Experiencing God’s Love

Think of an individual who made you feel like you were the most special person in the whole world. Do you remember how that felt? What did they do to make you feel so special?

The person who made me feel so very special was my Grandmother. We called her Nana. From as far back as I can remember until her death in my early 20’s, I felt nothing but love from this beautiful woman. In fact, I have always told people she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had those sparkly eyes and bright smile that lit up any room.

Nana lived in California and we lived in Missouri, but the miles between us made no difference when it came to how she made me feel. She had many grandchildren, but when she looked at me and spoke her loving words, it felt like all of her love was mine. In fact, when she wrote me letters she always began with: Dearest Granddaughter. Well, I knew she wrote the exact same thing in the letters she sent to my sisters, but that didn’t change the great feeling it brought to my heart.

Nana visited us for a couple of months out of every year. She always took the three day train trip across country to stay with us. I was always SO EXCITED and looked so forward to her arriving. This was back in the days when you actually went out to the train as it pulled into the station. You could greet your loved ones and help them with their luggage as they got off of the train. I can remember it like it was yesterday~ walking alongside the train watching the big clouds of steam billowing out of its’ side~ ever so quickly becoming ribbons of vapor as they met the cold winter air. I could hardly wait to get to the passenger car she was in. These are some of the best memories of my life.

Every time we met Nana at the train, it literally seemed as if no one else was there but me and her. When I saw her come to the doorway at the top of the stairs, we met eyes and gave great big smiles to each other. When she came to give me a hug she would say in the most enthusiastic voice: Hi doll! This was always her greeting to me! Otherwise, she called me Jode. She was the only person who ever gave me a nick-name (out of love that is)~ And I think Nana was the only one who could get away with that one! But just the idea that she thought of a nick-name just for me made me feel very special.

So after each one said their hello’s to Nana, everyone helped with the many sizes of suitcases (which she called grips~ along with the hatboxes (yep, they had those back then too!), and other smaller items she had carried with her. It was a real joy to help any way I could. Then we’d all pile in the station wagon and head for home.

We had a family of nine in a three bedroom home, so space was very limited. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I was the one who got to share my bed with Nana. It was a tiny twin bed, but that made it all the cozier. She was the only person in my life who was completely comfortable with physical closeness, and I just loved it! She was a tall woman, and not a small woman, and I just sank my little body into the contour of hers anyway I could fit! In bed I’d curl up against her back. I remember her silky nightgowns and her perfume that became one of my favorite smells of all time. In the living room when she sat up against the end of the couch with her legs stretched out to watch T.V.~ not a lot of room was left, but I wiggled my way alongside her in this little space between her and the back of the couch! I knew nothing of physical bonding anywhere else in my life~ plus I was painfully shy around most people. But with Nana~ loving affection was as natural as could be. I felt completely at home nestled beside her.

Nana was a fun Grandma. We were constantly playing cards and other games, but mostly cards. She had this really cute Kentucky accent and had sayings that always made me laugh. Like when she was dealt a bad hand of cards she would say: I’ve got a hand that looks like a foot! I never got tired of hearing her say that. And other sayings like when we were not tall enough to reach something she would say: You’re just too short in the poop! Never knew what that meant~ but I thought it was so funny.

Every time Nana visited she would give my brothers and sisters and me each a turn to go to Grand Avenue with her. This was an all-day outing where we got to do special things with just her. First we would take a street car (I know, I can’t believe how ancient these things are all sounding!(: ), and then go to this downtown area full of shops, restaurants, and other fun things. It was always a tradition to get some pictures together in one of those booths we had to squeeze into. We were all dressed up for this trip of course, because that’s how you did it back then. Our fancy hats were usually crooked and our cheeks with big grins pressed tightly together as we tried to beat the clock for this illustrious photo!(:

What joy Nana brought to my life.

Nana was the most beautiful picture of love that I had ever known in my life. As a child, I just knew I felt completely loved, totally safe, and unconditionally accepted by her. I trusted her in every way. She was the one person I knew I could always count on to stay the same no matter what, and I knew she would never take her love away from me. It would only be later that I would come to realize that she was a gift from the Lord. It was through her that I first believed in some way that I was lovable.

