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Love: Our experiences teach but do not define us.

Love: That wonderful thing that tugs on our souls from the time we are children. What we dream about growing up. The first experience we have with it is when we are conceived. Do we feel it in the womb? Then there's birth. Do we experience it then? A Father's love....a Mother's love....sibling love....friendship love.....'puppy' love as we move into the teens....then hopefully, and assumingly, we meet someone special, Cupid shoots his little arrow and we 'fall into love.'

We recently celebrated Valentine's Day all over the world. The DAY OF LOVE!!!! Sounds romantic doesn't it!? It's February, also known as 'LOVE MONTH'. A time of year when every couple celebrates their eternal bliss and children all over the world get to watch mommy and daddy leave the house while they stay with the sitter and have sappy treats all while waiting for mommy & daddy to return. Laughing, happy and rushing the kids to bed so they can get a little naughty.....or a lot ;)

THIS is what LOVE is to be somewhat about. There are many who do not know nor understand this.

My life experience with love: I am adopted, into a loving family....but it always plays on the emotions that someone left you when you were the most innocent and the most defenceless. And growing up, my dad was a workaholic and although he loved us all dearly and worked hard...I don't remember him being a hopeless romantic man who chased my mom around the house many times a week and laughing playfully. He was tired, often grumpy and trying to keep a family and household running. Don't get me wrong, he had his times where he'd tease my mom and pretend to chase her....but not like the TV shows portray and not like alot of my friends dads. He loved us very much and we knew it. He loved my mom very much and she knew it. His love was fierce, protective, he put food on our plates and a roof over our heads. And no one ever dared to mess with us. He had a temper like no ones business but never used it on us. His words were harsh but he never got physically abusive. So I grew up thinking...this is love.

I got married young and had a Cinderella dream of life. wasn't. Now don't get me wrong....I was no perfect princess and I was not the perfect wife.

My kids experience: watching mom & dad cry....anger, words, abuse, physical pain.....then honeymoon cycles of peace. Key word: cycles. It would all keep replaying like a loop in a bad movie.

Valentine's Day 2001: the kids and I were excited to pack and go on a trip. They were over the moon delighted!! But this night...when my daughter was 3, my oldest son was 8 and my middle son was 7, was the night they watched their dad leave. I have seen my kids melt down and throw tantrums, but until that night....I never actually saw kids shut down. My heart was broken. Their hearts were broken. Then I had to face these kids....these young boys who just watched how to give up on a family. My little 3 year old daughter....a do I explain to her that love exists. She grew up not knowing what it was like to have her dad play with her and she got to watch her friends have that good experience. Then - How do I teach the boys to love a woman and their families when they grew up? Now, was I classy?? oh no....I was not. I was not classy that night nor was I very christian. I threw around some F bombs and angry words many times - because my kids now had a different experience and view with love.

In my 2nd marriage....I thought, let's go for a totally different kind of guy. He did not deal well with my kids. On our only Valentines together, instead of getting flowers, chocolate, taken out and dined....I got thrown around a hotel room like a rag doll. Went home with bruises and cuts. To the same kids. My husband had no children of his own then, and he had a life and world of many many women. These women got attention, were his confidants and when any problem arose...he was there. This - was not okay. How can a man be really present with his family and wife and many women. There needed to be strong healthy barriers. This was a deal breaker. I wanted to be special and the only girl that my spouse had eyes for. And it was impossible to compete in a sea of women...

I learnt over the years how to fight back. How to be angry. How to take me and my kids and lock us into a cocoon so tight they couldn't breathe. When it comes to my kids....hurt their feelings for no reason and I will condescend you and teach you a lesson with words. Humiliate them in front of others for no reason of their doing....I am coming for you and will take you out like the trash. And if someone was to ever lay a hand on them....well, there's no words. I'd probably be eating prison food. Because they deserve the best in life. And I'll go down swinging making sure they are protected and loved.

