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Four Ways to Love Your Nearest & Dearest + A Giveaway

Listen Love Repeat bracelet and wall hanging giveaway at karenehman.com.

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 MinistriesContinental U.S. addresses only please.

One will win this LOVE metal wall hanging.

Listen Love Repeat wall hanging and bracelet giveaway at karenehman.com.

One will win this LOVE wrap bracelet.

Listen Love Repeat bracelet and wall hanging giveaway at karenehman.com.

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!

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  1. Active listening is definitely one I am practicing more and more. Just last night it proved to be a powerful thing as my nine year old cracked open his heart and started sharing with me some things that were hurting him at school, and his ache of a friend who gets made fun of daily and has an alcoholic father. He carries his burdens and some for his friends and I listened, I held his hand, and we prayed together and I won’t forget it. He knows I hear him! Praise the Lord! And thanks for your book karen- it is a favorite of mine now and I recommend it often!

  2. these are great ideas! we pick the restaurant for the birthday person that has the loudest, tackiest Happy Birthday rendition by the wait-staff! if they make the birthday person wear a tacky hat, that’s a real plus!!

  3. I am going to adopt the birthday idea. Our family found out recently even our children aren’t guaranteed their next birthday so we need to celebrate them every day.
    I send my friends and family messages to let them know they are on my mind and I am praying for them. Sometimes even scheduling to get together and pray

  4. Years ago My daughters one friend started what we call “family dinners” . After a soccer practice my daughter came up to me and said Savannah wants someone to make her roast carrots and potatoes. i immediately said ” I will!” Days later I made a delicious meal just as she requested. My daughter invited other members of the team as well and the meals then became family dinners. The girls get to request what they want to eat as a family of friends. It’s been a joy to do. Some friends haven’t been at our dinners for awhile but new members have joined. Just last night I hosted “family dinner” ! My daughters college friend said. Wow. I haven’t had a good meal like this for awhile ?. That’s all I need to hear.

    1. 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!
      Kim Stewart
      Karen Ehman Ministry Team

  5. My kids are adults now, but we still make sure we get together for birthdays and the birthday person picks the restaurant and what kind of cake they want or if they want one. I also still try to just send love you texts to both my boys for no reason at all. I also work on the active listening thing which takes a lot of practice.

  6. These are all things I could be better at but I have really been focusing on being an active listener. You put that thought in my head and I remembered someone who set a perfect example. When you would walk into her office she would lay her pen down and focus on you. Never seemed hurried or eager for you to leave – just listened intently and responded with lots of thought. I would like to be like that!!

  7. I love all of those ideas. I know for my friends or people I know in general, I get them something they like and just hand it to them. For my family, we love to have movie nights and I bring down my 6 year old’s mattress and her and her sister sit on it while watching a movie. We eat popcorn as well.

    I noticed that since I do things because I want to, such as to cheer someone up….my 6 year old does the same now.

  8. I also prefer the idea of non-Birthdays or other gift-expecting holidays. I am a strong believer that people should be made feeling special not 1-2/year but on a regular basis. So I try to come up with special (what you call ”heart drop” gifts) more or less regularly.

    Another thing that my family does is we exchange via email daily devotionals that spoke to us, or Bible verses. And of course there go hilarious animal videos :)

    I am always on the lookout for airline sales to fly in my mom for a visit as a gift- to give her a break from daily chores and responsibilities.

  9. I love the none birthday idea. Our oldest daughter came to visit this weekend we bought flowers in celebration of her coming – my husband picked them out with lots of unopened blooms that are now blooming.. I do like to give others small presents all year long to provide cheer and encouragement. My mom did this when I got older – she always wanted you to go home with something even if it was left over food from the meal we just had. At Easter it would be honey baked ham. At Christmas it was Santa Claus cookies that she made and decorated. I am following in her footsteps. My mom is in heaven.

  10. When my 3 kids were younger I started a tradition that every Friday morning we’d go to Hardee’s for breakfast before
    School. This was a BIG treat for them. Because we didn’t go out for breakfast hardly ever. They began to look forward to this. And as time has gone on and my oldest two have graduated high school, my 16 year old Son and I still go. Except he drives himself to meet me now. These Friday morning breakfasts are priceless to me. My husband has always had to be at work early- so sadly, he’s always missed out. I am so thankful this was a tradition we started many years ago.
    There’s several other things we do & have done:
    I send a text to each one of children and my husband every morning, with encouragement and a special verse for each one. I also leave drawings on note cards for my husband & Son every morning- also I leave a Bible verse & encouraging words (one girl is in college and the other married-so they’re no longer home for the note cards every morning). The thing about this is that I am a terrible artist!! My Son & husband compare their pictures almost daily and get the biggest laugh.
    There’s so many little things, that cost nothing, that one day your kids will look back and count them as big things they remember.
    My oldest daughter has shared with me how some of the smallest things we did have meant the most to her.
    I’m praying each of you Mamas will find little ways to scatter kindness to those you love the most.??

