by Joanie Butman
Have you ever read Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages? It is an insightful book about how we give and receive love. The languages he identifies are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. Your love language is innate. It is not something you can learn from the Rosetta Stone. However, you can learn someone else’s.
Chapman asserts that being able to communicate love in the manner in which someone else receives it is the key to a successful relationship. If you’re not speaking their language, it doesn’t matter how much you love them, they won’t feel it, which is why it is so important to be in tune with another’s love language whether it is a spouse, a child, a parent or a friend.
Years ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to a love language I‘d never experienced before, nor was it included in Chapman’s work. She shared her fascination in discovering and collecting hearts in the course of an ordinary day. It began with rocks but quickly expanded to include all kinds of mediums. I consider these little ‘sussies’ hugs from heaven. For the uninitiated, a sussie is an unexpected gift given for no real reason other than its relevance to the intended recipient.
Whatever you choose to call them, they are a present from the Divine. An opening – albeit brief – through the cacophony of this world to whisper a quiet “I love you” into the recesses of your soul. In those moments a warm feeling envelopes me, much like you’d feel wrapped in the comfort and security of a loved one’s embrace. I can only look up, smile and respond with a sincere, “Thanks. I needed that.” He knows of course, which is exactly why it arrived. It may pop up on a trip to the doctor, on a leisurely walk or in your salad. Regardless, they are reminders of His promise to be with us always – “to the very end of age.”
Once my eyes (and my mind) were opened, I began noticing hearts with increasing frequency. Not only that, I discovered my friend and I were not the only ones enjoying this type of intimate spiritual conversation. There are even a number of photo books documenting some of the most beautiful heart stones. Drew Barrymore is the most recent entrant to the heart culture with her book Find It in Everything. If I were going to publish one, I’d change it to Find Him in Everything because that’s the way I choose to live my life.
As I became more proficient in this newfound language, I realized it was all in your perception. Once I started looking for hearts, I saw them everywhere. Again, not unlike life. Some people see God everywhere, while others wander blindly through life seeing the same things but oblivious to the beauty underneath. Never is this truer than when we are going through difficult times. Some people look at their circumstances with despair, while others can see beyond their pain to discover God's presence and the peace only He can provide despite whatever challenges we face. It's all in the way you choose to look at things.
At any rate, once my fascination with hearts became known, people began sharing their own discoveries and hence, a new method of communicating emerged. I receive photos all the time of hearts in the craziest places. This one was in a kitty litter box! Heart sightings became a portal into the lives of others and vice versa. It was awkward at first and many people didn’t ‘see,’ understand or appreciate the import of the stones I gave them. “You’re giving me a rock?” Eventually, I won some of them over; but even better, the more willingly I shared mine, the more comfortable others became in sharing their own. What a great lesson on many levels. Of course we are meant to be sharing our hearts with each other because by doing so we establish a connection bringing us closer to the universal love that unites us. It is a language that leads to authentic relationships. When you choose to open up to others, many will open up to you. If they don’t, at least it won’t be because you didn’t make the effort.
For example, years ago I made a book of encouragement with photos of cairns and heart rocks for a friend who had been diagnosed with cancer. I have since shared that book with numerous people in similar situations. Last year on a trip to Sloane Kettering in New York City, I felt compelled to bring a number of copies with me to leave in the waiting room. Over the past six years I’ve spent my fair share of time in those waiting rooms – sometimes getting good news, sometimes not. During those visits I have met many anxious people needing a hug from heaven. So I spread my rock books around and let God do the rest. I felt embarrassed by my boldness but reminded myself that anyone I have ever sat with and comforted always appreciated it. My hope was that these books might offer hope and comfort to a lonely, fearful soul with no one to hold their hand.
Six months later, out of the blue, I received an email from one of them. She had tracked me down on the internet. She wrote, “…I saw it at Sloan Kettering yesterday when my husband was there for diagnostic testing results. How amazing to be in the reception waiting area, praying for strength and guidance when I looked at the magazines and yours caught my eye. Seems like your book found me – I was just so moved by it…. You made a ‘Wise Choice’ by leaving the book there. I remember thinking that perhaps someone had left it by mistake, but now I am very glad to know it was there on purpose. The work of the Holy Spirit no doubt. Ironically, I love stones, I love hearts, I love the beach, and I love inspirational writings, so this book was just calling out to me. I am attaching photos of a favorite stone I picked up on South Beach in Martha's Vineyard - can you believe that I never noticed its shape until yesterday. Now I know why I liked it!” She concluded with a promise to pray for me.
I share this story because you just never know when sharing your heart will pierce through someone’s fear or anxiety to soothe a troubled soul. To me, that’s worth looking foolish to some. The way I look at it, if choosing to see hearts everywhere is my brand of crazy – so be it. It’s certainly harmless enough.
In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day it is virtually impossible not to notice the ubiquitous hearts that scream at us from every florist, jeweler, chocolatier or Hallmark store. Perhaps even from a creative barrista. These are not the kind of hearts to which I refer, though they are indeed expressions of love. The ones I stumble upon are mostly in nature and don’t arrive to celebrate anything other than God’s love, which can’t be confined to one day or to any one language. Once your eyes become accustomed to this new dimension, there are no limits to when, where and in what form they arrive. That’s the thing about God. He’s always there, we often just don’t notice. He knows precisely how to express His love to each of us in a way that we can receive it.
So my Valentine message to you is to choose to keep your eyes and heart open, and the One who longs to send you signs of love and encouragement – not just on Valentine’s Day but every day – will find you.
Dedicated to Beth for opening my eyes to the love and beauty right in front of me. Photo to left is a tomato she found in her garden. Here's a Godwink. Just as I was finishing up this blog Friday evening, I received a text from Beth sharing this photo. Yes, He can even arrive in a cocktail.
My husband gets the award for most creative valentine. I didn't notice it at first, which is why there are tire tracks through it. He was crushed!!
Do you have a favorite heart photo/story? Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!