Thursday, January 12, 2012

In the Refiner's Fire - Contentment

One of the things that I've struggled with my whole adult (and probably teen) life is contentment.

I always thought I would "arrive" somewhere, with something (or things) and be perfectly content and happy.

I guess that's the professional equivalent of riding off into the sunset with prince charming and living happily ever after.

I married my prince charming at 23 and we've been married for 13 1/2 years.  I've spent much of that time lamenting that my life wasn't what I wanted it to be.  Earlier completion of my PhD, an MD for my husband, a big, fancy house, a full handful of children, exotic vacations.  All of those things were on the "want" list.  I wanted to be superwoman and show my children that they could be too.

My life certainly isn't that.

I took 6 years off school - and worked instead - after my Master's Degree instead of perusing that PhD. And went back for it at the age of 32.
My husband was rejected from medical school, not one but three times.  He's now enrolled in Seminary to become a Lutheran Pastor.
My big, fancy house is a 1950's ranch with a 900 square foot footprint and 1100 square feet of livable space (divided up very unevenly too!).
I have two beautiful children and may not have any more.
Our "exotic" vacations have included Omaha, NE, and Duluth, MN. :)  No sight of the overseas destinations and sights that I had originally had in mind.

The discontent had built until I couldn't stand it anymore.  It made me a very unhappy person to live with.

Over the last couple of years John and I have really taken stock of what we really and truly want out of life.

We wrote a family mission statement.
We set some individual and family goals to complete and pursue some things that had been hanging over our heads for a while.
We actually put together and followed (most of the time!) a budget.
We cleaned out our house and were able to bless others in the process.

Something funny happened along the way.

We stopped wishing for many of the things on our "list."

We both know and understand that Seminary and Ministry is where the Lord wants us to be and it is a perfect fit for John, in ways I can't even describe.

I am slowly (sometimes too slowly) pursuing this PhD and know that I will finish it in God's good time.

We decided that we really don't want or need that big house - and house with a better floor plan at some point would be nice, but not necessary - and now that we've re-arranged  our house to fit us, we're just fine.

We are focusing on loving our children and praying about adding to our family. In the meantime, we are committed to being the best parents we can be to the children we are blessed with.

Travel is nice, and someday we will travel.  Right now we aren't in the right place to do that - and that's perfectly okay with us.

We also discovered that blessing others with material, spiritual and emotional gifts is much more rewarding than buying things that we don't need, striving for professional recognition or hoarding money or possessions.

St. Paul wrote:

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

I think I'm finally learning this.
After much refining and many tears and many years.

Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.

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Lea