Category Archives: Contentment

Contentment: Joy

Welcome to another guest post for my contentment series. From Joy of Words of Joy and Poetry Joy. A beautiful human being and a fellow blogger I feel honoured to call a friend.

How we can find contentment in our daily lives

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How do you view contentment? Many of us see it as a cat-who-got-the-cream smugness, as achievement, success and life going swimmingly. It it was limited to those things, then it would be pretty elusive and exclusive.

What if we looked at it differently? Maybe contentment is more to do with an attitude of the heart, a daily decision and a position of praise and gratitude.

If I wait for my life to become easy, for pain to lessen, circumstances to change and tests and trials to cease, then I could lose all sense of contentment altogether. It would be natural to drop into discouragement or despair and fail to notice the good things already in my days.

Because they are there if we deliberately search for them, waiting in the corners of our existence like a trail of Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs.

And when we do spot them? We realize how it really is the little things, those seemingly random and insignificant things which matter most of all. It’s the small graces, breath of beauty, and family joys which we so often fail to appreciate that bring us the most satisfaction.

I begin to battle my way to holy joy and contentment when I remind myself to sense God’s hand at work in my life. In the unfurling of the hours there are whispers of goodness and grace just waiting to be discovered.

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In living a cloistered, housebound life due to physical health limitations, I’ve had to look beyond its confines to the One who sustains and strengthens me each day, to face life with faith, hold onto hope and find peace in being slowed down and stilled.

It chafes most days like an itchy, ill-fitting jumper. It’s humbling to have to be constantly reminded of my human weakness and frailty. It’s a life-less-ordinary I didn’t choose, but it’s also one infused with God’s grace.

He’s given me an ability to look beyond the superficial, to sense His presence and be thankful for small mercies. As I watch the world out my window and witness the ever-changing panorama of the heavens, I pause to admire God’s handiwork and try to capture it through a lens.

When I observe new life budding on earth, I see it as a portent of promise breaking through the dark soil of my situation, an unfolding of hope. Plants and trees speak to me of freedom and of beauty in the everyday.

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I am grateful for a husband who sacrificially cares for me, bakes bread, cooks marvellous meals, does housework and shopping (yes, really – and no, you can’t borrow him!). I see Jesus in him. I see love that has grown over years, becoming precious as fine gold.

Is my life, family, home or husband perfect? Far from it. But they are all mine. I can choose to grumble and complain about them, or try to see the marvel hidden in the mundane. Yet there are dark days where I fall into sadness and discouragement, and a painful past has taken some working through. I struggle in many areas.

But when I read books and blogs which encourage and stretch my thinking, when I start to sense God more in the daily, then those feelings of failure, fear, dread and despair begin to dissipate.

When I write I feel freer, experience joy and a degree of purpose. I share words to help others know they’re not alone with their struggles. We’re all broken people to some extent or other. The world cries out for solace of every kind and so often seeks it in the wrong places.

There is an answer for our pain, a purpose beyond life’s confines, a way to live freely while chained to earth’s boundaries. Because right in the midst of our muddles and mess, God speaks out His Good News, a message of grace and hope for wounded souls, for this life and beyond.

No matter what is going on in your life or mine, the more we look to God, the longer we linger in His presence and allow ourselves to become changed by His Spirit, the more content we will gradually become.

Joy

More about Joy:

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of ‘Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life’s hard places’. She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs wordsofjoy.me and poetryjoy.com as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Note from Helen:

You can read more about the contentment series here. Here are posts from Michelle and Gabriele: definitely worth a read! Posts will be up from Sarah Jo, Julia and Lizelle in coming weeks! Thanks so much ladies for your contributions and to everyone for reading! [If you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied – yet – please bear with me. I had an accident at home last week and am only very slowly recovering 😦 ]

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Contentment: Gabriele

Continuing my Contentment series, Gabriele’s here with a guest post.

Gabriele is one of my dearest online bloggy friends and blogs at Back on the Floor Again (this post forms part of Gabriele’s year-long mindfulness journey, which you can read more about here).

I continue to learn so much from Gabriele and am always enchanted by her beautiful, acutely observational, writing style.

