Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage


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Valentine's Heart


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The Advocate


Matt BronleeweMATT BRONLEEWE (House of Wolves, Illuminated):
It was the early 90’s, during the time of grunge music and the Gulf War. I was in college. My then-girlfriend Karin and I talked about our relationship whenever we weren’t buried in classwork…and things were getting serious. Words like “marriage” were tossed around. She was about to graduate, but I was only a sophomore. The future was blurry. All we knew is that we were in love and couldn’t imagine life without each other.

I bought a ring. My dad loaned me the money to purchase it. hat may seem a bit unromantic, but I worked the entire next summer on my family’s wheat farm to pay back the loan, which gives the exchange of goods and services an almost biblical tone.

I made a plan to give Karin the ring. Nothing crazy, no flashing billboards at a ballgame or anything like that, but I knew I’d manage to get my point across.

The night started at our favorite pizza place. If that sounds lame, then you’ve never been to Mario’s Pizza in Greenville, IL, which is simply the finest pizza on the planet. We sat in “our booth”, the booth where we “declared our love to one another”. Things were off to a good start.

We then proceeded to float around town on a “tour of our relationship”, visiting various points that were of interest to us, if no one else. The tour ended at the lake just outside town, where, next to the water, I presented Karin with a small box and a large Hallmark card. She opened the card and listened as my pre-recorded voice squeaked out a proposal. (Note: I’d recorded the proposal earlier in the dorm, with my fellow dormmates watched on in varying forms of wonder and terror.) Her eyes widened as I opened the box, the diamond inside twinkling in the yellow glow of my truck headlights.

Somehow, the scheme worked and she said YES at the strike of midnight. We ushered in Valentine’s Day as an engaged couple, which gave us instant celebrity status back at the college.

I can’t imagine a more meaningful Valentine’s than that, and the blessing just gets better with every passing year.

Amy WallaceAMY WALLACE (Healing Promises, Ransomed Dreams):
My favorite Valentine's Day happened less than two months after my wedding day, and it wasn't memorable for the obvious reasons. David and I were stereotypical poor missionaries, so with less than five dollars to spend I did a little last minute baking and shopping. The result of my good-hearted attempt at inexpensive romance was an adorable-albeit huge and solid-Hershey's kiss wannabe made from a plastic funnel mold. A gift that kept on trying to give for months. Unfortunately, not even beavers could have managed more than a tiny bite of that sweet treat. But my new hubby made the best of it and, at risk of enormous dental bills, sampled my chocolate gift and smiled. He loved his two-dollar Taz kite too, and we spent the evening trying to eat chocolate and flying the kite. The rest of Valentine's Day was wonderful as well, but I'll never forget how a little love made the otherwise meager gifts even sweeter.

Sharon HinckSHARON HINCK (Symphony of Secrets, The Restorer):
I have two very sensory memories of Valentine's Days - from all the way back to childhood.

The sweet and chalky taste of conversation hearts always comes to mind when I think of Valentine's Day. I loved words even as a grade-schooler, and once wrote a lengthy love letter to my mom by arranging conversation hearts into a story with a few extra words inserted in between. I glued the hearts to the lid of a shoebox, which mom kept and treasured. In fact, she told me today that she still has it - forty years later.

And each Valentine's Day, my mom would make a special dessert. She'd heat canned pears (in the juice) on the stove, and add a bag of red-hot candies. They would melt into the juice, and create bright red "hot-cinnamon" pears.

Those flavors taught me that love can be tasted, rolled on the tongue, and savored, and always come to mind when I think of Valentine's Day.

Melanie WellsMELANIE WELLS (My Soul to Keep, When the Day of Evil Comes):
Sadly, my memorable Valentine's Day experience involves the ONLY PERSON WHO EVER BROKE UP WITH ME!! (Thanks, Jerry). I went to high school in Amarillo, TX, where carnations were sold to raise funds for one of the clubs in our high school. If you didn't get a carnation (come ON, they were only a dollar!) you were... a loser. Like, Jesus would have stopped and blessed you because you would clearly have been one of the downtrodden and neglected. Not only did I NOT get a carnation that year, but I found out that the soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend in question had indeed found himself another girl. A girl who I fervently prayed that Satan would visit and who I'm sure is paying to this day for her indiscretions - (I had no intention of praying for my enemies, jilted chick that I was) - Go, Peter Terry, go!

