Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Battle For Contentment (And Why It Matters More Than You Think)

A few months back, I walked along the side of the house with my oldest son.  He was getting ready to mow, picking up trash and sticks that had accumulated since he last pushed that red mower in crisp, straight rows. As usual, I was looking about with a bit of chagrin.  The paint is bubbling up.  We should have scraped and painted it this year, but with the new baby and this chock-full life...well, it hasn't happened.  There are weeds flourishing in my flower beds, in the cracks on the front walk.  Sometimes, all I can see are things I want changed.  Its then that the slow creep of discontentment starts climbing up the back of my throat, and I had just opened my mouth to let out a few complaints when -

"I just love living here.  I love our home."

Um, what?  I looked at my son who was standing, hands on hips, surveying our house. Our little, 100 year old, 1200 square foot rental house, where he squishes into a small bedroom with 2 much younger brothers.  Where we can't often have friends over to play because the toddler naps in the afternoon in his room.  Where I've got a laundry list of things I'd change, if I could.

I look from him to the house, trying to see what he sees.  To my amazement, I start to see it, too.  The cozy little house that is likely the first place he can remember as being home.  The place where we really began taking shape as a family.  The driveway where he learned to ride a bike, the kitchen windows that glow on dark, wintry nights when he is walking home, pink cheeked from the snow mound.  The dining room where we gather around meals three times a day.  Where he learns, where I fold warm laundry and he asks me questions while I stack 8 piles for the 8 people he loves most in the world.

He gets it.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also.  His treasure is here, imperfections and all.

I swallow down my complaints.  My vanity, my pride, my envy.  Try to find something else, instead.  I clear my throat.

"You really love it here?"  He nods.  "Me too.  I love it because this is where the people I love most are."

Oh, those kids.  Forcing me to be a far better person than I'd ever be on my own.

It's true though, yes?  We may think that contentment doesn't matter much, that no one will notice if we grouch about this or that or flip through House Beautiful, feeling worse and worse about our surroundings.  We think it doesn't affect others, but it does.

These children of mine, this is their home.  This is their lives.

Their childhood isn't someday.  It's today.  Right now.  Marching on, fast fleeting, and all that.  These days are their memories, their moments.  The things they will look back on as adults.  The place they come from.  This is their story.  We simply cannot afford to waste any time pining away for what we don't have, putting off joy until "someday" in the future.

When I gripe and grouse and lose the upper hand in my battle against discontentment, it speaks to them.  Tells them that what they have - this life they love - is not good enough.  It teaches them materialism, greed, envy and pride.  And while we all like to laugh off our "first world problems," here I am, teaching my kids that those things matter.  And they don't.

Not only that, but my attitude speaks to the world around me.  It shows my values and it shows how I feel about God's provision, gifts and blessings.

I can battle discontentment.  It takes effort, but I'm raising souls here -people that I want to be able to see the value in a not-perfect but blessed life.  Effort and time and a bit of self discipline, but all well worth it.  And, like with so many things I find these days, I can come out a better person, too.

3 Ways To Battle Discontentment

1) First things first. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God."  Putting your spiritual life first puts everything else in proper perspective.

2) Write a gratitude list.  Joy battles discontentment, and a gratitude sprouts joy.

3) Bloom where you are planted.  Make the most of what you have, where you are.  Find and draw out the unique and special qualities of your situation.  Make your house home.

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  1. As always just the right words at just the right time. Thank you Lydia.

  2. This post was just beautiful Lydia! Spoke directly to my heart! I am also struggling with being content in our small 2 bedroom home. I am wanting more space, but am starting to realize that more isn't always better. I know God has been speaking to me and whispering to me to "be content in all things". He has given me far more than I need or deserve and I need to crush the greed and jealousy that wants to linger in my soul. I love how you said "this is where the people I love most are". Made me cry because that is all that matters. My "house" may be big, small, in the country or city, but my "home" will only ever be where these little people and my husband reside with me...happy and healthy. Content!

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us daily Lydia! Your blog is such a blessing to me!

  3. I love this post! I too sometimes struggle with discontentment. I needed to hear this today. Thanks for sharing your heart, Lydia. Hope your day is filled with love and blessings. :)

  4. I absolutely LOVED this! Thank you for the reminder. This is one I need to save and read often.

  5. Amy, I know just how you feel. Sometimes, it is like the walls are closing in on me! But I know that we really have more than enough - space, food, possessions. And we are so very richly blessed in love and health and family - the things that matter the very most. Sometimes I feel like the more we have, the more we wish for more, or better - instead of offering up our thankful hearts. Such a hard balance to find! Have a lovely day!

  6. Thanks for commenting, Emma! It means a lot to me.

  7. Spot on my friend. Beautiful post and a wonderful reminder. Thank you :)


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