My Facebook post on February 7, 2018 read,
Halfway through. Today’s scripture was about being compassionate and not judging. This morning we talked about what it means and what it sounds like to ‘judge’ others. We talked about listening to ourselves when we are talking to be sure that we are not. ‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.’ —Luke 6:36-38, CEB
My family was working our way through a 14-day Valen-Kinds daily devotion. This year, as we inch towards Valentine’s Day, I am more than ready to get out the big felt heart, scripture sticks, and notecards.
In January of 2017, with all the post-election, visceral words spewing on every side, I knew my children were feeling and hearing it, just as I was. I was sending daily lunch box notes (and mostly still do) that read “Be Kind, Work Hard, Choose Love. We love you, Mom & Dad.” I wanted my kids to KNOW and DO these things. That January, I needed the reminder. Being kind is more than a right or good thing to do, it is central to loving my neighbor as myself. Even though we all knew the Greatest Commandment, we needed to practice actually living it out. How could I help my family make a concrete head, heart, and faith connection?
On a morning off, I was meandering around Target through the Valentine’s Day decorations and had a Holy Spirit moment. There in the midst of the conversation hearts and boxes of chocolate, the idea for Valen-Kinds took shape. I love felt craft projects, so I sewed a giant felt heart with smaller, decorated felt hearts. Go big or go home! In the crafting department, this is how I roll. I looked up scripture verses that worked with my end goal and wrote the references on craft sticks. I found red note cards and we were in business.
We have other seasonal prayer and scripture traditions in our family. I have found these really work for us. Most of the time we do them at night, like prayer pumpkins or thankfuls, but Valen-Kinds has become a bookend practice. We start the day with one kid choosing the scripture stick and the other reading. At the end of the day we re-read the passage, then take turns sharing our kindness and how kindness was shown to us. We write these acts of kindness down on the note cards. Some days I push a little harder. What did you do that stretched you, that maybe your gut said I should do this, but your brain had second thoughts? How did it feel when you went with your gut? Often, I don’t have to push because my kids are ready to share.
We also talk about the differences between being kind and being nice. For me, it is easy to be nice. As a fruit of the Spirit, kindness is tied to how God calls us to live. It takes effort and intentionality. Intentional kindness can mean going outside of our comfort zone. Along the way, we’ve discovered when someone else has done the same for us it is transformative.
I want my kids to recognize and name the ways other people had been kind, not just nice, to them. I want them to hear my husband and me acknowledge the same things in our lives. That sharing God’s love through kindness isn’t something we were asking them to do alone.
I know this seems like one more thing on top of Valentine’s parties and maybe even Lent. One of the things I love about Valen-Kinds is that it’s moveable! Since its 14 days, you can start on February 1st and end on Valentine’s Day. Or it can start on Valentine’s Day and end on the 28th. You could even start on February 7th, with Valentine’s Day in the middle, and end the 21st. Also, you don’t need a fancy felt heart, there are many ways Valen-Kinds could come to life in your family.
For me, finding a way to connect Valentine’s Day back to the love God calls us to show our neighbor was and is important. As an Episcopalian, I am called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself. Kindness is a tangible way to demonstrate this love of neighbor and as I tell my kids, we cannot wait on someone else to do it, God is calling us now.