Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Love is a Verb
by Jill Savage

My friend and I sat across the table chatting over lunch. With February being the “month of love” we began to discuss our plans (or lack of plans at that point) for Valentine’s Day weekend. Eventually we moved into sharing some marriage lessons we’ve learned throughout our combined 45 years of marriage.

Without thinking much of it I shared that I’ve learned that love has to mature for a marriage to go the distance. And then I followed that with, “I guess love has to move from being a noun to being a verb.”

We both paused and considered the implications of what I had spoken. My friend said it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever said. While I’m quite sure it’s most likely the only profound thing I’ve ever said, I’ve definitely not been able to get the concept out of my head.

Immature love is a noun. A thing we long for. A feeling. An expectation of what someone will do for us.

Mature love is verb. An action we take. A decision. A choice to do something for someone else.

Unfortunately too many of us have yet to mature in our love and our relationships bear the scars of that fact. But it’s never too late to grow up. And if we want our love to last a lifetime, we can’t afford to keep believing that love is a noun. The feeling of love is short-lived. We have to transition to understand that long-lasting love is really a verb.

But what does this English lesson of nouns and verbs have to do with real relationships? How do we take this concept and apply it to real life? Maybe these scenarios can help paint the picture.

  • Love as a noun spent all last week wondering what your spouse was going to do for you for Valentine’s Day. Love as a verb spent all last week preparing your expression of love for your spouse.

  • Love as a noun feels despair when you no longer feel “in love” with the person you are married to. Love as a verb understands the ebb and flow of feelings. It focuses more on expressing love than feeling love.

  • Love as a noun demands its own way. Love as a verb works to understand differences and is open to new ways of doing things.

  • Love as a noun finds faults in others. Love as a verb gives grace and forgiveness.

  • Love as a noun expects others to serve them. Love as a verb serves freely.

  • Love as a noun expects to always feel warm and fuzzy and “in love.” Love as a verb realizes that often we have to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it.

The most frequently quoted Bible verse at weddings is I Corinthians 13, which is often referred to as the “love chapter.” It says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized that every time love is mentioned in this often quoted verse, it is a verb. Maybe this concept has been right in front of my eyes all along, but I just didn’t understand it until recently.

The most interesting thing, however, is a less often quoted part of the verse that says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

So love has to grow up. It has to mature. Who knew grammar could reveal so much about love?

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement AND Today’s Discussion and Giveaway

Today I’d like to share an article I wrote for the holidays. We’ll use it to launch our Christmas discussion and giveaway today. You’ll find info about both after the article!

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

by Jill Savage

Late one Fall, my son and I pulled into my friend’s driveway and immediately noticed how tall her grass was. When I inquired about it she said the business she had hired throughout the summer had been undependable. When she tried to find someone else to mow her lawn at the end of mowing season she had no luck. Living in a condo unit with a yard the size of a postage stamp, it would have taken no longer than 15 minutes to do the job. I looked up and down the row of condos at the nicely manicured yards and noticed more than a dozen push mowers in the same number of garages. Why didn’t someone notice the condition of the yard and care enough to ask if they could mow it for her?

Every Sunday night our family gathers to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This show pulls together a community to help a family in need. Friends, neighbors, and complete strangers band together to give their time and money to build a deserving family a new home. They rally around a need and give generously.

When a show like Extreme Makeover comes into town they make a need known. In essence they “market” the need and sell the community on the value of pulling together and meeting the need. Our society is so fast paced and me-centered that the only way we really see the needs around us is to have someone put it right in our face: Salvation Army bell ringers at every store entrance, Toys for Tots toy drives, Operation Christmas Child, and Angel Tree. These are valid efforts to bring the needs of others to our attention but what keeps us from seeing those needs on a regular basis? Does it have to be the Christmas season for us to have a generous heart?
With the holidays upon us, now is the time to pay attention to the needs around us. But we need not stop on December 25. We need to use this season as a starting point for the rest of the year.

It’s an opportunity to remove the blinders that keep us from seeing the needs of others and to keep them off permanently. Years ago the movie “Pay It Forward” heralded the value of practicing random acts of kindness. It was a call to action to practice an act of kindness with the recipient then passing on another act of kindness to someone else.

Acts of kindness build generosity in us. They also move our eyes from ourselves and our own problems to others and their needs. During this season let’s build generosity in our hearts and minds by looking for ways we can touch the lives of our friends, neighbors, and maybe even complete strangers. Think about these possibilities:

· Invite someone who might otherwise be alone to share a holiday activity with you and your family.

