Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: taking him FOR granted or WITH gratitude

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.

The once vibrantly alive houseplants in the large and sunny dining-room window missed my husband even more than I did.

Their healthy leaves had begun to yellow and fall off, forming a withering circle of condemnation around the base. "Can't you just flourish like you did before?" I implored.

"Miss Black Thumb here didn't choose you. Keith did. He's the one who gave you a home, and provided refreshment and nourishment. I am truly sorry, but my only role was to drink in your beauty."

At the beginning of the year, my husband took a promotion offered by his employer that required moving to a city about an hour and a half away. We had spent a significant amount of time talking about and praying on the pros and cons of the opportunity. We had decided it was worth doing, even though it meant, for several months, we would be living apart for the first time in almost three decades. However, once he had settled into the new job, we would find a more permanent home for the two of us in this new phase of our lives.  

So we separated for almost five months.

He lived the much ballyhooed but barren bachelor's life in a small, one bedroom apartment in a large and anonymous complex. 

I stayed at home, surrounded by all my warm and familiar comforts. Fortunately, our relationship had always been incredibly strong and mutually supportive.

Well, I thought it was.

What I learned to my deep chagrin, however, was that not only does absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the distance exposes the thin places in a relationship.

As G. K. Chesterton wrote, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

Guilty and convicted: I was taking my dear hubbie for granted.

The poor plants took the first hit, but other responsibilities I wasn't equipped to handle soon reared their heads. They had to wait for a brief overnight visit from Keith to be taken care of, a visit that was scheduled for R&R as opposed to work.

The realization dawned of how much Keith did to keep the proverbial home fires burning. With friends and family mere minutes away and safe and sound in my cocoon, here I was enjoying the freedoms of being single—cooking and eating at will, going to bed and reading as late as I wanted, getting up when I was ready—without much of the downside.

I was not being fully supportive of where he was physically and emotionally: alone in a strange city a long way from friends and family, recently diagnosed gluten-intolerant and learning how to shop, cook, and eat without wheat, and at a new second-shift management position that was turning out to be very disappointingly different from everyone's expectations.  

I chose to change, to show more gratitude.

I visited almost every week, and would often stay for at least a couple of nights. Although I brought my work with me, I made spending time with Keith a priority.

I bought cute cards and mailed them so that they would arrive in between my visits. I wrote short love notes and hid them for Keith to find after I was gone. He stuck them on his bedside lamp, so they were the last thing he saw before he turned out the lights. Everybody together now: Awwww. :-)
Our new normal.

While the position did not work out, God presented another opportunity where Keith had worked prior to his promotion. My husband took that and moved back home on a warm day at the tail end of spring.

We are so grateful for our experience. We learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship in those months, but especially that things are not always what they seem.

Sometimes we just aren't able to take a true measure of our gratitude until circumstances intervene to sharpen our perspective.

I am so glad they did, and so are his plants.   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Hall shares her life experience with big servings of enthusiasm, hope, and joy on her blog, Too Darn Happy. Drawing on her almost thirty years of marriage, parenting two daughters, and being part of a large family, she offers fresh perspectives, practical advice, and a challenge to find happiness in all circumstances. She recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-30 Days to a Happier You. She can be found happily sharing as well on Facebook and Pinterest, and on Twitter as @kimahall.

Linking today with JenniferTracy,  and Emily.


  1. our stories wife and i went through much the same...we were apart nearly 9 months....only seeing each other every other weekend...oy it was so hard...and eventually mine did not work out either...

    1. Sorry to hear yours didn't work out either, Brian. We didn't guess how hard those months would be. We thought we knew going in the tough part, but were still surprised. Did you have a handle on how hard it was going to be? I hope another door opened for you that was even better!

      Jen-Thanks SO MUCH for allowing me to appear here. I am so humbled and honored to be one of your guests!

  2. I really appreciate this post, Kim. Right now, we are in a transitional time. My husband has a new job, which is better, but I am car-less while he commutes a long way each day. I've been a little too fixated on how this change is affecting me. Perhaps it's time for me to look at how it's affecting him as well. Thanks for your post. Always love reading your words :)

    1. I'm glad these words provided a fresh perspective for you, Lori. I can't count the number of times I have been gently—and sometimes not so gently—whacked on the side of the head with a fresh point of view when I had been looking solely through my own selfish lenses.

  3. "i chose to change". your words are a clarion call to me - and i would strongly suspect others, too - to not give in to the lie that the best we can do is react to life. though i can't relate specifically to the situation you describe here, i can feel and know the frustration of waking up to realize you're going about things all wrong.

    thank you for allowing us a peek inside this difficult time in your marriage, and the happiest of christmases to you and yours... - s.

    1. You are most welcome, Steven, and thank you. I just love having you gentleman coming to visit Jen's place!

  4. Staying connected in general can be hard, and adding in these difficult circumstances makes it even harder. Thanks, Kim, for reminding us to be intentional. Love notes, always help.


    1. It can often be the simple things that speak so eloquently and can touch us deeply. Thank you, Glenda, for your thoughts!

  5. Everybody now, "awwwwww".

    Kim, you make me smile.

  6. What fun! I finally got around to catching up on my bloggy buddies and find Kim at Jen's! Love that story, Kim. Ahh, those early days of marriage before the kids came along. I barely remember them, and certainly not enough to write about it!

    Hope both of you girls have Merry Christmases!

    1. Hello, Susan! Isn't this fun to run into each other! I just love Jen's hospitality and all she does here. It's like being able to come to a friend's house and hang out, and even get the door when they are busy. :-)

      Actually, this wasn't before we had kids. I'm embarrassed to say this was just this past January. We had slid into the too comfortable with each other zone, having been married almost 30 years. . . All in all, this was a good jolt for us. Funny how those difficult times can teach us so much!

      Thanks so much for sharing. Just love to see you!

  7. Kim, I just read your last comment! I thought also that this was early in your marriage. I think this is a great point -- no matter how secure we think we are, no matter how long the road has been, no matter what, we have to be willing to change, to be grateful, to continue to work. I am so glad you are here this week, Kim. You are a constant encouragement to me!! (And I appreciate the comments above!)

  8. Absolutely, Jen. I think that's why I found the experience so convicting. That, plus I write ALL THE TIME about encouragement and gratitude. It seems the cobbler wasn't taking care of her own family's feet, to use an old and worn metaphor...

    Awwww, you are so very welcome. I am delighted to be hanging at your house with you and friends!

  9. great post; it took me a while but, eventually, I was telling Dave, at the bare minimum once a week, "thank you for taking such good care of us." At first he was totally shocked and then pleasantly surprised; it meant a lot to both of us. It reminded me to have an attitude of gratitude and, more importantly, to speak that gratitude and it reminded him he was appreciated.

  10. Isn't it funny how our spouses react when we thank them for all they do? Thanks for sharing your experience, Sandra, and I hope it encourages another wife to have an attitude of gratitude as well!

  11. "Aww" about the notes posted on the adorable...and great post...So happy you can both be together to tell my husband "thanks" for at least a million things that he does...Thanks to Lori and Jen for hosting :) Thanks, Kim, for the reminder :)

    1. Glad it brought a smile to your face, Dolly, and that you were encouraged to go give your hubbie a big "thank you". The power of those little sticky notes is amazing!

  12. Heavens, I hate to think what would happen if my husband lived in another town. We'd all starve, for one thing. Or founder on mac n cheese out the box.


Don't go yet! Leave me a note with your thoughts.