50 shades of red

My dining room table has been covered in glitter and stickers and construction paper and glue for the past several days. My girlies have been hand-making valentines for all of their schoolmates. Careful thought and much laughter has been circling around the room as they’ve crafted their heart-shaped treasures to offer their friends.

At the other end of the dining room table are Katy’s save the date cards and the boxes holding her wedding invitations. Treasures of a different kind tied to the reality of her first Valentine’s Day engaged to Aaron and by next year she will be a wife and February 14 will look again different.

I addressed and stamped an envelope containing Mark’s Valentine’s Day card to be mailed to him this year, as he’s away on a trip over this holiday weekend.

I’ve read all the posts on Facebook and splattered across the media about 50 Shades of Grey being released this weekend. I can only say that I find myself stunned at what we deem as “entertainment” as a society and left wondering why a film about the degradation of women, love and sexual intimacy warrants release at all. And, I am confident all the producers and the movie studio are reveling in the attention being drawn.

On the way home from school today Elly asked, “Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day mom?” Such a great question. Why do we? (feel free to google that question and read what you find at your leisure).


For me I have run the gamut with this day….

Years of making paper Valentine’s for friends, innocent and hopeful, loving the messages I received and enjoying the tiny boxes of candy hearts and chocolates.

High School Valentine’s Days were painfully filled with the angst of hoping and guarding against the disappointment that inevitably came as flowers, balloons and cards were delivered in every class period to girls other than I.  The day left the sting of not being wanted.

College brought more of the same, only my heart had hardened up a bit and I met the day with sarcasm and dismissive banter; all the while feeling the ache of the unwanted teenager still quietly holding onto hope that one day her prince would come.

A month before I married Mark Valentine’s Day arrived in all it’s chocolate and rose filled glory.  He had bought a box of those tiny valentine’s and written a different name for me on every one of them and taped them all about the house for me to find.  Visible reminders that I was wanted, loved and belonged to him.

The years since have been a smattering of hit and miss.  Cards, no cards, flowers, no flowers, chocolates, no chocolates, dinner, no dinner.

Feeling seen, wanted and loved.

Feeling missed, waiting and wondering.

So many feelings and so many hopes riding on one day’s gifts and acknowledgements.

I’ve ached with the single young women I’ve mentored and loved as they poured out their hearts fears, hopes and longings on Valentine’s Day.

I’ve met divorced friends for a glass of wine, so as to not leave them alone on the first Valentine’s Day after losing their dreams.

I spent a Valentine’s Day miscarrying one year.

I spent another hosting 40 young women in my home while the “men” of our young adult group cooked for them and served them with white linen table cloths and candles and roses.

And in it all there is the truth of my heart, their hearts, your heart…young, old, single, married, divorced, widowed, engaged….waiting and wondering and hoping and aching and bleeding for what we desire.

….to be wanted.

….to belong.

…to be loved.

….to matter.

….to feel chosen.

….to feel lovely.

….to be seen.

….to have impact.

….to feel sensual.

….to rest.


fill in the blank for yourself.

There are 50 shades of red, the colors of your heart bleeding in so many realms this Valentine’s Day.

In the end, we are all women who feel and who want and who know the pain of disappointment.

May we be drawn into more than degradation, disdain and dismissing the value of our dignity and the aching of our hearts.

I will celebrate without my love this Valentine’s night and I will celebrate the beauty of my own heart and the beauty of the hearts that make up this community of Red Tent Women.

DSC_0512Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12).  Married for 28 years, she is mother to five kids.  After nearly a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is.  Founder of Red Tent Living, she writes here.