There is another person I would like to tell you about who made me feel so special in my life. He was my eye doctor. His name was Dr. Hartstein. You may be wondering why my eye doctor would bear so much significance. Well, he was in my life since I was an infant and young toddler. He performed my first eye surgery when I was 18 months old.

My first memories of Dr. Hartstein began when I was four years old. I was born with a cataract on my right eye, and he was waiting to do surgery at the proper time. My mother would take me to his office for appointments leading up to the surgery. From the moment he walked into the exam room, I was mesmerized by his tenderness and compassion. He expressed these in very soft ways, and his quietness made me feel so comfortable, peaceful, and at ease inside.

Everything about him was gentle. His eyes were so kind and his smile so warm. His voice had that velvety sound that could sooth the most anxious heart. He seemed genuinely glad to see me with every visit, and always took time to ask me about my life. When he came extra close to examine my eye, he would always gently touch my hand to make me feel secure. I came to trust him and feel completely safe with him in short order.

The time came when surgery was scheduled. I only remember two things about my surgery and hospital stay. One, I was given gas to put me to sleep for the surgery. All I remember was something coming toward my face that seemed as big as the opening of a tuba. I remember being afraid and smelling the awful gas smell. After surgery I was very sick from the gas after coming to. That all passed pretty quickly. It was unpleasant, but the memory of it really wasn’t lingering or predominant in my life.

The memory that has remained with me all of my life from this time, was when Dr. Hartstein visited me in my hospital room. I was so glad to see him as he walked in the room. He greeted me with his usual warmth and kind smile. Just as with Nana, there may have been other people in the room, but it felt like there was no one but him and me. I have such a vivid memory of those moments, even what I was wearing and what he was wearing. Me in my little red plaid outfit~ what we called back then a crop top and petal pushers

This is what stuck with me and would later become significant in my journey of intimacy with the Lord. I must have walked over Dr. Hartstein when I saw him come in. This is what became imprinted on my heart~ he picked me up and put me on his hip. He looked gently and softly into my eyes. He was ever so lovingly smiling at me. I have no idea what he said to me, because I think I was so sweetly captivated by his love that the words didn’t really matter. Nothing had ever happened to me like this before. He seemed to find me important and wanted me to know it. He wasn’t just acting kind, he was giving me a part of himself. What really got me was this: No one had ever looked at me at eye level like this before. It meant more than I could possibly express. He cared enough to want to see me~ really see me. And I wasn’t ashamed. I’m pretty sure I let him into my heart forever that day.

After going home after the surgery, I probably had a couple follow-up visits shortly thereafter. But once I was healed, I was to decrease my check-ups to every six months to a year. I always looked so forward to my visits with him. He was my brightest spot along the way next to visits from Nana. Over all of my growing up years he remained the kindest, gentlest man I had ever known. He always treated me as if I was the only patient he had. I truly did feel like the most special girl in the world when I was with him. Every time he examined my eye, he would tell me how beautiful it was. I could hardly believe anyone could say that. I had always felt ashamed of my eye and was teased at times by school mates about it. No matter how hard I tried to control my own eye, it would wander and tend to be crossed toward the middle. And he saw it as beautiful? This was real love.

When I was still a little girl, I would tell my mother that I wanted to marry Dr. Hartstein when I grew up. She would just smile. When I became a teenager, I actually had a crush on him for a long time because my heart was so taken with him. It was sort of sad in that way, because I really was longing for this kind of love in my life all the time. These more fantasy thoughts all passed though, as I really knew the nature of our relationship. But he would remain in my heart, as you can see, even today.

Once I grew up and moved away, I needed to find an eye doctor in the state in which I lived. But in my earlier years of living away, when I knew I would be visiting St. Louis, I would sometimes schedule my yearly eye check-up with Dr. Hartstein just to get a chance to say hello. No matter how long between visits, it was always as if no time had passed at all. He was exactly the same as he always had been. He was always so glad to see me, and my heart was always instantly warmed and at home with him.

