Walk with us through this common scenario. The young mother is overwhelmed with all the have-to’s that engulf her busy life.  With four young children to care for and a hardworking husband whose salary barely meets their needs, she seems to race from one challenge to another. 

She is doing all she can to prepare for the meager Christmas they will face.  It takes ingenuity to make the money stretch, and she has been working hard at it all day, making homemade gifts for their parents, searching the newspaper and the Internet for discounts on items on her children’s wish list, baking cookies for her son’s pack meeting, doing the never-ending laundry, as well as all her other motherly duties.  She is exhausted.

It’s six o’clock in the evening, time for her husband to come home, and she hasn’t even had a chance to start dinner.                                          

Her two-month old baby begins crying and wants to nurse, again. With book in hand, her three-year-old twin daughters are at her heels whining and begging, “Read us a Christmas story, MommiePleeeeeease read us this story. Mommie, pleeeeeease!”  Down the hall her seven-year-old son is shouting, “Mom, where’s my scout shirt?  I can’t find it anywhere!”

Just then the door opens and her husband calls out, “Hi, honey, I’m home.”  She shouts back, “Thank goodness!  Go help Johnny find his scout shirt!”

We know what this young mother is going through, but for just a moment we want you to consider what the young father is feeling.  He’s worked hard all day and is likewise exhausted and concerned about their financial situation. The burden weighs heavy on his mind. He comes home to the reason he does it all – his wife and children, hoping for a reprieve from the world outside.  And what does he get?  An assignment! 

What does he need?  What does she need?

Let’s back up and repeat the scenario again, with one simple change. The door opens and in comes her husband, calling “Hi, honey, I’m home.” 

Hearing his voice she calls out, “Hi, sweetheart, I’m in the nursery.”  She puts the baby back in his crib, sticks a binky in his mouth, smiles at the twins and says excitedly, “Daddy’s home!” She ignores the scout-shirt problem and makes a beeline to her husband.  He, knowing where she is, makes a beeline to her.  They meet and embrace each other and kiss, and it’s not just a half-hearted peck, it’s a full blown “I absolutely adore you” kind of kiss.  One that says I’m so glad to be here with you again.            

An Electrical Current of Renewal                   

If couples give each other this often-ignored gift of momentary loving full attention, then these three things will happen. One, each will know beyond a doubt that he or she is number one in the eyes of their spouse.  Two, the children will see Mom and Dad expressing their love for each other in a very visible manner, and that in itself is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. It’s the security blanket that says all’s well in our home.  And three, this loving embrace causes something almost magical to happen, like an electrical charge passing through to each other, filling you both with renewed strength to go forth together to meet the family’s needs. 

Too often we put our mates on the back burner and fail to let them know how important they are to us. That’s when life becomes mundane and burdensome.  We have the power to keep that from happening.  When couples keep each other at the top of their priority list, then their ability to deal with all the problems of life increases.  Expressed love lifts. It rejuvenates. It brings joy. It gives meaning and purpose to all else that matters.

Two Powerful Words

Consider for a moment the two most powerful words in the English language, words we all learned in kindergarten and Primary, and at home well before that.  What are they?  The courtesy words: please and thank you.  These two words are gifts we give to the people we love. Sadly, in some cases it’s the gift we give only to friends or strangers, but not to our loved ones. 

Parents usually insist that their children say please and thank you, but too often fail to say these words to each other.  Why are they so important?  Because they focus your attention on the other person. When you say please you are out of yourself showing respect to the other person.  When you say thank you, you are out of yourself recognizing what the other person has done.

For example, if you say to your spouse, “Hand me the newspaper,” it sounds demanding and uncaring. If you say, “Please hand me the newspaper,” and then respond with, “Thanks, honey,” then your spouse knows you’re thinking kindly of her or him and are noticing what is being done for you.  Too often these words get lost in the marriage relationship.                  

How long has it been since you thanked your husband for working hard to provide for your family? How long since you thanked your wife for caring for your children and meeting the household needs?  Or are you too focused on wanting them to do better rather than to appreciate what they are already doing? 

Have you thanked your husband for pitching in at home or are you too busy thinking he should be doing more?  Have you thanked your wife for making the money stretch, and/or helping earn a little extra if she happens to be teaching piano, doing hair on the side or other work? It’s time to say thanks, and throw in a few “I love you’s” while you’re at it.

Couples who give the gift of expressed gratitude are happier – and so are their children. And they are all more inclined to do even better when what they do is acknowledged.  Appreciation spurs ambition.

As you give expressions of thanks to your spouse and children for the good things they do, ignoring a few they don’t do, it will bring a joyful spirit into your home at Christmas time and always. Don’t forget to give this priceless gift of courtesy and gratitude.

A Vital Night-time Ritual

Another simple but sometimes ignored action needs to happen every night. We get busy and our schedules as spouses are different, and we can easily slip out of a habit that is vitally important – that of praying together as a couple.  No other prayer, such as private or family, replaces this one.

When you kneel together as a couple and take turns praying, you one night and your spouse the next, something endearing happens.

This is where you pray together for the welfare of a certain child, or other needs, being specific in your pleadings to the Lord.  It’s where you can express gratitude for your mate in ways that let each other, as well as the Lord, know of the love you feel for one another.  The mere expression in prayer enhances that love.

When we were visiting our son and his family for a week recently, we were pleased to see how diligent they were about having family prayer each morning and then again each evening before the children went to bed.  We wondered if this evening prayer was replacing their couple prayers.  Our wondering didn’t last long.  Our son goes to bed early because he gets up for work at 4:30 in the morning.  His wife is more of a night owl and enjoys staying up later.  We heard our son quietly say to her shortly after the kids were in bed, “Time for me to go to bed. Are you ready for prayer?”  They slipped into their room and had their prayer. 

When she came out, she commented to us about how important that time alone is, providing a space to talk and pray together. It gives them a chance to pour out their heart to each other and to their Father in Heaven as a united couple.  It becomes a powerful witness of the faith and reliance on the Lord.

We were expressing the importance of this at a marriage fireside we presented not long ago.  The next evening, as we were setting up for the youth fireside in that same stake, a woman came to us and said, “Last night you told us how important it is to take each other by the hand and kneel by our bed and have prayer together.  We used to do it when we were first married, but fell out of the habit. Last night we decided to start doing it again, and already, in just one day, we are noticing a difference in the tenderness we feel toward each other.” 

Praying together is a gift couples can give to each other.

Let’s Not Forget

In summary, three gifts that must not be forgotten are (1) keep your spouse at the top of your list by giving loving attention; (2) use the two courtesy words, please and thank you, showing respect and gratitude to your spouse and children; and (3) pray together each night as a couple.   These are simple and yet profoundly important gifts that can bring joy to your marriage and to your family, not only at Christmas time, but all year long. 

In addition they may be some of the sweetest gifts we can offer to Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate.  Through the scriptures we are taught that “men are, that they might have joy.”   The giving of these gifts brings us this joy, which in turn must surely bring joy to the Lord.

[Gary and Joy invite you to join them at their Valentine Marriage Retreat.  For more information https://lundbergcompany.com/blog/seminars/marriage-retreat/  Or call 1/800/224-1606.]