The Choice That Changed It All
A month ago, for the very last time, we walked down the very familiar three flights of stairs from the apartment building we lived in as a family of six for eighteen months. It wasn’t supposed to be 18 months but as we all know, sometimes life doesn’t turn out just the way we had thought. I’ll confess, at times it sort of felt like we were living a reality show. Some days I had looming thoughts about how much longer we would all be able to handle the mounting pressure for fear it would implode on us. But most days? Most days, our family of six packed into 1,200 square feet lived a normal life – cooking meals, doing school work, coming and going from running practice and ballet and gymnastics. We found little spaces to call our own to sneak some quiet, shared family movie nights in the make-shift “den” at the foot of our bed, and invited people over for dinner where kids threw dinosaurs off the balcony, jumped on our white sofas and spilled food on the carpet that inconveniently graced the floor beneath our dining room table. The coat closet amidst the living space (and the ONLY closet, mind you) was used for the abundance of school books and supplies and the coats? Well, they ended up on the floor of one of the other bedroom closets. But you know what? It was ok.
So many have asked us how we did it. We’ve heard countless times, “I don’t know how you did that!” Sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we yelled at each other and barged into each other’s space. Other times we grumbled and complained and felt frustrated with our 1st world problems. But most of the time, this “home” was just like any other more suitable home we’ve lived in. It dawned on me a few weeks ago how to answer the question we’ve been asked more times than I can count. How did you do it? Answer: Contentment. It’s how people do hard things. We aren’t some super-family or just “blessed with well-behaved children.” We are real people who struggle to find joy and contentment just like the next person does. But we lived a full, rich, beautiful life for 18 months in our small space because we had a choice to make. And most days, by the grace of God, we made it: we chose contentment. Contentment isn’t something to be learned but it’s a choice that you make over and over and over again. It isn’t just limited to place but circumstances too. When people fail you, the cancer returns, dreams crumble, the marriage loses its’ glamour, or when the future you imagined is darkened, or there is just an unanticipated turn in the road, you choose to open your hands to the Lord and you find something to be grateful for. Because there is always something to be grateful for.
There was a little black table behind a chair in the living room in that apartment with our family gratitude journal that I started 14 years ago. I pulled it out and began jotting things down and weeks later, I noticed little hands grabbing the life-line as they, too, stood before that table and out from their hearts sprung forth the choice to be content and to find something for which to thank God for. Sometimes when my heart felt far from God, I would glance at that journal and feel His presence:
*Roller skating night
*grace when I don’t love the children as I desire
*playing a game with dad
*sun pouring in through the window
*painting watercolor birds
*granola and yogurt
That, my friends, is the answer. We would be fools to think that because we have moved on and been blessed immensely with a wonderful home and space to spread out in, that we will be forever content. Oh, we would be fools. The truth of the matter is, we’ve lived in this new place for a month and while we are immensely happy and humbled at the Spirit’s work, we’ve already complained. At the root of our hearts, is a need that only Christ can fill. And we cast off our sin and the idols that our hearts are so quick to erect and we choose again: contentment. We thank the Lord for the gifts He’s given and for the ones ahead that we don’t even know about yet. There is always something to be thankful for. May our steps be ever graced with the pouring out of gratitude and may we choose daily, hourly and moment by moment to whisper our thanks and choose our joy no matter what…
*our new friends
*playing in the woods
*constant chatter of a little boy voice
“You don’t know what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content.” -Charles Spurgeon