So in my life, I was abandoned at birth, grew up in a loving christian home but my dad was really never there much, but I knew he loved me. I have been punched so hard in the head while driving down a highway I lost my hearing in that ear... and had the fear of God put into me and my kids while I fought to keep my seat belt on while someone was pushing me out at an almost highway speed. I have been pushed through walls, kicked, punched, slapped, lifted off the ground by my throat, almost lost my second son after being pushed down the stairs, lost a baby who would have been my daughter's twin after being thrown into a shelving unit, watched in horror and complete helplessness - my dad getting pushed down the back door stairs for trying to step in and shut it down, been cut off of finances when the other person was having a 'cycle or moment', been cheated on, and assaulted with a weapon. Those are my love experiences. Those are what my kids lived. We went through the system. The courts. Justice system. Welfare. Food stamps. Women's Shelter. Counselling. We even had our home broke into while waiting for trial and they stayed in the house for 4 hours before leaving through the basement where they had been hiding and past my boys room then up the stairs. We had patrol go by and check on us. Sometimes we knew .... sometimes I just saw them parked across the street when shutting down the lights for the night. Did I feel safer?? Yes I did! That was our life. We left our church. I don't think they really understood. It was just too much. How were we suppose to attend the place that brought us joy then served as a reminder in those dark days of what was and used to be. My oldest son couldn't sleep. And I could hear him crying every night. My middle son shut down. Went from a happy bouncy outgoing boy to almost a hermit. My little princess moved into my room until she was 10 or 11 and had night terrors. She clung to me and went nowhere without me except for school. It wasn't easy. They felt abandoned.

So Valentine's Day....not our favourite day of the year. My kids and I for years have spent it in solitude watching funny movies, cooking together, laughing together and just 'loving' each other as a family as best we knew how.

I share this all not to be dark but to give some reality on what other families and people go through. We hear all the time about love. Agape love, Logos love, puppy love, love at first sight....but the only love that matters and can heal us when we are broken and shattered is God's love. Jesus was my anchor through a lot. And my kids.

I have had a lot of amazing and great conversations over the years with my mom....her friends...and I heard over and over the same phrase. 'I know how to treat a man....' I always felt they were attacking me and basically don't have a man because you can't keep one. Well...that is obviously true! And good! Because I kept attracting all the wrong men! So bye bye! But I often wonder, is every woman and every man out there really happy. Or do they sacrifice pieces of themselves daily trying to be the prefect wife or husband. Then that's sad. I never hear anyone say that they are a good woman or a good man and they know how they deserve to be treated. Or that they are wanting to become the person that they would want to be with. And there's perks to this experience. I can spot a mile away an abuser, a cheater, a fake marriage. Because I was there. And there really is signs and symptoms. And ironically - the children carry them the most. I felt inadequate for years...even still do. Who could ever love someone who has been through this. Or someone who has ever made mistakes. Someone once asked me: if I felt me and my kids ever suffered even psychologically? 'I said absolutely. How could we not.' I think that's part of what is wrong with society...we are taught early on to pretend we are perfect. Our lives are perfect. That we are just fine. We need to stand with those who are broken and heal them. Help raise them up. Love them. Accept them. For all the broken pieces.

I know what I am looking for. I actually made a list my last dating relationship. To the naked all seemed amazing. Seemed like the perfect fit. Then I made my list. One column what I was looking for. 2nd column who I was and what I liked. 3rd column who he was and what he liked. You know what happened? When I cross referenced everything there was only 3 things left. And they were all in the negative. He had many positives....but I couldn't trust him. And I learnt I paid for everything 95% of the time we went out. I was always insulted, never told I looked beautiful or nice...while I saw other women getting compliments. Major major red flags, And when I tried to talk about it....I was the broken one and he was infallible. Then I connected the dots.....the cycle was starting again. I was probably still somewhat old me and he was the same type. So when do we learn as humans to love ourselves enough to break our own bad cycles? Not everyone is bad. But not everyone is good for you either.

They say it takes 3-6 months to really see the real person you are dating. And for me....feeling safe and protected is HUGE. If I cannot have a safe and calm conversation...or a place where I can talk openly about my feelings without being shut down, and know that person is confidential - I will never visit that and will walk away fast, put them in the casual friend zone - because from what I've lived through....being able to be open takes a lot of courage. And I will never allow myself to go there again.

Let's talk God's love for a second. God's love heals. It mends damage done from broken words. It removes hurtful memories from a broken heart. It rebuilds trust so we can trust again. He wraps himself around us in those moments so we can feel His warmth and acceptance. Even when we make mistakes....He forgives and wants us to run to Him like innocent children and just welcome His favour. He does not leave us broke. Our bad decisions do. He does not leave us lonely...because He is there. When others don't approve of our life choices....He still sees you as His favourite! Little by little day by day He heals us. I don't know about my kids....but I know many nights I have gone to bed just pouring my heart out to Him. And I felt Him listen. He cared. And He loved me. And He's never left me. That is the greatest love I know. When nothing else can heal you, He can.


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