Monday, June 15, 2015

Contentment: Common Myths

This article was previously published in November 2012.

Ultimately, our contentment does not derive from our circumstances, our behavior, or our friends and family. It derives from the Person of Jesus Christ. Is He your Source? 

Am I content at home? I can say, irrevocably, yes. How did I arrive there? It wasn't easy. But you may have a different notion of what I mean by the word content, so let me elucidate further. Here are some myths about what contentment looks and feels like.

Myth #1: Contentment means I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.

NO, sorry, that won't happen until, well, I've died and gone to heaven. It doesn't mean everything in my life is the way I want it. Contentment consists of knowing the parameters of real life in an imperfect world where I will live imperfectly, with circumstances likewise imperfect, and accepting them. Peace comes when you know you are doing the right thing, brightening the corner where you are, and pleasing your Lord and Savior.

Paul speaks here. Philippians 4:11-1(ESV)

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Myth #2: Contentment at home means no conflicts.

My daughter recently said to me, "Sometimes it feels like our home is a battle ground." We had had an especially tough period with conflict and relational difficulties. I rubbed her back and said, "Well, hopefully most of the time it is a refuge. But there will be battles to be fought, and if we don't fight them, then problems can fester and get worse."

Myth #3: Contentment means I'm just waiting through this temporary season of my life until I can leave.

If you have little children in your home and you are salving yourself with the comforting thought that your present situation is only temporary, then you haven't really given you heart to your children. You are still looking for an escape plan. With true contentment comes an abiding joy, a desire to be home indefinitely, even after the children are grown and you have grandchildren to visit you. It doesn't mean you can't someday take a job or volunteer outside your home. But that shouldn't be a pie-in-the-sky vision for you as if then--and only then--you will get to fulfill your true potential and be happy. The grass is always greener on the other side. But, like the Three Billy Goats Gruff, you may find a menacing troll lurking under the bridge, or poisonous weeds mingled in that luscious grass you so coveted. In other words, don't expect the greener grass to make you happy.

Myth #4: Contentment means I'll settle for this season at home until I can finally follow MY real calling, to pursue MY gifts.

I think there is too much emphasis among some Christians about the need to identify one's spiritual gifts in order to pursue them. It can quickly become a poorly-veiled attempt at self-actualization. God doesn't give you gifts in order to feel more fulfilled. He gives them to you to serve others. 

Your calling IS to serve your family. Put your family first, serve them well, and your gifts will automatically be employed. You will also find out what weaknesses you need to improve on. Family life is intended to be a sanctifying experience. It's not easy. Do hard things.

This may be hard teaching for you. There are times when we need to hear some hard teaching. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use it in your life to mould you into His likeness.

Ultimately, our contentment does not derive from our circumstances, our behavior, or our friends and family. It derives from the Person of Jesus Christ. Is He your Source?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. -Titus 2 ESV

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Almost an Empty Nester

May 23, 2015: Granddaughter Cedar, Husband John, Son Caleb, and me.

Last month my youngest son graduated from high school home school.

It was a milestone, a cause for pause.

Caleb gave an amusing four-minute speech, well-constructed, with famous quotes, scripture, and personal anecdotes. Being former speech club founders, we parents had reason to be proud. On the podium, he gave me flowers and hug. His father gave a blessing. It was good.

Thus ended, officially, my homeschool years with my five children. Yet I had little to do with Caleb's schooling during the last two years as he became an independent learner. I had worked my way out of a job, which was my intention. Still, on those occasions when he asked me to do school with him just to help him focus on the work, my heart was warmed. "I'm still needed!"

Last year I went through Empty Nest Syndrome, of a sort, as I tried to redefine my role and function. What would I do with myself now? I offered my tutoring services to my grown children who now are parents, but they were well-equipped to go it on their own, or had joined a co-op. They didn't need me. I advertised to the larger community online and on facebook, but rarely got a response. "No one needs me anymore," and I fell into self-pity, a frequent temptation for me as I continue to struggle with health issues that limit my options.

I'm so over that now. I have plenty to do, as you can see by my bio on my About Me page. I have grandchildren to visit, two writing students to teach, and a house and garden to offer in ministry to others. I have a women's Bible study in my home, which has been a great blessing. And I have a side income with Young Living.

When I told a friend I was an empty-nester now, she corrected me by saying, "Well, he hasn't moved out yet, right? So you still have some parenting to do." And that's true. I still end up nagging him when I'm not careful.

God is not finished with me yet.