So that’s it. That’s not just a word I’m claiming for this year. It’s an attitude I’m developing and hoping to nurture in my children because last night my nine year old sat in a sticky kitchen chair while I mashed potatoes and told me that the truth is she’s just jealous.
Jealous of her friend’s fancy clothes, their big house, the horses in the pasture. Jealous that some kids are already being told they’ll attend the trendy private school after fifth grade, and she knows that’s not in our future plans. Jealous because she doesn’t have her own electronic device and she barely has her own room.
I don’t want to foster those feelings. I don’t want to smooth them over and say this lifestyle we have is just temporary and someday we’ll have a bigger house, and clothes that aren’t consignment, and maybe even a horse for her to ride even though all of that is probably true.
Because if I can’t help her find contentment now without all that, how will she ever find peace with it? How will I?
For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance….
That was my grandfather’s verse. He’d written it in the back of his Bible and he modeled contentment for me. He had nice things, some of the best things actually, but he was most content with basics and a campfire in the woods. He knew the secret of living well, and I wish I’d listened more.
So this year, I am striving to emulate his presence by reminding myself to be content in three specific circumstances.
1. Content With Myself: We all have a different level of capacity. I am learning that just because other people may multi-task really well, or be able to manage home businesses, or grow their blogs into salary-producing establishments, or homeschool half a dozen kids while writing a novel, doesn’t mean I have to. My capacity is not there right now. Honestly, it is all I can do to manage laundry, dishes, and meal planning some weeks, much less all the volunteer and church work I’ve heaped on myself. How I ever worked full-time and managed our home is beyond me. But then again, that was when I had two less children and full-time daycare. My life is vastly different now. I simply can’t do it all anymore and that’s okay.
2. Content With Our Home: We have, by most standards (especially when you consider four kids), a small house. It’s about 1400 square feet and there’s nothing particularly charming or unique about it. We bought it almost 8 years ago with the intention of fixing it up and flipping it. Then the market crashed and since we have no equity and no option for refinance that doesn’t include money down, we’re stuck in an upside down mortgage with a property that was never supposed to be a long-term home. See why I need to work on being content? But here’s the truth: it meets our basic and current needs. There are four bedrooms, so only two of the four have to share. The master tub is big enough for them all to take a bath at the same time. There are hardwood floors and new kitchen counters and a laundry room (not a closet!) that’s big enough for pantry storage as well as the piles of dirty towels. My husband has plenty of yard to work in and the kids have plenty of room behind the house to play. Over the past year, we really began to try and embrace this as a home and we’ve made some changes I’m going to be sharing with you throughout the year. Finding what’s good and not comparing our home to everyone else’s takes a conscious effort on my part. But I want to know that I can be content wherever we live because it’s my family that makes any place a home.
3. Content With My Family: Comparison is a trap that robs us of all joy. (hmm…Maybe my un-word should really be “un-compare.”) For instance, I love my kids. I think they are smart and funny and interesting and whiny and uncooperative and delightful. They’re not perfect and yours aren’t either. But for some reason, we trap ourselves into comparisons. My girls brought home report cards yesterday that were all As and Bs, so I refused to scroll through my facebook feed because I didn’t want to see all the posts about who got straight As. It’s great if your child did, it’s great if you posted about it, but my personal issue is that I make that all about me. I make it all about how I should be helping more, quizzing more, trying harder to make my kids into model pupils who excel especially at reading and language arts because, hello, their mother is a certified teacher! But when I do that, I’m not finding peace with who they are. I’m trying to make them into someone else. For a long time, I’ve carried an image in my head of my perfect family. Guess what? My perfect family is nothing like the image I had because this family I have is real. This family is love.
So that’s it. One word that I somehow managed to make into many.
I’d love to hear about your one word. Or many. Or just how you’re becoming content in whatever circumstance?