I remember countless conversations with family members and friends over the years, contemplating whether or not we should move from Fairfield County, Connecticut (read: super expensive suburbs of New York City) back to Ohio, where we grew up (read: much more affordable and near family). My husband and I felt that in order to give our kids the life we wanted to, we needed to move back to the midwest. Fast forward to us trying for a few years to get a job there and coming up with nothing. We were discouraged and unsettled…for about five minutes.
Then we realized something: we already have everything we want. Healthy children, happy marriage, roof over our heads. Good jobs that we actually love, in a town we actually love, near friends who have become like family to us. Suddenly, we became incredibly grateful for our amazing life, despite the crazy high cost of living. Once we were ok with staying put, staying put became an enormous blessing. Funny how that works, right?
When it comes right down to it, contentment is simply wanting what you already have. So often, our natural inclination is to fixate on what’s not going well, what we wish was different, what we want more or less of in our lives. Rarely do you hear people say “I’m perfectly content with my life just as it is.” Even as we make small talk with strangers or acquaintances, we are so quick to lead with a story about a struggle we are facing, or a recent disappointment.
As we head into the holiday season (what? Halloween counts as the start of the holiday season, doesn’t it?!), my hope is that we would awaken to the goodness in all of our lives, despite our circumstances. The truth is, no matter what we are going through, there are always blessings to count. Today, I want to share plenty of tips and encouragement that will help you make that an actual reality, rather than merely a trite expression.
The Secret of Being Content
In one of my very favorite passages of scripture, Paul writes “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11). The thing that resonates with me most in that verse? I have learned. Meaning that even for Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, contentment didn’t come naturally. One of the secrets of being content is learning to be content.
To put it much more eloquently, Charles Spurgeon stated, “It cost [Paul] some pains to discover that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had attained to it and could say, ‘I have learned in whatsoever situation I am to be content,’ he was an old, gray-headed man, upon the borders of the grave – a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome.”
My takeaway is that as long as we’re on this Earth, we’re going to be learning and re-learning how to be content. And that’s ok. The point isn’t even that we eventually figure it all out where gratitude is concerned; merely, that we commit ourselves to its continual study. But how do we do that?
Wanting What You Have
Years ago, before I became a mom, I stumbled upon a blog called “Wanting What You Have.” It was written by a woman who I considered to be #momgoals in every sense of the word. I followed along with her family as they grew and gleaned as much wisdom as I possibly could even before I was pregnant. One of the main tenets of the blog was frugality, and along with it, gratitude. Heather, the author, was a stay at home mom of three, trying to stretch their one income as far as possible. Having recently moved to Connecticut, I knew this was worth paying attention to.
Above all, what separated Heather from other mom bloggers I was reading at the time was her willingness to share photos of her lovely home, not filled with brand new (expensive) furniture, but perfectly good furniture her family felt no need to “update” or “modernize” to keep up with the Joneses. Her writing was a constant reminder that what we have is (actually) enough. A few years later, finding myself in a preschool drop off line where I eventually began to feel more and more like a “have-not” in our ritzy suburb, I felt Heather’s posts were at times an actual reminder from God to be grateful for what I have, because it’s enough. In fact, it’s way more than enough.
You may not find any of the photos from my house (that we rent) or Heather’s on Pinterest (in fact, Heather often shared how Pinterest was not a place you would ever find her, for just that reason), but you will find tons of photos of both of our families – healthy, happy, and wanting what we have.
A Gratitude Practice That Works
Most people will acknowledge that it’s way easier to feel content when things are going well; but how do we remain so when life throws us a curveball, as it is prone to do from time to time? The answer is that we need constant reminders.
For whatever reason, most of us seem hardwired to focus on the negative – not because we are pessimists, but because our brain’s primary function is to protect us. That being the case, we are (often without realizing it) always on the hunt for things that could go wrong, reminded of things that did go wrong, and trying to troubleshoot for things that may never end up happening.
It’s not enough for us to read a quote about gratitude and go on our way. In order to really grow in contentment, especially when we face difficult circumstances, we must have a practice in place to get our mind to the right place and keep it there.
Enter, my gift to you: A FREE 5 day gratitude challenge, unlike any other. From November 1-5, I want to help you explore quick and easy ways to integrate gratitude into your daily life. These strategies, while simple, are much more than the typical “write down something you are grateful for today.” We’re going to mix things up, and realize that almost everything we do can be a part of our gratitude practice! I’ll also being going LIVE on the Self Care Bestie Facebook page to share additional insight and suggestions for many days of the challenge, as well as answering YOUR questions! If you’re interested, you can sign up for the free challenge HERE.
I hope these suggestions will prove helpful to you, and I truly hope to see you inside the free gratitude challenge! Feel free to share the link with any friends who you’d like to join you on this quest for daily contentment. Have a wonderful week, my friends!
I, too followed Heather’s blog reading values that I wanted to instill in my own children. We lived in Southwest Connecticut for many years learning to be content, happy and satisfied with our lives. My husband and I have since retired and moved to eastern Tennessee.
So encouraging to know you know what a struggle it can be at times! Thank you for sharing, Christine! 🙂