· Rather than grumbling about the neighbor’s snow covered section of the sidewalk, simply grab a shovel and clear it yourself.

· When you leave a restaurant carrying out half of the meal you didn’t eat, ask for a set of plastic silverware to tuck in the box. Then take a drive to a section of town where you might find a homeless person to give the food to.

· Take a meal to a new mom or a friend who had surgery.

· Offer to shop for an elderly neighbor who might have trouble getting out.

· Invite a single mom and her kids over for a meal.

· Tuck a restaurant gift certificate in a card for a friend or someone you know who’s going through a hard time. Sign it from “Someone who cares.”

· Pick up the restaurant tab for a person dining alone.

When we give to others, it does something inside of us. There’s a sense of satisfaction when we touch another life in a simple, yet significant way. There’s contentment when we move from being self-centered to others-centered.

When my son, Kolya, and I saw my friend’s yard, we knew we had to do something. We located a push mower from another friend not too far away and Kolya began to mow. It was more like mowing a field of hay than a lawn, taking twice the amount of time and effort it normally would have. By the time he finished, Kolya had learned two important lessons: jobs are more easily accomplished when they are maintained regularly and there is great satisfaction that comes from helping someone.

Let’s use this season as the start of a new journey to see the needs around us. Let’s change selfishness to selflessness. Let’s practice random acts of kindness 365 days a year. If we take this challenge seriously, we’ll be different people next Christmas than we are this Christmas. We’ll have a kinder, gentler, and far more generous heart. And that is the essence of the Christmas spirit.

Have you ever been the recipient of someone else’s random act of kindness? Have you been prompted to bless someone in a special way? You can enter today’s giveaway by sharing how you’ve been blessed or how you’ve had the opportunity to bless someone else. Make sure and include your email in your comment!

If you choose to additionally enter the giveaway by blogging, twittering, subscribing, or getting a friend to subscribe, send an email to jillsavagegiveaway (at) yahoo.com stating how you shared today’s discussion and/or giveaway today!

Today’s giveaway is the Hearts at Home Perpetual Calendar. This resource brings daily encouragement that inspires you to keep the perspective you desperately need!

I’m looking forward to hearing your “random act of kindness” story!

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Communication Strategies for Parents
by Jill Savage

When our youngest son was in preschool he sat at the kitchen island telling me about his day at school. I was busy fixing dinner so I multitasked while listening to his story. Finally, he stopped and said, “Mom, listen to me.” I told him I was listening to him and I repeated back to him the details of what he had told me. “No mom,” he responded, “listen to me with your eyes.”

That day will forever be etched in my memory. It was the day I learned an important lesson in communication. In fact, over the years I’ve learned a lot of important lessons in communication that have made a big difference in my parenting.

Communication is key to teaching, encouraging, and expressing love to a child. It also is key to discipline and correction when needed.

Intentionality is key in communicating with children. With good, proactive communication strategies in place, children will feel valued and encouraged, they have a clear understanding of standards, and they understand impending consequences, if needed.

Here are some communication strategies to consider:

Make eye contact. — Our son knew what he was talking about when he asked me to listen with my eyes. Eye contact affirms the person talking. It says, “I care about you.”

Touch affectionately. — The sense of touch can communicate a lot. A pat on the back, a gentle squeeze of the hand, or a big bear hug all express love and encouragement.

Give respect. — If possible, give a 5-minute warning when you need a child to make a change in what he is doing. This models respect for someone else’s time and agenda. No one likes to be pulled away from what they are doing without the opportunity to make a mental transition.

Teach them how to interrupt. — If you are speaking to someone and your child needs to speak to you, teach him to simply place his hand on your arm and wait for you to respond. The hard part is certainly the waiting part, but this gives him a respectful way to get your attention when it is needed. A little bit of role-playing can teach this concept.

Be creative. — As children get older, parents can be creative by employing new ways to exchange information. E-mail, texting, Facebook, and instant messaging are communication tools most teenagers use. Some parents find these helpful for communicating information about events, dates, or times. One parent shared that she sent her teenagers the dates of their family vacations via e-mail, asking them to request the dates off at work.

Exchange a journal. — Some kids will communicate in letter form better than verbally. My friend Jenni started a journal with her pre-teen daughter during the summer she turned 12. Jenni started the journal with a few thoughts and a few questions. She laid it on her daughter’s pillow and several days later, Jenni found it on her pillow with her daughter’s thoughts included. They exchanged that journal for many years to come.

Be willing to talk about anything. — Your kids are sure to blush when you talk openly about the hard issues (friends, drugs, sex, alcohol, etc.). However, when they do have a question, they are more likely to come to you if you have already opened the door on those subjects in previous conversations.

