Once upon a time there was a witch and a toad…
…Lightning flashed in the princess’ eyes as the prince thundered down the hall. Every room in the castle seemed to vibrate with the tension and anger between them…
Fairy tale or a typical Saturday morning after a long and weary week?
All couples have their moments. Moments when stress, fatigue, misunderstanding and frustration cripple an otherwise happy marriage. Nagging and bickering elbow out hugs and kisses. Peace and closeness fall under attack. The cycle spins like a wicked spell, and the distance that forms between man and wife can feel like anything but a fairy tale.
I know it firsthand. After a recent stent of on and off squabbling between me and my prince, I went to the oasis of a trusted friend for advice. “What do I do when I feel like I’m not being heard? When I feel hurt and accused? How do we put an end to the fighting and distance between us?”
With the look of a fairy godmother, and thirty-four years of marriage shimmering in her eyes, my friend smiled a knowing smile and spoke an answer that was simple and true, “You lean into God, and you lean into each other, and you don’t let anything destroy the closeness.”
With these words in mind I pictured myself over the last few weeks. The selfish things I’d said. The harsh things I’d thought. The prickly shell I grew around me.
I considered the assumptions I’d made.
The grace I’d withheld.
The fingers I’d pointed in his direction.
None of it was helping. None of it did one good thing to restore the peace in our castle. In my eyes he’d become a toad and, let’s be honest, a few warts short of a witch might be the best way to describe me.
Several years ago I read an article written by Ellen Greene, author of Remember the Sweet Things. In her powerful narrative, Greene wrote about her decision to keep a written list of all the things she loved about her husband and the way it revolutionized their marriage.
Moved to begin a list of my own I bought a fancy leather journal for my prince’s thirtieth birthday and started filling line after line with all the things I noticed, appreciated, and acknowledged about him and his love.
You spent your Barnes and Noble gift card on books we both enjoy.
You built shelves for the basement.
You stayed home from work to be with me when Uncle Ron died.
You dried the dishes for me while I cooked dinner.
I kept with it for a while but I’m sad to say I eventually let months, even years, go by without a single entry. Inspired by Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts, my list, over time, evolved into an ongoing journal of things I am thankful for, a record of God and His gifts.
It’s a different sort of list but the idea is the same. Both lists keep track. Both lists recognize what could easily be missed. Both lists revolve around my ability to see, and choose, and dwell on love, thanksgiving, and the gifts I’ve been given.
In fairy tale stories the princess must kiss the toad to turn him into a prince. Why should life with my beloved be any different? When my prince starts to look like a toad, when I start to act like a witch, the answer, the cure, the only way to break the spell is always and only through love.
To lean into God. To lean into each other. To let nothing destroy the closeness.
Keeping a list of things I love about my husband changes my eyes to see a prince instead of a toad, his love instead of his faults. It changes my heart to feel soft instead of prickly, thankful instead of hard. It changes my focus to that which is good, and right, and lovely between us, instead of all the little things that pry our hearts apart.
On days when my prince is a prince I see, I choose, I scribble down lines. On days when my prince resembles a toad, I read the lines, the notes on love, so I can see, so I can choose, so I can break the spell with love.
This list…it is the act of love… it is the kiss that transforms. (And for the record…real kisses work too.)
Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a list of love, of gifts, of thanksgiving. When lightning strikes in her eyes, when he thunders down the hall, may you lean into God, may you lean into each other, may you always fight for closeness and break the spell with love.
You toad me so. Good words Jennifer. Thanks!
Lol! You make me laugh and your words of encouragement are always appreciated. Thanks, Jerry!
I think you should keep a list for yourself too. Why you are so wonderful, because you are, and I’m sure your prince knows this, but he’s lucky to have you.
Thanks, Jessie. You’re wonderful too! We’re both lucky to have someone who loves and supports us in everything we do.
What a great idea!
Even though it is usually done mentally, I think that too many married people make the opposite list. Yuck!
You are so right! I know I’ve been guilty of doing this at times. All the more reason to adopt habits that keep our hearts, and perspectives in the right place! Thanks, Peter!
Well said Jennifer. I’ve written on this topic before and read Ann’s book but somehow, life gets going, stuff starts flying at us and we forget. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks for sharing, Rebecca! It’s great to hear from you. I think reminders like this are always helpful because life does have a way of getting us off kilter It is always a fight for love and joy but it is always worth it!