Thanksgiving & the Gift of Attention

ThanksgivingIt’s already the third week of November and the fall days have raced by with the boys’ sports, Wednesday bible studies, chores, errands, endless driving, meals cooked and eaten, loads and loads of laundry done, books read, coffee and conversation with friends, and my husband??? Hmm … Where is my husband in all this?

I’m sitting down and struggling to write a post on marriage. I’m wondering why I’m struggling, and it hits me. I haven’t been paying attention to my husband, nor to my marriage. The irony of this realization stings, because I’m leading a Hidden Heart study, and I’m going through the book for the third time. Yes, I know better, but knowing can be a million miles from doing.

My steady, faithful husband leaves every morning for work and returns home each evening usually in time for dinner. He’s more or less around the edges of our family dramas. My life is so intertwined with the kids; peppered with car conversations, the latest school news, killer homework assignments, college applications, athletic tryouts, and friends coming in and out. At times, they’re talkative, loud, and outrageous.

My husband, though, is quiet and undemanding. He likes the leather chair in his study where he can read the paper and unwind. His needs are simple. His requests are few: a home cooked meal, clean laundry, a warm embrace, a listening ear. How easy it is for me to meet these small requests and put him on the back burner of my days while the kids take up the largest portion of my heart and my energy. Husband

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” She explains that the word thanksgiving is from the Greek word eucharisteo. The root of that word is charis, which means grace or a gift. In other words, to give thanks is to notice and name all the gifts, all the grace and kindnesses lavished on me. Naming and noticing these gifts allows me to appreciate the value of the gift. It also strengthens my trust muscles when I recognize the gifts as being from the Giver of all good things.

So, this I’m noticing and paying attention. I’m listing the things about my husband one by one that I’m grateful for. I’m noticing all his kindnesses: the book reviews he clips for me, the way he pays the bills on time, the fire that he makes for me and tends all afternoon. This listing of kindnesses is making me more aware of the distractions I had been blind to before. I’ve seen the weary slope of his shoulders that signal a hard day, and I’ve become aware of the twinkle in his eye when he teases me. I have seen how my words – well chosen, well-timed, and not excessive – can bring him life.

It all comes full circle. This noticing of gifts and being thankful for my husband is really an expression of gratitude toward my God who has given me the gift of this man. Being busy and distracted translates to my husband as “Closed. Do Not Enter.” In naming these gifts one by one, I am inclined to slow down, and to be present and available, receptive to his needs, and sensitive to his question, “Do I have what it takes?” This naming of gifts, this simple “giving thanks” causes me, in turn, to give my husband the gift of my undivided attention.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I Thessalonians 5:18  

Jackie Dunne