Make a date. — Spend time with each child one-on-one. This gives uninterrupted communication time to get to know what’s in his heart. Spend far more time listening than talking.

Say “I love you.” — Far too many kids grow up without hearing their parents openly express their love to them. Children need to know they are loved unconditionally. Say it with words, don’t assume they know.

Communicate expectations clearly. — If you are walking into a store and you want your child to ride in the shopping cart, set the standard before you ever get out of the car in the parking lot. Is this a trip where he can get candy in the checkout aisle? If not, tell him before they enter the store.

Speak words of life. — So often it’s easier to communicate disappointment, anger or frustration to a child. This happens when we react rather than respond. Even in discipline, a parent needs to speak words of encouragement, hope and promise to a child, communicating that he/she believes in the child.

The foundation of a child’s self-concept lies in the hands of a parent who has the ability to shape, mold, and encourage with carefully chosen words. Let’s be intentional about the way we communicate with our children. Our words are foundational to that child’s life.

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Family Meals
by Jill Savage

As a mother, there are many days that I long would love to hang a sign that says “Kitchen closed”. Between meals and snacks, the focus on food can be overwhelming. When I find myself frustrated with the amount of time I spend in the kitchen, however, I realize that I need to adjust my perspective.

Family identity is increased when families eat meals together. The conversations around the table build bonds that last a lifetime. Families that eat together know what’s happening in each other’s life. They are connected, concerned, and conscious of the other members of the family.

According to a recent article I read, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has research to support that teens who ate dinner five to seven times a week with their families were 45% less likely to try alcohol, 24% less apt to smoke marijuana and 67% more likely to get A’s compared with kids who never or rarely dined with their families. This illustrates that the benefits of the family meal are far-reaching and all-encompassing in a child’s life.

How can you get a meal on the table, when you feel overwhelmed with the prospect of making it happen? Here are some practical tips to help you succeed in making a meal you can share together:

  • Create a monthly meal plan with your family’s favorite meals. This strategy of “advance decision making” helps eliminate the “what should I make for dinner” question each night. A meal plan also streamlines your shopping list when you head to the grocery store.
  • Use your crock-pot whenever possible. This helps you prepare your meals during less hectic times of the day. It also fills the house with wonderful smells that communicate that all is well, mom is in charge, and dinner is being prepared!
  • Have a stash of freezer meals from which to choose. You might try “once-a-month cooking” where you cook for a day to eat for a month! There are hundreds of resources out there to show you how to successfully cook once-a-month. Type “once-a- month cooking” into your internet search engine and you’ll find all the resources you need.
  • Make double or prepare partially. When I make meatloaf for our family, I make one meatloaf for our evening meal and two for the freezer. I do the same with our family’s favorite casseroles. You can also do partial preparation to simplify the meal prep later. For instance, each month I buy hamburger in bulk. When I get home I divide it and use half for meatloaf and meatballs that I will prepare and freeze (uncooked). The other half of the hamburger I brown with a little bit of onion, salt, and pepper. Of the browned hamburger, I freeze half in freezer bags for dishes like chili, sloppy joes, or beef stroganoff. I then season the remaining browned meat with taco seasoning and place it in freezer bags for our favorite Mexican meals. When I decide to have tacos for dinner, I simply pull the bag of seasoned meat out of the freezer and microwave it to serving temperature. This minimizes clean-up and cuts close to 30 minutes off my prep time!
  • Make meal prep and setting the table a family event. The family meal is more likely to happen if the responsibility is shared by all who will eat. Whether you have a schedule for who helps with dinner or sets the table, or you determine that 15 minutes before a meal everyone works together to make it happen, make sure you share the ownership of the family meal.
  • Make clean-up a family event. If I clean up alone after a meal, it usually takes about 30 minutes. If we all work together, the task is finished within an average of 10 minutes. This provides opportunity for the family to work together each evening.

Mealtimes have nutritional purposes, however they serve a larger purpose of building community within a family. When the family sits down together to share a meal, it is as if they pull off the highway of life, find a parking spot, and enjoy relational refreshment.

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Several years ago I had the opportunity to travel internationally for several different reasons in a year’s time. That year, I wrote the following article for our local newspaper during the week of 4th of July. I thought it would be appropriate to share again this week as we prepare to celebrate our country’s birthday!

This was a year of international travel for me. For someone who doesn’t like to fly, that means it was also a year of faith! I made a once-in-a-lifetime week trip to England and France with my daughter as a graduation gift. We then took a train from Paris to Vienna where we met a Hearts at Home team to spend another week encouraging moms in Vienna. Additionally, my husband and I made two trips to Russia this year to adopt our new son.

