Monday, March 28, 2011

Practicing Contentment

I'm blessed and thankful.  No way around it.  For several months (or longer) we've been actively asking God to change our mindsets from that of the world.  There have been several areas that we've been focusing on, but the biggest one is that He opens our eyes to the blessings sitting right in front of us.  Turn our eyes away from the "wants" and "desires" of the world has been our request of God.  Open our eyes to the blessings that we are fortunate to have. 

So many times I'm guilty of finding myself caught up in the comparison game.  It's dangerous.  Wondering why God has blessed so-and-so with so-and-so blessing, but thinking He has ignored us in that regards.    I can't tell you how many times we've been hurt and it has created a wedge between ourselves and God.   It's really hard at times to see people being financially blessed in tremendous ways while they live their lives in ways that don't seem to regard God as the leader of their home.  We've had the mindset that we "deserved" it more.  Shameful thinking.  Selfish.  Sinful.  Guilty as charged.

Fortunately God began a work in our hearts in recent months and we are finally beginning to see the rewards.  It isn't a battle we have won, but we are moving in the right direction.  There are times we still get caught up in comparisons and worldly desires, but for the most part we have been experiencing peace.  We are in a place of contentment.  It's a calming, peaceful place to be.  It is where God intended for us to be all along. 

It's waking up and knowing that the pursuit of "stuff" isn't our direction after all.  Actually, we are actively letting go of "stuff" and seeking to simplify EVERY area of our lives.  The pursuit of "stuff" just ends up draining more time and energy.  "Stuff" just requires more work: more upkeep, more cleaning, more space, more of our time.  Now that I am seeing things through a new focal point, my entire perspective has changed.   Instead of feeling distanced from God because I feel like we are getting short-changed in the department of financial blessings, I now am thankful.  I see it.  I see part of what He was attempting to teach us.  I see some of what He wanted me to see.

  • Our eyes were focused on the wrong path.  Our pursuit of "stuff" is what separates us from God. Less TRULY is more. 
  • We're abundantly blessed.  Our house is a home.  It's a safe-haven of unconditional love.  It's filled with joy and contagious laughter.  Christ is actively placed as first and when we lose that focus, we ALL feel it.  We truly love to be together as a family and nothing is more amazing than that.  We don't cringe at the thought of spending hours together.  We see our children as treasures, not hindrances. 
  • Our marriage is a treasure.  The image you see of us in public or the bantering you see on facebook is real.  We don't "act" lovingly in public and then belittle each other in the privacy of our homes.  WE see that happen constantly and it hurts us to witness it.  We don't pretend to have this amazing marriage just for the world to see.  God has blessed us with something truly priceless.   To say we never argue or that we don't have issues to work through, would be a bold lie.  We both have deep wounds from "dark" days, especially of times when we wanted to walk away because obstacles were bigger than we thought we could conquer. 
  • Our blessings are in peace and stability.  There is nothing more peaceful than resting in God.  That is a blessing beyond words and one that I think we were guilty of forgetting.
  • Being content with what we have and less focused on what we don't have or on things that we "think" we need has truly been the place where God has started revealing Himself to us.  By taking our eyes off of the "stuff", we've been able to see him VIVIDLY in the little things. 
  • Finding God in the little things has increased our faith in trust in the BIG things. 
I still find myself "wanting" things, but those wants are changing.  I'm thankful for that!  Instead of wanting more money to buy stuff we think will fill in empty spaces in our hearts, we now realize that it just makes the hole bigger.  I absolutely would LOVE to be able to travel and take multiple vacations.  I would love to not have to budget to the very penny.  I would love to be able to go out and do things with the kids that most people take for granted without having to plan ahead for weeks or even months.  We VERY much enjoyed attending WinterJam 2011 this weekend, but even at only $10 a took planning!  My focus used to be on the "why" can't we have more freedom.  Now it's more of I'm truly thankful for THIS opportunity and THIS moment in time.   I'm content in being where we are right now because it's truly a place of blessing.  It's not a punishment....we aren't lacking and we aren't "less" than. 

Because of where we are in regards to what we can and can not do, the kids have learned valuable lessons about what is important, how to save and plan, and how to say NO!  I heard a statement a couple of weeks ago that really struck a cord.  The speaker said "say NO to your kids" and teach them to gracefully accept that word in their lives.  Here is the profound part:  ESPECIALLY teach the word no to boys!  If they don't learn to HEAR and LISTEN to that word now while they are young, they may not understand that word's meaning when they are a bit older and it may be YOUR daughter that is saying NO to him for the first time.  What if your daughter doesn't know how to say NO and mean it because they've never been given the opportunity to say it?  That touched me deeply because I've been in that position.  I've walked the road that saying "no" didn't mean enough and had to walk a painful road I wouldn't wish on anyone. 

In having to say no to so many things, the kids already have a deep understanding of what has lasting value and what doesn't.  They also value TIME and attention over material things.  I love that.  Perhaps God knew that if he was pouring out financial blessings on us every day, we would have missed that opportunity for growth.  Perhaps we would joined the rat race that so many people seem to be caught in.  Taking us off the path of keeping up with the neighbors or "Jones" as they say, has taught us lessons we may have not learned.  God knows us better than we know ourselves.  Teaching us contentment has had greater value to us than padding our bank accounts. 

With that said, I'm thankful for the "little" things He has been blessing us with lately.  Slowly but surely, we are reaching goals.  We see 100% debt free living happening in the next 18 months or sooner.  We can almost TASTE that freedom.  Saying "no" to so many little things is allowing us to say "yes" to the peace that being debt free brings.  Living on cash only has retrained our minds.  Going against what the world says is normal is NOT easy in the very least, but it has GREATER rewards.  Spending $1 for a movie and watching it at home instead of going to the theater may not always be the way we WANT to do something, but it makes sense.  Rarely eating out (except for the $1 menus) is a treat that we value----not take for granted.  Cooking from scratch as much as possible instead of  prepackaged or ordering take out may not be the most convenient, but it has rewards well beyond the "savings".   Playing board games at home or doing something as a family saves the budget, but brings even greater rewards of family togetherness.  Contentment.  I don't need anything more than what we have.  Priorities and desires have changed and I couldn't be any happier.  Granted, if I could take a trip alone with my husband or somewhere fun as a family...I would gladly jump at the opportunity!!!!!  Some day we will do both.  We have goals and are working towards them one penny at a time! 

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