when brothers have different love languages


It was a quiet moment, void of conflict and competition. Two of the brothers set up army men together as I slid a pan of zucchini muffins into the oven.  It was then I heard the nine year old with a lisp ask, "Caleb, is wrestling your way of showing love?"   

"What?" The question came fast but was met by silence.  "Did you just ask me if I wrestle when I want to show you that I love you?"


"Yes? Do you?"


I held my breath and vowed not to disturb their conversation with my clanging of pots and pans or unwanted motherly insight.  In the stillness I caught my first born's gentle answer, "Yeah, I guess I do.  And I wrestle when I feel like we're having a happy moment together, it kind of bubbles out of me."


The younger brother then shrugged his understanding and said, "I like to be quiet with you.  I feel love when I'm doing this kind of stuff with you."


All eleven years of Caleb smiled just then, and he looked up to find me teary-eyed, because we'd just been talking about his tendency to push his brothers to play the way he loves to play, and we talked of possible ways he could meet them in their happy places.  His heart swelled, my heart tightened, and his little brother's heart overflowed with five simple words, "this is so much fun."




“Love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself.”

- Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages


So often the differences between us all cause friction instead of tender dialogue.  The boys who thrive on noise disturb my sensibilities and the man who is always going, forgets how much I like to simply sit with him.  There have been long days I haven't experienced being loved at all.  Likewise, the boy who wants me to play legos with him is waiting for love just the same.


It's only when we each stop our self-gratifying agenda to be loved, that we can truly give love.  True Love.  It's a sacrificial affair, this kind of loving each other.  Especially when we're all so different, with different needs, and different personalities, and different ways we show and experience love.  It's like we're all speaking different languages right here in the very same home.


family 1 IMG_7166-2 IMG_7133 IMG_7194

This is family: A place where everyone speaks a different language.


There are many things about parenting that no one prepared me for. Teaching my children to maneuver lovingly through relationships is just one of them. Here in our house of three brothers, a mom and a dad, I'm learning that God gives us family to learn some of these skills. It's like He mixes us all up in our families of origin, sometimes in uncomfortable ways, in order to mold us into the people He wants us to be on the other side of these growing up years. The sensitive one gets to learn to cope with more aggressive personalities, and the strong-willed bull-dozer must learn to slow down and give in. Even mom and dad get to humble themselves to communicate our devotion and admiration to each of the uniquely diverse personalities we didn't expect to birth. It's all one big package of beautiful and difficult, intended to grow us into a loving and generous people.


When brothers have different love languages, and husband and wife have different ways they experience love, and mother and child find their communication stifled by different love needs too... we can either shut down and simply survive these years together, or we can dive into real love and learn to thrive together. A thriving love gives beyond one's own needs and comfort.  A thriving love is based on sacrifice.  The way Caleb stopped his rough-housing nature to meet his little brother in quiet and gentle play.  The way I made a special dinner tonight for my husband, when scrambled eggs would have filled me up just fine.  The way I close my lap-top to read a chapter of a book to the little one, and step over the piles of laundry to play on the floor with his brother.


"Greater love hath no man (woman, mother, father, husband, wife, grandpa, grandma, or child) than this, that he lay down his life for a friend (son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, brother, grandparent, or grandchild..." (John 15:13 - parenthesis added)


I know what it is like to misinterpret another's different personality as a personal attack.  Even mothers of young can feel assaulted by their toddlers because their wants and needs and energy are counter-intuitive to who she has always been.  They change up her system and the regular ways she once knew peace and security.  But she must commit, then recommit each moment if necessary, to loving them in new ways, regardless of the sacrifice, over and over and over again.


“I would encourage you to make your own investigation of the one whom, as He died, prayed for those who killed Him: 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do.' That is love's ultimate expression.”

- Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages


The difference here is this... our loved ones aren't doing anything wrong, and in need of forgiveness, when they are simply asking us for love.  They are just expressing who they are, speaking their language, asking for love, as we are being who we are, speaking out own mother-tongue, requesting the same.  And all of us together (all three or four or five...) don't always fit together harmoniously.  And that's okay.  Like I said, we're learning real love here in our homes.


There is no safer place to learn it!


And so tonight I am contemplating the ways each of my beloveds experience my love.  Physically, emotionally, playfully, quietly, with touching and gift-giving, laughter and one on one time.  And I'm taking a lesson from my eldest, to not just talk about these things, but actually do it.


Blessings upon you and yours, as you grow in love together.



Gary Chapman's, The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages for Children are easy to read and promise to change the way we give and experience love within our home.

