Valentine’s Day was always a special event when I was growing up, because my mother always bought us a little gift and candy. I still have the plastic pin she bought me, and each year I manage to find an occasion on which to wear it.

I’ve carried on the tradition by always buying some Reese’s peanut butter cups for my guys, along with making a personalized Valentine for each.  For example, when the boys were into dinosaurs, I cut out red dinosaurs with something like “I’m stomping over to you to tell you I love you” or somesuch.

But this year, I was out of ideas.

The internet showed how to make an origami heart, so midnight last night found me struggling and exasperated trying out to make sense out of those directions.  I could NOT do it!  I finally found a different heart on a different website, and finished by beating out a ragged form that was kinda like a heart; it was easy enough to think of a slogan to write on it.  I decided one heart was enough, and that prize went to my husband.

I also broke tradition by giving him a small gift, enlarging and framing a photo recently found when unearthing old treasures.  This is a Christmas card his family sent to friends in 1961.  Chip is the youngest of the family.

As for myself, I snitch a bit of the others’ candy.And Chip usually gives me flowers, which were particularly lovely this year.

I had a flower from another source too:  my chiropractor, who gave a carnation to each of his lady customers!

Supper for us on Valentine’s Day is always the same menu, simply because I looked through a cookbook 27 years ago to find something different to fix when Chip was coming to visit me on this special day.  I remember painstakingly following this new recipe, as Chip sat in a corner of my small kitchen, keeping me company.  Disney’s Parent Trap was playing on the television in the other room.

Here is what we always have:

Chicken Imperial (from Good Housekeeping Illustrated)

Mashed potatoes

Carrots with brown sugar glaze (Betty Crocker)

Company cheesecake with strawberry topping (Betty Crocker)

Chicken Imperial has ALWAYS been very very good to eat, even when through the years we’ve done it differently–without flour, with gluten-free flour, with rice milk, with soy milk, or with water replacing the cooking sherry.  Here is the recipe:

Chicken Imperial

(with my comments in parentheses-as you can see, I’m not fancy!)

4 large whole chicken breasts, skinned (I use 3 lb. cut into small pieces)

¼ to ½ C. flour

½ C. butter

1 lb. small mushrooms–quartered (I use 8 oz. chopped)

1 T. minced onion (I use a bit of onion powder)

1 C. heavy or whipping cream

¼ C. dry sherry

1 ½ tsp. salt (I use 1 tsp. nowadays)

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 T. water

1.  Coat chicken with the flour.In 12-inch skillet over medium heat, in hot butter, cook chicken till lightly browned on all sides.  Put aside.

2.  In drippings in skillet over medium heat, cook mushrooms and onion for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in cream, sherry, salt and pepper and stir to blend well.

3.  Return chicken to skillet.  Reduce heat to low; cover skillet and simmer 20 minutes or till chicken is fork-tender.

4.  To thicken sauce (which I usually skip):  Blend 1 T. flour with water. Gradually add to pan liquid, stirring constantly, and cook till mixture is thickened.

5.  To serve:  Spoon sauce over chicken and/or put sauce in a gravy boat for the mashed potatoes.

Now to the subject of the greatest love of all: Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to the first eight chapters of the letter the apostle Paul had written to the Romans; when you hear the Word of God in big batches, it is so fine.  And when I listened, I tried to think of what it would be like living in that time and hearing Paul say those words.  Paul points out how terribly bad we are, and how hopeless it is to try to make amends for it ourselves.  It makes you feel horrified.

Then Paul explains how God passes over our sins, because Jesus paid the price for it.   By His grace, as a gift to us, he says.

Can you imagine it?   The people of that time knew so many gods, and these gods were so cruel; they demanded behavior and sacrifices to be just so, and you could never really tell whether or not they were going to be appeased (and isn’t that really what it’s like now too?).   But here is such a different God, the real God, who is so unlike the others (who were never real at all).   A God we can cry out to like children, and He is our papa.  A papa who loves us, gives us assurance, and gives us all hope for the future.

The passage ends with such a strong and definite promise:  Romans 8:38–“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

WHO needs ANYthing else?