Hoping you all love her post as much as I do! (I know you will!)

GabrieleMindful

“I’m going to meditate for 15 minutes. In and out, my breath seems jagged. Wish I had more stomach muscles so that I could feel them engage when I hold my breath. Hold my breath? Why am I holding my breath? Oh yeah, extend your breath by slightly holding at the inhale and the exhale. My foot feels jammed into the floor. I should put a blanket on my mat to make it softer. Knees are tight but not bad. Ahh, my knees, when will I get a doctor’s opinion about whether they are shot? I hate doctors. No time to start that process. I’m holding my breath again. Long exhale………I should scan my shoulders. Are they tight? Tiny twinge in my neck. That is where I hold all my tension. I’ll put my shoulders back and sit up straighter. That feels good. Has it been 15 minutes yet? Peeking at the clock……What, only three minutes have passed. I think I may have found the secret to stopping time. Meditation!”

I posted those words on Facebook some time ago and many people commented with laughter and agreement. I was taken back because I thought I was being fairly serious, yet, it came across so funny. Perhaps we all have an unsettling relationship to the notion of meditation. It helps to keep it light and friendly. But, seriously, I came to meditation through a call for more mindfulness. It really was a call from a higher source, and it was insistent.

On an early Thursday morning, I was driving to do some shopping. I approached what I thought was a flashing red light, and seeing that it was my turn to proceed through, I did so. Car horns blared, brakes screamed and I instantly knew I had made a terrible mistake. I made it through the light and slowly processed what had happened. The light was not flashing and I almost caused an accident. In the shopping parking lot I tried to regain equilibrium. Sensing that someone was watching me I walked into the store, shaken emotionally. When I came back I saw a piece of paper attached to the windshield. Shame flooded my head to my heart. I just knew this message was intended to severely criticize me. It said.

“I watched you run a red light on Roxbury. A woman in a silver Prius had to suddenly brake to avoid being hit by you. She had a child in the car. Please be careful. Stay safe.”

Even as I read these words today I am amazed at the daring of this observer and also at the kindness. I needed to pay more attention to what I was doing. Mindfulness was thrust upon me and I grabbed it like a life-preserver.

Now I have motivation to meditate because I believe that meditation will strengthen my ability to pay attention. For almost two months I have been faithful to sitting each morning for at least ten minutes, mostly twenty. It has offered me a refuge from negative thoughts, solace from feeling lonely, and peace from futurizing. That freedom may be short lived but it is available every time I sit.

In everyday there is contrast. Even as dark recedes and light shines forth there is hope in change. But, everyday also reveals variations of color which are infinitely interesting. Paying attention, or being mindful brings up a rainbow of experiences which we could miss because of preoccupation with a past mistake or future success.

Thanks, Gabriele. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece (and found myself chuckling at the first part, too!) and hope everyone else will too!

Helen xxx

P.S. The introduction to the contentment series is here and you can find the first guest post in the series, from Michelle, here.

Contentment: Michelle

So, today’s the first of the guest posts for my Contentment series and we welcome Michelle from Jesus Saving Me From Me.

I’ve long been an admirer of Michelle’s writing for the Five Minute Friday prompts as she’s guaranteed to write something thought-provoking that always makes me reflect deeper on the word prompt and on my own life.

Here goes with Michelle’s reflection on contentment….

Contentment

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:2-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Are you content with your life?

There was a time I was far from content. Before I knew Jesus, I was chasing after the wind, just like Solomon. I was looking for something that would make me happy.

I sought it out in men. It wasn’t there. I searched for it in the bottom of a bottle. That led to drunkenness. I looked for it in tattoos and conventions which only made me happy for a moment. I joined an online community that left me wanting a real community. I thought I’d find it in a new place with sunshine and the beach but ended up lonelier than ever.

I searched and searched for the missing piece but hit a wall and finally decided, like Solomon, that life was meaningless. A striving after the wind.

Then I met Jesus. In the blink of an eye, life became meaningful. But the contentment took time.

