Even though it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, I have my daughter’s Christmas card up on our counter. I can’t remember how she came up with the message, but it really struck me. It says:

“You can never get love. You need to give love to feel love.”

Such a good reminder.

In the cacophony of life, there are so many mixed messages around us, tidbits of reasons and advice floating around and shaping the way that we think. For the last decade, so much of self-improvement and self-help seems to be about self-love and self-acceptance. I’ve followed much of these messages and strove to improve myself, to love myself and seek to accept myself for what I am.

I found more recently that, in the busyness of life as a wife and mother, a decade has past and so much of those messages have fallen away for me. What I mean is, back then, I remember hoping to improve myself and “love myself” but it was only when I was so busy loving others that I actually came to do so. I think it is – in a very small way – what Gandhi meant when he purportedly said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”

“the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”

Perhaps that is all a part of how God designed us.

Becoming a parent was a transformative landmark event for me, where I simultaneously came to know that indescribable love for a child as well as the realization of what my own parents felt towards me. To extend that even further, I could understand what God felt for all humanity and how He felt about me. In that heady knowledge, my world changed. I cried a lot more – to an embarrassing degree. I could understand, feel and hope in ways that I had never known. I felt things deeply, in ways that I previously had no capacity to understand.

And in that paradigm shift, I began to have a different perspective about myself.

I can now acknowledge the obvious: my quest for self-love was motivated by dissatisfaction with myself. I didn’t like who I was, and I wanted to change. Now, coming out of the experience of becoming a parent, my continued pursuit of growth is now driven by the wish to be able to love others better: my husband, my children and the community around us. And, significantly, I came to understand that God, as my parent, loves me and has hopes for me as someone special and unique, even if or though I am a bit odd.

It’s also given me joy, gratitude, fortitude and resilience in ways that I don’t think I would be able to gain any other way. We were meant to love others, and in doing so, be overwhelmed by love ourselves.

We were meant to love others, and in doing so, be overwhelmed by love ourselves.

And my little girl, the little nicely- tanned baby that made me a parent over ten years ago, reminded me of this lesson today.

You need to give love to feel love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

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