The Languages of Love

5-love-languagesHave you ever said something encouraging or uplifting to someone and noticed it totally lit them up? A few weeks back I bragged on a co-worker in front of his parents. I said, “He is the closest thing to Spielberg we have on staff.” I’m not certain, but when I walked away I think he might have backed into the wall. I literally knocked him off his feet. It wasn’t my goal. I was just paying a sincere compliment. As I filled his wife in later on our conversation, his reaction suddenly made sense. She said, “You know words of affirmation is his love language. You probably totally made his day!”

Her response took me back to one of my all time favorite books, The Five Love Languages. Obviously my friend was familiar with it. One of my aunts bought that book for David and I when we got married. As newlyweds we read it together at night. Well, I read it out loud and David listened, is more accurate. That is our pattern. I like to read, he doesn’t. So we found a solution to experiencing it together and dug in. Each page opened our eyes to the different ways people receive love. I can’t think of any better way to start our marriage off than learning to love one another in ways that truly soak in and fill up the other’s love tank.

If you haven’t read the book, here’s a quick recap of the love languages. They are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

They are pretty self-explanatory, however I encourage you to read the book for a greater understanding of the importance of learning to speak one another’s love languages and to find out more about each one.

David’s love language is physical touch. Mine are words of affirmation and acts of service. Quality time is a close third. At the end of my list is gifts. However, I have dear friends and one child, and another I am beginning to suspect, that have receiving gifts as their primary love language. That means I have to be intentional about loving them in the way that comes least naturally for me.

As I talked with my friend at work, it hit me that I wanted to learn more of the love languages of the people around me everywhere, not just in my home. Every person in my world is someone God brought across my path to love on and pour into and the best way to do that is the way they best receive love. I made a mental note that day to be more tuned in to people’s responses when I give them a hug, or a high-five – does it seem to make them stand a little taller? Or when I give a gift does someone seem a little lighter on their feet? If I meet someone for coffee, does it speak volumes about how much I value them? For sure, what I don’t want to do, is love on people around me the way I receive love all the time and then totally miss that I’m not speaking their language!

I hope you feel inspired as you read this to think of how those in your world respond to your kind acts of love. Does it make their day? Does it seem to just roll off their backs leaving them unfazed. Being tuned in is the best way to discern how we are doing at this! And when we see we have knocked someone off their feet by filling their love tank up in just the right way, let’s make a mental note, so we can do it again, and again.

For some, how we love them in our moments of interaction, may be the only love they receive all day.

Verse for reflection: 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”

Let’s pray – Father God, Fill me up with your love. Give me a greater awareness of how special I am to you. Consume my heart with your love. Captivate me with it! And help me to be in tune to those around me and how I can best express your love to them. Use me to bless others. Use me to speak your love to your precious children in ways they can truly receive it. Give me eyes to see those desperately in need of a love touch from you. Give me eyes to see those who feel unloved and are crying out for someone to care. And give me creative ideas to love others well. Help me to speak their language. Open their hearts to receive it. In Jesus name, amen.

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Parenting on Purpose: Embracing their Unique Design

Just be You“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It’s amazing to me that four kids could come from the same parents and be so different! We have one blonde-haired blue-eyed beautiful boy, with a tall dark and handsome brown-haired brown-eyed older brother and a hilarious and strong-minded light brown-haired and blue-eyed younger brother. Then we have our precious daughter, the youngest of them all, who is uniquely crafted in every way. We love the diversity this brings to our family. We love watching their strengths develop and cheering on their natural gifts and talents. And we have released holding them to any standard the world says they should live up to, because that’s unfair to them.

That wasn’t always the case though. You see when we started parenting, we jumped on the treadmill we saw so many other parents on. When our oldest was old enough we put him in soccer and a home school singing group, then with our next we put him in soccer and football and gymnastics, we added on a third and got him in gymnastics along with our second… we were going all the time! We were also spending a lot of money.

About the time I had my fourth, our daughter Kylie, we realized with such a large family we needed to spend our time and money wisely. With that in mind, we wanted to put our time and money into something for each child that would really shape them for their future, based on the strengths we saw in them at the time. So we took a time out. We took everyone out of every activity, and for a good half a year, really just breathed, rested, and David and I talked about and sought God on where each of their strengths really lied.

As we did we began to see each of their uniqueness more clearly and celebrate it. We began to call out the gifts and talents we saw in them, realizing God instilled those traits into our children. If he saw the need to put them in our children, we for sure wanted to do our best to train them up in a way that they saw those areas as strengths they could use to contribute to the world and glorify God in.

For some areas it was easy. For example, our second son, our blondie, Brendan, plays piano by ear. As we saw him drawn again and again to sit on the bench and listened as he tinkered on the keys until he brought out beautiful melodies and songs we recognized without even knowing how to read music, we knew he was musically inclined. We felt responsible to encourage and foster that. For our third son, Ethan, we saw him draw these amazing cartoon characters and hang them on his wall and sit for hours creating art that was unbelievably beautiful. We cheered that on.

It’s easier to identify those gifts and talents, such as those mentioned above, that are outwardly so obvious. It takes a little more effort to see what strengths lie in our kids who don’t seem to have such an outwardly apparent talent. My oldest is like that. He’s brilliant, a year ahead in school, but he’s not a musician or an artist. He is a decent athlete, but not driven to sports like  many boys. He swam on the swim team for a few years of his own choosing, but it was not where his passion lied. For him, we looked at his actions and tendencies around our house. For example, the way he serves our family is so selfless. I remember even when he was one year old, I’d say, “Russel, will you go get me a diaper?” And he’d run down the hall smiling, get one out of the stacker, and run back with such joy. Serving others is a strength of his. Leadership is another strength. As the oldest of four, he’s always been part older brother to our kids and part guardian. He can’t help himself. His nature is to guard and protect, as much as it drives his siblings crazy sometimes, I really appreciate it. As he has matured he has embraced his leadership gifts and talents and soared in programs like PALS ( Peer Assistance and Leadership) at his high school, where he gets to interact with other identified leaders and mentor younger kids in the community who come from unstable homes.

For our daughter, it wasn’t so difficult to figure her out. I always say she could run our home. She had the boys hopping and wrapped around her finger at just six months old. Rather than pegging her as bossy, or strong-willed, we like to say, “She is a leader and we are shaping her.” She is self driven, creative, loves gymnastics, and is identified as a leader in her school. We want her to see her strong nature as a gift, after all, God made her that way. Too many girls we see with similar temperaments are not taught to celebrate and walk in who God made them to be and they grow up conflicted and unable to use their leadership skills the way God intended. We don’t want that for her.

We feel our success as parents depends on our ability to call out and raise up these precious kids God has entrusted to our care, in such a way, that they make the mark God created them to make on this world. In order to do that, it’s imperative they feel comfortable in the skin they are in and are content in being themselves as they trust God to guide them to use those gifts and talents for His glory.

How do you call out the uniqueness you see in your kids?

Amy O’Donnell

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.