Contentment…

Contentment, this allusive thing that we as human’s seek often and often struggle finding. Regardless of people’s faith, family or cultural background, I have observed everyone seems to desire to be content and very rarely are content. We are jealous of others, want to find greener pastures or think the next achievement or thing is going to be the one that makes us happy. What is contentment? How do we get it? How do we keep it once we got it? Is contentment the same as joy? When am I content?
 
Even in the first days of my tragedy and every day since, I have experienced joy…but that was supernatural. To me joy is a supernatural delight in the people, purpose and person of Christ Jesus. So I could have joy in the midst of pain, joy in the midst of tears and joy in the midst of anger. But to me contentment is different than joy. Contentment is resting in the place and circumstances that you are in. To be content is to not long for the next season, the next thing, the next relationship thinking it will make me happier. A place where my unmet desires are found in knowing Christ. It is when I am comfortable in my own skin, grateful for all I have, and happy for the blessings of others. It is when I stop trying to gain control and totally let go.
 
So although, I had joy from day 1…I was not content. In all honesty for almost 18 months, I HATED my life. I chose joy. I wasn’t bitter. I praised God. I was grateful and full of thanksgiving. I chose to see the blessings in the little things along the way. We survived life in a beautiful way…we were often found laughing, loving and seeking our next adventure. I loved all the special time with each friend that walked along side of us. I had a heart full of gratitude for what God had done, was doing and promised to do. But in my heart of hearts, I hated my life. It was constant and consistent survival. I wanted Derek back with every part of my being. I was lonely. Needy. I missed my son. I missed my brother. Feeling like my best years were behind me. I clung to the girls, but it was so hard. They needed more of me than what I had to give…which made me feel hopeless and like a failure. There was always so much to do. There was always so much emotion, so much need for affirmation and attention. Everything was urgent. We had to file insurance claims, complete fire reports, buy new clothes/cleaning supplies/furniture…, sell the old house, find a new place to live (temporarily and long-term), go to therapy, relearn how to discipline the girls, thank everyone, remember Derek & Dylan…heal. We had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I exhausted friends…either needing too much or not having anything to give back. I wanted my old life back. I longed to feel like myself. I hated the fog. I wanted to be living sooner, not just surviving. I tried to choose life and live it, but it was work. I desired to not feel so exhausted all the time…it took so much effort and so much work to make it through each day, staying hopeful. Sometimes, my relationship with Christ was work. It was work to choose Him…to trust Him…but it was my only option. Even when I didn’t want to or feel like it…I dug into His Word, I spent time with His people, I prayed, I tried to live out his calling on my life to love others…but it was work. I had to preach to myself, remind myself of his Word, His promises, His character. And I failed over and over again in this process. Getting angry with people, feeling hurt then entitled…often showing signs of my own selfishness. Doing things in my own strength. Filling my needs sometimes with temporal comforts. It was all healing. It was part of my process. It was required. And, every day I prayed for reprieve and contentment.
 
The crazy part is as we have gone through this journey we are now in this season of abundance. I started a new role in February at work which enabled me to afford more help at home. We have been living in our new home for almost a year…and our absolute favorite part is the people that live in our neighborhood. They have quickly become good friends. Ella and Johanna are getting older, more independent, enjoying more things and time with just the three of us. They have beautiful hearts – full of passion, opinions, competitiveness, kindness, love and intensity. They make bad choices like all of us, but to witness the healing in their lives over the past two+ years is unbelievable. We drink up life, seeking more adventures, loving the people placed in our path and loving each other. We dance and sing a lot. I have a passion for his Word, greater than before. My relationships with friends and family have normalized. I continue to feel like I have a wealth of amazing people in my life. The urgency is gone. We make decisions about the future. I can feel myself dreaming again. I still miss and will always miss Derek, Dylan and my brother, Josh. But I see all kinds of new life in us. When I was in Israel, I learned about olive trees. Israel is a dry land and after 100 years olive trees stop producing fruit. Rather than planting new trees, they cut off the old tree at the trunk and graft in new branches. The established roots from the old tree enable the grafted tree to produce olives quicker and in more abundance than planting a new tree. I saw myself in this tree. Two plus years ago, my life was cut off at the base of the trunk. I still have my roots: Derek’s love for me, the girls, my family, my friends, my relationship with Christ, my knowledge of Him, who I was created to be, my life experiences – but my old branches, my old life was gone, cut off at the trunk…BUT the exciting part…I can see the new life springing forth from that old root system with new fruit. New branches have been grafted in. And in more time, I am confident that this new fruit will be even more abundant. I am so excited about what other branches God is going to graft into me in this season.
 
One of the hardest things about contentment is keeping it, especially when you deeply desire something and you want to be content without it. Since having Derek back is not a reality, from the beginning I truly desired to be married again. I loved being married to Derek…having a best friend as my life partner. It was like I needed to think about getting married again to survive, to get through it because the idea of being alone the rest of my life in addition to missing Derek was suffocating. I had watched my sister-in-law, Tracy get remarried after my brother had died. I walked through life with my friend, Sarah as she began a new life with her now husband John. So it seemed natural, it was a point of hope, a place of distraction from the pain. It was a survival mechanism, which I don’t think was bad, abnormal or wrong. I needed to go on dates to feel like I was moving forward…to feel like I was healing. I went on my first date about a year after the tragedy. It lasted an entire hour because I thought it would be rude to leave before an hour had passed. I created online profiles, had people set me up, went to places where I could network. And in it, the entire time praying for contentment. Longing to be content without Derek and without someone else. Feeling immature in my need for male affirmation and attention. And in His time and in His way, that contentment in this area has come. Do I still desire to be married again someday? Yes. But I don’t need to be. I am content. I actually really love this season we are in and feel so blessed. I feel fully complete in who I am, who God has created me to be and with the blessings He has given us. I love my little family, Ella, Johanna and I. We have an amazing life…filled with amazing people, amazing opportunities and an amazing Savior.
 
So I can truly say as Paul did in Phil 4:11 – 14 – “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” The secret is trusting in God in such a way that I can do all things, especially when my emphasis is on obedience to God and service to others. And I do thank all of you for sharing in my trouble as you have walked and continue to walk this road with us.
 
That doesn’t mean I still don’t have hard days because I do…I miss them…and this is not an easy path, but as I have been pushing against the rock on a daily basis…I see God has been making me stronger. Just like the man in modern day parable that God called to push against the rock. Every day the man pushed against the rock, but the rock never moved. The man felt discouraged and disheartened because he hadn’t made any progress in what he felt God had asked him to do. He began to believe it was an impossible task. He took his concern and feelings of failure to God. God responded, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”


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