Contentment. In Philippians 4 Paul writes that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances in which he finds himself. This has been an ongoing process in me for my whole Christian walk. It's like a pattern: I long for something, God shows me what He has provided instead, and I gradually accept and eventually become actually thankful for His provision.
Lately though, I have been anything but content. This may seem random, but I promise it will all be relevant. Let me explain.
Over the years He has provided housing, food, clothing, and transportation for me. I started with basically nothing and He added as the need arose.
I was scared when I first became single with one child still at home. I needed a place to feel safe; somewhere my son and I could live alone, but not alone in the sense that people were close by. God led me to an apartment, where I had good neighbors. I loved that apartment! I lived there for 11 years. I started to want something of my own, though, so He provided. I went from living in an apartment to buying the house I now live in.
A few years ago, I became aware of just how much stuff I had crammed into my little 900 square foot house. I thought I must need a bigger house, and asked God to provide. But He did something surprising: He opened my eyes to minimalizing.
He showed me that I had adequate housing for a person living alone, and I needed to live within what He had provided. This sounds kind of mean, now that I am seeing it in print, but it wasn't at all. It actually was presented in such a way that it was like a revelation or something. Only God can do that; change your heart to want to give stuff away and actually be happy about it.
So I've been on this adventure of going through my stuff on a regular basis. I am constantly getting up on a Saturday morning and deciding "today I am going to sort through [fill in the blank] and give away what I don't need." Sometimes it's clothes or shoes; sometimes it's furniture. Lately, it's been pictures, which can be challenging, but also freeing.
I love doing this. (This has to be God).
You have to constantly be in communication with God about this. I have learned to ask Him about everything. Isn't that what He told us to do, though?
When He directed me to minimalize, I felt strongly that I should not bring new items into the house. For instance, I recently wanted a new bookshelf to accommodate my fantastic new idea I got (probably on Pinterest) for displaying books and pictures in my living room. Instead, He has directed my steps, saying "use what you already have." I have heard that phrase so many times in my conversations with Him, but He's always right. Always.
In short, He provides whatever I need.
So, what's the problem if God supplies all my needs?
For quite some time I have been focused on and increasingly upset by the fact that my children and grandchildren live far away from me. Even though we stay in touch by phone and internet, they are too far away to be daily or even weekly in my life, and this has been a sticking point for me. For several years I have battled with this.
To fill the void, God brought Godly friends around me many years ago to love me and accept me as their own. I am living proof that He does set the lonely in families. The friendships and subsequent "adoption" into the family that He developed with my two "besties" and me over the almost 2 decades we've been friends is a miraculous story in itself, but the details of that is for another blog post at another time.
So I went to God recently, crying and lamenting over the fact that I need to see my kids and grandkids more. I told Him what He already knew: I had always and forever only wanted "the house with the white picket fence" so to speak with the sprawling front porch and rocking chairs on it. There would be a big backyard for the kids, and a deck for us to hang out on and watch them play. My kids and grandkids would be in and out of my house all the time. I would see them at least once a week. This is how I envisioned my future life when my children were growing up.
This is not my reality.
Over the past year or so, I have grieved over the loss of this future that I did not get to have. I have wondered what happened; why would God put a dream in my heart He was not going to fulfill? He never answered these questions. I became increasingly discontent, then discouraged, then defeated. The stage was set to enter back into full depression, each day getting darker and more hopeless. So utterly hopeless. The enemy of our soul would like us to believe that it is hopeless. I almost did.
But there is always hope. ALWAYS.
This past week was the bottom of that downward turn. I wept and prayed for a good long while after church Wednesday night. I did what I should have done in the beginning: I surrendered this whole thing to God. I asked Him to, once again, rearrange my heart, my longings, my desires.
I basically asked Him to do with my heart what He had asked me to do with my house full of stuff: sort through what was there and take out what didn't belong. I asked Him to purify me and put the right desires in my heart, the ones He wants, because HE KNOWS BEST. Then I went to bed, and got up and went about my business as usual, going to work and coming home.
This morning in prayer, I heard God as clearly as I have ever heard Him, regarding my kids and grandkids. It was so familiar, and was probably there all along but I didn't want to hear it. He said these words:
"Use what you already have."
So what do I have? I did what I always do when He tells me this about a thing I think I need. I took stock of what my resources are. What do I already have?
I have the internet. Thank you Jesus for the age of technology! We can Skype or Facetime more often.
I have my phone, constantly with me. We can text and send pictures to each other. We can talk on the phone (in olden days people actually talked to each other on the phone. I know, right?)
We can interact on Facebook (when I can get the darlings to comment). I try, oh how I try.
God has provided a reliable car; I can go and see them more often; especially the grandkids who are growing and changing DAILY. I want them to know and have a relationship with their Mimi.
As God provides the funds, I can fly to see the ones farther away. I can even drive when He gives me the courage to drive that far on my own.
The enemy wants us to live defeated and in despair. He wants us to believe that nothing will ever change, that there is no hope. But he is wrong.
There is always HOPE. Always.
I have learned how to be content with whatever I have...For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4: 11, 13 NLT