Appreciate, v. – 1. To be grateful or thankful for; 2. To value or regard highly; 3. To be fully conscious of, aware of; 4. To raise in value; 5. To increase in value.
Appreciate. I was struck recently by the two distinct meanings of this word. If you truly appreciate something and care for it, you can help it to appreciate.
Recently my husband and I were cleaning up after dinner, and he was in charge of the vegetable steamer. As he wiped it off, he commented that he liked to try to put things like that away in slightly better shape than they were before—just a little extra attention so that they will last longer. The idea has really stuck with me.
The concept isn't really new. When I was working, the company called it "Continuous Improvement." In our increasingly "green" society, it's called being environmentally responsible. We are often encouraged to make our world a little cleaner than it was when we got here so that it will last for future generations. Still, the thought of applying it to my everyday life really hit home. How effective would it be to teach my children to leave things even better than they were? Whether we're cleaning their rooms at home, picking up our toys at a friend's house, or getting ready to leave church, going the extra mile teaches them responsibility and appreciation for the things and people around them.
A few nights later, my husband and I had collapsed on the couch after putting the kids to bed, and we started talking about relationships—and more specifically, our marriage relationship. It's easy to fall into a rut in marriage, to just let things move along with the flow of life. We were having one of those nights—or weeks or months, maybe—where we just co-existed, each doing our own thing and staying out of each other's way. After seven years of marriage (I know, it's not a ton, but it's enough!), it can be easy to just get used to each other and stop trying as hard.
And somewhere in the midst of our conversation, that vegetable steamer came up again—the idea of constantly working to leave things better than they were. What a concept! Every married couple knows that marriage takes work, but so often we work just to keep it going. But this idea—to work every day to make it even better—what a revolution!
For the rest of the evening I turned this idea over and over in my head, thinking of practical ways to put it to use in our marriage and in our family. I don't just want to exist with my husband and children, I want to appreciate them, so that our relationships can increase in value. Finally, I decided that a practical exercise was in order: I would make a list of 30 things I could do to improve the quality of my marriage over the next 30 days (one each day). The ideas didn't need to be anything major—no vow renewal ceremonies or anything like that! J But maybe one day I would put a card in Jon's truck so that he saw it before he left for work. Or maybe I could take the trash out before he got home, so that it would be one less thing on his plate for the day.
I will post my own list soon. Honestly, this all just happened, so my list is still a work in progress. J But I can't wait to share it with you. And I hope that you will take this as a challenge and share your own lists with me! It doesn't have to be about marriage—what can you do over the next week or two weeks or 30 days to improve your relationship with your children or your parents or your best friend? Or even more practically speaking, just to improve your home, so that your life is a little less stressful? Please take a few minutes to make your own list (Hey, even making the list counts as one thing you can do!) and share them with me. I can't wait to hear from you.