On Contentment, Christmas, and the Beauty of Imperfection...

It's funny the things God uses to get our attention.

Even a Facebook status.

Back before Christmas, an old friend in another state posted a brief comment about looking forward to going out to dinner with her husband.

I suddenly found myself turning a rather ugly shade of green. I was overwhelmed with envy. Never mind that this friend is over a decade younger than I am, a "young married" with no children...in a completely different season of life. I can't remember the last time Billy and I had a dinner out with no children. I know it has been over a year...because we laughed about having Taco Bell (from the drive thru) with four children for our 12th anniversary...a year ago next week. Usually I am fine with the fact that life circumstances right now don't lend themselves to "dates" for Billy and I. I know that in another season, we'll have those opportunities again, and I'm okay with that. On this particular day, though, I found myself jealous. And then mad. And then fighting tears. I suddenly craved a couple of hours of grown-up food and grown-up conversation in a restaurant with my husband. And maybe even...gasp... a movie afterward. Like "normal people". :-)

And then God zapped me. From out of nowhere. Reminded me how blessed I am to have been married to my wonderful-husband-who-spoils-me-so-much for almost 13 years. Reminded me how blessed we are to have four precious children. Reminded me that He is in complete control of the fact that "normal" disappeared a few years ago and hasn't made it all the way back yet. Reminded me of all the other blessings He has given us that make a few missed dinners out pale in comparison. Would an occasional date be nice? Sure. But definitely not worth wallowing in discontent because that isn't part of God's plan for this season of our lives.

What seemed like a minor incident at the time stuck in my mind and wouldn't go away. I thought about how quickly the discontent enveloped me, and how strong its pull was. I thought about larger ways I have struggled with discontentment over the past few years. Discontentment over "the holidays", and how different our holidays have become over the past few years, compared to the *huge* holidays of my younger years, filled with extended family and multiple extravagant holiday feasts. Discontentment over our house as we've fallen further and further behind in the "master plan" created 11 years, four children, and a number of unexpected and all-consuming family crises ago, compounded by uninsured storm damage. Discontentment over annoying health issues that I never expected to be dealing with at this point in my life.

And God began to work in my life in this area of contentment. He began to bring verses to mind, and put things in my path to read, and remind me of how wonderfully He has blessed and provided for us in so many ways.

As we moved into the heart of the Christmas season, and as I made a conscious effort to be more obedient in being content "whatever my circumstances" (with lots of failures along the way, for sure), I began to realize that God was doing something else. He was giving me contentment, and joy, in the holiday season, for the first time in four years. I realized that although I still look forward to having "big family holidays" again someday when our children grow up and have families of their own, I actually enjoyed our quiet little family Christmas this year. I enjoyed not getting up at 4 a.m. to put a turkey on and then running at a breakneck pace all Christmas day. I'm actually looking forward to Christmas next year already, and planning some new traditions for our simpler, smaller holidays.

As we've transitioned into the new year, I've continued to ponder and pursue contentment. I need to be content in the circumstances in which God has placed me, and not become bitter or anxious over things that I can't change. On the other hand, I need to be diligent to do my part to change areas in which change is needed, and possible.

One area in which I need to diligently pursue change this year is my home. At the same time that I must learn to be content with its defects and blemishes, there are many things that can and must be done to make it more of a Haven for my family.

As I was updating the blogs in my sidebar yesterday, I came across a couple of blogs that have been hugely motivational. Since my "Big Rocks First" post, my mantra has been "Make the most of the minutes." I've done better this week in that area, although I still have a long way to go in changing those habits. I've found a couple of other sayings that I need to frame and hang on my wall along with that one. I ran across the first one at "a la mode", a new blog on my list...

"Done is better than perfect."

Oh, how I need to learn and live that! I'm the queen of unfinished projects and unfulfilled plans. A friend and I were discussing just a few days ago something she had read (and we had talked about) several years ago...that procrastinators are often perfectionists who don't start or finish projects because of a fear of imperfection. Ouch. As we used to say when we were kids, "I resemble that remark!"

Our little old ramshackle house is never going to be perfect...at least not while we live here! The frustration of "losing ground" over the last few years, after all the work we had put into it before, has been somewhat overwhelming and paralyzing in more recent months, since things have begun to calm down a bit and the time has come to hit the ground running on it again. Perfection isn't possible; "done" must become the goal. And my family will be blessed by the changes (and more than likely never notice the lack of perfection. :))

The second quote I came across was at The Nester's wonderfully inspiring blog, Nesting Place...

"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

Another result of years of back-to-back family crisis is that I have allowed myself to go into permanent "survival mode". For so long I was forced to focus on "what had to be done" and ignore everything else, that that became a way of life. I had always been very aesthetically inclined, but after years of just being thankful that there was food on the table, it has been a struggle to get back in the mode of making that table an attractive place to eat. "Making things beautiful" was an overwhelming concept.

I'm craving beauty again. More importantly, I'm realizing that my *family* is craving beauty. And I want my children to remember beauty in their childhoods. Beauty is part of that "haven" that I want to create.

The Nesting Place has been such an inspiration in that regard. First, it is just full of eye candy for the home. Her creativity is amazing. Second, she makes beauty *possible*. She is so "real" about her complete lack of concern for perfection. I feel a bit of a kindred spirit with her...I think if we were ever to scrapbook together, she probably wouldn't measure things, either. :D

I've had an idea in the back of my mind for a while now, and I have decided that now is the time to translate that idea to action...and give myself a bit of motivation and accountability to follow through with it via the blog. :)

I'm starting a new project..."A Daily Touch of Beauty". I'm going to make a specific effort to do "one beautiful thing every day." It may be something small...pulling out the nice dishes for dinner or adding a centerpiece to the table, or something big...refinishing a piece of furniture, or creating a photo art piece for the wall. I'm not going to post every day, but I am going to try to update every week with a report on how I did, and a photo of at least one project from the week.

Stay tuned for next week's update as I continue to pursue contentment, work toward getting things "done, not perfect", and look for ways to add beauty in the process. . :) I'd love to hear your thoughts on contentment, or see links to "creatively imperfect" ways you've added beauty to your home.


The Nester said...

Preach it sister!

So glad to meet you!

The Scooper said...

Look at me! Right under the Nester...how cool is that?

Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog.

I can relate to all that you're saying in the post: survival mode, unexpected crises, and entering a season of "craving beauty" (love that phrase.)

Look forward to visiting your blog again. I homeschool too and I know how crazy it can all be!

t marie said...

Oh it was so nice to sit and read a few scraps today.

I loved this entry. It spoke to my heart. Especially nice was the idea of doing one beautiful thing each day. Lovely.

It was also good to be reminded to not let discontentment envelop me. This is never more true for me than at this time.

Good words my friend. It was also WONDERFUL to talk to you and the kids for over an hour this week!

Love you!