Upon returning from our final trip to Russia, I truly would have kissed the ground if it hadn’t been covered with airplane fuel! I was so glad to be home. The comforts of our life in America are luxurious to what is found in other parts of the world. The things that we take for granted are scarcely known in many other countries.

This coming week we will celebrate the 4th of July. After being out of the country for five weeks this year, I certainly have some perspective on just how wonderful our country really is.

Many of the differences I experienced as a world traveler are simply cultural differences. People do things differently elsewhere than we do here. However, some things are a direct result of governmental leadership and the foundations of freedom established by our forefathers.

Truly the song God Bless America took on a new meaning for me as I realized what a wonderful country we live in. Sitting in an obscure region of Russia, here are some of the observations I wrote in my journal:

  • God Bless America where there are screens on the windows and you don’t have to fight the bugs all night.
  • God Bless America where there is air conditioning in both homes and public buildings.
  • God Bless America where you can drink the water or use it to brush your teeth.
  • God Bless America where you have washcloths for your bath or shower.
  • God Bless America where toilets are above the ground rather than just a simple hole in the floor.
  • God Bless America where you can actually flush toilet paper because sewer systems are advanced enough to handle it.
  • God Bless America where grass is mowed and playgrounds are maintained.
  • God Bless America where you can have ice in your drinks!
  • God Bless America where you have the opportunity to own a home and maybe even some land.
  • God Bless America where many children run and play in yards as children are meant to do.
  • God Bless America where you don’t get pulled over by a police officer without good cause.
  • God Bless America where you don’t have to think about “paying off” a police officer if you do get pulled over.
  • God Bless America where a crooked cop and a judge who takes bribes are the exception rather than the rule.

Do you know someone who served our country in the armed forces? Do you have a family member, neighbor, or friend who risked life and limb to protect this wonderful country we call home? If so, take an opportunity to say thank you this week. They deserve our appreciation and gratitude for protecting our freedom. And it’s our freedom that allows us the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship.

As we approached New York City to land in the United States with our new 9-year-old son, he eagerly looked out the window and exclaimed, “America?” “Yes, Kolya, this is America,” I responded. And then quietly to myself I finished my sentence, “…land that I love.”

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day is upon us, and you’re likely doing what I’m doing: trying to figure out how to make it a great day for dad. I’ve been thinking about some important gifts we need to give dad today and everyday. The best part is that these gifts don’t cost a dime, but their value is literally priceless. Before this weekend is over, give dad one or more of these gifts from the heart:

Admiration– Dr. Willard Harley did a study of the needs of men and women and found that one of a man’s top five needs is admiration. Admiring traits, talents, and accomplishments is powerful communication to a father. Admiration can be spoken or written. Most importantly, it just needs to happen on a regular basis. Dads need to be built up at home. Tell dad what you admire about him, today!

Appreciation-Dads rarely get a thank you for the things that they do. Providing leadership, income, and taking care of the house and yard are some of the contributions many dads make to the family. A “thank you” for the everyday things that are accomplished means the world to him. Tell dad thank you for the things he does!

Help– Is there a job Dad needs to do in the yard or around the house that you can help him with? It’s always more enjoyable to do a task with someone else. Ask Dad if there is something you can help him do.

Love– What is Dad’s love language? Is it quality time, physical touch and closeness, acts of service, encouraging words, or gift giving? Everybody gives and receives love differently. Make sure you are speaking dad’s love language and not yours. To learn more about love languages check out the book “The Five Languages of Love” by Gary Chapman. Tell Dad you love him today—in his love language!

Respect– Respect is the act of showing consideration and high regard for another person. When a man knows that his family respects his knowledge, his experience, and his decisions he has been given an incredible gift. Give Dad the respect he deserves today and everyday.

Time– Dad needs time for himself, time alone with his wife, and time with the family. Whatever time needs that have been lacking would make a nice Father’s Day gift. You can give this gift in the form of a coupon or even a conversation about what kind of time he feels he needs. Give Dad the gift of time today!

Tribute– Several years ago I wrote a tribute to my father. I honored him for the things he taught me, for the memories I have from my childhood, and for the life of integrity he lives. He was overwhelmed with the words I wrote. If you have a little time, sit down and write your father or your husband a tribute.

Value– Dad needs to feel needed. When a new baby arrives, dad can sometimes feel he’s been moved to the backburner. When mom and kids have so much going on in their lives, dads can feel left out. Let dad know that he is important in your life and greatly needed by you.