Here's a simple "Love Languages Quiz" to help you discover your children's primary language today!

The MOB Society put together this great series on showing love to our sons, one love language at a time.

And the children's story, A Perfect Pet for Peyton (also by Cary Chapman) helps children understand love languages too!


Take a moment to seek The Lord's deep understanding of who each family member is and jot down a few notes about each one.  Then make a game plan.  "Matt needs me to spend quality time with him, so today I am going to run errands with him.  Caleb needs touch, so tonight I'll hold his hand when we watch a movie.  Asher needs words of affirmation, so I will begin our day communicating the appreciation I have for him when he gets himself dressed and is the first one to the breakfast table.  And Brody wants the same gentle play and quality time from me that he loved getting from his older brother.  I will give him that today."



"Thank you Lord for putting our family together just the way You did. Though it threatens my equilibrium some days, You purposefully crafted us together, and I will worship you by loving them well today - By the powerful flow of your Holy Spirit, Amen."




talking to our sons about sex


Walking together into the restaurant, one boy to my right,another to my left, and my wildcard of a middle child four steps behind, not watching where he's going.   But I'm watching where I'm going, because I'm their Mama.  And there in front of us, perched on a bench, was an exquisitely beautiful young woman.  Though I never saw her face straight on, her pose and clothes and the brown of her one shoulder, laid bare by an exaggerated slopping neckline, sang out to passersby, like the siren's song. I was captivated, one woman to the allure of another, fascinated by her model-esque frame, oversized glasses and the confidence of her laughter as she talked on the phone.  The whole picture drew me in and and I literally thought the words, "that's sexy."

Before the thought was complete I caught sight of my oldest, 10 and innocent, but growing into his masculine frame more each day.  He was looking at her as he walked close to my side.  His head was cocked slightly, as though trying to understand a strange new piece of art, full of colors he'd never seen before.  It was then he saw me watching him, and blushed.  And the beautiful moment that happened next must have been Holy Spirit induced, because it was much too beautiful to come from me.

I nodded and smiled, and pulled him to my side as we walked through the doors, and into the restaurant.


And in that moment I learned grace and not judgement, as I affirmed him as a man, and tucked away a mental note to talk with him in the days and years to come.  To talk with each of my sons about beautiful women and their true worth, and purity of heart and purity of body, and respect.


I thought about these things again this morning as I wrapped a thin silver chain around my neck and found it's clasp. Deciding to wear only a simple cross to adorn my bathing suit and cover up was intentional.  Like so many choices these days. Raising three boys in a world we don't feel at home in.  Wanting to make decisions that point them to God, holiness, righteousness and truth, in this everything goes, post-Christian world.

Now here we were, piling into the car to drive up the coast.  Up the coast  to watch the VANS US Open - Surf Competition.  And I knew as I put on my simple make-up and pulled my hair back into a pony tail, that girls wearing skin and boys smoking pot, and couples making out under the bleachers would likely catch my boys' eyes.

And I prayed, "Lord, you've got a plan for these three lives, and I'm trusting you to protect their senses and their minds today.  But if they are afflicted and affected, moved and excited by the the sights and sounds, please give me grace to put my arm around them, squeeze them close and nod my affirmation. "Yes, I see it all too. I'm here with you.  And we can talk about it all together.  Because I'm safe."


So before we tumbled out of the car with two boogie boards, a surf board, four towels and a bottle of sun screen, I turned around in my seat and said,

"Hey guys, I want to give you a heads up about something today."  Insert five minutes, waiting for all three boys to give me their attention at the same time!  "We don't usually go to this beach," I continued.  "We usually go where it's just moms and dads, kids and grandmas.  But this beach is going to be full of young adults, and most of those young adults are going to be teenaged girls.  Because girls like boys and lots of these surfers are really cool boys.

But I want you to know something really important - often times girls think they need to look really sexy for a boy to notice her, so they wear itty-bitty bathing suits with their little butts hanging out the bottom, just trying to get attention."  At least two of my boys had looks of disgust on their faces, over the butt imagery.  But I continued talking for the benefit of the one who didn't look nauseous."

"Anyway, I just want you to know something that these girls might not know... Their beauty, and my beauty and the beauty of the girl you will one day marry, is so much deeper than the skin you'll see parading around you today."

Then it was over.

