“If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven, Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light, Shine, Poet! In thy place, and be content. . . —WILLIAM WORDSWORTH”
Once upon a time I picked out a “word of the year”; a word meant to set the tone of the upcoming year. It is closely related to the idea of a New Year’s resolution but instead of promising to do something to change yourself in the new year the idea is to change how you think about your life.
A couple years ago I chose the words “peace” and “simplicity.” Everything in my world was not peaceful or simple during that year but there were periods of peace and simplicity at least. Decisions were also made with those words at the forefront of my mind, as much as possible anyhow. To keep with the sentiment behind the words I also cut out some people and aspects of my life that created little more than stress.
This year the word “contentment” has been on my mind a lot lately and I think one reason is because I am rarely content, but am getting better. In fact, two days after I chose contentment as my word for 2019, I wound myself up in an anxiety-ridden ball of discontented stress induced by the restless feeling that I should be doing more with my life. I was agitated, snappy and definitely not content with life for three days straight.
Being discontented isn’t always a bad thing. Someone in a bad relationship or a dead end job might say “I’m not content to stay where I am in this life” and in those cases discontent is not only understandable but acceptable. The good discontent leads to positive and needed changes. Sometimes, though, we need to learn to embrace contentment in our lives; contentment in where we are and what we have and who we have in our lives.
Blogger Stacey Pardoe wrote on her blog recently:
“ I’ve always been drawn to the familiar words of Psalm 46:10, “Cease from striving and know that I am God.”
Some translations read, “Be still and know that I am God.”
For years I assumed the words “be still” meant to stop moving and focus on God.
What I didn’t know was that in the original language, the word for “be still” loosely translates as “let your arms hang loose or slackened.” A more literal translation is, “Let your hard-working arms hang limp and loose. Lay it down.”
I thought of those words as I stood in the shadow of the crescent moon. And in the milky glow, I let my arms hang loose. I laid down all my careful plans and all my striving to bring the plans to pass. It was terrifying.”
This year I want to do my best to be still while I try to embody the word contentment.
Contentment with being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.
Contentment with people who reach out only when they want something from me.
Contentment with the lack of strong friendships.
Contentment with the journey to better health being slow but purposeful.
Contentment with what plans God has for me.
Contentment in the waiting.
Contentment that I may not always embrace contentment.
And when I don’t embrace being content I hope I will square back my shoulders and try again, relying on God’s wisdom to show me if I need to be content with where I am or if God is calling for a change.
I hope this new year, and each new day in it, we all remember contentment is how we hope and strive to feel.
It may take time to reach the level of contentment I feel I should have but when I fail I pray God reminds me to be still until I find it again.
All images by Lisa R. Howeler
Lisa R. Howeler is a wife, mom, writer and photographer. She resides in Pennsylvania and is a former journalist. She currently provides photographs for bloggers and for stock agencies, Alamy, Cavan, and Lightstock.