When I had my original cataract surgery at age four, it was at a point in history when there were no implants to replace the lens that was removed. That is really why I have been blind in my right eye throughout my life. Well, when implants were invented a number of years ago, I became curious as to whether that could provide some level of vision for my right eye. Guess who I met with to see if this was a possibility. Yes! It was Dr. Hartstein. I could hardly believe he was still around doing eye surgeries! What was even more amazing was that he had not forgetten me. And he was exactly the same as I had always experienced him. There was an immediate warmth and joy as he greeted me. As always he looked lovingly right into my eyes, gently touching my hand to ask me about my life. He really wanted to know even after so many years had passed. What a blessing it was to see Dr. Hartstein again and to be in his care once more.

Recalling all that Nana and Dr. Hartstein have meant to me in my life brings tears of gratitude to my eyes. But even as much as they made me feel so very special, what they gave me from their hearts was only a tiny glimpse of what love could be. I was obviously in such need of kindness, comfort, safety, and the feeling that I was valued. I was also in desperate need of someone I could count on. One of the things that surprised me so much about Nana and Dr. Hartstein is that they never changed~ and never seemed to grow tired of seeing me. Not only was I not an imposition for them, I was warmly welcomed to come close so they could pour love into my life. I think these relationships gave me some form of hope, that I could be loved in this life. But of course, hope cannot be placed in people. Even though these relationships left me with wonderful memories, and messages of love in my heart~ they were temporary. And no matter how loving they were, they could not fill the emptiness inside that only God could fill. My wonderful experiences would come and go, and I would still be left as a girl, teenager, and young adult who was longing for that perfect and everlasting love.

That hope and that love could be found only in God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. I would have never thought I could feel more special than I did through Nana and Dr. Hartstein. But little did I know their love could not compare to the kind of love God had in His heart for me. His love is more powerful than any love I have ever known or ever could know here in this world. It has been God all along who loves me as if I am the most special person in the world~ and was using Nana and Dr. Hartstein to get this message to my heart.

One of the first things God did when I began seeking Him for intimacy in my life was to show me that He was kind, comforting, safe, and that He saw me as important. I was taking a walk one day, and God suddenly gave me a vision. It stopped me in my tracks because nothing like this had ever happened before. The vision was of Jesus and me. I was a little girl. I could see myself from the back with my long blonde curls. And Jesus was kneeling down with His hands gently on my shoulders smiling and speaking kindly and softly to me. That was the whole vision, and I stood there on the sidewalk in a bit of a daze.

I was on my way to catch a bus, so I knew I needed to continue walking. Tears just welled up in my eyes as I processed this. It dawned on me: Oh my gosh, He got at eye level with me just like Dr. Hartstein! And just like with Dr. Hartstein, I have no idea what Jesus was saying to me, because I was just overtaken with the love He was pouring into my heart.

But I can tell you, receiving and experiencing love from my Savior in this way was more overwhelming than I could ever describe. There was nothing like it. There is nothing like the love of God and our sweet and comforting Jesus. And many, many other things have happened in my journey of intimacy with the Lord. But one of the things that is so wonderful about the love of God is that it is not just an occurrence or momentary experience. Yes, you will have uncountable moments and memories with Him, but His love is constant and all-encompassing. When you have an intimate relationship with the Lord, His love is washing over your heart no matter where you are or what you are doing. Other feelings may make it difficult to feel at times, but it has not gone away. His love is with you always.

Do you feel God’s love in your heart? I know a lot of people say love is not about a feeling, it’s about a choice. That would be another discussion. But I will say for now: of course love is a feeling. Why are humans frantically grabbing at things and people in this world to feel good inside, to feel comforted, to try to get their emotional needs met? They want that feeling of being loved. It is only when we grab at the wrong things is it wrong to get these needs met. Who wouldn’t want to feel like the most special person in the world. If you want this feeling, just go to God.

Grab onto God. He will give you love in your heart like you have never, ever known. I don’t care who it has been for you in your life~ if you think that the love of a human is what you need, you have been deceived. Let God be the one who fills your heart up so full you are overwhelmed and can barely take anymore! God is the cake and the icing and all the decorations you could imagine putting on a cake! People are the gift sitting next to the cake~ that is those relationships God chooses to bring into your life. Let God satisfy all of the needs of your heart~ to the depths of your soul. You can have as much intimacy with God as you desire. There are no limits to His love. Receive it and experience it in all completeness. Then others will see His glorious love in your heart and be drawn to the Father and to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ: And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16). No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12).

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