Looking back I still feel like I could have wrapped it up better.  But I'm thinking tonight, now that they are all showered and fed and tucked into bed, that my car speech was just the beginning of a conversation.  Talking with our sons about sex, bikinis and a woman's true beauty, has to start somewhere.  Truth be told, we didn't even get to the sex talk.  But it was the opening chapter of a rich book, one they'll want to pick up and read further.  And I will be there, safe and affirming, ready to go deeper when the time comes.


post script




But today I needn't have worried.  Because in the end, today my oldest collected sea shells, and my youngest built a sand castle, and my wildcard of a middle child wasn't watching where he was going... but I was, cause I'm their Mama.



Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

In the weariness of cooking, cleaning, and making things just so for beloved family and friends, sometimes the devil finds a foothold and turns...

You are Welcome here

...into heavy sighs that say, "This is costing me too much."

I began the summer with three back-to-back weeks of non-stop, desperately wanted, lovingly invited house guests.  But between you and me... I was worn out by the end of week two!  Not because they'd been anything but wonderful, just because that's a whole lot of going and serving and picking up and cooking and washing towels and getting ready for the next big meal.  Even now as I look back, I can see myself bellied up to the sink, sleeves rolled high, head bowed in prayer...

Search me, God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)


Because, "You are Welcome here" requires more than a clean sink, it takes a clean heart.

Now that our guests are gone, all that's left is our party of five.  But the "You are Welcome here" mentality must remain.  Because the way we love our little ones each ordinary day, is supremely more important than the extrordinary ways we serve our special guests.  Yes, I know, it's our little family that usually wearies us most, but the joy of serving them is much more important than our fresh enthusiasm over extended family and out of town guests.  Theirs are the little hearts being hardwired as we Welcome them to each new day, as we Welcome them into our laps, as we Welcome them to the table. Let us dare not save our smiles in the linen cabinet with those white laundered napkins; serving flimsy paper towels with grumbles to our most treasured house guests.  All this Continual Feasting!  It feels terribly inconvenient amidst our summer plans.  But these are the darlings our Welcome means the most to!  And they turn little faces upward and say,  "Thank you, Mama."

You are Welcome

They say thank you and we respond, "You are Welcome."  And they are!  But we need to make room as we make muffins.  Making room for them, by cleaning out the grumbles hidden in our hearts.  We must make room as we make their scrambled eggs and fry up bacon.  Making room to run back into the fray of serving; back to the sink, back to the prayer, and back to those hungry kid bellies, with clean hearts. Because we love them!


I leave you with this most amazing, and incredibly simple recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins! These are a favorite here in our home, amongst guests and residents alike!

Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

(makes 24)


4 cups Pamela's (Gluten Free - Wheat Free) Baking & Pancakes Mix 2 tsp salt 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 1 TBS cinnamon 4 TBS cocoa powder 1/2 cup melted oil (I use coconut oil) 4 large eggs 4 cups finely grated zucchini (3-4 zucchini) 2 tsp vanilla 1 bag chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare two greased muffin pans.  Combine wet ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in another.  Mix them together until there are not lumps.  Pour muffin mix into prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes.


Serve them hot from the oven for breakfast, or as an afternoon snack with a schmear of goat cheese and a pot of tea. Or cover with chocolate ganache for a tasty chocolate cupcake dessert. (I haven't done the latter suggestion because I love chocolate ganache frosting more than life itself!  I would not be able to stand the temptation of a big bowl of frosting, and so I mustn't actually try this at home!  But you let me know how it goes!   photo-125

Summer Reading

As they discover the magic of good books,

I can't help but write in rhyming couplets!


I finished it

He tumbled out of his room, wiping wet from his eye

and smiled, accomplish, then sighed,

"Well, I finished it."


"Was it good?" I asked over the stove

and he nodded it was so...

So good, he's sad he finished it.


Two dogs with their boy, a hatchet in hand

So like my son who longs to be a man

But he's not finished yet.


This growing up wild and growing up free

and growing up reading in the crook of a tree

Till we've finished it.


But the day will come with he's grown up and gone

And the books on his shelf will sing out like a song,

"Well, we finished it."


by Wendy Speake

For my oldest, who cries in just the right spots.

I love you.



Then there are days that turn to weeks in mid-summer, when visitors come and church camp leaves them exhausted, with no time left for reading.  And in the empty space of our vacant home, when guests have left and it's just us, alone, the boys whine and cry and hit and I don't understand.  Until I understand.  And then I say, "Okay, boys, it's time to go find your book.  Come to the couch or go to your room, and find where you left off."

They cry, "This is summer!"  But once they are a chapter in... they remember the miracle.




Summer Reading

It doesn't happen every summer day,

like I purposed each one would go.

30 minutes of reading literature

on the couch together, or all alone.


But days when it does and times when we do

Peace descends in the quiet of each room.

