Last month, my husband’s sister Nancy passed away after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was a lifelong international missionary and a bold evangelist. I interviewed her about how to teach kids to share the gospel. Today, though, I want to use Nancy’s life to talk about how we can speak the love languages as homeschool moms.
Nancy didn’t speak a language other than English, despite visiting more than 70 countries. But Nancy was fluent in all five of the love languages described by Gary Chapman.
Her life was also the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13 that I want to read to you now, beginning with verse 4.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 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 the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Acts of service as a homeschool mom
The first love language we want to speak as homeschool moms is acts of service. In the simplest terms, it means doing things for our families that we know would bless them. Nancy offered to babysit our two young kids so we could spend our anniversary alone. This offer meant a lot to me, but it was a bit like having Amelia Bedelia watch them. Nancy was a single woman who had never had children. When we returned home, we saw that our oversized 18-month-old had been stuffed into the newborn onesie he wore home from the hospital. Nancy said she couldn’t find any other clothes.
Of course, as homeschool moms, most of our time is spent in acts of service. But speaking this love language means going above and beyond our day-to-day serving. To do this, we can ask ourselves what would bless each member of our family because it is going to vary with their personality, age, and circumstances. It could be making a special treat, doing their chore, or keeping them company during a task they dislike. We can ask our family members what would be meaningful, but using what we already know about them to serve will be an extra blessing.
Something we want to avoid in this love language is serving the way we want to serve or be served. For example, my husband likes making me breakfast. This is nice, but I’m perfectly content to make my own simple breakfast. What really blesses me is when he makes dinner and I have a night off of that responsibility. Recognizing that there are better ways to serve us can help us be mindful of better ways to serve our family members.
Gifts as a homeschool mom
The second love language we want to speak as homeschool moms is gifts. Nancy had gifts for our family every time we saw her. They often included regifts and almost always included airplane snack packages she’d saved. Nancy took gifts for children on all of her Africa trips that included dresses and dolls that crafty women had created. But she would also take my kids’ Halloween candy after insisting they didn’t need it.
Sometimes as Christian moms we can look down on our kids who have this love language, thinking that it’s greedy to want things. But for those who enjoy gifts, it’s rarely about the item itself. Instead, gifts that are carefully chosen for our family members represent time spent thinking about and shopping for them. An appropriate gift also symbolizes our understanding of what makes them special. To find an appropriate gift, we can consider what our family members value based on how they spend their time and money.
Some things we want to avoid in the love language of gifts include giving gift cards when family members are looking for time and attention from you through the gift. A second thing to avoid is an aspirational gift. We might want our child to read more, so we give them books. But if that child doesn’t enjoy reading, it’s not going to be a treasured gift. Finally, we want to avoid giving a gift simply because it’s something we would enjoy. For example, I once gave my husband a gift certificate for a massage and he never used it.
Physical touch as a homeschool mom
The love language of physical touch is giving hugs, back rubs, and even doing a child’s hair. Nancy was a touchy person. Her hugs were big and long and immediate upon meeting you. She was comfortable in your personal space, even if you weren’t. What was amazing is how her love eventually won over uncomfortable people.
It’s harder for family members to ask for physical touch when they want it because doing so makes them vulnerable. I learned that one of my sons craved physical touch during our one-on-one time. Out of all the ways he could spend time with me, he chose to have me massage his feet. Some other physical touch ideas includ sitting close to our kids, rubbing a shoulder, or ruffling a boy’s hair to see what kind of response we get. Then we can repeat the touches our kids respond to.
In the love language of physical touch, we don’t want to stop touching our kids after they leave the preschool years. Touch is a need for neurologically healthy people of any age. The nature of the touch may change. My teen and adult boys tend to do side hugs now, for example. But they still need the affection.
In our marriages, we don’t want to neglect the importance of physical intimacy in and out of the bedroom. When we have little ones, it’s easy to feel touched out. But physical touch is an essential love language in marriage and needs to be maintained. Carving out time away to recharge made me more motivated in that regard.
Quality time as a homeschool mom
Quality time means a focus on the relationship when you’re together. Nancy had more friends than anyone I know, yet she was always intentional about planning time with our family when she was in town. She was usually the one to suggest a fun activity, too. We loved hiking, swimming, and watching movies together. But while she always spent time with us, she was frequently late because she had met someone on a walk, in a store, or in a restroom who needed to hear the gospel. A pastor who knew her well said, “She had so many watches but apparently never used them.”
Ensuring that we have quality time with our families begins with finding an activity that meets two requirements: everyone enjoys it and you can talk during it. Tennis has been a wonderful quality-time activity for us as a family and as a couple.
We can enjoy quality time one-on-one with our kids, too. I liked having my kids choose the activity with me as I learned so much about them from this. But we can use trips, extra-curricular activities, and chores as quality time with individual kids, too. Just use the time to talk and do fun things as you go. If your child isn’t much of a talker, use the time to share what’s on your heart and your positive feelings about your child.
In our marriages, quality time is essential. Years ago if my husband and I attended a large family gathering or a friend’s party, he would call it quality time. While it was fun, we didn’t have time to talk and in my book, it didn’t count. The ways you share quality time will change with your family’s season. It may be a morning chat over coffee, watching a show together–especially one that you discuss, or a real date night. Whatever you do, plan to have regular time focused on your marriage.
Meaningful words as a homeschool mom
The final love language is meaningful words. This is expressing our gratitude for our family members as well as what we see that makes them special. Nancy constantly complimented people. She told me that I was so good with technology, that my house was beautiful, and that she was proud of the fact that I homeschooled. But Nancy also expected meaningful words in return. Once when our family was teasing her, she told us to stop, saying, “Okay. You’ve had your fun.”
Meaningful words must be spoken frequently. They have a temporary status in our family’s minds like a social media post. The best meaningful words are also specific. Saying, “you’re great” is meaningless. They should also be sincere. Recently I’ve had a couple of Nancy’s contacts I’ve just met insist that they love me so much. Those words are not meaningful except as a sign that something is off with them.
Sometimes we will compliment our kids’ or our spouse’s appearance and that’s fine. But we want to speak most of our meaningful words about our family members’ character and value. I can tell my daughter that her hair looks cute, but even more loving is to tell her that when she voluntarily plays with her young cousins to give their weary parents a break, she is a real blessing and I am proud of her.
Something to avoid in sharing meaningful words is waiting until our family is behaving well. The idea that compliments will reinforce bad behavior is completely unfounded. Instead, we want to draw attention to any positive thing we see so our loved ones will believe the best about themselves and will exhibit these behaviors more often.
Nancy’s skill in all five love languages recently prompted a struggling family member to write, “You’re the only one who never stopped believing in me.” When I read that, I wanted to love like Nancy. I wanted a 1 Corithians 13 kind of love for my family. If you want that too, the good news is we don’t have to be perfect. Nancy wasn’t. But she did have a personal relationship with a perfect God who lived through her to serve, give gifts and hugs, spend quality time, and speak meaningful words. Let us go and love likewise as homeschool moms.
Nancy created this video to be shared at her celebration of life. I hope it blesses you.