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To the one who asked “How do I really know what love is?” I believe I have some light to shed on your question.

As I sit here reading your blog I share the room with two girls; an almost eleven year old who dances back and forth while repeatedly listening to her favorite songs on an I-pad, and a two year old stacking Legos.

The pre-teen is my youngest child, a surprise package via a mid-life (unplanned) pregnancy. The two year old is the result of an unexpected pregnancy of my oldest daughter.

The vision I had for my life at this stage was to be secured in a career of my choosing. I envisioned wearing tailored skirts and classy pumps; manicured nails and properly styled hair.

I’m intelligent, articulate and creative. I looked forward to putting these and other personal attributes to work in a career environment after spending my 20’s and 30’s raising my daughter and son. Now was going to be my time, or so I thought.

Instead I found myself two years into a second marriage with a baby on the way.
The day my third child was born something died in me.

Instead of a beautiful healthy whole child, I held an innocent little baby girl with Down Syndrome.
My heart was breaking and fear of the future filled my whole being. Knowing nowhere else to turn I cried out to an unseen God-and wept.

It was over the course of the next couple years that I came to recognize what makes for real Love.
Because of my nature, I took home that little innocent; I held her, rocked her, hugged her, kissed her cheeks; I nursed (fed) her, diapered and dressed her, and, in short, I tended to every need I knew to tend to.

With time my depression lifted and fear left me.

Then came the spring day I stood at our patio door watching my toddler joyously explore the wonders of our back yard, when I felt a surge of joy fill my soul.

It was in that moment I recognized love.

Fast forward a few years to the day my granddaughter was born. I held her then and I’ve held her nearly every day since. Along with her mommy she lived with me so that her mother could finish college. Now I babysit her so her mommy can be gainfully employed.

Like with my own babies, I’ve fed her, diapered her, sang songs to her before sleep, comforted her, disciplined her, etc. etc.

The consequence of these sacrifices is I love her. Like with the children of my womb, I’d sacrifice my life to protect her if needed.

Recently I heard a pastor speak and instantly I recognized the truth of his words–Love comes from sacrifice. He used caring for an infant as an example, thus it is I instantly related. He pointed out how an infant does not give but instead requires the caretaker to give. Yet even without our receiving, because of our sacrificing we come to love the infant deeply. Apparently so it is with any form of love.
Apparently it is that as I’ve sacrificed my wants, some of my needs, a LOT of my time and energy, my return is the Love I feel for these people for whom I’ve sacrificed.

Some are the days I mourn the loss of what I’d kept as dreams for my future. Some are the days I complain that I’m “too old for this”, while envying my peers their free time, vacations and other ‘this time of our lives’ activities.

But when I consider the alternative, which would mean a life without these children I recognize that, given the choice, I couldn’t give up what I’ve got. Not now that I’ve experienced it.

And the more I learn I’m starting to believe this principle is true for all types of love. If I’m not sacrificing for my husband by giving up some of my wants, needs, or desires (aka giving up some of my selfishness) then it comes into question whom it is that I actually love.

I’m coming to see the reality is when I married; I married someone I wanted to love me and meet my needs. Sure I felt I loved my newly wedded, but I can see it was a romantic type of love, not the sustaining love the can come only with time and sacrifice.

The thing is, I think that is okay; I think it’s really pretty normal—to start out that way. Because if the marriage partnership goes the way it was designed to then eventually it will work out for the good.
If I go into the marriage willing to sacrifice my selfish desires in an effort to meet his needs, while at the same time he sacrifices his selfish desires in an effort to meet my needs the end result will be I give him honor, respect and love and in return he gives me the love I long for.

It’s a WIN-WIN.

This is NOT a concept learned by reading romance books or via the romance movies. It’s also not a concept I learned growing up.

Instead it’s a concept I’m being taught by wise and learned men who write or preach to teach.
And contrar to what the movies portray—The reality is: my beloved is NOT going to complete me—he can’t.
Only God can do that.

So what to do should I slam up against “the need”, that unmet need that could lead me to the grossly errant idea that the emptiness I feel could (which it can’t) be met (which in reality it will NOT) with the right romantic partner?

It’s then I need a sharp dose of reality to bring me back to my senses. For starters:
• There is NO such thing as a perfect lover
• I am and never will be (in this life) a perfect partner
• It’s NOT all about me
• If I want LOVE, I need to give LOVE and RESPECT
• And always, I need to pray… “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil”….