Seeds of Devotion
By Julia Attaway

Unfinished Tasks

There’s a pile of books next to my front door. It’s been there for three weeks, maybe four. My husband put the books there temporarily, awaiting their relocation to… somewhere. I notice them and grit my teeth at their presence every time I enter or leave the apartment. Andrew no longer sees them at all.

This is the stuff marriages are made of: how one handles issues like the fact that Person A notices (and stumbles over) a pile of books and Person B is oblivious.

In my better moments (i.e., when I’m not near the door) I know there’s nothing inherently crazy-making about a stack of books: they’re only books. They don’t actually scream “Messy!” and “Inconsiderate!” and “Lazy!” at me.

They’re not symbols that my husband doesn’t care, or that he is maliciously overlooking my needs. All they are is the visible evidence of a task let unfinished because it has been forgotten.

In my better moments (i.e., when I stop to think about it) I know that I, too, leave tasks unfinished. I sometimes forget to pray for people who need my prayers. I get overwhelmed by one thing and neglect another. There’s also that category of things called I-don’t-wanna-do, which conveniently drifts to the bottom of my agenda for the day.

And so in my better moments (i.e., when I actually pray about how to handle frustration with my spouse), I know that what I need to do is very simple. I need to let my book-removal problem stay a book-removal problem, instead of allowing it to morph into a marital problem.

Rather than ranting or resenting, I need to say calmly, “Andrew, today on your way out I’d like you to take those books by the door to wherever they need to go.”

No anger. No judgment. No taking it personally. They’re books. Just books. And when I handle the problem that way, the books will go… and my marriage will stay.

Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.

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Yes. I learned in al-anon to speak my truth without judgment or anger. I do the same process with my spouse - notice something I want or need done - and it is MY agenda that says it needs to be done in a certain time frame - I am clear on that. Then I politely and with respect ask for what I want or need and ask that it be done in a timely fashion. No big drama, just respectful communication. We have talked about this and this is the way he asked for requests to be handled - politely. I also ask him sometimes to write this stuff down because we both tend to be forgetful. We have worked together for 12 years, live together, raised sons together, so I guess this method is working ;-) Thank you for reminding me of this, Julia. I will pray for you and your family.