Jenny B. JonesJENNY B. JONES (The Big Picture, In Between):
Valentine's Day for a single girl is the sentimental equivalent of celebrating a root canal. When I was in high school, my best friend and I were both boyfriendless (not because we couldn't get a date. We just didn't want to pick one and hurt the feelings of the other hundreds). So we sent each other flowers. And I swear that's the last time I've done that. I don't care what those other people tell you.

Tosca LeeTOSCA LEE (Havah, Demon):
Last year, I got together with my former brother-in-law and ninth-grade boyfriend--two of my best friends. We ate an inordinate amount of local Valentino's pizza and watched Shaun of the Dead. Nothing says love like former boyfriends, in-laws and zombies!

Creston MapesCRESTON MAPES (Nobody, Dark Star):
I remember taking extra care in preparing a special valentine for a girl named Patty in my fourth grade class. I really wanted to let her know she was special. That girl ended up being in my sixth grade class as well. Then we ended up at the same college. Then in the same town in Florida where we got our first jobs out of college. Today, Patty is still my valentine after 23 years of marriage.

Tricia GoyerTRICIA GOYER (A Whisper of Freedom, Generation NeXt Parenting):
My favorite Valentine's Day experience was two years ago. My husband told me that instead of going out he was going to do something special. He said I had to wait upstairs, and he'd come and get me when he was ready. From the sounds of pots banging and the scents coming up the stairs, I knew he was cooking for me. An hour later I was called downstairs to find a beautiful dinner ... and my three pre-teens dressed about and acting as our waitstaff and our entertainment! It was a great evening and one I'll never forget!

"My Most Memorable Valentine's Day Memory"

14 Authors Share Theirs

by C.J. Darlington

" February, they say, is a month for love. And Jesus showed us what real love is all about -- Not candies, nor flowers, nor sweet chocolates wrapped in a fancy box. No, love is about laying down our lives for one another, about serving one another in love." -- Marlo Schalesky

Valentine's Day. You either love it or hate it! In no particular order, 14 popular Christian authors share with you their most memorable memories of this special day.


Jerry JenkinsJERRY JENKINS (Riven, Left Behind):
On Valentine's Day 1981, when Dianna and I had been married 10 years, I arranged for a sitter and planned a real night out. I got tickets to a local dinner theater at a big hotel, booked a room, ordered flowers, the whole bit.

We packed up and headed out, only to find that my dinner/theater reservations had been lost. I pleaded my case, they found the last two seats for us, then informed me that the musical had changed. Because they had lost our reservation, we had not been informed, and the show was now something neither of us was interested in seeing.

They refunded my money, but dinner had been part of the show, and their other restaurants were booked. I called around and found another nice place within driving distance, then discovered I had locked my keys in the car. By the time a bellman helped us break into our own vehicle, we had missed our dinner reservation.

Back into the hotel for room service, we decided. Uh-oh, our lodging reservation had disappeared too, and there was no room at the inn. But what about the flowers I'd had delivered to the hotel?

"Oh, you're that Jenkins. We had no reservation for you, so we didn't accept them."

The sitter was surprised to see us and to spend the rest of her night at her own home. And our boys were surprised to see us when they woke up in the morning.

Funny thing was, with every succeeding dead-end, we found it all funnier and funnier. Our least successful Valentine's Day became our most memorable.

Camy TangCAMY TANG (Single Sashami, Sushi for One?):
I have a keeper. My husband, Captain Caffeine, always bought me roses for Valentine's Day when we were dating.

Once we were married, I realized I was actually *paying* for part of those expensive roses. My practical side kicked in and I told him not to buy me any. He complied (another good trait).

So instead of roses for Valentine's Day that year, he gave me my most memorable gift.

I love Regency romances. I loved the shorter length category Regencies published by Harlequin, Zebra, Signet, Fawcett-Crest--all the oldies but goodies. They're no longer published, but I scour thrift stores and used book stores for titles I don't have. I have, literally, at least a thousand out of print Regencies I picked up used.

