"Gratitude can turn a house into a home."
This Thanksgiving, I've been contemplating contentment.
America seems to be a society always seeking contentment, but never finding it. We are over-working, over-spending, over-eating, and over-indulging in an attempt to find it. We think, "If I can get that promotion, I'll be content." Or, "When I have the things I really want, I'll be content." We're the country that spends an entire day being thankful for what we have, and then the very next day load up our credit cards with debt buying things we don't need. The irony! All our efforts towards contentment are futile because it cannot be achieved, purchased, or consumed.
I'm not belittling the desire to be successful or make something better of yourself and your life. I believe we should take ownership in our lives and do everything we can to better our situation. But, what are we valuing? What makes a "good life?" We can all give a good Sunday School answer-- faith, family, friends-- but do we truly live that way?
About two years ago, my husband and I decided to move our family from Indiana to South Carolina. A decision that involved a lot of pros and cons lists-- because we're nerds like that-- and a lot of discussion. After all of the talking, we decided to sell our house and move our little family 500 miles to the mountains. It took two tries to sell our house-- which was incredibly frustrating-- but eventually it happened. We had made a decision that when we sold, we would move into an apartment. It just made sense for a million reasons. We committed to spend a full year living in an apartment.
Not a big deal at all, but it seemed major to me. In my 31 years of life, I had never lived in an apartment or even a tiny house. We never lived in anything really fancy. Our last house was a bit of a "fixer upper." We've always lived below our means, but we always had space. Needless to say, it was an experience moving from a 3,000 square foot home into a 1,250 square foot apartment with two kids and a dog. To top it all off, we homeschool. Homeschooling in a small space is interesting to say the least!
In order to downsize by over 50%, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. I've never seen myself as materialistic. I didn't grow up in poverty, but I didn't grow up with everything I wanted either. My family certainly saw some hard financial times, and I wore more hand-me-downs than new clothes. So, while I've always enjoyed the nice things I've had, I never saw myself being attached to them...until it was time to get rid of them!
I can't lie. It's been an adjustment for me living in an apartment. Not only did we lose more than 50% of our living space, we lost a yard also. My kids, who have never known anything other than a big wooded yard with a creek, are now confined to a second story 5ft x 7ft deck. For the first couple of weeks, I struggled with it. I was ready to say, "Forget the lease. Pay the money to get us out of it and let's buy a house."
What was I valuing? Things. I recall being disgusted with myself. We have a beautiful apartment in a wonderful neighborhood. I can see the mountains when I drive to church and the grocery store. I can drive an hour and hike to incredible views and see waterfalls. I have a quiet country view from my deck. I actually have a bigger bathroom and tub than I had in my previous house, and I have already made friends.
What was meant to be a temporary living situation has turned into an experiment in contentment. Can I truly be happy with less? It's amazing how moving into this apartment has taught me the difference between what I truly need and what I want. Have I changed my mind about wanting a few acres near the mountains where I can have a hobby farm? No. But, I have certainly learned that I don't need it. I have learned that no matter where I live, I have my faith, my family, and my friends. I want for nothing in this world, and have more than I could ever need. This apartment is a home for us. Not because I've filled it with great furniture. Not because it's spacious and has everything we could ever want. Gratitude has made it a home.
My brother once preached a sermon that stuck with me for a long time. In it, he said something to this effect: "Always wishing you had more is the same as being ungrateful for what you have been given." Contentment is not the result of perfect circumstances. Contentment is the result of being thankful despite our circumstances.
Contentment is born of gratitude. And I am grateful...today and everyday.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!