I was so excited because the Lord took me back after spending years blatantly ignoring him. So in the beginning all I wanted to do was serve him. It wasn’t until returning from Africa in 2013, that I would truly start to sit still and learn to be content.

And boy was it hard! We humans are such people pleasers, we’ll do practically anything for anybody. We have such a hard time saying no. On the surface, it all seems good. The Lord does want us to help each other, love each other. But underneath, it’s still equally important to take care of ourselves, spend quality time with our heavenly Father.

When I came back from Africa, the Lord told me it was time to sit still, time to take care of myself. He said to me, “Martha, Martha, you worry about so many things. Mary has chosen the good thing and it will not be taken from her.”

So I sat still. But that first year, there was no contentment. There was anxiety and depression. After that first year home, I began to keep a list of things that I was thankful for. Over the course of the following year, the anxiety and depression left. It was replaced with contentment. But I don’t think I fully realized I was content until another year had passed.

So I’ve learned that contentment comes by being myself, being kind to others, and just being available to the people in front of me, the ones I know and the ones I meet. I finally learned that I don’t have to be a giant or a hero for God. He is the hero. I just have to be me.

Michelle

[Philippians 1:20]

Note from Helen: it’s a testament to Michelle’s manner that she, herself, didn’t ask me to include this information….

Michelle is undertaking a hiking challenge to hike 1000 miles in 2016 and she’s fund-raising as she hikes, for the charity Mercy Ships (which provides medical care in developing countries, via international hospital ships). Michelle has previously volunteered on a Mercy Ship and so it’s a charity very dear to her heart.

If you’d like to read more about the charity, you can do so here. Looking through the Mercy Ships website, this volunteer testimony resonated very deeply with me, and I was left in awe, really, by the sheer logistical challenges to set it all up, and the efforts it must take to actively maintain the ships and the flow of the work undertaken from the ships.

If you’d like to donate to Michelle’s fund-raising for Mercy Ships, you can do so here or here.

[Note: Image is from SplitShire]

Contentment

Contentment. Not happiness. Contentment.

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It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, wondering how to achieve it (or, better, perhaps, how to keep it for a bit longer when it does arrive), because contentment always feels, to me, like something that goes beyond happiness, calling, as it does, to a deeper, a more stable, state.

I’ve been deeply unhappy, very unsatisfied, for many years, whilst managing to find pockets  of happiness in my life (a life which, for many reasons, is being lived way below parr).

These pockets of happiness include seeing my littles grow up and witnessing their growth and their joy in life, moments of beauty that arrive to me as and when I open my ‘heart eyes’ and moments of creative stimulation and pure creativity when I feel I’ve reached my flow and what I’ve managed to realise approximates, somewhat, my ideal of it.

But, together, and overlying, as they do, my sense of deep dissatisfaction, these moments of happiness never seem to reach what I’d label a satisfactory level of contentment.

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So I set out on a journey, to try and discover what I’d class as contentment (after all, if you want to get to point b, you need to know the coordinates for point b).

For me it looks a lot like freedom, includes a lot of beauty (external and self-made) and includes – most definitely – love (in heaps). All mixed with kindness and jumbled around with light [you can move over darkness; I’ve had enough of you already]

Then I started to examine where the lack was, to examine which areas of my life were lacking (in any or all of these ingredients for contentment). I also dusted off my dust-smeared glasses and rubbed them clean; after all, you can’t see you way forward if you’re being blocked by poor vision and bogged down by poor perspective. It was important that I come to the search with fresh, hopeful, eyes.

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Upon reflection….

I suffer from a lack of freedom: I’m stuck here, in a place I don’t want to be, a place that’s dangerous, where frightening incidents happen frequently, where I don’t want to be raising my children…. freedom is definitely the weak link in my contentment equation. That’s an immovable fact at the moment, unfortunately [meaning I’m going to have to work double hard on improving the other components….]

I crave more beauty in my life: not only am I stuck here but this place is, in general, ugly as Hell. It’s a typical developing country city, a mess at all and every levels, survival of the fittest on display at every turn whilst the rich strut, peacock-like, shaking their voluminous tail feathers obliviously, over and above it all. Ugly buildings, ugly infrastructure, ugly hearts, small small minds. But I’m a biologist and this place does have lots and lots of beautiful Nature so I make a point of seeking it whenever I can.

