My daughter was only two years old when she first verbally expressed love and understanding for her Daddy.

Little Dana was watching her father mop up the soaked carpet in the church hallway. He had dropped by the church building to pick up some things and found another septic tank overflow.

"What a mess," he said, angrily, and started the all-too familiar chore of cleaning up. Dana asked a few questions and got short, curt replies. She heard a couple sighs of exasperation as her father, the pastor of the church, tried to keep from cursing up one side and down the other at the old, rundown building that took so much of his time in maintenance and repairs.

Despite his responses toward her, Dana's tiny heart went out to her frustrated Daddy. She crept up behind him, while he was kneeling down on one knee wiping up the mess, reached her little hand onto his back and, while patting him, softly said, "I love you, Daddy."

Hugh stopped what he was doing, looked into the eyes of his only child and smiled.

"Thank you, Dana," he said, this time much more gently. "Daddy needed that."

How often we, as parents, express our love to our children. We do it on a daily basis, through our sacrifices for them, our provision for their needs, our rules and regulations and our constant concern for their well-being. But on rare occasions, it seems, do they, especially while toddlers, take the initiative to return that expression of love. Many a child will respond with "I love you, too," given the proper prompting. But how many will offer it out of the blue?

God, as our heavenly parent, delights in our expressions of love toward him, as well. He gives us the very air we breathe. He grants us each day as a blessing in itself. He made us with our unique personalities and abilities. And He longs for us to recognize Him and the love He has shown to us. He doesn't need us to love him. He is God and therefore needs nothing. But he chooses to want us and therefore desires our love in return.

What a concept! The Creator of the universe wants to get up close and personal with us!

But, what kind of enjoyment could he possibly find in you and me? Because we are his special creation, when he sees the glory of his own image in us that makes him proud. It makes him even happier when he sees what we can do with his help, his provision, his love pushing us ahead. Like any father, he longs to help his children. Like any mother, he longs to protect and nurture us. As our Creator, he made us, sustains us, and gives us all we need.

There may be days – particularly ones of difficulty and pain – when we don't feel his love. We doubt his protection. We wonder if he's really there at all. But those are the times when we can feel his presence the strongest, if we would focus, not on the storm raging around us, but on the fact that our anchor is holding and our ship has not sunk.

When we're caught in the storms of life, could his love be evident of the inner strength he gives us to keep standing? Could his protection be seen in the fact that our circumstances could be far worse? Is it possible we could feel his presence if we turned our bitterness and self-pity into a search for comfort and peace?

When we begin to see tough circumstances as a part of life and all the good things we have as blessings from above, our perspective changes and we begin to see less of ourselves and more of God and his deliverance.

This month, as you think of your "loved ones" -- think of the One who loves you more than any other. And think about what you can do to show him your love in return. God Almighty loved you so much he sent his Son to die in your place (and thereby pay the required penalty for your sins), so he wouldn’t have to live without you for an eternity. And what does he require of you in return? Jesus himself said the greatest commandment – the one thing most important to God -- is that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39).