Saturday, October 3, 2009

"I Love You"

I have discovered that these three little words have enormous power. On some level, everyone longs to hear them. As we grow older and more cynical, we may start to think that we no longer need to hear them in order to feel validated in a relationship, but I think we're only kidding ourselves. There are a million ways to show others that you love them, but there's still no replacement for coming right out and saying it.

I tell my husband I love him multiple times every day. It's never a formality—every time I say it, I think about what it means. I've realized that the more often I think about and express my love for my husband, the more comfortable our relationship becomes. Sometimes I'll tell him I love him a mere minute or two after I've just said it, but it still feels fresh every time. When I forget to say "I love you" as often, I am more likely to feel irritated with him when things go wrong, but when I focus on the amazing contributions he makes to my life, it's easier to deal with the bumps in the road without making a big fuss.

I'm learning not to confine this candor to my marriage. There are many different kinds of love and relationships, and they're all valuable to me. I love my family and my friends too, and I'm continually discovering how important it is to explicitly express that love. I used to think that it wasn't quite appropriate to say "I love you" to a platonic friend (especially a male one) or to someone who wasn't an intimate part of my life. Society seems to dictate that once you reach a certain age, verbal expressions of love for anyone but your closest family members are gushy and immature. Children tell lots of people "I love you," and we think it's charming. Why do we think that because we're adults we can't hug people or say "I love you" or be open about our feelings?

I don't think love and relationships get enough respect in our society. We seem to be conditioned to believe on some level that love is a weakness, that to tell someone that we love them is some horrible admission of childishness or neediness. But I believe that God made us to love one another. When we verbally express our love, we strengthen our relationships and we demonstrate how important they are to us. Love is a God-given strength, and expressions of love should be celebrated, not stifled. The world may think I'm silly when I tell friends and even acquaintances that I love them and explain how much they have blessed my life, but I hope I will still have the courage to do it. I think the benefits are worth any raised eyebrows I might encounter along the way.

Friday, October 2, 2009

God Made This for Me

Sometimes I look at the natural beauty all around me and think, "God made this for me." In some of the most difficult times of my life, I have walked outside and been greeted by a beautiful blue sky and verdant foliage that made me wonder if God had provided a beautiful day just to cheer me up. Of course, God's marvelous creation is not only for me—it is a gift that He has given for the benefit of all people.

There are many things in nature that stir powerful feelings of joy inside me, and God has not only made those things for me and for others, but He has also engineered my body and spirit so that I can enjoy them. I see God's love for me in many parts of nature. Here are just a few:
  • The sky. When I was young, I lived on a farm in the Appalachian mountains, and God blessed me with a spirit to appreciate the natural beauty around me. There was no light pollution, and I could see the stars and the beautiful Milky Way from my bedroom window. I used to stand outside at night sometimes and just stare up at the sky until my mother called me in for fear that I would get cold. In the summer and fall, I would lie in the grass or sit on the porch swing and look up at the clouds, searching for shapes or patterns. Even today, few things move me the way that a spectacular sunset can. I imagine that the sky is a canvas and that God has created the most beautiful painting in creation. But tomorrow, God will paint a new sunset to rival today's, and I get to watch.
  • Butterflies. I don't know why, but I have always loved butterflies. When I see them fluttering by, I feel free and blissful deep inside. I feel excited about the unknown blessings that could come my way at any moment, and the world is suddenly alive with delightful possibilities. Butterflies are beautiful, and when I see them, I feel beautiful myself.
  • Spring rain. I love the smell of the damp earth and the moist air after a spring rainstorm. It makes me feel as though everything has been made clean, and I am reminded of how alive the earth is. Smelling the rain is like receiving a promise from God of how abundant the summer growth will be. It becomes a metaphor for my life and for all of the seemingly ordinary gifts that God will send me to make me prosper.
  • Autumn foliage. All the trees that have looked more or less the same all year long suddenly burst into a gorgeous array of color, bathing the whole atmosphere in a warm glow. The air smells crisp, and the sky is brilliantly blue. When I see all those colors, I feel sprightly and alive, and I can't seem to worry too much about the coming winter, dismal and long though I know it will be. There is beauty even in the coming of winter, and the energy I feel when I revel in that fall loveliness is a precious gift that will help see me through the cold months ahead. 
  • Mountains. I love mountains whether I find myself in the valley or on the peak. From below, the mountains remind me of my home and bring back the cherished nostalgia of childhood and adolescence. It's almost as though they are my mountains, put there to remind me of the unique blend of carefree fun, loving acceptance, and peaceful serenity that make up my fondest memories of home. From the top, mountains remind me of how broad and breathtaking the world really is and impress upon me the vast potential of my own life. God has created an amazing world for me to inhabit, with more possibilities than I could ever explore.
There are more things that I could name, of course. Not only that, but each person reading this post right now would likely compose an entirely different list for themselves. That only goes to show how incredible God's creation is and how many treasures God shares with us through it.  God made all of this for us because He loves us.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Am Loved

This seems like a good place to start my reflective journey, because the fact that I am loved is at the very center of my being.  Although there have been moments in my life when I have felt completely alone and unloved, I realize now that I have always been loved. The love that I continuously receive defines me in a very profound way, and it shapes my entire outlook on life.

The fact that I am loved is the foundation of my self esteem. No matter what I do, whether I succeed or fail, I will be loved because God has given me intrinsic worth. Because God loved me before he even created me, he molded me into a beautiful unique design, and other people love me because they are reacting to the gifts that God has sown into my very being. Even when their love fails, God's love for me is constant. God made me special, and because of that I will be loved, no matter what.

I was loved before I could do anything to earn recognition or appreciation. God has loved me from the moment He first imagined me, and He has loved me every moment of my life, no matter how badly I have behaved. My mother loved me before I was even born, and her love grew and grew when I was a screaming baby who almost never stopped crying. The love I have received is a gift, not an accomplishment. God decided that it was good and right that I should be loved so that I could grow and flourish and become the beautiful creation He made me to be, so He has encouraged others to love me too.

Love is a constant in my life that can carry me through a myriad of doubts and struggles and hardships. If I fail, God and my loved ones will support me as I try again. If I make mistakes, love will encourage others to forgive me. When I feel weak and flawed and insignificant, love will remind me of my intrinsic worth. Because I am loved I can have hope for the future, no matter what happens.
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