By Michelle Martin and Hope Komarynsky

Love. Around this time of year, that word is often associated with shades of red and pink, conversation hearts, chocolate, and exchanging valentines. Though these are simple forms of expression, we can all appreciate the motivations of care and thoughtfulness behind the gestures. Something rather small still helps us to feel important, seen, cared for, and valued. We feel loved. Love is a fun yet strong emotion with significant power to influence those around us. Love is connection at its best. Without connection, we cannot most effectively give or receive love. Connection with others is a necessity for life in this world.

Love is expressed differently in each aspect of our lives. From our neighbors, to our coworkers, to the people woven throughout our communities. Our families represent many different dynamics even within their common framework: our spouse, children, parents and extended family. There’s our church home and closest friends. And what about people on the fringe of society or even those inside the houses and facilities closest to us? Perhaps most perplexing is how to love our enemies. Every person receives love differently, experiences it uniquely and gives it as only they can. However, we all seek loving connection throughout our lives and its many seasons…even through pandemics, turmoil and uncertainty.

Due to our new “normal” with precautions in place to keep us healthy and safe, opportunities to connect with those around us look a little different than they did in the past. We asked a few people to share some of the ways they have connected with people they care about. What would that look like for you?

social worker from an elementary school shared the challenges that virtual learning has brought for her and her students. “I miss being able to connect with my students face-to-face and rewarding them with “Power Pellets” (Skittles) after a great session.”

When asked about the connection with others that she misses the most, a nurse said, “Smiles. I miss seeing the faces of my patients, people out in public and just even being able to connect with a smile. I feel like you can say so much to people in the grocery store or out for a walk just through your facial expression. Currently, this interaction has been completely taken away from us. I can’t wait for the day when smiles are back!”

Although our world is different now, many have been able to find joy and purpose through connecting with others. We have all had to get creative to figure out how to foster deep, authentic connection with those in our lives over the past year. Phone calls to our loved ones and sending cards in the mail are occurring more frequently. Coffee dates with friends and family over FaceTime and Zoom have become popular as people realize they need to be more intentional in cultivating true connection during this time of separation and distance.

A local high school math teacher shared with us that he has started a Competitive Gaming team to provide his students with an opportunity to socialize with their peers. He said, “Students are having a hard time in school. Hybrid learning is having a dramatic effect on them. As a teacher, I feel more isolation. Students, as well, are not getting an opportunity to socialize with their peers as much. This gaming team is catering to students who aren’t a part of sports teams or other activities. It’s helping them connect, maintain a sense of community.”

Yet, there will still be those days when more seems to be asked of us than what we have within us. It’s inevitable. When the weariness is real, and it seems like there’s no more to give, how then do we connect? How do we then show our care? The truth is: the best we have to give isn’t really our love… it’s His Love.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

God’s Love is limitless and unending. He invites us to come to Him as empty vessels! He thrills to pour His love into us and begs us to return for His Living Water often. Love isn’t something we are capable of creating from within. It’s freely and lavishly given to each of us. Abiding within The Source of Love is essential to an authentic life of connection with others. He offers to connect heart to heart with each of us. His Gift of Unending Love is freely and extravagantly available for the asking. No distancing, no masks needed. He supplies all we need to be cleansed then filled with Life, Power, Peace, Joy and Hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

In this article, people found ways to connect with others they felt called to love that worked for their situation. It will look different for each one of us. Yet, as we give and receive love from our authentic selves, the truest and most lasting of life occurs.

You’re invited to click here to access a list of ways to connect, to express love during this season. Try some of them this week or when the occasion occurs. We’d love to have you comment on what you tried from the list or have you list other ways you think of!!

If you are finding yourself struggling with connecting to God or His Love, please allow us to be a listening heart. HopeNet offers three FREE sessions to anyone who wants to have conversations concerning struggles, questions or ideas about their spiritual life.

This February Gift of Love and Connection is meant to give you hope. May this be the month YOU open the HopeNet connection! We’d love to hear from you!

Watch for next month’s gift, The Gift of Faith. We’ll send it to you around mid-March!