contentment and gratefulness

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2014! 2014! January 9th, at that! Like all good folk out there, I’m laying the way for a clean slate. It can be done at any time, but the turning of the calendar pages makes it an easy one now. I’m just settling back into a routine after a wonderful time away for Christmas and New Year’s (whoever said white Christmases were the best needed some southern California sunshine!). So now, in the wake of all those resolutions which may or may not be kept, here are themes I want to explore this year:

contentment and gratefulness

What you might not know about me is that I can be critical. Normally directed at myself, I’ve found it directed in all directions over the last few years. Of course, it was couched with terms like analytical, realistic, discerning, and the like. I wasn’t attempting to tear anything down for no reason. But somewhere along the line it ceased allowing me to move forward and just became negative spewing. I can rationalize much of it away (I was hurt, it was true, I wanted to make it better), but it still wasn’t helpful. Church became a target, so even when something happened that was good, I spoke from a hurt place and negated it. When I caught myself doing that I realized that things had to change; this didn’t feel like me, or the person I wanted to become. As a result I want this year to be filled with contentment. Yes, I can hear you now, “Um, so you’re just going to be content?” Well, kind of. I’m going to choose my perspective, and I’m going to choose gratefulness.

Every night at dinner we go around the table and say our “highs”, our “lows” and any “mistakes” we want to share. We started doing this to force ourselves to reflect on the day a bit, to recognize what we can be grateful for, to know how to pray for each other, to note that all of us make mistakes. Some days it’s super insightful, other days it’s a complete bomb. But we’re in training, disciplining our minds, putting things in perspective. When it is a cruddy day, I will still look for the small thing that was my “high”. Contentment will not be a matter of circumstance for me; it will be an attitude of the mind. Will my eyes be covered with rose-colored glasses? I hope not. Somehow contentment got misconstrued as Pollyanna smiles and sunshine. Choosing contentment shouldn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge challenges, that our hearts won’t break in any number of situations. I’ve noticed one shift already: I find myself extending grace, both to myself and to others. I feel like there’s more freedom in my life now, and I like it.

The hymn “It is well with my soul” comes to mind. I’d forgotten the story behind it until now: Horatio and Anna Spafford had five children. In 1871 their son died and the great Chicago fire destroyed his fortune in real estate investments. In 1873, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was struck and sunk, killing all four of their girls. Given these tragic circumstances one might expect the Spaffords to be bitter. I have no doubt that they mourned many times over. Yet it was when sailing near where the girls died that Horatio penned “It is well with my soul”. I am humbled; I can choose contentment.

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