It's the little things!

When John and I were newlyweds, we began playfully asking each other this question: "Do you still love me?" or "Are you sure you still love me?" Not because there was any indication of a change in our feelings. We both knew the answer. But it has become an affectionate ritual. I think we both like hearing responses like: "More than ever."

Because of our past broken relationships, I think there was a part of us that wondered if it was possible to maintain this level of enduring affection and appreciation, or to continue feeling so mutually valued after the passage of time. The asking and answering of this question is one of the many ways we affirm how wonderful it is that we are more in love than ever as we approach the seventh anniversary of our first date (May 31). As exciting as those first weeks and months were, now is even better. And we constantly verbalize that to each other.

Kevin Lehman is coming to speak at our church next weekend and he is offering a marriage seminar on Monday night. It's been announced several times and the seminar is: "How to have a new husband by Friday." Every time the seminar is mentioned, I whisper to John, "What if that is the last thing I would want?" Because it is the last thing I would want.

This morning we were talking about the event. I can't remember how it came up. (We just like to talk about how we don't need to go to it.) And I told him that I think one of the main points will be how important it is to show appreciation. I firmly believe that it is the constant expression (both in words and actions) of our appreciation for each other that makes our every day existence as husband and wife so mutually rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. Nothing goes unappreciated or taken for granted.

Honestly, every time I look at our little bathroom trash can that John consistently empties for me or when I notice that he has again replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom or carried my glass from the bathroom to the kitchen for me (before I got around to it), I think about how many little things he does for me without ever being asked or expecting to be thanked. And I tell him. I do not take for granted how thoughtful, considerate and kind he is.

John's comment this morning was, "Neither of us is a perfect spouse. But we feel like we have the perfect spouse because the ways in which neither of us is perfect don't matter to either of us." And that is so true. Every "little thing" that is positive is continually affirmed and appreciated. Every "little thing" that is a flaw or a shortcoming is easily overlooked. We both have quirks. But we know those things are not very important; especially in light of how blessed we are. John is a lot more task-driven than I am. He could let that become an annoyance. I can't begin to express how much I appreciate that he doesn't. We really don't want to turn each other into someone else - or even a new and improved version.

When another marriage seminar was offered, I remember asking John if he thought we could benefit from going no matter how happy we already were. And he said, "What could we possibly improve about our marriage?" I smiled (okay, I beamed) and he said, "You do agree, don't you?" I did agree with him and thought to myself, "That is the absolute best way to get out of going to a marriage seminar. Well said, perfect husband."

I don't write any of this to boast (or to gag my readers). There is nothing to boast about really. I feel like John is a gift from God and a display of God's mercy in my life. I don't deserve him. I'm thankful God shows me mercy instead of giving me what I deserve. I'm very thankful and I feel compelled to express my thankfulness. I express appreciation to God and to John constantly. And sometimes I just feel inspired to share it on my blog. Maybe by doing so I can inspire thankfulness in someone else.

I'm reading a book right now with one of my small groups; "The Lies Women Believe" and one of the things we discussed this week was the lie that we have "a right" to this and "a right" to that; how that outlook leads to a sense of entitlement. And when you feel entitled to something, you don't tend to appreciate it. You see very little as a blessing when you feel it is your right to have it. Yet, our Western culture consistently reinforces that our privileges and blessings are our rights in life.

I know I have been given more than I deserve - or could ever deserve. I guess that's why it comes so naturally to be thankful. I don't ask "Why me?" when it comes to challenges. I ask "Why me?" when I think about my blessings.

Do I wish John didn't have CLL? Do I wish he never had to endure another round of chemotherapy? Do I wish he felt as good physically as the day I met him? Yes, yes, and yes! But I am so thankful that I get to be his wife. I am so thankful I get to be the caregiver in his life. And I am so thankful for every wonderful day God has already blessed us with.

There is one big, glaring reality in my life and one that I never forget: God did not have to give me John at all. Regardless of what challenges are a part of the journey, I am so thankful we are on the journey together.

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