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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. Being a good listener is so important! Sometimes we don’t have the courage to ask others to lend and ear, so when they do it voluntarily it means so much.

  2. Love, love, love these! I would like to use the idea about celebrating “unbirthdays”. What a wonderful way to show someone you are thinking of them. My family definitely has inside jokes and we quote movies a lot. Most people have no idea what movie we quote or why, but we get it. Lol! We do send group text messages often too. My mom, dad, sister’s family, my brother’s family and my family go to the beach for a week every summer and have a fun theme night. One year we did movie night, where each family dressed up and gave clues to see if the rest of the family could guess our movie. It was so much fun!

  3. Karen, I love your ideas, and I’m enjoyed no your book so much! I too enjoy our family’s group texts, and our little jokes or funny sayings that come from some past incident. But I’m going to try to do better at active listening and many of your other tips. Thanks!

  4. I love those ideas. This morning while in line at Starbucks I decided to happy u birthday gift two vehicles behind me. I told the cashier to tell them happy unbirthday…

    1. Congrats Valerie Byrd-Dixon, you won the LOVE metal wall hanging. 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. #2 – We say “stupid rock” any time someone has a particularly clumsy moment. It goes back to when our daughters were younger and were riding a 4-wheeler. They somehow managed to tip it over and our youngest said it was a “stupid rock” that jumped out in front of them. Note, there weren’t any rocks over the size of a pebble anywhere in the immediate area. Then when our oldest daughter got her driver’s license, a “stupid rock” jumped out in front of her and caused her to leave the dirt road near our home and end up about 100 yards in a farmer’s field. She later admitted that she might have been going just a little too fast for that dirt road.

    We even have a rock that has been painted that gets passed around to the clumsiest family member.

  6. We drove to Florida for Spring Break and my 2 brothers and their families were driving down too. The trip from MI is long so I bought a pack of Would You Rather cards. I would randomly send out pictures of 2 cards in a group text to keep everyone from getting board. It was fun to see what everyone from young and old would choose. It definitely helped break up the trip.

    My family also likes watching the “funny show”(known as AFV to most people) on Sunday night while eating on the couch. The kids love this special time.

  7. We love to play board games or cards together. It brings out the humor in us. We have a collage frame with our family values and a couple of family pictures inside the front door. Each family value has a verse to go with it.

  8. We end each evening after prayer with the “Amen” song, Larnelle Harris-style, with at least some of the clan clapping each others’ hands to the beat. Although it’s harder now, with one in high school, I still try to keep a read-aloud going with the kids, mostly during lunch (we homeschool); with shared books in their memories, we can often say, “Oh, that’s like in _________________, when they _____________,” and we all know what’s being talked about. For birthdays, I make a 12″ birthday cookie for the birthday person if we’re not able to have the grandparents’ party on their birthday, and then they get a cake when the actual party happens. We also go out to eat for birthdays, birthday person’s choice–as the kids get older, they are opting for the “more food” options, like Pizza Ranch. ?

  9. I have two sisters and a bff whi is our “other” sister. We practice the group texting!! My oldest sister tends bar at night and is usually getting ready for bed when I am getting up for my day. It is so much fun texting between the 4 if us and with all our strange hours, a conversation happens through out the day!!

  10. I like all of your ideas! In my house we say,” It made sense at the time.” This is what we say when we do something that actually doesn’t make sense any more after thinking about it.

  11. I like all of your ideas! In my house we say,” It made sense at the time.” This is what we say when we do something that actually doesn’t make sense any more after thinking about it.?

  12. We do the group texts pretty regular with four adult children in different places it is an easier way to touch base

  13. Our family does some of these things, and I’ve always liked to keep gift things handy, although right now my stock is low. My daughter and DIL are great at hearing or seeing what people like, and I need to be more like them. Our family’s love language is food – bacon being the one we all laugh about and salsa, which we could use on everything except breakfast cereal! I love all the giveaway gifts – thank you and blessings!!!

  14. Yes, we do some of these also. Family time is a precious gift & I want to make the most of it! Love our family dinner tabletime, but going to start a notebook for each kiddo for private communication between them and me, for those times they don’t feel like talking audibly. I know that sometimes, for me, it’s easier to write privately than talk. :)

  15. I love your ideas! Both my daughters live in other states, and this is a wonderful way to connect with them!

  16. What an awesome post, Karen! I definitely need to do some of these things for my family. We go to movies as a family. (I.e. The Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Rings movies) and then would go out to dinnerbafterwards

  17. Thank you for sharing your ideas, especially the un-birthday gift stash. My sons are grown, but we still make monthly dates for dinner together with a game or jigsaw puzzle night.

  18. For gifts, I like to gather things I have heard that the person receiving the gift likes and out them in a cute bag with tissue paper. I call it a “Bag of Fun!” It makes their day and helps them feel loved by me. And in their card I write a verse especially for them so they feel loved by Christ too.

  19. I am also working on trying to be a better listener! I’m afraid that I am distracted by what I am going to say next, etc as much as you are! I really like the “unbirthday” idea. I think every family has it’s own quirks and sayings. Tahnk you for this study and the opportunity to grow in grace!

  20. We LOVE the group texts…they are so fun and make everyone feel included (even our unofficially adopted daughter) and loved. Just between hubby and I, we leave notes in a Mr. and Mrs. notebook. Usually just short little affirmations or love notes, but they mean so much to me (he is better about leaving me notes than I am him!). I love the unbirthday idea and may have to start that one!

  21. I do the Unbirthday presents although I’ve never thought to call it Unbirthday! It’s a great title! I try to buy small gifts to show appreciation to others at random times just so they know they are loved! I’ve always felt the unexpected gifts are the ones that have made the most impact on me!

  22. My three kids when they were younger and getting ready for school started a tradition of trying to be the first to see the digital clock turn to 7:11 a.m. and yell out the time. They had so much fun with it, and even now when I see 7:11, I can still hear their little voices calling out the time. Such sweet, simple memories.
    When the grandchildren arrived, from about the time they were three, I did the unbirthday idea. I would shop for little inexpensive gifts pertaining to each one’s age level and interest and keep them in a box. When a grandchild came to visit, I always picked out a little gift to give her/him. They loved it. Now, that they are grown, they still talk about how excited they would be and how much they treasured those little gifts.

    When the granddaughters came to visit, we also had a tradition of little tea parties with tiny cups of hot chocolate on saucers complete with tiny plates with small pieces of a delicious dessert. My oldest grandson also liked these tea parties from about age 4 to 7. They all still fondly remember those times, as do I.
    We also have family sayings that we still laugh and joke about.

  23. I take each of my grandchildren out to lunch at their favorite place on their Birthday and then out to pick out their gift wherever they want. It’s become a very special Family tradition that they all look forward to from the oldest to the youngest. (I have nine grandchildren right now, maybe more later)

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