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I’m deprived of love. But, as Krista Tippetts states – which resonated with me at a very deep level – “I can’t name the day when I suddenly realized that the lack of love in my life was not a reality but a poverty of imagination and a carelessly narrow use of an essential word”. I can’t imagine ever again accepting romantic love in to my life but this sense that I’m lacking love has started gripping me with panic, as a lack of romantic love means, surely, endless days of ‘alone-ness’, of loneliness and a lack of companionship. And that most definitely puts a major dampener on contentment. But love doesn’t have to mean romantic love. Living with love can mean doing all things with love…showing love and compassion in all moments….deciding to live in love – with life itself, with one’s life….to walk in love to make your environment better (be this your home or your community).

My own, personal, life is awash with kindness (as it sort of forms the basis of my own personal religion) and this has helped me to forgive and it helps me to hope, to remain optimistic (despite my circumstances) and to always give the benefit of the doubt. In hindsight, I think my openness to kindness has kept me buoyant during times that should have sunk me. So kindness is definitely compensating for the lack of freedom, beauty and love.

I’ve definitely not got enough light in my life. Not enough laughter, or fun (or, perhaps, too much heavy that weighs everything down, not allowing light to breathe and to propagate). It’s sadly lacking in moments of light, those moments that come when you’re with those you love, those who’ve known you always, those people you just feel totally comfortable with.

And…the list went on….as the reflections went deeper…(I won’t bore you with any more of the stuff…)

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What I did discover from this reflection on contentment was that, for me, I could remember what contentment felt like and I could identify what was (is) blocking my pathway to contentment at this place in my life (I hesitate to label it a stage).

Following this reflection, I could then attempt to develop some contentment goals (however strange that sounded to me at first): little steps to take me away from where I am to where I’d like to be (all the while accepting that the maximum level of contentment here will be way below where it would be if I was in more desirable surroundings).

For me, these steps were (are) really important, as depression was starting to take a hold, causing inertia: if I had a set of trackable small steps to follow, which would eventually make me feel better – perhaps even content – then I’d have to force myself to take action (otherwise I’d only have my inaction to blame for my unhappiness, for my situational discontent).

People Dancing Outside That You Have Rarely Seen Today (5)

So what were my small steps? Quite simple things, really. To continue my meditation practice and to live more mindfully (not only in my actions but also in my thought and speech). To go to one new place each week. To make a new recipe (or eat something new) each week. To have guests over more often (not just play dates!). Many of them were, actually, based around self-care: trying new make-up; not skipping runs (I always know I’m in the throes of a depressive episode when I start skipping exercise); getting small treats for myself (going to see a film at the cinema, making time to read or to scrapbook guilt-free etc.).

I’ve been doing this for a month or so and it is having an effect. I feel that, whilst they’re far from being rose-tinted, the glasses through which I now view my life are definitely less dusty and jaded and that, as such, I’m walking around with a new perspective. And I hope this new perspective will lead to new places.

Contentment still isn’t viewable on any close horizon but my happiness levels are rising and that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

Helen xxx

Note:

I asked, a few weeks ago, for people to contribute to this contentment series and many of you replied saying they’d love to. Thanks so much for that! I know I’ll be very interested to read your perspectives on contentment and I’m sure my readers will be intrigued. (I will be emailing you all back this week; I was very ill with a horrid virus last week, which knocked me for six…)

In these times in which we live, with most of us living on edge (because of world events), busy (because of our hectic lives), unhappy/frustrated (because of a disconnect with self and the environment of inherent ‘comparison’ that social media breeds), I’m sure hearing about how other people consider/reflect upon contentment will be of interest and might stimulate some changes in our own lives.

I hope you all enjoy the guest posts in this series (they’ll be posted on Wednesdays).

[Michelle will be up first on the 6th, then Gabriele on the 13th]

If anyone else would like to contribute a guest post….just email me…I don’t bite and everyone is welcome….iwillbloomblog – at – gmail dot com