My husband is NOT a reader. In fact, the only reason he even read my debut novel Sushi for One? is because I made a mistake on a sports reference--I typed "batting a hundred" instead of "batting a thousand," so he insisted on reading the entire thing to make sure I don't make any more embarrassing blunders, thus shaming the family.

However, my non-reading husband went into my bookshelves and noted down the symbols on the spines of the Regency imprints I enjoy reading. He went into a used book store and SEARCHED for those symbols to find me Regency novels (imagine him finding a Signet Regency among all the hundreds of contemporary Harlequin titles). And he actually marched up to the counter to buy them.

When I got my gift, I cried. It was the best gift I've ever gotten for Valentine's Day.

F.P. LioneF.P. LIONE (Clear Blue Sky, Skells):
Valentine's day is a favorite of ours (not that every day isn't Valentines day!) but there's always flowers, candy, jewelry and a candlelight dinner. Unless we have a deadline, then it's pizza, paper plates and IOU's.

Christa BanisterCHRISTA A. BANISTER (Blessed Are the Meddlers, Around the World in 80 Dates):
Back in my Christian college days, I was super cynical about Valentine's Day and boycotted it with relish. We're talking head-to-toe black clothing. A scowl whenever I overheard someone talking about how great her boyfriend was for sending a surprise bouquet of three dozen roses. Angry, anti-love music like "Love Stinks" playing in the background as I secretly felt superior to those silly lovefools.

See, at my university, Valentine's Day was the epitome of that scene in Bambi were everyone gets twitterpated. Girls walk around in a perpetual love fog. And if a guy was dating someone even remotely marriable, he usually decided to propose (which incidentally, I thought was so predictable...I mean c'mon, Valentine's Day? How original is that?). They'd climb up a ladder to the dorms, sparkly diamond ring in their pocket, pledging their eternal love. While, I, lonely in my dorm room would try and hold my gag reflex in check as I heard all the squealing of "I'm getting MARRIED" in the hallway.

Anyway, it was safe to say that I wasn't exactly jubilant whenever February 14 rolled around.

Well until about three years ago. After one relationship train wreck after the next, I was actually dating an incredible guy on Valentine's Day. And around 3:00 in the afternoon, he showed up in my office at CCM Magazine with a brown paper sack (a cute touch, I must say, so positively bachelor-esque) full of what he called a "gift for every one of my five senses." There were chocolates to taste. Roses to smell. A Bob Dylan CD (inside joke there) to listen to. A gift certificate for a massage. And a picture of the two of us for my desk. It was perfect.

When I looked up into his gorgeous brown eyes and thanked him for surprising me in such a fantastic way, I finally could relate to my former Bible college peers. Maybe I wasn't as eager as they were to walk down the aisle at age 20, but having someone who loved you on the day of cheesy Hallmark cards, was, well. wonderful.

Angela HuntANGELA HUNT (She Always Wore Red, The Elevator):
My husband has a boyish sense of humor. A couple of years ago I woke on Valentine's Day morning to find a single candy heart on my desk--the first place I stagger each morning. I popped it in my mouth and enjoyed it while I was checking my email.

Upon reaching the kitchen, I found another candy heart on my placemat. I ate it, too. And then when I went to the cupboard, I found another one by my vitamin bottle. You guessed it--I ate it.

I figured my hubby was Hansel-and-Gretling--leaving me a sweet trail of candy hearts, and somewhere, I'd find the big payoff--the entire bag of candy.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the trash can and found the rest of the candy hearts, still in their bag, in the trash. When he came into the kitchen, I pointed at the now-trash-tainted candy and said, "What gives?"

Turns out that the carefully-selected and strategically placed candy hearts had messages for me . . . messages I couldn't read without my reading glasses.

The moral of this story? When love enters its second decade, it's time to buy candy hearts with large print . :-)

Maureen LangMAUREEN LANG (The Oak Leaves, My Sister Dilly):
My favorite Valentine's memory is actually when my husband proposed to me. My birthday is also in Feb, so this is sort of a combination "Valentine Season" memory.

Neil is a teacher, and a very clever one at that. We'd been dating for about a year, and both of us were around 35 years old at the time - definitely old enough to realize if you can't figure out where this relationship is going after a year, it's time to change something. I was hopeful, though, because I KNEW where I wanted it to go. But I didn't want to ask HIM to marry me, I wanted him to ask me.

