What is real love?

What is real love?

The month of February is super-focused on love and romance. After all, February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It is a time of year when people give cards, letters, chocolate, flowers or presents to their spouse or partner and those they love, and you see common symbols of Valentine’s Day everywhere—like hearts, red roses and Cupid. It is also the time of year when women love to watch the Hallmark movies as they all seem to focus on love and happy endings.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Love is: a mother who stays up all night to see if you need anything when you are sick and running a fever; a father who secretly cries when you are leaving home for a new start in life; an older brother or sister who always ensures your safety and protection; or a friend who is always there for you no matter the circumstances.

In the Bible it says that the greatest gift is Love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” For only when we love God with all our hearts can we truly love another and, in doing so, find that special kind of love that never, ever fails. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Jesus gave His life on the Cross for us. This was His ultimate expression of love. Daily we face the opportunity to extend love to others in various ways, let us be encouraged to follow Christ’s example and do all that we can with great love.

Love is not just a single word. It is a feeling that is varied from person to person. Love brings out a lot of emotion.

It is an indescribable feeling that words sometimes cannot describe. Love is different for everybody, from butterflies taking flight in your stomach, to your heart skipping beats, to this uncontrollable smile, to a million other things.

Love is happiness. Love is being present. Love is letting people in. Love is instantly feeling better when they enter the room. Love is when you can sit in silence and still be the happiest you’ve ever been. Love is when you see them for all their beauty and their flaws, and you love their flaws. Love is happiness. Real love is acceptance – of the good, of the bad, and everything in between. Love is palpable, it’s real. Love is genuine when you take off the masks, otherwise it’s a ruse. We all crave truth and relationships that are real.

Sometimes we try to hide our imperfections. We think in our minds “would they love me if they knew this or that about me?” The more you let the other person know your shortcomings, and he/she sticks around, the more powerful the love.

When it comes to love we, all want that happy ending. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. This is because life is real with real people, real problems, real heartaches. Relationships sometimes fail, loved ones die, divorce happens, friendships struggle or end. It is then that we feel disappointment, unhappiness and a lack of joy. It is then that we must be reminded that true joy comes from God. John 15:9 says, “I have loved you just as My Father has love Me. Stay in My love.” Then in John 15:11, Jesus says “I have told you these things, so My joy may be in you and your joy may be full.” God’s joy is the real love we all long for. His love alone can bring true joy. Everything else is extra blessings.

My wish is that everyone can find the real love and true joy they need in their lives.

Cheryl S. Carter regularly writes on a variety of topics for the community. This article was originally published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on 2/21/18.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Living Life to the Fullest

Living Life to the Fullest

Recently I have been made aware of just how short life can be and the importance of living life to the fullest. As the years go by, the more you realize that happiness takes work. At times it takes strength and courage to smile through the tears. It’s so easy to look at people who are happy and feel they don’t understand the pain you are going through. People who can smile and put on that happy face have been through as much as people who cry, scream and frown.

I lost a dear friend to cancer last week and regret not spending more time with her or calling her more often. Yesterday I found out some friends at church faced the tragedy of losing their precious four-year-old son. I can’t even imagine the heartache this family is going through. At work my very dear friend’s and co-worker’s sister is battling stage IV cancer. The hurt and uncertainty I see her and her family facing every day breaks my heart.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8.

There are certain things you need to do to live life to the fullest. One of my biggest is put God first. Only He knows when we are to be born and when we will die. Next on my list is “Tell people you love them.” That could be a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, relative or friend. Everyone can truly appreciate hearing that you love them. At times it can brighten their day. Next, do something good for someone else. Don’t just say I wish I could help. Do something about it. Often, we see homeless people on the street. Have you ever thought if you gave that person $1 every day that you would only be $365 in an entire year? It doesn’t take a lot. Sometimes we are so absorbed with what we have and what we want that we forget about those in need.

Next on my list is to live in the present. You can think about your past and your future, but you need to live in the present. Your past is to learn from and your future is something to work towards, but what exists now is the present. Don’t compromise your values is another thing of great importance to me. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Trust your instincts. Your ethics don’t need to be compromised. Whatever you do always be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person you are.

In life you sometimes must take risks – sometimes a lot of them. Every reward in life carries a risk with it. When you look back on your life, don’t regret the chances that you didn’t take. If you don’t take some risks, you will never get anywhere. Always keep an open mind, but be willing to listen. You may think you are right, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to look at a situation.

Find time to spend with others. People have no time anymore to call their family and friends and to spend time with them, but can waste hours of their valuable time online – on Facebook, playing games, checking messages. I once read a quote that said, “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.”

These are just a few of the things on my list. I am sure I could name many more. Going forward cherish your loved ones, hug your child a little tighter and a little longer. Take time for those that really matter. Life is too short and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

Cheryl S. Carter regularly writes on a variety of topics for the community. This article was originally published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on 1/21/18.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Letting Go of Bitterness

Letting Go of Bitterness

Recently the pastor of my church preached on forgiveness. It brought back some old memories when I was hurt very deeply by family that I loved so much. For years I held on to that resentment and bitterness until I realized the only one that was hurting was me. It was then that I forgave those who hurt me. I tried to reach out to them, but they were not willing. I decided that was their choice but my choice was forgiveness. It was from that point forward that I felt a sense of peace in my life and a release of the anger I had harbored for so long.

I knew I couldn’t change what happened in the past, but I had the choice over how I would live in the future.

All of us, at one time or another, have been hurt by the actions or words of another. When someone hurts us, these wounds can leave us with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness and even vengeance. When we are hurt by someone we love and trust, we become angry, sad or confused.

If we dwell on these hurtful situations, grudges filled with resentment and hostility can take root. Allowing the negative feelings to crowd out our positive feelings we then find ourselves swallowed up by our own bitterness.

Holding on to bitterness and being unforgiving can bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. It can, at times, make you feel anxious and depressed. You can become so wrapped up in the wrong that you just can’t enjoy the present. I was watching a movie on TV recently when a mother asked her little girl to define forgiveness. What the little girl said was beautiful. Her answer was, “It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.”

We have all been thoughtless, insensitive and selfish at times toward others, even if that was not our intention. We must realize that we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Romans 12:21 says, “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and bitterness. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen the grip on your life. When you forgive it doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it does not justify or minimize the wrong. By forgiving the person you are not excusing the act. Forgiveness can bring peace that helps you go on with your life.

When you forgive those who hurt you, it can bring happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to less anxiety and stress, healthier relationships, greater spiritual and mental well-being and higher self-esteem, just to name a few. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.”

As you let go of grudges, you will no longer define your life by how you have been hurt. I recently read, “No one ever gets to the end of their life and thinks, I wish I stayed angry longer. They generally say one of three things: I’m sorry, I forgive you or I love you.”

Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In other words, if you don’t forgive, it harms your relationship with God.

I urge you if you are dealing with past anger and hurt make it a point to work on forgiveness. Forgiveness means you rub it out not rub it in. “Let Go and Let God” is my motto. God wants us to love others as He loves us. If you can learn to forgive you will feel a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

At our homeless shelter in Culpeper we see so many women that have been hurt so deeply and just can’t find the strength to forgive those who hurt them. Years ago I read a quote that I have referred to often in my life and have shared with many in our shelter that are dealing with past hurts and forgiveness issues.

“Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.”

Who do you need to forgive today?

Cheryl S. Carter regularly writes on a variety of topics for the community. This article was originally published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on 10/28/17.

Image by BenteBoe from Pixabay