The color of contentment

blogIMG_1069Sometimes words of wisdom are imparted to me just at the exact time I need to hear them most. Some folks call that coincidence. Some call it fate. I call it “a God-thing.”

We meander along in this life trying to make sense of it and live it the best way we know how. But sometimes, we get stymied by circumstances that leave us scratching our heads and wondering how in the world did we get here? Often the circumstances are stumbling blocks, sometimes they’re just huge obstacles in our way and we think there’s no way over this, around this, or through this.

Those are the times I wish I could say that as a believer in Christ, I always turn to God through prayer and reading His Holy Word. But guess what? I don’t always do that. Instead I try to muster up enough of my own wisdom and understanding to muscle my way through the hindrance before me. And only when I get totally frustrated and exhausted from trying to pummel through a situation on my own do I finally do what I know I should do. Call upon God.

The reasons I don’t always do so are many, I suppose, but it boils down to one thing. I am not a perfect Christian. I am a constant struggler. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, or maybe I’ve settled that worldly mantra of “I’ll do it my way” into my stubborn self. And that’s why I need those reminders – those God-things.

This past Sunday I listened to my pastor give a message on contentment and experienced yet again another reminder. Pastor reiterated the message to me that contentment is “adjusting to your circumstances.”  Yep, there it was, big and bold right up there on that power point. And oh, I thought I had learned that lesson many years ago.

Back then, I struggled mightily with an issue which brought me discontent. We had lived in the Midwest for eight years as happily as oysters tucked into their beds in the bottom of the deep blue sea. You might say we were cultivating our own beautiful pearl there.

Our family of five was nestled in our comfortable home, we had great friends and neighbors, a caring church family, good schools for our children, fulfilling job for hubby, and numerous volunteer opportunities for this Mama…you get my drift. Life was good there or to quote Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor: “Why, then the world’s mine oyster.” A bonus was that we were also within driving distance of our families back home in the Northeast.

But the oyster was ripped open and that shiny pearl was plucked out and flung to the far side of the country. In other words, my husband got promoted necessitating a move to the Pacific Northwest. At first, it was a grand adventure for our family. Excitement reigned as we prepared for life in an area of the country we had never been before. New house, new friends, new community, new school, and new church to find. Beautiful, breathtaking sights to see. Yes, it truly was an adventure and we shined up our pearl of life which gleamed in our new surroundings.

But after a few years, something unsettling forged its way into my heart, mind, and soul. Discontentment. As good as life seemed living there, I couldn’t help but be saddened because we were an entire countryside away from our aging parents. And I couldn’t imagine staying there for the rest of our lives. The thought made me as gloomy and dreary as the gray, overcast skies that permeate that area of the country.

At the time, I was getting together once a week with a dear friend for Bible study and fellowship. She carefully listened as I shared my struggle and why I wasn’t feeling content where God had placed my family and me. Then she wisely and lovingly pointed me in the right direction – to God’s Word and prayer.

I started earnestly beseeching the Lord to help me find contentment right where I was – in the very circumstances that prompted my discontent. I praised Him and I thanked Him for the ways I witnessed a deepening of faith in my family because of our move and for the many blessings He had bestowed on us.

And honestly, just when I had finally arrived at the place where I could discard that downcast robe of discontent and don the contented coat of accepting my circumstances, things changed dramatically and dare I say it? Miraculously.

So here’s the thing. Lately, that old feeling of being dissatisfied with the circumstances of life has resurfaced. Yes, I admit I may have been hanging on to unrealistic expectations. Yes, I allowed myself to be controlled by circumstances. And yes, I found myself complaining instead of praising God and being thankful.  See, Pastor, I really was listening!

Yes, that message I heard on Sunday showed me I needed to re-learn that lesson I thought I’d mastered all those years ago.  And I needed a reminder of the color of contentment.

“Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” ~ John Homer Miller

Will I choose to let the muted grays, browns, and blacks of discontent color and darken my life, or will I choose the vibrant, glorious rainbow of colors that praising and thanking the Lord provides?

My contentment does not depend upon what my circumstances may be.  My color of choice to pursue contentment is anchored to serving, praising, and thanking a Savior, Jesus. 

The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not telling you this because I need anything. I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because He gives me strength.” (New Century Version)

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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7 responses

  1. I love how you put this: downcast robe of discontent and don the contented coat of accepting my circumstances. I want to remember this and make it something I choose to do each day, deciding which coat I will wear. Good, wise words Mama.

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  2. Beautiful, Cindy! And I think you’ve chosen your colors wisely, if I can judge by the photo banner at the top of your blog! 🙂 This line was great, “You might say we were cultivating our own beautiful pearl there.” What a nice way to look at life.

    I’ve moved a lot, as well, even right now I still consider us in the middle of a move, as we are not yet unpacked from this past summer. The house “works,” but there are still so many things to go through and find and donate, etc. in the garage. Each day I seem to ask myself the same question, “Was this the right thing?” I don’t know when I’ll know. It’s easy to get caught up in all the needs of two small children and let the rest of life wait off to the side. But when I think about what we’ve left behind, sometimes the sadness hits me and I’m helpless. Yet — as I’ve said — I’ve moved before. Many times. For lots of different reasons. And of course each time I’ve had to leave behind good friends and/or family. I feel your post on many levels. And I guess the take-away is that it’s okay if I wonder; I should just do it through rose-colored glasses.

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    • Thank you, Melissa! I sure do try to choose my colors wisely, and I’ll let you in on a little secret — I love the color yellow! I knew you could relate to the moving often thing and here’s my take on that – we do OFTEN wonder if we’re doing the right thing but I believe everything happens for a reason, so there’s some value, some lesson, some…THING that we are to take away from our experiences which make us a stronger, better person. And it really does help to choose those rose-colored glasses!! 😉

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  3. I can so deeply relate. And I guess in some ways, this is also what has been on my mind in a way lately, too, especially as I think about growing old and avoiding the pitfall of discontentment that can follow that hard path in life. We are always free to take those concerns right to the feet of Jesus and pour our hearts out to him, and we can also continue to petition him for changes. Being content is a struggle at times, isn’t it? Letting go of our expectations, especially expectations of others, is hard. One thing that has literally saved me is giving thanks for at least three things every day, even though my stubborn mind sometimes finds it hard to do that on some days when I would rather stew a while in my pity pot. It is a worthy exercise, at least for me, and really has changed me a lot over the past few years. I just read another blog at Urban Hallelujah today that you might be interested in reading, too… about an amazing answer to prayer. 😉 Praying today that God restores you quickly to a place of peace and contentment.

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    • D, I appreciate your comment and value your thoughts on this subject so very much as well as the prayers, thank you! Yes, contentment is a struggle (for some, every day) but you’ve hit the nail on the head — being thankful and giving praise takes away that pity pot! I have to remind myself of that each morning and I do have so much to be thankful for, including my blogging friends like you! I’m eager to check out the blog you mentioned.

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  4. I would say it’s spiritual guidance but everyone has their own name for little miracles we experience. A reassertion of a gut feeling. Regardless of what we may call it, it’s definitely something to sit up and pay attention to!

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