Clean, fresh, crackly white – like the first sheet of paper in a brand new journal. This is how I feel about the new year. I love the way starting afresh feels, like a perfectly tailored dress. But January quickly becomes messy and scribbled all over and the only way I can claim the freshness is to be still, to listen and pray, journal and seek God's direction for 2016. If I focus on all the busyness begging to claim the squares on the calendar and robbing me of open space and breathing room, I soon begin to lose the joy and hope of what God wants to do. And my spirit soon feels deflated and worn like the Christmas inflatables up and down our street that just weeks ago seemed all bright and cheery, having brought smiles to faces of those passing by. Now their appearance is glum and messy.
And here it is only 9 days into the new year and the clean pages on the calendar have been snagged from behind and taken captive by events unexpected. “This is life,” I tell myself. But I whine, “Can't I just pull away for a day's worth of peace and quiet to get on solid ground before the tumult begins?” I have stolen moments and pulled away to seek direction, wisdom and strength. The hurts of others struggling press in on me and I long to make it all better for them, but I am just little ol' me and I am not God. Discovering the places He invites me to join Him is the purpose of eeking out quiet space and listening.
My reaction to the unexpected, to needs and activities taking away my days before I have had time to think and plan reminds me of the two choices Ann Voskamp writes about: “complain or communion.” This is the year I am opening myself to increased contentment. “Complain or communion” is simple, but a challenging reminder of the choices I have when things aren't going the way I want them to go. Three C's.
Communion – Complaining = contentment
Contentment – complaining = communion
Either way you figure it, complaining and discontent get in the way of communion with the Father. And it doesn't attract healthy fellowship in the Body either. I cringe when I think of being short of contentment; it is a little embarrassing considering how great God is and how wonderfully He cares for me. It is a reminder the big picture isn't about me, I am just blessed to be a part of the story.
Digging about for words on contentment I came across this footnote by Charles Stanley, “We find our greatest source of contentment, of course, is a delightful relationship with Jesus Christ.” The seeds of contentment grow when rooted in an intimacy focused sharply on Jesus. Writing about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a boy's lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish, Jennifer Kennedy Dean added an exclamation point to my need for contentment with this line:
“It's not what you have, it's who I AM that defines the situation.”
My biggest area of discontent is lack of time to do things important to me. When I read Jennifer's words on lack versus Jesus, it occurred to me that He has given me all the time I need. He multiplies our little to so much more. Reinforcement from Savannah at ramblingsmom.com, “Contentment isn't about what we have. It's a matter of the heart being; satisfied with what God has allowed for us in our lives.”
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB). It all circles back to gratitude and trust. If I trust in Him that all things are working together for good (Romans 8:28) then I can be grateful, and content in all circumstances. Oh, for sure I know this is a heart-change requiring the transforming power of His Spirit.