When the family holds hands around the table Thursday to say grace and give thanks, the hand I’ll squeeze for emphasis belongs to my wife. This year, more than ever, I am most thankful for her.
This has been a whirlwind of a year for us:
We welcomed our first child in January; I applied for this job in February and landed it in March; we said goodbye to dear friends and moved back across the Atlantic in April; I started at the AJC in May; we looked for a new house through June and bought one in July; we spent August and September fixing it up and moved into it in October.
We hoped and prayed for each of these things to happen (OK, maybe not the home repairs). I wouldn’t dare call 2009 a year of any hardship; quite the opposite. But I don’t think I would advise anyone to attempt so much change in such a short time. As blessed as we’ve been each step of the way, part of me longs for 2010, and some calm.
With so much upside-down, the one constant has been Emily.
As harried as I have felt, I know that stress has been redefined for her. The office can be a refuge; she’s had no such shelter from the demands of an infant, the anxiety of waiting for “the” phone call during a job candidacy, the steady upheaval of spending summer in borrowed quarters, the burden of acting as general contractor for our house.
It hasn’t been easy (how could it have been?) but she has handled it all with grace, both the Lord’s and her own.
This isn’t anything new for her. We moved to Belgium exactly five months after our wedding. We had never been there, didn’t know what to expect, had a couple of names but didn’t actually know anyone. I was working, but we soon learned that employment for Emily would be virtually impossible. It was mid-November, the onset of Brussels’ sunless season, which lasts until approximately Easter.
If you know my wife, you know she needs light and human interaction. In those first weeks, I would return at night to our temporary home and “the fire hose”: a talkative woman who’d had no one to talk to all day.
But if I was her social salvation in that first month, she was mine for the next 53. She befriended everyone: the wife of a partner at the local office of an Atlanta law firm where worked an ex-boyfriend of her sister; the daughter of a Sunday school classmate of an aunt who lives in Stone Mountain. She met other expats living in Brussels through her blog and, once, in the line for a port-a-toilet at a beer festival.
In short, she thrived there, and I thrived there because of her. We thrived there because of her.
We give thanks on this day for the big events of life, the silver linings, the lights at the ends of tunnels. Some years we remember “the little things.” Yet there’s another category for our gratitude, without which the day isn’t complete: the things and people we take for granted day to day.
The people closest to us, especially family, too often fall into this last category. In a quiet moment today, ask whether that’s true for you.
As for me, watching Emily in action every day, I know better than to take her for granted. With a reminder each November, I never will.
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