Loving our families can be tricky. Really tricky. Showing love with our words is where it all begins but there are also other ways to share God’s love with them as we strengthen our relationships.
Here are four ways to get you started, inspired by my Listen Love Repeat book. Plus, I invite you to share your ideas for a chance to win our giveaway (details below)! Giveaway now ended. See winner notifications below.
1. Adopt the practice of Unbirthdays.
My MIL’s family tradition of unbirthdays inspired me to set up what we call “Mom’s General Store,” a storage area in our basement that houses a few large plastic totes where I can stash the things I find until I am ready to deliver them for someone’s unbirthday.
To keep my stash well stocked, I am constantly on the lookout for markdown bins, clearance aisles, and price reductions on end caps at department and grocery stores. When I come across something I think a member of my family would like, I tuck it away in the bin. Then whenever I feel they could use a little pick-me-up, I will retrieve the item, wrap it, and deliver it for their unbirthday.
Not only do I enjoy this practice, but my children also have gotten into the spirit of it and sometimes do it for each other or for my husband and me. Maybe it is something they have been longing for. Or perhaps it is just their favorite soft drink and snack that you are going to leave out on the desk in their bedroom. Send flowers or chocolate covered strawberries to their workplace. Pick up a gift card to their favorite restaurant and tuck it inside a card, with a note telling them how much you mean to them. Unbirthday gifts, whether small or substantial, are fantastic ways to show love.
2. It’s an Ehman (or a _______) thing.
I love our family’s little inside jokes, sayings, and preferences. For example, we holler, “Perch!” when someone is mad because they are losing during a family board game; it signifies that they are now up on their perch, pouting. Or my near- daily warning to my children, “Be sure your sins will find you out!” meant to help them remember to honor God and follow his ways. “You are the sum of your choices!” is another. Brie cheese melted with apricot jam on top and served with club crackers while playing cards. Yep. That’s an Ehman thing, for sure! When we watch a movie together we eat massive mountains of butter- ranch popcorn made by our youngest son. For us, all of these things spell family and signify home.
Does your family have their own particular sayings and habits? Do you have any well-loved snacks or recipes that mark your family as unique? If not, consider acquiring some. The little sayings will just come out naturally. Or perhaps try passing on some you remember your own parents uttering. (Grandma Ehman was famous for the “sum of your choices” one!) And for the recipes and traditions, gather your clan around and ask them what they enjoy doing together. What snacks and meals do they enjoy and just can’t live without?
Frequency in traditions helps to solidify them in your family memories as something that spells love. Serve the snacks often. Play those board games. Take those hikes. Participate in the hobbies your family loves. Repetition will help those things become part of the DNA of your family memories.
3. Practice Active Listening.
Listening is an art. And— just as in the only art class I took in middle school— I stink at it! Usually when someone else is talking, I am already thinking about what I want to say. Or my mind wanders. I wonder where she got her earrings. Or I’m trying to remember if I pulled the roast out of the freezer to thaw it yet. Or I’m thinking about what I need to pick up at the grocery store that afternoon.
Listening is not my strength, but I’m working at it. My desire is not just to hear the words spoken but to hear the unspoken heart words as well. One thing I have found helpful is to parrot back to my family the words they have said, making sure I have understood correctly.
Sometimes I need to tell my husband or kids that if I can finish what I’m doing, I’ll be able to listen more intently. This communicates to them that what they have to say is important to me. It also gives me a chance to be present with them because I’ve been able to get to a stopping point in my task. This is especially important with family members because often we try to multitask when they are talking. We may be reading the mail or making out the grocery list and only listening halfheartedly. Practice active listening with your family members this week.
4. Send Group Texts.
Even though they have a tendency to blow up my phone, I love our family group texts. (My phone is beeping and buzzing with one now as I type!) We send encouragement. And goofy pictures we find. Maybe a crazy video or a link to an upcoming local event that we might enjoy going to as a family. We check in to see how each other’s days are going and to say we are praying for one another. Group texts are instant love messages sent through cyberspace. Start your own thread today! A blown-up phone is a beautiful thing.
Now for the Giveaway!!
I’d love to hear if you practice any of the four ideas above, or have more ideas of your own. Comment below and I will pick two winners on Monday, May 8, to win these beautiful gifts from the Listen Love Repeat collection at Proverbs 31 Ministries. Continental U.S. addresses only please.
One will win this LOVE metal wall hanging.
One will win this LOVE wrap bracelet.
I can’t wait to hear your ideas!
GIVEAWAY ENDED: Congrats Valerie Byrd-Dixon, you won the LOVE metal wall hanging and Congrats Jodie (jodiewalterphotog) you won the LOVE wrap bracelet. Please check your email for our notification and reply to it with your U.S. mailing address OR you can email [email protected] with your mailing address. Thank you!