forth, praying for the Lord to reveal any truth in the words recently sent.
N had woken up with B's waking, and when he poked his head in to check on us, I whispered to him to look at the computer screen.
When I returned to our bed, he wrapped his arms around me.
And he prayed. My gentle, steady-as-a-rock, slow-to-anger husband prayed beautiful words of comfort and assurance over me as I fought for control over my emotions.
I fell asleep to his voice lifting me up into Abba's care.
Early yesterday morning, as I sat at the table with my coffee and Bible, N stopped in his morning routine to pray over me again. One phrase he breathed caught my attention:
"Lord, do not allow our emotions
to stifle Your Holy Spirit in us today."
I clung to those words all day yesterday. I was determined to not allow my mind and heart to brood. It's so hard, isn't it? When we feel judged and criticized by others, it is so easy to slip into that funk, that self-condemnation, that sordid place of insecurity.
But as I sought the Lord throughout the day yesterday, He was so faithful to answer, to reveal His encouragement for me, to remind me of who I am in Him, His daughter, His image-bearer.
He reminded me of the joy of freely reading Scripture with my normally rambunctious little boy cuddled up right next to me on the couch in the morning. Of raspberry muffins freshly baked and set aside for my husband's co-workers and for my moms' group brunch. Of the friendliness of a newly discovered neighbor at Kindermusik with two little playmates for B.
Gratitude for a random phone call from a lady from a church we visited over a month ago. She had sweetest voice imaginable, and she spoke right to my heart regarding building relationships.
A note from an older friend saying that she prays for me often, as the Lord brings me to mind.
A reminder from Sally Clarkson that it is always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness:
"Though it is certainly okay to be saddened by people who hurt us, we don’t have to take their criticism or hurt to heart and we do not have to let these define us. I have some irrational people in my life who will be, and have been there forever! But even if they become angry or hurtful, again, I don’t have to let their words or behavior enter into my soul or allow them to determine how I feel about myself."
Words from Ann Voskamp that our brokenness provides the perfect backdrop for a stage where God's glory shines brightest:
"Because God exchanges dust and ashes for beauty and miracles and He cares so much that He doesn’t care that it’s not fair."
The day ended with laughter as we delighted in our son who is learning, absorbing, and speaking hilarity as only toddlers can. With delightful, affirming, encouraging conversations with old friends who have known the heart of me since Way Back When. Conversations that restored so much joy into my soul.
On this Valentine's Day, as I sit in my sunny backyard after a beautiful morning of fellowship and learning with newly discovered sisters-in-Christ, my hope and breathed-out prayer for you is that you would receive with grace the eyes that God has given each of us to see. Eyes to see goodness and beauty and friendship and love. Eyes to see the choice for joy at every turn.
This afternoon, we're going to have a picnic lunch in our backyard. Blow bubbles and swing. Giggle. Bake cookies.