How I Found Love

When we are little- not old enough for clumsy, plump fingers to tie shoelaces or for toothless mouths to articulate the most challenging sounds of the English language – our ability to treasure and hold a memory is scarce. We can’t remember our difficult entry into the world or first gasping cry. We are unable to recall the disappointed look on our mother’s face when we, once again, fail to make it to the toilet in time. It is impossible to even recall the joyful eruption of applause when we took our earliest steps or uttered our first, barely recognizable word.

But, I can remember the first time I felt love. Perhaps all of our early childhood memories are solidified around the few times we felt extravagant love or the immense lack of it, and I was two.

I can still see the steps which led up to an attic bedroom in our Kansas City ghetto home. The morning sun shone at the top as I struggled to crawl, step by step, up into a room cluttered with framed artwork my parents had never found the time or perfect wall space to hang. And there, on the twin bed, sat my handsome Grandpa Roger. My little sister had just been born, and he had flown down from New York just to be with me.


As my parents were justifiably consumed with our new Hilary Leigh, my grandfather took me on adventures. Our daily lunch hang-out was my beloved “Bo-King” {translated: Burger King}, and I can still visualize holding his strong hand as we got close enough to feel the mist arising off some of Kansas City’s famous fountains. The undivided love I felt burned the memory into my heart and made me a forever fan of my “Pa.”



I can even remember my first performance. I was two, and my dad treated me to a show of Sesame Street LIVE. I can still visualize Big Bird and my favorites, Bert and Ernie, as their striped turtlenecks danced with a rubber ducky across the stage. It was the first time I was taken on a date- when someone thought about something I loved, planned, and sat next to me in a crowded arena filled with screaming toddlers and treasured the way my face shined.


{A photo of me sitting on the kitchen counter, excited, right before my dad took me to the show.}

Of course, I also have memories of when I disappointed someone’s love. I saw their eyes grow dim and their body turn away. I can recall the inner fear I felt when I realized that someone’s love was not quite strong enough. They could not overcome their own pain and rather than loving me enough to preserve me, decided to stab me so I, too, could limp, broken, alongside them.

Love, actually, is everywhere. It is the reason for everything.

We can pretend that we just want a successful career, the perfect home, and a predictable 9 – 5 life. But, we’re not fooling anyone. Ultimately, we are just trying to prove ourselves; to find the peace and acceptance that can only be found in love.

We can love enough to treat ourselves to the purchase of the most coveted Mercedes, incredibly stylish clothing everyone notices, and beauty treatments that make our friends jealous. But, let’s be honest. When we reach the final days of our life on earth, we can’t take any of that with us. When our child is dying of cancer, we can’t enter our dark garage, sit in our sparkling Mercedes, and gain some sort of strength for the journey.

We dream and plan exotic travel; hungry for some buzz or experience. But even that, without the companionship of love's uncontainable laughter or late-night talks on the beach, is ultimately empty.

I turned 37 a few months ago. And I started to find true love at the age of 36. Now that I look back, I can see that I’ve been searching for love quite a while now.

As a child, I sought it as acceptance for an ugly, chubby, unnoticeable girl on the playground and in the classroom.

As a teen, I sought it through the accolades of finishing top of my class, performing as the lead on every stage, and starving myself into the body any great guy would want.

In university, I tried to find it entangled in the dream of greatness. I was made to do something special. I could hone any talent I had to unselfishly serve and change the lives of others. But even in the unselfishness was buried a deep need for my life to matter.

During my first years in Armenia, I tried to earn God’s love through sacrifice. If I was humble and did everything asked of me {even at the cost of my own God-given dreams}, then I would finally be pleasing.



I’ve sought love in my marriage. But when our main source of love is a companion, we begin to understand that there are very few humans who can truly grasp the depth, commitment and sacrifice of true love. They also have too many stories of battered love clinging to their souls. Often in our attempt to find love and acceptance in one another, our personal lack suffocates trust and intimacy.

I’ve tried to lavish love on my kids- giving them every opportunity, every medical intervention, every latest shoe style. I've tried to prove myself as a mom worthy of two innocent hearts, and somehow in my trying, I lost the point of it all.

Nearly two months ago, a long string of stressful and difficult months collided. I found myself driving our grey Volkswagen van around Tallinn. I played my favorite playlist filled with songs of worship to God, and I broke. 

My parents always told me, with a remnant look of exhaustion, that during my strong-willed years as a toddler, I had a common reaction. When my lack of size and influence hindered my ability to get my way, a small, disgruntled cry would emerge. Then it would swell into heaves. Those heaves would grow until I could no longer breathe or speak, and I'd beg with my eyes for my parents to help me get air. Fortunately, with age, the heaving disappeared.

As I sat in my car, driving, the tears began to fall so hard that I felt like I was trying to maneuver my car and see through the heaviest of rain storms. I was about to force myself to pull over and engage the hazard lights when the heaves emerged after being dormant for decades. They were small at first, and only grew and became more rapid until I could only cry the words, "God, help me," in my mind. And, when they were at their worst, suddenly a song burst on to my audio system. It was definitely not a song that was in my worship playlist...and to this day, I don't know how it jumped into my speakers. 

