On February 1, 2011, I received an anonymous note informing me that for that whole month, I was going to be showered with love.
True enough, for the whole month of February, I would walk out to my back patio each morning and discover a carefully wrapped gift waiting for me.
Imagine! A whole month!
Even as I write this, I look around and see some of those gifts displayed about the farmhouse. We didn’t bring many personal items here from Austin, but I could never have left behind the stained-glass cross that hangs in the kitchen window, or the love-birds that perch on the sill. The same goes for the copper bowl that holds my far-too-large assortment of bangles from around the world, or the tiny tin crown that sits quietly on the library shelf.
This friend knew me well. My favorite color, my sensibilities, and the yearnings of my heart were all accounted for in each daily treasure. She chose gifts I didn’t know would become some of my favorite personal possessions, not for their value, but for their worth.
While I felt loved in the most extravagant way, as the month progressed I began to feel completely undeserving. I could only receive. It felt weird. There could be no thanks or reciprocity. Who would ever go to such lengths, for such a long time, to do this for me? Who could be so singularly attentive to me?
It was humbling, honestly, to be the one loved so particularly.
My extraordinary friend is with Jesus today. After that February, she had only five more months on earth, much of it fraught with the waves of suffering that cancer brings on too many young wives and mothers.
The month of February will never be the same for me, because Ella has changed all that.
These last few days of January, I am asking myself this question as I remember her. What would it look like to devote a whole month to the outward expressions of love to another person?
How can I pay Ella’s gift forward to my own loved one(s) during the month of February? I’m going to call it the “Ella LOVE Experiment”. Maybe you would like to join me in your own creative fashion? There are only a few questions to ask yourself.
- Can I take this month to really pay attention to someone else?
- Will I be purposeful enough every day for a whole month to give real treasures of true worth to this loved one?
- Will I take the time and care to consider what would be love to that person?
- What do they cherish?
- What delights them?
- What makes them smile?
- Can I do it without thanks or recognition or spending lots of money?
Might I caution you. None of Ella’s gifts were extravagant, but all were precious, thoughtful. A spending spree will most certainly cheapen the endeavor.
After discovering, on February 28, that it was Ella who was my February love fairy-friend, I couldn’t help but be astonished at how happy and alive she appeared as she talked about it all. Remember, Ella was sick. She had battles on every front. But far from being a burden, the month of focused giving to another had actually enlivened her; the planning and thinking, the scheming and tip-toed late-night deliveries, she had loved it all.
It was only then that I stopped feeling a measure of guilt.
I was both witness and recipient to the truth that it is only what we do for others that remains and grows.
Ella’s love not only remains, but is growing beyond her own gates. Spurred on and inspired by her tangible actions towards me, I am eager to pass on her gift to those I love.
Ella’s love is growing in her absence by how she loved when she was present.
My preparations have already begun for February 2012. I have been the recipient of unmerited love from a friend. Now I get to be, even better, the gift giver!
I love to think about what Ella is doing now. It could be a million things, but you can be sure she is using her time and talents well at the moment. Imagine all the treasures and gifts (beautifully wrapped, I am sure!) that await her friends and loved ones as she has all this time in heaven to prepare!
Grace, and delight, as you search for ways to show love to those in your life this month.