There was a time when I
thought I’d always be thankful and charmed by every single thing about
my husband, Robb. When we were in our early 20s, just out of college and
into our brand-new life together, our dreams were big and our love was
bigger. But it didn’t take long before we settled into a deep groove of
careers, minivans, diapers and bedtimes. Our dinner conversations were
replaced by negotiations with toddlers to “please just take two more
bites.” We had the very family we knew we had wanted — yet we started to
slip away from each other.
The quirks I once found so charming
became irritations that were hardly amusing. Maybe we got too familiar,
or maybe we were just too tired to appreciate each other anymore.
Somewhere along the way, ungratefulness became the silent, bitter third
partner in our marriage.
creeps in silently. It masks itself as a helpful critic who sees quickly
how things could change or improve, and it squelches any joy and
thankfulness for the way things are. Robb and I had been married for
seven or eight years when I began to recognize an ugliness in me: that
root of ungratefulness. I needed to change my thinking; I needed a new discipline. I bought a journal, and I began to list things for which I
was thankful. And I chose one particular genre: Robb.
Each day for
two years, I identified something to be thankful for, and I wrote it on
a new page in the journal. This everyday decision proved to be
especially effective, and particularly challenging, during our rough
days of disconnectedness. Sometimes I had to look hard for things I
appreciated about Robb, but as I trained myself to look for these
things, they appeared more easily. Here are some entries from my
- July 15, 2008: I am thankful for Robb’s playfulness, for
the joy he brings to our family.
- March 16, 2009: I am sick in bed.
Robb brought me something to drink and told me he misses his favorite
- Dec. 16, 2009: Robb folded all the laundry tonight. Loads
- July 9, 2010: We leave for Mexico in the morning. I am
thankful to run away with this man — happy 10 years to us!
wrapped the journal with glittery paper and wire-edged ribbon. I gave it
to Robb on that trip to Mexico, our second honeymoon where we fell in
love again. What I couldn’t know on that honeymoon is that our lifetime
together had become a ticking clock that was quickly and unavoidably
Just six months later,
two days before Christmas, Robb died in my arms. He was sick for only 12
hours, and his spirit slipped through my fingers as I tried to save his
life before the paramedics could arrive. In the course of only one day,
my preschoolers were fatherless and I was a 31-year-old widow. If I had
waited six months longer, Robb never would have seen my words, my
practice of thankfulness. He never would have known that I noticed. I
gave it to him just in time. And now the journal of gratitude had become
mine again, this daily log of the moments that made us who we
I’m no theologian, but I think a spiritual discipline simply
comes down to wanting to be better and taking small steps to claim that
growth. Maybe it’s not about training for your best time on a marathon.
Maybe it’s about taking a walk today and tomorrow and the next day,
until taking a walk every day becomes natural.
What does gratitude
look like in your home, in your relationship with the one whom God has
given to you? Begin today to look for the positive qualities in your
husband and the story you’re living together. Think of ways to show him
— and to remind yourself — that you are thankful for this life you’ve
made with each other. And please, make sure you tell him. Your days
together are numbered. Thankfulness makes them count.
Tricia Lott Williford is a freelance editor, a stay-at-home mom and the author of
And Life Comes Back.