Say it Sooner: I Love You

Dear People Who Read My Blog,

I remember the pickles. The first time I had lunch with Jack and Vivian, the pickles were served in their own separate dish. It wasn’t just a cereal bowl, either, but a small serving dish, designed for pickles or relish, decorated with roses or some such flourish, probably passed down for a generation or two. It would have been out of place at most lunches, but certainly not this one, not with the table cloth, and the iced tea in a finely plebeian pitcher, crusty bread, tuna salad, and a handcrafted cheese ball. This last was so tasty, I asked for the recipe, and so received an email a few days later, which is still in my inbox, six months later, because how can you delete or even put in a folder an email with the subject “Uncle Bill’s Cheese Ball Recipe”?

It was a wonderful lunch with a beautiful couple. Jack and Vivian (not their real names) are well into retirement from ministry, Jack as a pastor, and Vivian as a pastor’s wife. That world being my world, there is a lot for us to talk about, and there seems to be no end to the stories they can tell or the encouragement they can give, the things Jack says that make me laugh or the thoughtful questions Vivian asks.

I love them. And they love me. And they know I love them, and I know they love me, because we tell each other, every time we see each other. Every email ends with “love” or “much love” or “we love you.” I note this because we started using these words much sooner than normal. Vivian started it, not surprisingly, probably in how she signed off on the “Uncle Bill’s Cheese Ball Recipe” email. I read the words, and felt their import, and simply started using them myself, even though at that point we had probably only spent two and a half hours in each other’s company. I did love them, and I do, so why not say so, often? Convention be darned.i-love-you

God, too, blunders and blubbers into an ostensibly too-soon “I love you.” That’s kind of what this whole Christmas thing is about, a season which ends today, January 6th, Epiphany. Epiphany is the day that marks the coming of the magi to the child Jesus, bringing their gifts; it also marks the coming of God’s light into the darkness of the world, a light that is for all people. All of it is summed up in a perhaps familiar phrase: “For God so loved the world.” He does love us, and he says so, without waiting, before the pickle dish is even on the table.

Vivian and Jack have known this love for these many years, which is why they use “those three words” with such ease; not with nonchalance, but without anxiety about timing and what is proper. Perhaps, with those three words, more is more, not less. More use, sooner, with many, not just a few.

Three months after the lunch with the pickle dish and Uncle Bill’s Cheese Ball, Jack was diagnosed with stage four cancer. God only knows, but it is probably sooner than later that Jack will no longer be “here” and will rather be “there,” side by side with the God “who so loved the world.” Not much is known about “there,” but I’m quite sure there is not only a lot of love, but a lot of out loud love. Saying “I love you,” perhaps particularly when it’s too soon, is a way that we can bring “there” “here.” So say it, people. Not just to spouses and kids and siblings. Not just on special occasions. Not just when the right amount of time has elapsed. Say it. It’s in your heart; you might as well get it out in the open.



P.S. Here is Uncle Bill’s Cheese Ball Recipe:

1 lb cheddar cheese, grated

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 med onion, finely chopped or grated

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 T (heaping) mayonnaise

dash of red pepper


Mix together the cheese, garlic, onion. Let set until cheese is soft. Add salt, sugar, mayo, and pepper. Beat with electric mixer. Roll into ball. Cover with paprika. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Before serving, let cheese ball set out to soften.

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  1. You always inspire me

  2. Linda Wagner says

    i”m so glad I”m your FB friend so I can read the writings you post. And I’m so grateful you keep writing. Your words speak God’s truth in a way we need to hear and a way we can understand and practice. Thank you for being the vessel. Wishing you a God-blessed New Year.

  3. Alan Foster says


    Thanks for you calm, yet inspiring voice of encouragement to allow God to be in us, with us, and for us.

  4. Katie Patterson says

    Love reading these Jeff – appreciate the words and wisdom!

  5. Awesome Jeff:
    What you wrote is and will always be very special for me. You are easy to love, my friend, and God has been generous to a fault in bringing you into our lives. We’ll always be connected, whether here or “there”.
    I love you,

  6. We know Jack and Vivian through one of their sons. Yes, they are just as delightful and loving as depicted here. This was a pleasure to read and a great way to honor them.

  7. Love this Jeff! Thank you for sharing your daily life stories. We love you and miss you in SAc-town!

  8. Jeff,

    I grew up with their love as a constant presence in my life. I know that the love they expressed for you in those moments was not a friendly habit, but a profound proclamation.

    In the sadness of waning time together, I give thanks that God has blessed my dad in so many ways, using His people as vessels of love, filling his cup to overflowing.

    He in return has been a blessing to so many of us through his life of loving service, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and exemplified through Jesus Christ.

    • Mary, Laurie's mom says

      They are both special I’m my thoughts…and I only had pizza with them once. They radiate love, thoughtfulness and kindness to all at the table….including me.,(a stranger in the middle of their family supper) You have all been greatly blessed. You will be comforted by wonderful…and some hilarious memories. You and your future generations will quote them often. We quote Grandma Reid all the time. May God be especially close.

  9. Chris Walker says

    Love you Jeff. Grace and Peace to Jack, Vivian, and their Family. God is good and gracious especially in these times.

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