February: I get to make Valentine cards with the kids, and pretty hearts, love poems, and kind, loving phrases are posted all over the place—I love this time of year. What will I get for my husband this year? M&Ms, of course. And some other surprises.
M&Ms are one of Andy’s favorite treats. Don’t be deceived by the packaging, guys. These conversational M&Ms are really cute!
I found this card at Trader Joe’s for a dollar. So pretty, and it makes me happy to look at it.
When Andy and I first started hanging out at Azusa Pacific University, I was a senior and he was junior. For some reason, our friendship clicked right away. I told him I loved him (as a friend) in a birthday card in December 2000, just a few weeks after we started hanging out. Here, in an excerpt from my book Goodnight to My Thoughts of You, based on our love story, the character Miriam (Chelsea) gets a love letter from her good friend Charlie (Andy) in her student mailbox at APU:
One day in February I stopped by his apartment while he was working on an art project. When he opened the door, he had that huge smile on his face. His hands were speckled with paint.
“What are you working on?”
“It’s just a project I’ve been wanting to make.”
“No, actually, it’s just for fun.”
“Only you, Charlie! No one else does art projects instead of homework. Can I see it?” I asked.
“Sure, come on in.”
He led me to his room and showed me a large colorful painting of a man’s face and a woman’s face, looking at each other. The man was painted in oranges and reds and the woman in blues and greens. The man, who was shorter than the woman, had his hand poised as if to hesitantly touch the woman’s lips.
On Valentine’s Day, I was very surprised to find a letter in my student mailbox. It was written on watercolor paper in brown calligraphy.
I can’t help but think back to my freshman year when we met for the first time in the library. Then I think of the amazing times we have shared together recently. I have seen such a light in your life like no other, and I don’t just say this; I really mean it when I say no other. God is so very powerful and magnificent they say. Well, I have seen him so evidently manifested in your life. You shine with the love of Jesus when you talk, when you just sit and hang out, when you dance around, when you simply walk by sometimes. Because of that very fact I want to tell you that I think you are a beautiful woman. I didn’t know what it was back at the library, but all these things I see now, I saw back then intuitively. Your passion is empowering to me. Your gentleness is humbling to me. And I have to say I sincerely love our friendship. You are very special to me.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
It was the sweetest letter I had ever gotten in my life.
Charlie and I continued to hang out. We’d run through the sprinklers on the football field at night and stay up late having philosophical conversations. One night at my apartment a few weeks after his grandpa had passed away, he seemed sad and frustrated.
“I don’t believe true love exists,” he announced.
“Is it because your parents are divorced?” I asked.
“No. I think that no matter what a person wants, they can’t control their own heart or the heart of another person. I’m actually writing a story about it.”
“Really? I want to read it! Can I read it?”
“It’s not quite ready yet. It’s a play. There is a simple man who loves an older woman, his best friend, with all his heart. But he knows he can never have her. The woman loves another man, a tall handsome guy, and she marries him. The simple man becomes a missionary and devotes his life to God, never loving another woman. Even though he finds her again when he is old, she doesn’t want him, and he is alone forever.”
“That’s beautiful—and depressing,” I said. “I’ve had my heart broken before, but I still think true love exists.”
“Well, what if love is not about the other person loving you back? What if love is something that shapes us because of what we give, not what we get in return? What if God wants us to love people until it hurts—and then continue to love even more? Or what if love is something that grows? My mom told me that even though she has not always felt love toward my dad, she stayed with him and realized that love is shown in different ways. It is not always a feeling; it becomes something deep. It is something more and more beautiful as time goes on. She said that when people get divorced, they miss out on that aged love, the ‘we made it through the hard times’ kind of love.”
Then I read him two of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa: “True love is love that causes pain, that hurts, and yet brings joy. That is why we must pray to God and ask him to give us the courage to love.”
The love letter is the real letter Andy gave to me on February 14, 2001.
(Now, Andy says, “I wrote that?” When we were chatting about it today, we realized that, because we are in a different time in life, those old love letters might sound kinda—sappy. But when you are in that time in life—the falling in love stage—you don’t really care if anyone thinks you are sappy.)
That Valentine love letter touched my heart. My love language is “words of affirmation.” It wasn’t weird to me that Andy would send me such a nice letter, even though we had only been hanging out for a few months. I was learning that Andy was a deep guy who truly loved the people in his life. As our friendship progressed, I knew that God had something more in mind for us, even though Andy was not the image of the guy I thought I would marry. He is shorter than me, and he’s not the blonde surfer type that I always dated. But Andy is perfect for me, and I thank God that I had the wisdom to choose him, and that he had the heart to choose to love me too.
Do you know high school girls or college girls at your church that would enjoy a Christian love story that is based on a true story? Goodnight to My Thoughts of You is a novel that can also be used as a book club book for young women. It will come with a free workbook that includes questions for discussion and easy small-group activities.
I pray that God will show you some girls at your church that need some friendship and encouragement, and that you’d consider doing a book club with them! The small group discussion guide and e-book will be available for free in the next few weeks (God willing! I’m doing my best!).
Keep in touch, and please share!
Happy Valentine’s Week.
Goodnight to My Thoughts of You by Chelsea Rotunno…available soon! Enter your email address so you can be one of the first in line to get the e-book absolutely free.