My name is Jenna Vick Silliman. I’ve been married to the same man for 31 years and we have eight children, ages 29 to 8, seven sons and a daughter (she is second-born). We live in a big house in a little town in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been following the Lord Jesus since I first met Him on March 23, 1974. I like to take pictures of people, to write, to travel, to speak, and to eat as healthy as possible so I have more energy to do fun stuff. I am a dancer; I teach dance classes, and dance for fun every chance I can. For church gatherings, I dance and worship with flags. I love leading and helping the youth group for my church, Deep River and every week I spend a few hours in various colorful costumes, singing and dancing for folks in nursing homes.
When I read my Bible in the morning, there’s a lot about love in there. About a year ago, on New Year’s Day, I came across some verses on love that spoke to me and caused me to seek to be a more loving person. On that day, January 1, 2011, the day of beginning anew, I made a resolution to live more of a lifestyle of love.
Here’s the Scripture I read in my Amplified Bible (slightly simplified by me). “Beloved, let’s love one another with love that springs from intimately knowing God...God is love and he who continues in love continues in God.” 1John 4:7, 16
I have learned to be more affectionate from my kids. When they say “I love you, Mom.” they throw their arms around me in a big ol’ hug and I mean a big, straight on, squeeze of a hug. I don’t like those side hugs or shoulder pats any more. To communicate love, a hug is awesome. If we’d all resolve to give more big hugs, we’d all be happier and feel more loved! Growing up I didn’t have a family that hugged very much, but I’ve changed and now I’m into hugs. When I visit folks in nursing homes, their faces light up when I give them a hug.
I’m a busy mama, but loving takes time. I heard a saying I like to keep in mind, “No one on their death bed ever says, ‘I spent too much time loving.’” When people talk to me, I like to make time to really listen to show my love. If I have a packed schedule, I might miss out on a chance to show loving interest in what someone is sharing. I know for myself, when I have an in-depth heart-to-heart talk with a friend, that is when I feel loved. I’ve noticed the people I am good friends with all like to talk. We’re gifted in gab! However, to love is to listen.
We live in a small town and folks know each other. In Bible days, people would see each other and enjoy a bit of conversation at the well when they collected their daily supply of water. Now we meet at Costco, Wal-mart, or McDonalds! I purposely allow extra time when I go out, so when I ask, “How are you?” I can lovingly wait for a full answer so I can hear their heart. Sometimes it takes a few questions to prime the pump, but usually I can get a person talking. Yes, it takes time, but when you give the gift of your time, you communicate love.
Another way to love people is to give little gifts. Everyone likes presents! I like to keep alert to what kind of cookies people like, what their favorite colors are, if they use a certain kind of pen to write with, what they like to read, or if they enjoy fresh flowers, or a certain kind of fruit. It is fun to be a crowd pleaser at church gatherings and bring a vase of flowers, a batch of homemade snickerdoodles with extra cinnamon (warm out of the oven!) on a fancy tray, or a pretty bowl of red and green grapes. The gift of a thank you note is amazing. Those who serve in the body of Christ often go months and years without a single thank you. Clerks at stores usually only hear complaints—the same with school teachers. To simply say thank you is a very loving gift that is free for the giving. To find a thank you letter in your mail box is practically extinct these days!
Clothing always makes a nice gift too. I enjoy dancing in long, twirly skirts. I shop at thrift stores and often find beautiful, colorful skirts to add to my collection. I teach children to dance, so I keep a look-out for pretty skirts to give as gifts. I also like to take girls shopping. A skirt has to pass “the twirl test” before I will buy it. Last Sunday at church I had three girls twirling for me to show me their gorgeous Christmas dresses! At thrift stores I have found lots of inexpensive gifts like, warm scarves, mugs, stuffed animals, jewelry, and handbags.
Recently I gave a neighbor a ride across town. She said she was having a hard day, so I gave her a big hug. I looked right in her eyes and asked, “What’s going on?” She poured out her heart as we drove along. As I listened to her struggles, she started to cry a little bit. I pulled over and parked when we reached her destination. She talked some more. I asked her, “May I pray for you?” She said, sure. We had a sweet time of fellowship and I felt God’s presence in my car. Before she left, I unwound my bright pink scarf from my neck and looped it over her head as a gift. She thanked me, gave me another hug, and went on her way. The hugs, the listening, the gift of a warm, colorful scarf on a cold winter’s day—all of these communicated love. My New Year’s resolution has become a reality.
Merry Christmas 2011 and a Happy New Year of a ‘Lifestyle of Love’ to you!