This week the topic of contentment has been on my heart. I don't really know where it is going but I thought I would just ramble out my thoughts and maybe it will turn into something.
On some level I think I have struggled to be content most of my life. I can barely remember a time during my childhood when I could not wait to be an adult and get out of the house. While I have many happy memories of childhood in some ways I never let myself truly just enjoy being a kid.
I have loved being an adult, it is everything I dreamed it would be as a child, but still there is always something more to want. I was struggling with contentment when Jake was a baby and I was home and broke thinking everyone else was doing better than we were. That is when I began learning about contentment. Learning to be satisfied with where God had me at that moment and enjoy the experiences that came from that stage of my life.
Over the years I have had times of more and less contentment with where God has me at the moment. I have learned a few things over the years as I have struggled to stay focused on God and content with where he has put me.
Here is a list of things which I feel have contributed to my contentment over the years:
Thanksgiving: This topic, which I spoke on at the women's retreat this spring, has really helped me experience deeper contentment. I particularly focus on being thankful for all the ways God has blessed me every time I start to feel like I don't have enough.
Comparing: When I was younger all I ever saw in other people was what they had that I didn't have. She is prettier, her husband has a better job, she has a better job, they live in a better house, they know how to raise children better, they are taking vacations, dress better, decorate better, smarter than me, better Christian, etc, etc, etc. Over the years one of the most important lessons I have learned is that everyone has problems. That woman living in a nicer house with more money has plenty of her own problems and might even be looking to me wishing she had something I have. Nobody's life is perfect.
Accepting: So not comparing leads me to accepting. I have learned to accept where God has me at this moment. There will always be someone or something better. I need to enjoy where God has put me at this time in my life, listen, learn and grow in this place.
Temporary: I have learned that every stage of life is temporary. Especially with kids things are constantly changing because they are constantly growing. But it seems to be true in all area of my life. My current area of discontentment is the outside of my house. I want it painted. It NEEDS to be painted. I could get bogged down by our inability to accomplish this goal but I know that eventually it will happen. It might be frustrating to be unable to accomplish this task in my time but I know in God's time it will happen. Do I really want to spend my time and energy being discontent about something this little. It won't get painted any faster if I refused to be satisfied with how it looks right now but I will live a much more miserable existence while I wait.
Identity: I realize that when I let myself wrap my identity in outward appearance, what I have or do, I will never be content. When my identity comes from my relationship with Christ and I look to Him to see where I should be at this stage of my life then I experience greater contentment.
Fun: When I am discontent I miss so many opportunities for fun. I don't enjoy my life because I am always thinking about what I don't have. Over the years I have been amazed at how much fun I can have with so little. Riding bikes, building a snowman, watching tv, reading a book. Yes it call all be done better. Yes when we took our family bike ride to the lake over memorial day it would have been great if we had the money to stop for an ice cream cone after our picnic lunch. However, we didn't have the money and we didn't even miss it. The day wasn't about ice cream it was about doing an activity together and we had lots of fun. It is all in the attitude. We choose to have fun and enjoy the life God has blessed us with.
Laugh at yourself: Sometimes I screw up. I remember last year I hadn't been to a neighborhood playgroup in several months because I was working. My schedule finally got changed and I was all excited to get to playgroup. I was rushing to get through the morning so we could make it to playgroup. I hop in the car with Isabelle to drive the 1-1/2 blocks in the cold weather to my friends home and she answers the door with a towel around her head. I am an hour early! At times in my life I would have been so horrified I might not have returned to her home but over the years I have learned to accept the fact that I do stupid things like that and can laugh at myself. I am so much more content when I don't take myself so seriously.
Taking Risks: Sometimes a little dis-contentment can be OK. It is God's way of getting you to move. If I rest in the Lord and trust Him no matter the circumstances of my life then I am not afraid to step up and take a chance even if it seems a little scary because I know that as long as God is with me I will be content.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13