  11. What fun to read all of these ideas! As far as a Cassinelli thing, We have a family cheer in the mornings before school that all of the kids know by heart… We also use the sign language “I Love You” when they can’t talk out loud (at school, etc). We say “remember who you are and Whose you are” daily. :)

    I too have a Gift stash… LOVE having things whenever there’s an event, or just because someone needs a pick me up. It also saves on kids b-day gifts.

    1. Thank you for the giveaway! LOVE those items and YOUR heart! May God continue to bless you mightily!

  12. I am learning to listen better. Now I think more about the people around me and I am putting my phone on a shelf when we have family over so that I am not distracted. I love the group text idea.

  13. I love the idea of unbirthdays. When going through your study it was one of the items that really stood out to me.

  14. These are all great ideas! On birthdays, we let the birthday person pick the menu, cake flavor and ice cream.

  15. One of my favorite things to do is actively listen to some of my loved ones or others and “catch” little tidbits of their “favorite things.” I love to give little gifts to people, brings such joy to my heart!??

    1. Family Christian going out of business has provided some great discount gifts for the future!!!

  16. Well when my boys were young putting away the groceries or empting the dishwasher was not fun for them. We did kind of a bucket relay, one standing by the pantry and one near fridge and I would toss the canned goods or chips or whatever we had bought. Simple thing stuff got done and they learned to be alert at anytime they heard me say catch. We still do it and it is fun to see guests learn to listen as well.?

  17. Hi everyone. I absolutely love the group text idea. My husband & I have 3 adult children: 2 who live out of state. It is a wonderful & fun way to keep in contact. My favorites are when my husband & I get to just read our 3 adult children communicating wth each other?? Simply warms our hearts. I am going to begin practicing the unbirthday idea. I am already collecting items!

  18. You have inspired me with wanting to scatter kindness more, to do it in a way that shows true selflessness, not a look at me and what I just did attitude or a I am a push over walk on me type stance, but a heart of Jesus. A heart made for other centered living and noticing. One that allows you to live your beliefs and convictions. I try to do that, but I admit that there are times I am quiet. Scattering kindness, living like Jesus, can simply be working to see everyone as loved by God, as someone that He shed tears for, and endured pain for, that is deep love, no matter current circumstances, we are His. I will strive to show kindness more. Thank you.

  19. We let each person pick a place to eat for their birthday. It’s fun! We also joke about….where are you going….crazy…..too late you’re part of this family and already there. It almost always gets a good laugh going.

  20. One of my favorite things to do is to listen for what people LOVE. I’ve found this helpful with my in-laws who are hard to give gifts too at Christmas because they refuse to make lists!. But whenever they mention their favorite candy, food, or author I take a note in my phone (I have a note already labeled: GIFT IDEAS). Then the next time they have a birthday or something special going on I check their name in the note for ideas. I think my favorite instance of this was when I was shopping in a summer vacation spot with my older brother and he found this mug in a gift shop that said “Grumpy Old Fart” and he just thought it would be funny to use at work (he’s the youngest at the PT clinic he works at), but he didn’t purchase it that day. I took a photo of it and later found it online and gave it to him for his birthday a couple months later. Even a few years later he still mentions it to friends and coworkers! Not only because it was something he genuinely liked, but because I took the time to really hear him, remembered, and took the time to find it for him. I think it made the gift that much more special!

  21. I love.to leave bible verses on note cards in my husbands bible or in his car. They really seem to encourage him!
    Another fun tradition is having breakfast for dinner once a week. Our kids love it! Hubby makes up a batch of chocolate chip pancakes and we freeze the leftovers.

  22. These are all such great ideas!!! We do the silly inside jokes and text messages. And I’m always working on actively listening! Thanks so much for these Karen!

  23. Instead of saying I’ll pray for you, I want to do something (as well as pray) for that person. Keeping a stash of gifts is a wonderful idea.

  24. I carry $5 gift cards to a popular coffee chain with me. I attach a business card size piece of paper that says they’ve been sprinkled with pixie dust, I include a scripture quote & a web address to a local Christian radio station. As I’m out & about I hand them out when I feel God tap me on the heart.

  25. I love all of these ideas! A couple of my own, that my family and I do is movie night…we let our children pick a movie they want to watch, pop some popcorn and make some hot cocoa (even in the summer haha) and watch it in our living room. And, since I started the “Listen, Love, Repeat” OBS with Proverbs 31, I have become the local “Pie Lady”. I got a recipie that was easy for my kids and I to make together, and we randomly pick a neighbor in our neighborhood and give it to them. You could guess these people had never had a pie before, let alone a neighbor be nice lol. They are all so thankful and surprised, and it makes my kids happy, makes them feel good and teaches them a lesson about kindness. Thank you Karen so much for writing this book! It has not only changed my life, my families life, but also the lives of those around me!

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