Dads aren’t likely to ask for these Father’s Day gifts. But if they receive them it will be one of the nicest Father’s Day celebrations they’ve ever had. Let’s let Father’s Day remind us of the importance of the non-tangible gifts we need to give one another on a daily basis. These simple gifts are the best gifts of all.

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Home As A Pep Rally
By Jill Savage


Erica was playing her best game ever. Not only were Mark and I there to cheer her on, but her four siblings as well. She had her own cheering section!

Every home can serve as a pep rally for each member of the family. Just living under one roof, however, doesn’t assure a pep rally environment. A family of five can be living five very individual lives with everyone heading in different directions everyday. Or the same family can live life in community, cheering one another on.

Here are some ways to make home a pep rally:


Celebrate the ordinary: Does Johnny have a game on Saturday? Any family member who is home heads to the game to cheer him on. This creates a cheering section for each member of the family. Another way to celebrate the ordinary is to keep your eyes open for random celebrations. Is it Monday? If so, it’s “special dessert” night. Is it snowing outside? Then it’s time for snow ice cream!


Celebrate rites of passage: It’s important that families celebrate rites of passage in their children’s lives like becoming a teenager, getting a first job, or acquiring a driver’s license. When they feel they’ve arrived at something pretty special we need to affirm that these are important milestones in their life.


Celebrate birthdays: Birthdays are a special day for a family to celebrate one another. One family I know takes the birthday person to their favorite restaurant for dinner. Another family makes the birthday person’s favorite meal at home. Our family does “birthday breakfast” where we serve cake and ice cream for breakfast on each person’s birthday!


Celebrate accomplishments: On the day that Erica made the school musical, I set the “It’s your special day” dinner plate at her place on the table. On the day that Kolya made a goal during his soccer game, I set it at his place. Everyone needs to know that someone will celebrate with them when they’ve done something well!


Celebrate individuality: Does one child excel in math and another in history? Show them how to help one another in their area of strength. Is one child a thinker and another a feeler? Rather than allowing them to criticize one another, help them to see the benefits of each other’s personalities.


In the same way that cheerleaders cheer on the team, our family can cheer one another on. When home is a pep rally, we increase our family spirit in the game of life!

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement

Taking Care of the Me in Mommy
By Jill Savage

“Why do I feel like I want to run away from home?” asked the weary mom sitting across the table from me. “I love my family, but I feel like I’ve lost myself somewhere along the way,” she lamented. I reassured this young mom that her feelings were normal, but she did need to pay attention to them. One of the early mothering lessons I learned was that in order to take care of my family, I had to first take care of myself.

The truth is that moms do need to recharge their batteries. They need fresh vision, new ideas, and encouragement for the journey of motherhood. Knowing where to find those resources is the first place to begin taking care of yourself. Once you know what is available, the next step is maximizing the resources to meet your needs. Check out some of these resources available to any mom:

Moms Groups—Many moms tap into moms groups that meet during the school year. If you have preschoolers, check out www.mops.org to find a group in your area.

Internet—Moms need support from other moms. They need a place to find new ideas. They need encouragement. The internet can be a wonderful place to meet all of those needs. There are hundreds of websites to help moms do their job well. Need encouragement in mothering? Check out www.hearts-at-home.org or mops.org. Need help with home organization and general housekeeping? You won’t want to miss www.flylady.net! How about marriage? Take a peek at www.marriagepartnership.com. If you don’t have the Internet at home, you can find access to the web at the local libraries.

Books—Visit the library or local bookstore and pick up a book to encourage you in your mothering. You’ll find dozens of mothering books at www.hearts-at-home.org.

Other Moms—One of the best resources available is other mothers. Ask a neighbor or friend to trade “days off” with you. Offer to watch her children one day a week in exchange for watching your children one day a week. The kids have someone to play with and the moms have some time off! It’s win-win for everyone!

Conferences—The Family Life Marriage Conference is an excellent resource to encourage you in your marriage. Find out info at www.familylife.com. There are two Hearts at Home conferences this fall. Hearts at Home is one of the only conferences designed just for moms. It’s not too late to join in the fun. Check out www.hearts-at-home.org for more info.

Elisa Morgan writes in her book What Every Mom Needs, “We have to learn to help ourselves. We have to learn to ask. Directly, by using words. No one can read your mind. No one is going to waltz in, recognize your predicament, and save you.”

You and I have an abundance of resources available to us; we simply need to take the steps to incorporate them into our lives. Rather than recovering from mommy meltdown, we can learn to avoid it all together!