The last few years my heart has dwelt on living in an area with more to do: a place that I can walk peacefully without cars or ATVs zooming by, recreational activities I can be a part of, classes I can take and learn more hobbies, organizations I can volunteer for. Ideally, I’d pick up my house and yard and move it someplace else, trees included.
My heart focused on all that I could have that I don’t. I dreamed of what I thought would make me happy based on aspects I felt were missing now. Wouldn’t I be happier and do more? Maybe…but at what cost?
No place is ever perfect. In finding the ideal location for my husband and me, I have understood this at a deeper level. Moving to a warmer state means less time seeing my family. Some states with better weather mean I lose pay and insurance coverage, which would make it hard to afford the activities the city provides, defeating the purpose of moving. Staying in the state means more to do, a good job, higher housing costs, but the same frigid winters with not enough to do to help get through the long six months. Of course our ideal location had a ton of paved bike paths and wooded hiking trails, lot of activities to do, better weather, housing that was doable, but jobs for teachers were nonexistent, income tax was high, and it was across the country.
In the best times I think I have it all and can be content where I am; my family supports me and we have fun playing games and spending time together, the house is in a nice private neighborhood with easy access to trails, shopping, and the gym, my job provides me flexibility and opportunity to grow, my friends are great listeners and supportive, and I can create opportunities to do my hobbies if the opportunity does not exist. In the worst times I think, well I don’t see my family often, the house needs work, my commute could be shorter, my friends are busy, and it’s hard to find an outlet for my hobbies and a lot of work and time to start organizing people who share a hobby.
Over the last few days the weather has been rainy and so I’ve been more reflective. I remember watching Pastor Jeff Manion’s January 19th sermon about contentment, which goes over the same struggles I’ve been having. I highly recommend watching the series; it’s very thought provoking. One of the quotes he references is from Paul writing in prison. You can see this sermon series here.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11-13, NIV).
Perspective is so important. It is the key to happiness. If I recognize and appreciate all that I have, I won’t need more. I can be like Paul, content where I am. The problem is these dreams and yearnings have not been centered on prayerfulness. Whenever I stop and enter purposeful prayerfulness all my dreams no longer matter because I see that God has provided for my needs and anything else I know He will provide. Yet I get tangled in the invisible strings of the future instead of walking the clear path of the present.
I need to be thankful. Just recently I tried to get rid of furniture and clothing to charities and had a hard time finding places that would take it. I even had a hard time finding the charities themselves, and I live in an area with people who would welcome the support. My first thought was if I lived somewhere else this wouldn’t be a problem, but the point is that in the end I did find good homes for the furniture. It’s okay that it took a bit of searching and phone calls to make it work. Did I pray before I pursued this task? No. Would my experience have been different had I? Maybe. Wouldn’t it be better to have God in the forefront of all you do? I pray all the time for people and situations and yet I have so much more room to grow, to be at peace in prayer.
Yes, all the activities in the area I might want to do I have to go digging, really digging, but if I can find one place to go rock climbing by myself, one place to take a cooking class, one board game group, and one local charity or organization to give my time to, isn’t that enough? And I have. Do I need a zillion options to be happy? No. Can I be a leader and create the opportunity and help others in the process? Yes.
(Update: I created a blog about things to do in my area and have grown to over 500 followers! I also moved short drive north with more to do. You never know where God will lead you.)
My action steps for contentment:
Pray for opportunities to make a difference.
Pray for opportunities to learn and improve myself.
Pray to be open to opportunities that come my way when God provides them.
Remind myself of my blessings daily.
Know that God has a purpose where I am and I need to embrace it.
Get back to a daily Scripture reading routine and prayer time, which always brings me peace and a positive start to the day.
May you find your own path to contentment with God leading your way.