It was a love song. And a voice clearly sang out above my heavy breathing, "Don't you know, you just take my breath away." And in that instant, in the softest part of my soul, I knew without a doubt that it was the voice of God. Instantly, like a young child who finally collapses into her mother's arms after a long battle, everything inside me became still.

Later that day, I sat down in the car of a close friend- one of those rare people who, with one look into my eyes, can read the state of my soul. Within two minutes of our drive, she looked at me and said, "What happened? Why have you been crying so bad?"

I was ashamed to answer her question. I still didn't really believe the words I felt God told me. I quickly rattled off the details of my day and drive, and then said, "I know this is going to sound like the most prideful, selfish thing in the world to say. I know it sounds crazy. But, I felt like God stopped me and told me that I take his breath away. I think it was just my emotions. That can't be true, right?"

Without hesitancy and with a quick firmness, she replied. "Of COURSE it is. You really don't see your true self, do you?"

And that was the day, after SO MANY years of trying, that I found love.  

I know to many, this blog post will sound quite weird {especially to those who do not believe in God. Although, I also tend to believe that many of us, when we reach the last moments of our lives, will sense something about Him is very real.} But this truth is actually an age-old, theologically sound concept. 

  • One of the shortest and most powerful verses in the Bible is: "Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love." Period. {1 John 4:8}

  • The Bible refers to us as the "bride of Christ," which I always thought sounded weirdly inappropriate. Now I comprehend just how jealous, deep and protective His love is for us. How we, as His creation -with all of our strengths and weaknesses, are absolute beauty to Him. He waits for us to fall in love with Him.

The battle of my last two years has often caused me to doubt my right to minister {I am the Creative Arts/ Music Pastor at Focus Church}. Then I realize the truth, that the last two years have actually completely qualified me to be a minister. Thank God that everything I have been through has finally allowed me to know and realize how great His love is. 

How can I teach others about a love that I have never embraced or comprehended? 

How can I love my husband, kids and the most unloveable that surround me with unconditional love if I have never felt its euphoria, peace and safety myself? 

I can now love all the gifts God has given me and not become a prideful jerk because of them. I know that anything I have {my ability to write, sing, lead} are only a result of His love for me. I want to give every thing that I am and every talent I have back to Him, so that He can use it to show His love to others.

And, if I can truly understand His love, then I never have to fear again - even when others try to break me. 

I never have to strive so hard to make a difference in the world, because when that kind of love flows through us effortlessly, it is bound to revolutionize those around us.

I don't have to worry about losing my dreams or future. If He loves me that much, He has a bigger and better vision than I could have ever planned. I just need to remain faithful to Him.

I don't have to be anxious about my children. If I realize how much God loves me, then I know He loves them the same. Nothing can happen to them {whether I am able to protect them from it or not} that can tear them away from His love and protection. 

Realizing His love does not mean I will have a perfect, easy life - away from pain and abuse. There are many hurting people in the world who will continue to break the laws of love until they are able to finally embrace it themselves. And sometimes I, and you, will be caught in their crossfire. Sometimes sickness will still claim the light of even the most innocent among us. But when we hang on to His love, no matter what, beauty will somehow emerge.

My grandpa Roger is now 95 years old and still lives in New York. When I was a teenager, I sat across from him at his small kitchen table in a bright blue and white kitchen. He started his daily ritual of slicing half a banana into his bowl of raisin bran cereal. 

"Grandpa. Aren't you afraid to die?"

"No, Olivia. I have God and I am ready to meet Him at any time."

At that time, I was so full of life and dreams that I couldn't comprehend such a simple, truthful answer. But now, as I observe his life, I can see the reason. 

Roger Crowell, after living a long life without true love, met God in his 60s. We stood together in a pool of water, donning clingy wet shirts, when he and I were baptized on the same Sunday in my home church in Missouri. I was 8 years old, and he was 66. 



Now, he has no real reason to be happy. His life-long love, Grace, died and he lives alone in a city with a family that mostly lives overseas. All of his friends, co-workers and neighbors have left this world. He can sense how the once sharp mind of a chemical engineer has faded away. He has every right to be grumpy, lonely and sad. But, my Pa knows true love. He spends most of His days reading the Bible, spiritual books, praying for the family he loves so much, and enjoying the simple life he has. I recently felt that it was his unselfish, 95- year-old prayers that helped sustain me over the last few years. Although I am no longer two, my Pa, once again, took care of me.

So, what are you waiting for? What excuses and past experiences are you ready to throw into the vastness of God's love?

Isn't it time to finally realize that YOU take His breath away? Start believing it and watch your world change.

{I want to say a special thank you to those who have unrelentlessly guided, stood beside and counseled me over the last two years. I have experienced a true sacrificial love that will always hold a piece of my heart and will always take my own, personal breath away. Much love always, Your Liv}

P.S. I am a musical person, and songs always help solidify the inner workings of my heart. Here are some songs that have helped me continue to feel God's love - even when I start to doubt its greatness.

Love Came Down by Brian Johnson
Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin
Abide with Me by Matt Redman
And for some odd reason, this song :)  Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran