It’s often the little things that foster contentment

I’m sure it’s out there. Waiting for me. The single placemat on my side of the dining table. In a few minutes I’ll leave my computer and check.   

While I still worked outside our home, I left the house before breakfast. After a half-hour commute to the office, I felt ready to eat my yogurt, oatmeal and fruit. I did so at my desk, nibbling as I checked emails and listened to phone messages.

After leaving my job, the Preacher (who left full-time work years ago) and I started eating breakfast together at about the same time I’d ordinarily be heading out the door for the office. He set the table with two placements. Neither of us spoke much, as unfamiliar to sharing that time of day felt at first.  Those breakfasts always ended with a joint spiritual focus, precious to us both.

But unlike my husband, I’m not an early bird. And I rarely eat until I’ve been awake a few hours. We now have a more natural pattern. Most days, he wakes at five and spends a few hours reading scripture and praying before baking a few loaves of bread or watching an episode or two of a favourite TV show. I sleep longer. Then I spend time reading or writing before leaving our room.  (At the opposite end of the day, he goes to bed hours before I do.)

Sometimes we surprise each other, but generally, by the time I reach the kitchen, Rick has already eaten, cleared his breakfast and removed his placemat. He leaves mine on the table, a reminder that he has considered me. That he knows I’m coming—sooner or later. “Thanks for the placemat, Hon,” I tell him often. “I love that you do that.”

In general, we’ve learned to understand each other’s rhythms. (We’re still working on a few, but that’s married life.) Accepting our differences and accommodating them with grace (and God’s help) has helped us reach almost forty-seven years together.

It’s almost eight a.m. I’m writing this in our bedroom. At the other end of the house, Rick has likely already eaten. Once I’ve finished this column, I’ll go out there. “Good mornin’, Hon,” I’ll say. He’ll greet me back. I’ll wander into the kitchen and spot the placemat. I’ll smile and thank God for the reminder that someone loves me. That he prepares for me, even though he understands I’ll be late to breakfast. We’ll keep our habit of joint spiritual focus at a different time of day.

An old marriage isn’t necessarily a good marriage, I’ve observed. Neither is a newer one. But little things, like the frost scraped off your spouse’s car on a winter morning, the wash folded (or the snow shovelled) when it’s not your turn, an unexpected kind word, a hand reached out for a moment of prayer, or my waiting placemat—those things go a long way toward marital contentment.  If you’re married, I pray that for you today.

There it waits, a symbol of love and patience. I’m grateful.

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