Sweets, sharing, and self-care are the three categories where consumers will drive the expected $19 billion in sales for Valentine’s Day. Yes, you read that right. According to the National Retail Federation, sales’ projections of $19 billion are up from last year’s $18.2 billion.

     We’ve come a long way from the homemade Valentine’s boxes in grade school where children exchanged valentines and Moms had candy hearts waiting for their children at home. Floral bouquets, sweets, fancy restaurants, jewelry, gifts for pets, and spa appointments are among today’s top gifts.
   Also included are gifts of experiences, such as tickets to movies, sporting events, and concerts.
   Gifts of experiences.

  Nine experiences that come to mind are not store-bought, come in a box, or even home-made. The Holy Spirit pouring out of us, produces them.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, 
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 22-23 NIV)
     In his book A Life Beyond Amazing, David Jeremiah reminds us that love is the oxygen of the soul. God gave us the gift of love and our responsibility is to give it back. It’s number one on the list.  
     As I waited at the supermarket check-out, I overhead the cashier’s conversation with her bagger. Her exasperated expression confirmed she was having a bad day. I commented as I left, that I hoped her day would get better. She managed a smile and thanked me. No, my kindness didn’t make me look better, it nourished another. That’s the way it works with these nine gift experiences—they don’t promote us, but enrich others. We can’t manufacture them, the Holy Spirit does. These fruit don’t show up in big projects, but in small opportunities that become extraordinary treasures, when we “walk in love”, (Ephesians 5:1-2) the other fruit will show up too.
      My friend Cathy Baker said it beautifully in her post with this prayer:
“Father, help me to be who I cannot be without You.”
     So this week, retailers will see $19 billion in sales and consumers will see most of the gifts evaporate over time. Okay, maybe jewelry won’t, but flowers will fade, cards discarded, a meal will be eaten and the last chocolate consumed. Even the spa treatment won’t last past the first smudged toe from a pedicure. Gift-giving is a thoughtful personal expression of love and friendship on Valentine’s Day. I’ve received and given gifts and cards and enjoy them just as much as anyone else. But perhaps we can also think purposefully about sharing the experiences in Galatians 5:22-23. They are designed to nourish and be passed forward far beyond February 14: sweet experiences that last. 

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