But this year has been different; mostly because I find that it lends itself so well to talking about "all things love" with the kids. We've been making paper hearts, listening to poems, playing in valentine sensory boxes, reading some fun books, and decorating heart shaped sugar cookies- all while learning how we can love ourselves and each other better, and discussing how we can even love at all because of how God created us. I sometimes find myself wanting to jump into some Trinitarian theology with them. Ah, but I digress.
As with every holiday, Jake and I wanted to make sure our kids understood why we celebrate Valentine's Day. While we know it's not the reason why most celebrate the day of love, we had fun telling our kids about St. Valentine.
As with many of the saints, there are several stories about the specific life experiences of St. Valentine. What we DO know is that he was a priest sometime before 320. He lived in a time where Christians were persecuted for their faith, and he was diligent in sharing with others the Gospel. He helped those who were being persecuted, and was eventually jailed for it. Some stories recount that St. Valentine was secretly marrying couples, even though it was outlawed at the time. The Emporer of Rome (Claudias) supposedly thought that single men made better soldiers. St. Valentine thought it was a lousy decree and carried on with helping lovers marry. Claudias found out and imprisoned Valentine. Many legends surround Valentine's experience in jail. All of them revolve around him sharing the Gospel with those he came into contact with, despite the possible negative consequences. He loved God deeply and he showed that through loving others more than he loved his physical life.
So when we talked to the kids this year, we tried to emphasize the nature of a self-giving love. This man was a great example of someone who had great courage to love other people even though it was dangerous to do so. So while the conversations didn't turn to anything earth-shattering, it was a time where Aly, Asante and I got to talk about the power of love in someone's life. Not only God's love for humanity, but also the difference we make when we do something loving for someone else. I was also careful to make sure that they knew that they were worthy of love too, and that God wanted them to love themselves too. While I encourage them to give sacrificially for one another, I am also sure to shower them with love so that they can feel like their cup is overflowing with love that they can freely give away. Later on in life it's my prayer that they will be able to love others out of an abundance of God's love. Until then, I hope that I can help them develop a concept of how much God loves them through (and despite of) the imperfect way that I love them.
No fun craft to celebrate the saint in particular, but a lot of hugs, kisses, questions, paper hearts, stickers, and cookies surrounding these important conversations.