"I'm sorry," she said, looking at me with a knowing sadness. "I wish I could make it better." Recently, my mother-in-law and I spent time catching up on each other's lives. I shared with her how hard it is for the kids and I when my husband travels out of town so often because of his work.
She shared with me wisdom birthed from a deep empathy forged over years of life experience. "The only thing I can say is that it helps to think about all the things he is doing rather than what he's not doing. And then to thank him for it."
This simple statement seems like common sense. Pointing out to someone the good they do and appreciating them for it seems like something we already know.
I nodded my head in agreement. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how often I fail to give the gift of thanks.
My interactions with my husband are usually filled with a bombardment of items from my "Honey-do list." "The sink isn't working." "The dryer still isn't functioning right." "Do you think you'll help me finish the project this weekend?" Then there's the coordination of schedules. "Can you watch the kids on Tuesday so I can go to the dentist?" "Will you make it to the kid's belt testing on Saturday?"
When I look at my conversations, they are filled with demands, expectations, and sometimes even accusations. "You said you would finish this, why didn't you?" The instances where the little phrase "Thank you" is spoken, are far and few between.
Yet what happens when I step back from thinking about all that my husband doesn't do and focus on all that he does do? It's like putting on a pair of glasses with the right prescription. I see things I hadn't been able to see before. Because my mind often zeroes in on what’s missing, I don't appreciate what already is. I overlook and miss the efforts he makes to teach the boys to be men. I don't notice the repairs and fixes he does do. I completely forget that he is working hard to provide for us. But with new lenses of thanksgiving, I see all that I have been missing.
"Thank you" is made up of two simple words, yet they are filled with great power. Scripture says this about the power of words:
"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Proverbs 12:18).
"Gracious words are like a honey comb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).
Our words can either tear people down or build them up. We can pour life into them or drain them dry. Saying “thank you” is a sweet gift of grace that fills the hungry heart. It motivates and affirms. It heals and inspires.
My mother-in-law's simple words of wisdom helped me see my circumstances with clear vision. Saying "thank you" may seem like common sense, but it's not so commonly practiced. It's a small phrase, yet powerful enough to change both the giver and receiver. Have you given your spouse the gift of thanks today?
Christina Fox (@toshowthemjesus) is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny South Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at To Show Them Jesus and on Facebook.