Choosing Contentment–What My Daughter Has Taught Me

thumb_FullSizeRender-6_1024I’ve had a rather grumbly morning. Nothing has changed since yesterday except my perspective, and I’m finding it more difficult than usual “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11).

My daughter Kaila is halfway around the world on a 6-week trip to Australia, and in her absence I’ve realized how much impact she has on my level of contentment. You see, I’m not naturally content. Instead, I lean toward restlessness and have to choose to quiet my heart and be content.

Kaila, on the other hand, at 17, is a picture of a heart at rest, and I have much to learn from her. She has an innate sense of what matters most—God and people—and she is content with knowing that God controls her life and the people in it for her good. At any moment, she’s perfectly happy with what she’s doing, whom she’s with, and where she is.

Watching her over the years, I’ve learned much about how to quiet my soul and be content, but days like today remind me I am still on a journey.

If you also struggle with contentment in your life, I hope you’ll appreciate these lessons I’ve learned from Kaila. I know what it produces because I’ve witnessed it. It produces a contented spirit that is peace to the struggler, rest for the tired, and a source of quiet strength to those who know her.

I am blessed to be my daughter’s student and to learn:

1—To enjoy the moment instead of yearning for the next adventure. Kaila lives completely in the moment. It’s not that she doesn’t dream, but her focus is always on living in every moment and engaging every person in that moment with her.

2—To enjoy what I have instead of longing for something more or better. Whether it’s stuff or station, I have never known Kaila to look around and want for anything that isn’t hers. As a matter of fact, she is constantly sacrificing in order to give and yet feels no lack because of it.

One of this girl's many talents--YES those are her arms :-)!

One of this girl’s many talents–YES those are her arms :-)!

3—To appreciate my talents and accept my weaknesses as part of God’s divine purpose for my life. Kaila knows that she knows that she knows that her talents are God-given, and conversely, so are her weaknesses. She is a gifted singer, talented musician, and craft-sy artist among other things, but she is also disorganized, a slightly clumsy athlete, and a lousy joke-teller. She neither shows off her gifts nor hides her weaknesses. She is who she is and she is perfectly okay with it.

4—To enjoy a job well done, instead of focusing on all that’s left to do. While Kaila is constantly honing her skills, she is always content with where she has come instead of frustrated by how far she has to go. She is motivated by the joy of learning, not by a standard of perfectionism.

5—To celebrate the accomplishments of others without a single moment of insecurity or jealousy. People matter to Kaila. She loves to do a good job, but she loves it just as much when others do. If given the chance to shine or let another shine instead, Kaila will always choose the latter. She may not win the prize or the glory doing so, but she always wins our respect and admiration.

Nearly 18 years ago, I started this journey feeling the weight of responsibility to lead and teach this precious gift of a daughter. Little did I know that in so many ways, she would do the same for me.thumb_IMG_2277_1024How about you? Could you use some lessons in contentment today? I know I’m sure missing my little girl who keeps her heart–and mine–so content.

 

 

Time To Breathe

Do you feel a bit stretched thin right now? Any of you mamas just on the verge of, or well past, wanting to pull your hair out (or someone else’s :-/ )?thumb_FullSizeRender-2_1024

If so, please PAUSE… 

and BREATHE…

And know that everything that’s making you crazy is temporary and won’t even be remembered by anyone this time next year. What will be remembered is whether Christmas is the joy you say it is or a burden, whether it brings the peace it promises or spurs chaos in your home.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”–Luke 2:9-10, 13-14

So…this year, in the midst of all the excitement, let’s not forget to bring good news that causes great joy. Let’s celebrate the Savior as the angels did and receive His peace.

Please say this with me: I are not a slave to anyone’s expectations. Especially my own! I hope you really believe that.

I hope that if you’re harried, you will slow down, connect, and find rest. Maybe jump in the car with your kiddos and go “light-seeing”. Curl up on the couch with hubby and watch a sappy movie. They matter. The “one more batch of cookies” you think you have to make for the party you don’t want to go to? Buy them. Or skip it altogether. And those gifts you want to wrap as beautifully as Macy’s? Stick ’em in a bag and know it’s enough. Sometimes, enough is just perfect.

“Enough” will leave you time to do what you love with the people you love.

thumb_FullSizeRender-5_1024Like chatting with friends over a cup of tea. Yep, that’s me with you…

…Thank you for hanging out with me during such a busy season. It means so much to me.

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of the Perfect Christmas and The Year We Beheaded Joseph

I’m an idealist. I always have a picture in my head of how every detail of every day is supposed to look. Magnify that multiple times and you have Christmas.

Needless to say, I struggle with expectations and the endless string of unmet ones. But that year was different. That year, it seemed Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincaid visited my house and painted the perfect Christmas scene.

My white farmhouse was glowing with lights, a fire crackled in the woodstove, and soft carols were playing on the radio. The perfect live Christmas tree stood in front of the window, garland was draped beautifully down banners and wrapped around light poles, and Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus were lit up as the focal point in my yard.

Perfect!

2143532291_b408712940_zI’d never had a yard nativity scene. I wanted one, because after all, I wanted to show my kids what Christmas was all about. Only I wanted a really nice one, and the price was a bit extravagant for our budget. But that year was different. That year, I’d found an incredible sale and it cinched the “perfect Christmas” for me.

And then, it happened. The kids and I were playing in the snow, careful not to go near the sacred nativity, when a strong wind blew Joseph’s head right off. I stood staring in disbelief as it plopped down by Jesus. Convinced Satan himself was trying to ruin my perfect Christmas, I heard from behind me something like, “Uhh, it was an accident.”

The words didn’t compute. Surely my children knew how long I’d waited to showcase this scene in my yard. Surely, they were not responsible for Joseph’s beheading. But they were. Or at least my son was, and his sister protected his secret.

Kieran was 12 that year and was perfecting his Chuck Norris kicks on everything in sight. Joseph was yet another casualty of a roundhouse kick. In an attempt to save his own head, he had set Joseph’s head back on his body and hoped for grace.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to call off Christmas. I wanted to scold my son for being so careless and insensitive and both of them for not fessing up. But as I turned on them and they stood utterly still and quiet, I heard that quiet voice whisper, “It’s not about Joseph or a manger scene in the yard,” and instantly the ridiculousness of it all hit me. My disappointment and anger dissolved into laughter.

How ironic it seemed. My picturesque Christmas was not so picturesque after all. But then, neither was that first Christmas when Jesus came onto the scene. The heavens may have been filled with singing, but the stable or cave or whatever He was born into was filled with manure. There may have been “the thrill of hope,” but there was also uncertainty and want.

Sounds a bit like Christmas today.

Since then, I’ve realized that the perfect Christmas is a phantom, and chasing it is the surest way to ruin it.

This year, instead of seeking the perfect Christmas, won’t you join me in seeking the One who is perfect? In doing so, we may not fill our Pinterest boards with ideas, but we will fill our homes with peace and our families will declare the glory of God.

Merry Christmas.