Contented?

There are two sides of contentment or maybe the word contentment is just used too sweepingly.  Such a goal-word but often, I believe,  confused.  But let me back up.  Today is Thanksgiving Day.  I sit here alone looking out the widow to the beautiful valley lights below and the Castle Rock Christmas Star shining away.  The house is clean, the candles are lit and  I live in a home that I could not even have dreamed of a year ago.  I’m back home where I belong 🙂  I feel content.  And….then…the feeling waifs.  If only I had my kids here.  If only we had a little more money for retirement.  If only I knew how to better help my parents.

Having my daughter visit us for Thanksgiving week reminded me of life as a newlywed.  I remember our first Christmas back home to Denver and that awful hollow feeling of going back to Greenville to our little ugly cracker box apartment.  I felt so out of my element–like a square peg in a round hole.  I ended up with malnutrition, no family in more than 2000 miles and my parents going through  a divorce.  We had to look in gutters for quarters for a box of mac and cheese.  Was I so far less content?  Yes.  No.  Yes.  Wrong question.  Through the years we have seasons of blessing and spells of parched desert that we didn’t know if we could crawl through.  There was a point in our lives where we we  nearly lost everything.  Was I content?  Yes I was.  I don’t know why. Grace I believe.  When you have nothing or have lost everything there’s no fear of the bottom.   You’re already there.

BUT, it leads me to the reason for this post.  I believe contentment is miserably misunderstood.  First of all, let ‘s go through some contentment measurement sticks.  Do you ever find yourself chastising your inner self something like this—“What’s wrong with you–think of the poor orphans around the world that have nothing and live on the streets–HOW could you be discontent about anything ? Get a life.”  Now, I do believe that if we had a comprehensive world view we would be immeasurably more content and thankful.  But it’s the wrong measuring stick.  There will always be those in better circumstances and those in worse.  These thoughts, wherever we are on that line,  will not bring contentment, just guilt.  The second measuring stick is comparison to where we were.  We feel that if things are better than before then we should feel content.  Wrong.  Both of these presume that contentment is dependent on a measure of more provision than the other guy or more provision than before.  They’re still comparing on a temporal level.

So, in an effort to comfort our soul, we spiritualize contentment.  We dig into verses about contentment such as 1 Timothy 6:6
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

and Philippians 4:11
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

So what is contentment?   This is where it get’s tricky.  My dear friends that are the gentle and careful type would presume that contentment involves risk-aversion–that if one dreams or takes risks, it shows lack of contentment.  I truly believe that we have a God-given drive to better ourselves and our circumstances.  I believe God puts dreams and drives and desires in our heart–wanting that next job, that next house, that next kindred spirit, that next degree and in a more global scale, a dream of a life we envision in our minds as to where we will live and what our lives will look like.  We see many biblical examples of risk-takers from the battles of the Old Testament, the parable of the talents, to the disciples following the teachings of the controversial Jesus.  Some risk taking involved money, some safety, and some involved risk of results (Noah to Nineveh and Paul’s missionary journeys).

So before I continue to muddle up this subject, let me be clear to say that contentment  can bring great joy to a home and relationships.  This goes back to my newlywed days.  I wish I had given the gift of contentment to my dear husband.  One less burden for him to carry.     I believe I lived most often in the land of the past and the land of the future. Contentment is a treasure  for sure, but let’s not confuse that with dreams and risk and falling headlong into faith.

So how do you combine the two–risk and contentment.  Ah–the peanut butter and jelly in the bread = discernment and patience.

So here’s my recipe for contentment:

1.  Discern the desire—is it discontentment or is it a leading from God to take the next step

2.  Take risks associated with the next step without feeling like you’re discontent

3.  Throw in some patience to let God work it out and not our own logical thinking (I rarely find God very logical)

4.  Don’t worry, be happy (code for “pray”)

5.  Give out of your abundance–clearly a better way than just feeling guilty and sorry for those less fortunate

6.  Accept outcomes knowing that all on earth is temporal (He give and takes away–blessed by the name of the Lord)

7.  Pray your dreams–your dreams might actually be the answer to your prayers (think of this one for a minute)

So in summary:

Contentment is a gift–to yourself and your friends and family

Contentment is not to be confused with taking risk and jumping out of faith, dreams and desires all of which in biblical context can be of God

Contentment is not “us versus them”

All in all—contentment is the calm before the storm, the valley before the mountain climb, the tee box before the good shot–

anticipation waiting for the next wonderful thing

not satisfaction with status quo

not risk free

not woe is me

not I’m stuck so I guess I have to be happy

contentment my friends, is full confidence that God has something hugely wonderful in the oven and you just have to wait for it to bake

Contentment is hope on the assembly belt

Chin Up and in everything Give Thanks for THIS IS the will of God 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Do Real Cowgirls Wear Make-up

I’m always late to the party.  I find a great restaurant only to find out the founding owner is 80, retiring and closing the place down.  One Christmas our family enjoyed a display of Bethlehem and Dickens Village at a church only to see it close down the tradition after more than 10 years.     So I suspect now that I am starting a blog, it is becoming passé and instead of leading I’m following far behind.  None-the-less, I have been a writer in my heart all my life.  I was one of those rare young ladies that kept many years of diaries with the little key.  For some reason I even felt compelled to include the time and temperature at the time of writing.

I think at first my writing will not be very profound.  I have many deep feelings and thoughts within me but they will take time to reach.  Above them in my heart are less important things like

“Do real cowgirls wear makeup?”   I’m headed to a barn dance today and while dressing I realized how I really struggle with things like this.  Black jeans or blue jeans?  Ok black!  White shirt or my scarecrow shirt with the bling.  Ok—scarecrow shirt (I know a real cowgirl would NEVER wear a shirt with a blingy scarecrow)—but add the hat, leather jacket with stringy things and my brown boots and viola—I’m a cowgirl.    Do cowgirls were socks in their boots?  I just don’t know these things.

Do real financial planners were suits?  I hope not.  I can remember a man lecturing a group of us many years ago as young stockbrokers. He told us ladies that we had to wear neutral suits and tan nylons—no colors.  I nearly changed careers.  This gal wore fuchsia fishnets and lime green nylons in Junior High (I kid you not and more amazing is that I miss them).

So I’m not sure I know what my style is or if I even have one.  I feel as comfortable in jeans and sweatshirt as I do in a gown at a gala.  Now the Mr. in the house  is perfectly at home with his style.  Dressing up is wearing the hat that doesn’t have sweat marks on it.  OK—well sometimes he does like slacks and a good sweater but I envy him in some ways.  He doesn’t worry about looking professional, too old or too young, too casual or too dressy, in or to out of season.

So for now I’ll vacillate between jeans and dress slacks, curly hair and straight, blingy sweaters and plain black shirts.  I might have to finally become comfortable that I don’t have style, and I either dress like an old lady or like an old lady trying to look too young.   I’m late to the party again.

And for today, this cowgirl with the blingy scarecrow is wearing make-up.

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