Well, February rolls around and I get this padded envelope in the mail. In it, I find pieces to a puzzle. I knew it was from Neil from the return address, and also I noticed the envelope was marked "1of 3." So I put the pieces together but I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to represent. It was only part of a puzzle, definitely not the whole thing. Background design filled most of the pieces, with what looked like the bottom of letters. Nothing I could decipher, however. I needed more, but that's all there was.

When Neil and I talked on the telephone that night I told him I'd received his mysterious first-of-three packages, and that I was curious about what was to come. But, being the self-controlled man that I knew him to be, he wouldn't even give me a hint. All he said was there are two more coming (duh! I knew what 1 of 3 meant, so he wasn't exactly giving me more info.). He also said I shouldn't open #3 if the Post Office let him down and delivered that before #2.

The next day, I received package #2. Once again, I put it together but wasn't any more enlightened than I'd been before. More background design. More half letters, but these halves didn't fit the bottom half of the other pieces. Clearly, I was missing the meat of the message.

I remember going to bed that night thinking my postal carrier better not let me down...

And he didn't. I remember driving home from work (through a snow storm, actually) and eagerly going to my outside mailbox.

There it was. I raced inside my townhouse and put the last pieces of the puzzle together. The message read: Will you marry me?

He'd handmade a puzzle for me and there was the question I'd been hoping for.

But my surprise wasn't quite over. Neil lived almost an hour away, and I recall it was a snowy day. Plus, he was a basketball coach at his school so his days during the season were long. The last thing I expected was for him to show up at my door, to take me out to dinner. And with a dozen red roses, too! He laughed and said he'd been parked down the street, and had gotten there early enough to watch me run out to my mail box, gave me enough time to open it and read the
message before ringing the bell. He'd canceled practice to get to my place early enough for my answer and to take me out to dinner.

No wonder I write romances...

Marlo SchalestkyMARLO SCHALESKY (Beyond the Night, Veil of Fire):
"Happy Valentine's Day, Honey," my husband murmured, then scooted out the door with his usual quick kiss and bear hug. "See ya later." Bryan winked and was gone.

That’s it? I thought. No candy, no flowers, no delicate chocolates in the traditional bright red heart-shaped box! Just a hug, kiss, and out the door? This was supposed to be a day of passion, of romance, of chocolates! A frown tugged at the corners of my mouth and deepened into ugly grooves.

Bryan never was much of a romantic anyway, I complained. He just doesn't understand women. Days like today are supposed to be special.

I sighed and drew my brows together in a deeper scowl as I proceeded to review again all the faults I imagined in my poor, unwary spouse. By the time I was finished, I was thoroughly dissatisfied. Valentine's Day was ruined. And it was all his fault!

I threw my body crosswise on the couch and swung my legs across the cushions. Reluctantly, I picked up the Bible for my daily devotion. I wasn't in the mood. My eyes fell on the day's scripture, "Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13). Love. There was that word. Today was supposed to be the day of love. I wasn't feeling much love at all. And it was all Bryan's fault! ... Or was it? The scripture didn't say to expect to be loved. It especially didn't say to expect chocolates just because it was Valentine's Day.

Slowly, my temper quelled and I began to examine my reactions. Bryan had done no more or less than any other day. He had given me the hug and kiss that I usually counted as a treasure. So why the difference this morning? Was it because today I had expected more? Had I succumbed to the dreaded "E" word - Expectation?

I began to realize that the problem with my expectations is that I can never win with them. As soon as I expected Bryan to act a certain way, I set myself up for disappointment. When he didn't meet my expectations, I was upset. If he had acted as I expected, then I would have been satisfied. But how could I have been pleasantly surprised and appreciate his kindness if I had been expecting it all along?

February, they say, is a month for love. And Jesus showed us what real love is all about -- Not candies, nor flowers, nor sweet chocolates wrapped in a fancy box. No, love is about laying down our lives for one another, about serving one another in love.

So, this year for Valentine's Day, I'm not going to worry about gifts of tantalizing chocolates. I'm not going to cling to expectations of what my husband is supposed to do for me. Rather, I plan to give my husband one of the greatest gifts of all in a marriage -- I'm going to exchange my expectations for joy and thanksgiving. This year, I'm making Expectation a dirty word!

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.