(Part 1 - what love is not - is here)
I didn't have good examples of what Love looks like, or is supposed to look like. I'm not really sure what a normal family looks like or how they express love. If a genie ever pops out of a lamp, one of my wishes will be the ability to be a "fly on the wall" so I can observe what normal families do. Every so often, an opportunity will present itself and I'll catch a glimpse of normalcy and true love.
I relish those times. I store them up in my memory bank and pull them out to ponder on frequently. Most of the time the participants have no idea that their off-the-cuff statement meant so much to me or that I am learning love by watching them.
When I became pregnant the first time, and when my daughter was born, I had a moment of panic. How was I, an emotionless numb person, going to demonstrate love to my baby? Like being struck by lightening, a thought flew into my head that I did have examples of love in my life - sometimes in little things. And sometimes in big things. I just had to search my memory bank for them.
Some of the things floating around in my memory bank are -
* Love Looks Like This - The neighbor who lived around the corner from my childhood home. She took my sister and I in before and after school so that we would not be home alone (I was in 3rd or 4th grade and my sister was in 1st). She also took us to a Bible kids' activity in the evening sometimes too. She demonstrated love for me. Another time, I saw love when I had an unfortunate accident and my in-laws dropped everything, left work immediately and came to our house to be with my daughter so my husband could come be with me. My own mother would never have done that.
* Love Sounds Like This - One time I was in a meeting with someone when their daughter called. It was late and we were just chit chatting. She took the call and I tried not to eavesdrop but it's hard not to hear things when you are in the same room. This mother was reassuring her daughter (an adult) that things would be fine. Giving support without offering platitudes. Her voice softened and I could hear love. Another mother I know commented that she was sleeping on the couch downstairs because her adult daughter was recovering from oral surgery and might need her. What is that like? Having a mother sleep near you, just in case you need her?
* Love Feels like This - A time someone mentioned her daughter (an adult) being sick and coming to her office to curl up on her lap. I don't remember doing that with my mom as a child, let alone as an adult. That is what love looks like. It’s also in the feeling of safe hugs from safe people.
* Love Tastes like This - A cold frappucino coffee drink delivered to my house after I had jaw surgery, from someone stopping by to visit and make sure I'm okay.
* Love Smells like This - the smell of my newborn baby daughter when she is curled up beside me.
Love is sometimes found when you least expect it -
* In college, hearing rustling and see $200 cash come sliding under my door. Put there by my mentors I'm sure, although they tried to be anonymous. Put there so that I could stop being forced to call and "make nice" with my father just so he would send me money for my medical bills. Delivered anonymously so I would know there were no strings attached. The sacrifice they made is what love is.* Strangers taking an off-the-cuff, joking comment about wanting to be adopted, and opening up their hearts and lives to me. Without knowing much about me at all, or having ever met me.
* Online friends who care enough to call, text, email, and write me.
* A childhood boyfriend who stayed with me on those nights when my mother would work the third shift, just so he could be there when the nightmares would come.
* A sister, ready to drop everything, and fly down here when I'm struggling. A sister who loves me enough to threaten (and she would do it) to "kick my ass" if I do anything to harm myself.
* Hearing 1 John 3:16 "this is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." Knowing that this pertains to me and that I'm "okay" in God's eyes. It’s also in the sound of the voices of a few people I know. I’ve been privileged enough to hear them pray - hear the way their voice softens when they talk to God. Knowing instinctively that they are engaged in a very important, intimate conversation. I especially see love in the ones that encourage me to really explore my relationship with God - without hiding my anger or uncertainty.
Love is sometimes shown in appropriate anger - like the sound of a father’s voice, outraged that some passerby would dare make inappropriate comments to his daughter. In the anger and outrage, I hear and see (although it still startles me) on people’s faces when I mention something that happened in my childhood - often something I considered "normal."
Love is shown in the kindness of my in-laws who used up all their vacation time to come stay with my husband after knee surgery so I could get back to work, because I had used up all my vacation time on maternity leave. My mother-in-law does not drive in cities and was terrified of having to drive my husband all around - but she did it anyway, out of love for us.
I’m so grateful for having friends and family, and even internet blog "strangers" who demonstrate love in my life. It has taken me awhile to learn what love is. But I feel more confident that I will be able to demonstrate love to my daughter so that she won’t have to learn what love is NOT.