Monday, June 12, 2017

On Contentment

I realize my last few posts might have sounded mildly depressing, and I apologize for that.  Just being real.

But I'm happy to report that things are improving.  

We've finally moved into our new house, which is just lovely, so light-filled and roomy.  

We've been in our house for two weeks now, and are nowhere near unpacked or settled.  
And that's ok.  

For various reasons, it is going to take some extra time to really start to unpack and get settled.  Right now, as I focus on getting rugs and mirrors bought, and TP-holders and trash cans strategically in place, I'm also thinking about how to re-organize the inner-lives that we boxed up and carted around with us these last six months.  Our personal and family life.

It seems that just like our material possessions, our spiritual, mental, and emotional possessions have been shaken up, jumbled around, and some are seemingly, as of yet, unaccounted for.  I miss my fairly well-ordered spiritual/family life, that was built layer by layer, and year by year. 

I realize, that not only might this take time to rebuild, but as I "unpack" these things, I see that they aren't all coming out of the box looking the same way I put them in there.  And it's time to step back and look at that and see what needs keeping, what needs improving and changing, what has simply expired over time, and what should really be tossed out.

Figuring that out, as I said, will take time, and I'm trying to be patient with myself and seeking the Lord's help with those monumental tasks which I feel fall into my stewardship as a Mother.

That's probably something I'll revisit in a future post, when I start to feel more figured-out.  But I will talk about one thing that's been on my mind this week, and that is the idea of feeling content.

A good blog-friend of mine moved from the city out to the country probably six months before we moved.  She said her reason for moving her family was because things were feeling too normal/predictable and she felt her family needed a change in order to grow.  She also mentioned wanting a different way of life, a slower-paced schedule, and room to roam as a family.

I thought about her thoughts.  WE didn't move because we wanted to.  I felt perfectly content to stay in Lewisburg, PA for a long time...maybe forever.  I guess I'm not as much of a thrill-seeker as I used to be. I liked our dependable way of life.  I liked my hard-earned friends.  I'm sure I needed to grow, but I needed a little shove to get me moving in the new direction that the Lord wanted for me.

Along these lines, I had recently listened to quite a few friends of mine talk about how uncontent they had become with their lives, and it made me wonder "what was it about our lives for the last 10 years in Lewisburg that made us feel so content, personally and as a family??"  And "how do I replicate those things in my new home and new city?"

Now don't get me wrong, there were many challenges to overcome, many very hard things and lessons to learn during that time.  Yet, there were many more things that allowed us to feel basic, every day, dependable contentment and joy.

In my friend's vlog that I watched recently, she talked about how when she is discontent, she writes down the question "Why am I not enjoying my life right now?" and she makes a list and then makes changes to those items listed.  I took her suggestion and turned it around to suit my situation.  I really wanted to ponder what it was that allowed us to be so happy and content for so long.  I decided to make a list, because I am so serious about wanting to build those things into my life again, if possible, in my new circumstances.

So, here's my list of things that made us feel content about life during the last decade (I'm sure it's incomplete...but it's what I came up with.)

1.  Country Life:  This was something that took some getting used to at first, but which I grew to love.  Having lived in Washington, DC previously and working downtown in an urban atmosphere, I over time grew to appreciate having basically nowhere to shop (except Walmart).  I wasn't focused on consuming things or spending inordinate amounts of time spending money (outside of the basics of feeding, clothing, and teaching my family!)  There also wasn't much in the way of traffic which comes along with industry and shopping and a large population.  I enjoyed more free time and less stress because I almost never sat in traffic for ten whole years!  We were surrounded by the beauty of nature, and enjoyed local fruit in season.  We associated with good/giving, humble people who lived close to the earth, lots of farmers, and people who serve, serve, serve others.  There were less rules and regulations and in my estimation more freedom.  As a result of this, our family life was abundant.  We had more time to do what we wanted.

2.  As a family we didn't play sports:  Oh there were a few instances where we enrolled all three of the oldest in gymnastics, because they could take the class at the same time, and once Guy played Upwards basketball.  That was a conscious choice and sacrifice that we made so that we could prioritize family time together.  I often questioned that choice and sometimes felt guilty that they weren't "in a sport" like most of my friends' children were, however when I look back at the many happy memories we made outside playing together or inside baking or creating together, I think this contributed greatly to our contentment during the first decade of our life with kids.

3.  We worked hard to keep the Sabbath Day:  Early on, with kids, we felt we needed to take a closer look at what it means for us to keep the Sabbath Day Holy.  We had a testimony-building experience that helped us really come in to our own on this gospel principle, and although it has never really been easy to keep the Sabbath day holy over the years, we've reaped great rewards.  Now that we are in a different environment, and we're seeing how different people interpret and live out this commandment, this choice and it's affect on our family has become more poignant to me, and I want to continue to live it our way. I realized just how significant this decision has been for us recently when I was reminded of the scripture that says that those who keep the Sabbath Day will enjoy the fullness of the earth.  We certainly did enjoy that.  True principle!

4.  We faithfully made time for personal and family scripture study and prayer, weekly family home evening, and temple service, and daily family breakfast and dinners.  We also made General Conference teachings and watching a big part of our home. Those teachings greatly affected our happiness and increased our wisdom:  This is something we've worked hard to do from the time the children were babies.  It's something we've grown in doing, gotten better at, but still is a lot of hard work to accomplish.  Although, we've varied in our success, I can look back and clearly see what a major impact it has had on the contentment we have felt about our lives, no matter what trial we were experiencing at the time.  They felt smaller than they would have, and we probably handled them better.

5.  Last, but not least on my list, my husband had a good job that he enjoyed, and which allowed him to be around a lot as opposed to traveling or long hours at the office.  I had creative outlets I enjoyed and friends who took great care of us, and especially my needs as a stay-home Mom.  And for all of these things we thank our Heavenly Father and recognize his grace and great blessings in our lives.

It felt good to take a moment to recognize the reasons for our contentment in the now previous chapter of our lives together.  I was pleased to find that the true source of our contentment was not financial security, easiness of the way, or happenstance.  It was more a consequence of hard decisions made and stuck to, decisions that can be made by anyone, anywhere.   

Now the challenge begins as we try to figure out how to re-gain and re-organize our family life, to re-institute family traditions that have proven positive results for us.

Yes, I will sit in traffic (regretfully so), oh ten times more than I ever did before.  Yes, I will always miss certain kinds of people who I honestly believe you can only find in an agricultural community.  Yes, as our children grow, they will probably start playing more sports.  But of the things that matter most, I still have a choice and say in.  Here's to making the right choices moving forward.

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