And the rythm of our breathing slows down,

For mother and child, amidst imagined sounds.


The neigh of a horse on Herriot's Farm,

Boyish Laughter rising from Plumbfield's barn,

The crackling hot breath from evil Smaug's snout,

The poetry of springtime calling Mole out.


Hound dogs howling, chasing coons up a tree,

Pirate chantey's mingling with salt from the sea,

A lion roars and four children bow down,

The chronicles end, and now there's no sound.


The story's ended, the journey's been traveled;

The very best summer vacation's unraveled.

With book in hand and sweet smelling pages,

Cover to cover, transcending the ages.


The spine bares the title, cracked open and worn,

Bidding us, wooing us, back in the morn.


by Wendy Speake

Dedicated to three boys on the couch,

and one little girl, Sophia, who read me Heidi tonight.





Incase you are curious, my oldest is ten and reads good pieces of literature, while the youngest sounds his way through early primers at six.  Then there's the eight year old who chooses one book, and I choose the next, then he chooses one, and so on. He chooses Diary of a Wimpy Kid, then I choose Robin Hood, He chooses Captain Awesome followed by my choice, White Fang.  Whatever it takes, Mamas... Whatever it takes!



Boy Imagination

 Mom, I have a boat!  And when I use my imagination it's a real boat!







My heart stopped.  Stopped because he's so stinkin' beautiful, with his brilliant boy imagination, splashing around our pool at 9:56 in the morning!  My heart stopped as I watched his boy body strain under the pressure of paddling.  Then up came his "spear" and he slayed the eels that swarmed 'round his boat.  His face contorted and I knew it was all real.


My heart stopped, because I had committed to not give in when they begged for a TV show after breakfast.  I didn't crumble when they cried for my intercession.   I didn't rob them of their own brilliance by saying Yes to a trip to Target - even though they wanted to spend their own money.


Boredom Breeds Brilliance.


I remember the forts of my youth, and the friends who met me deep within their leafy rooms.  Some friends were real, others imaginary.  And I'd ride my pink bike with the white basket to Kerry's house three blocks away.  I don't have one memory with her inside one of our homes until we were 12 and started watching her mother's soap operas.  Life was lived outside in our youth, with change in our pockets in case we came across the jingling song of an ice-cream truck.

Then there was the  "dump" down the street, where our local school discarded old desks, pieces of machinery, and the deflated red rubber balls I played handball with over the course of the previous school year.   Michael and I would squeeze through the chain linked fence and gather what we could for our summertime inventions.  We'd throw cardboard boxes over the fence before squeezing back through and carrying our loot home to his house or mine.

It was a successful day, a memorable day, the day we made our first "Crap-Mobile."  Using blue painting tape and silver duct tape, yellow masking tape and clear scotch tape, we strapped boxes to our skateboards, decorated them with markers, and pushed one another down the middle of the street.

But the day I count even more a success, even more memorable, was the day my boys pushed through the discomfort of their boredom and constructed their own cardboard fun.




When we let our children work through

the discomfort of not being entertained,

they have a shot at brilliance.

When we let them explore

an ordinary card board box,

they begin thinking outside of the box -

And the ordinary becomes extraordinary!


Sally Clarkson talks about our children's need to be bored time and time again on her blog and at her annual MomHeart Conference.


She Writes:

Children need to be outdoors. They need time to be bored so that they will have to figure out how to occupy their time creatively...  They need to be around books and have lots and lots of imaginative stories read to them and then have time to pretend the stories.


Here w are on the other side of childhood, trying to orchestrate our children's turn at this magical season. But they don't need us to fill their time with activities and entertainment, what they need is a safe place to build a fort, dream dreams, and become brilliant one long summer day at a time.  They do not need us to act the director of their play, simply build them a stage, shout action and offer our applause as the street lamps turn on and the fireflies come out.

Our generation lived outside in our youth, but now we fill our own kids' summers with one camp after another, short breaks for vacations, then back again to camp.  We've  taken the oxygen out of our children's atmosphere, by planning away each morning, noon and night.  And when a moment is unplanned, on go the TV and video screens.


Boredom Breeds Brilliance.


Our children need quiet spaces where minds must become creative to conjure fun.  Quiet spaces, bored spaces, without the flicker of video screens, or the hurried pace of camp activities.  Long, uncomfortable hours give way to a duel between Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  And when their Dad comes home, they take him on a treasure hunt and dig up the chest they'd hid earlier that day... with a line of ants leading the way to their bubble gum booty.


DSC_0437 Copying 1

I dare you to let them be bored this summer.  I double dog dare you!