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By nature, many of us struggle to find contentment. We tend to look backward living in our memories. Or we want to rush forward to the next stage. Finding contentment and blooming where you are planted is pivotal to appreciating today and growing where we are.
Our little chicks have grown into teenagers. Since the chicks are ready for a bigger pen, I moved them to the chicken coop while the chickens were free ranging the property. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as the chickens spied the chicks in the coop they came running back. They stood alongside the fence trying to get back in the very coop they couldn’t wait to leave minutes earlier. The chickens ruffled their feathers at the indignity of having those chicks in their house!
I think we can all relate. Sometimes we whine and complain about our circumstances. We wish things were different. We feel overwhelmed by our situation and just want it to pass. But when it does, we often try to go back and reclaim our old life.
2016 was a year of such highs and lows. We moved to another house, bought a dog (I’m not a dog person) and cows (or apparently a cowgirl;). One of our sons graduated from high school and left for college in the fall. Our older son became engaged. I took on a big role with our homeschool co-op, tried out a new business idea, and I had another heart event.
My head spun from all the new challenges. It was hard letting go and moving forward. I felt sad about another son moving out of our home. I felt blown off track about what my role in the family was now that just one child was left at home. It was a struggle to get used to yet another house, mainly how to clean it which may sound silly, but one definitely develops cleaning routines. And then when I strove to move forward with a business idea, doors seemed to close in my face over and over.
So there I was. What now? Finding contentment seemed a far off goal!
So how do we find contentment in the here and now? How do we keep from longing to go back or living in the “if only this would happen” land?
Here are 4 lessons I had to relearn last year on finding contentment.
Appreciate yourself. Appreciate your marriage and family for how unique they are.
Years ago, when my husband and I were first married, I tried to get the man to take out the trash. Sounds pretty easy, right? Not so much. He would delegate the taking out of the trash for me. He would build a new house for me. But everyday details was not his strong suit.
Your marriage and family is not going to look like anyone else’s. As soon as you start comparing your family or marriage to someone else’s self-pity and discontent show up knocking on your door. I know now not to let them in, but I still occasionally let them sit down outside when I should be shooing them off the porch!
All of us are uniquely made. So the combination of you and your spouse is going to be unique. Stop comparing your story to someone else’s.
It would be crazy making if I tried to get my Country Man to give up all his big dreams and country living and settle into a nice house in the suburbs where he had the same job for years. It would be a waste of his gifts. And I would miss out on the adventure. And he would be fighting a losing battle if he tried to slow down my reading obsession or need to keep our family’s details organized.
A key to finding contentment is appreciating yourself and your family. Remember to play to your strengths.
2. View failures as movement forward.
Dwelling on setbacks and failures can rob you of your joy and contentment. One key to finding contentment is viewing failures as just another step forward on the path you are on. How often have you looked back and realized that if you hadn’t gone through that “failure” experience you wouldn’t be where you are today. Sometimes a failure teaches you something about yourself that you need to know. Other times, failure gives you the knowledge and experience you will need going forward.
I love history! It is so interesting learning about people’s lives. When you look below the highlights of their life, you will see all the struggles and failures that took them where they needed to go. Throughout the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed cuddling up with my kids on the couch and reading to them from the YWAM Hero Biographies. We just finished reading Lillian Trasher, a missionary to Egypt that cared for thousands of orphans. They has been such a positive reminder that everyone faces adversity. It is what you do when you are faced with challenges that makes the difference.
When you see failures as movement forward then it is easier to be content when plans do not play out like you had hoped. You are still making progress. The route is just a little different than you first imagined. And sometimes it takes eliminating other plans and options to get down to what really matters to you.
3. Focus on the benefits and joys of this season of your life.
Some seasons feel like they last for a lifetime. I remember when my oldest was little. The first several years seemed long and challenging. Those who had an easy going first born may not relate:) But no season lasts forever, good or challenging. I am truly thankful for every minute I took to read a book (or an instructional manual) or go outside to walk through mud puddles. Those days are gone now and they won’t come again.
What does your present season offer? Are you single and free to be on the go constantly? Does your status as a single parent or military spouse allow you to set your day’s schedule. Are you a homeschool parent with kids at home able to spend hours learning together? There is something unique that this season offers.
Observe your day. When this season passes what will be the moments that you miss? Decide to treasure and relish those opportunities now.
4. Bloom where you are today.
So in case you didn’t guess…learning about cows last year was not the first thing on my agenda! But wouldn’t it be a shame if I didn’t join in and learn enough to carry on “cow talk” with my family. I might accidentally call a cow a heifer or a heifer a cow (gasp)!!
Now, I’m not sure I will ever be true cowgirl material. But I certainly would hate to look back and realize I missed out on an adventure.
What do you have an opportunity to learn about today? Does one of your kids struggle in school? What can you learn today to encourage and guide them? Is your family living on a tight budget? Are there recipes you could learn or DIY decorating ideas you can master at this stage. Are you a teen longing to move out? Take the time to prepare now by developing your interests (read about it here).
Learning is so much fun and the possibilities are endless with books and the internet. Wring every last bit of information and experience out of this stage of your life!
Finding contentment is an ongoing journey. But is a goal worthy of pursuing. If you have been blown off track by all the changes in your life, then discover the benefits to some of those changes.
Perhaps your life feels a little stagnant as you are longing for the next stage. Relax, knowing that change will come. What will you miss when this season of your life finally comes? Take a minute to savor the moments.
Gotta run…need to catch up on reading about German Shepherd puppies!!