Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is a many splendored thing

Tomorrow is the big day where we all declare our love for the ones who most make our hearts go pitter patter. I will join the ranks of millions of Americans who will give cards, hugs, and kisses to the wonderful man I married and to the two little people who fill my heart.

What struck me today as I thought about Valentine's Day, though, is that I am the recipient of more love than I could possibly return in a lifetime. Love truly is a many splendored thing - Christians know that in the Bible, the English word "love" appears consistently throughout the text, but is translated from more than one Greek word for the sentiment. The love in my life is like that, too. One word could never capture all of the ways I am loved.

I have known my entire life that I am fully, wholly, and unconditionally loved by my two amazing parents. With the lens of now being a parent myself, I look back at my adolescence and wonder at the fact that not only do my parents love me, I think they like me, too. My mom and dad taught me everything I know about loving families, and I love them both more than words can say.

My parents also gave me two of the greatest gifts in my life - my sister and brother. Not everyone is so lucky as me, having siblings who you yearn to spend time with, and if life allowed, you'd move next door to. We certainly had our fair share of sibling fights; we were the world's most normal kids, on each other's last nerves on a regular basis. As adults, though, I've grown to realize that there truly is no love like that of a sister or a brother. It isn't just a greeting on a Hallmark card; they truly know me and my heart better than any friend ever could. They love me in spite of my failings; they love me because of my failings.

Philos - the love from friends. How could I possibly recount all of the ways my friends have picked me up, carried me along, and let me lean on them over the years? The filial love of friends changes over time - in part because some friends come and some friends go. I'm learning, though, that the friends that stick - especially my West Point classmates - that love changes, too. We grow; we mature; we understand that life is not an eternal competition between us. Sadly, for the women of my class, loss has drawn us closer together in the last year. More than ever, this year when I think of the love of friends, I realize there is a deep and abiding love that we are only now beginning to recognize for the source of strength it is.

Closer to home, I rely on the steady, ever-present of the love of my new friends here in Arkansas. They've taught me that the length of time you've been acquainted has nothing to do with the depth or strength of the love they can give. I am so blessed that I have friends here and in the other places I've called home that fill my life with the love only a friend can give.

Then, there's home itself. My two little people, Caroline and John. The innocent love of children, the sheer joy of knowing that they love me not for what I do, whether I'm popular, or how much money I have. They love me because I am their mother. There are a million reasons people can name for why having children is a blessing, but for me, the unconditional love will always be the biggest wonder of motherhood.

My dad told me on my wedding day that no matter how much I thought I loved Justin, it paled in comparison to how much I would love him in the years to come. Almost 13 years later, I truly do understand and agree with him, but realize that surely, that will be more true 13 years from now, and again 13 years after that. My husband, in his quiet, steady way, shows me every day how much he loves me. Sometimes it's obvious in the words he says to me, the kindness he shows me, the things he does for me. Just as often, he loves me by loving our children. When you begin the journey of marriage, you can't possibly fathom the infinite love it will bring.

On the days where I feel buffeted and crushed by the weight of responsibility and expectations every adult feels, I need to reflect on the richness of the love in my life. Tomorrow I'll use words, cards, and small gifts to show my love. I hope every other day of the year, I'll be a reflection of the love others give to me.

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