Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
I rarely get a Valentine card. But I’m okay with that. I don’t send many either. These days my purchases are limited to Valentines for my five grandsons. And let’s be honest—they are not interested in the cards as much as what comes in them or with them. They are looking for the gifts.
My husband and I rarely exchange Valentine cards, but that is because our anniversary is the first week of February. Now, if my husband has forgotten my anniversary, I just might get a card or flowers on Valentine’s Day as a makeup. But in 46 years, I only remember that happening once. And he didn’t really forget our anniversary; he just didn’t have an opportunity in his schedule to purchase flowers that day. The flowers on Valentine’s Day were a nice surprise. I don’t need flowers on Valentine’s Day to know I am loved, but taking special opportunities to express our love is important. It’s the heart of the matter.
February is all about hearts. Pink and red paper hearts are displayed in classrooms, homes, and of course, in card racks. Each year over 150 million cards are sent on Valentine’s Day! Some people love sending cards, and others dismiss it as a “Hallmark Holiday.” Hallmark holiday or not, sending cards to loved ones on Valentine’s Day shows that we care—as long as we don’t forget about them the other 364 days a year. Cards are more meaningful when they are an authentic expression of love that is demonstrated daily.
Let’s face it—relationships take work, whether romantic, familial, or friendly. Special occasions serve as reminders, helping us prioritize and focus, but daily communication is essential to strong relationships. Relationships are built by time spent together sharing, dreaming, and communicating. Everyone receives love differently, so consider the recipient’s preferences. The expressions of love you choose can be significant. Have you heard of love languages? Identifying your love language and the language of your loved ones can increase understanding and communication. Take the love language test and encourage your loved ones to take it, too. Happy relationships make happy hearts; and happy hearts are healthy hearts.
But it takes more than happiness to keep your heart healthy. While emotional heart health might be the focus of Valentine’s Day, the whole month of February is dedicated to physical heart health. Sponsored by the American Heart Association, this month of awareness is to educate people about the risks of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer among both men and women, and nearly half of heart attacks are silent! My husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure many years ago, and we made changes in our diet and lifestyle to minimize risk.
What are the risk factors? Being overweight is a major risk factor; however, even those who are not overweight can be at risk because of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Lack of quality sleep and depression can contribute to poor heart health because they affect our state of mind. And of course, we all know that lack of exercise and poor nutrition put us at risk for many diseases, including heart disease. My September blog has more information and links to resources about physical heart health. Check it out. And then get your heart checked out by a medical professional.
The physical heart can also be damaged by too much worry or stress, but your physical heart health can be supported by a healthy spiritual heart. No heart check is complete without a spiritual check up. Healthy spiritual hearts are tuned to God. Spiritual heart health determines where we spend eternity. The Bible has much to say about heart condition, but perhaps the most important is “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Loving God with all your heart may seem challenging, or even impossible, but God helps us. The Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) Improving our spiritual heart health may be the easiest of all heart areas. All it takes is asking God to live in our hearts and help us each day. Through prayer, He gives the strength needed to overcome challenges, even those challenges and changes needed to improve physical and relational matters of the heart.
I’m thankful for awareness campaigns and holidays that help us step back from the daily routine and prompt us to think about life. I encourage you to take a moment in February—the month of the heart—to evaluate all areas of your heart health, and then, with God’s help, make necessary changes for improvement.