My goal for December was to become more content [experience and acknowledge the sufficiency of God’s provision] by enjoying every moment with my husband, noting two things I liked about my body every week, fasting from pinterest, blogs, and magazines, and living simply & giving generously. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.
- Faith- (I) Memorize and meditate upon appropriate verses, (II) Pray every day that God would help me be content in every circumstance, (III) Pray for those less fortunate than myself, and (IV) Weekly meditate on the fact God owns everything.
(I) The first half of this month, I did a terrible job of being intentional and consistent with this goal. Finally I got a good system down where I’d review my verses in the car most mornings before starting my work day. It was a good reminder of where my focus should be for the day.
(II) I was far more consistent with this goal than the previous. Just like former months, writing down my short prayer daily helped to hold me accountable.
(III) There were only a couple days I didn’t consciously do this, though I’m sure I still prayed for at least one individual struggling somehow throughout the days I “missed.”
(IV) I did this three out of the four weeks this past month. It’s such a good reminder that my bank account, husband, jobs, possessions, etc. don’t belong to me. All of it belongs to the Lord and I am merely a steward of these things.
2. Marriage– (I) Enjoy him (cuddle time, hugs, etc.).
(I) Some of you may be thinking, “What kind of goal is that? Don’t you do that all the time?” Yes, and no. Anybody who has been married for more than two years knows how easy it is to take your spouse for granted. But more than that, I knew the month of December would be difficult for me because John would be working so many overtime hours. Little did I know how my own work schedule would disrupt our time together even more. But despite the challenges, I tried to enjoy every moment spent with John- from lying in bed cuddling before drifting off to sleep, to car rides, to playing games together or watching netflix side-by-side. It could’ve been easy to resent the days we weren’t able to see each other, but instead, the absence truly made our hearts fonder and the time we did get together all the sweeter. (See “Lessons Learned” section below for more on this).
3. Health- (I) Continue gratitude journal, and (II) Look in the mirror and note one thing I like about it 2X per week.
(I) There were only a couple days I missed writing down three things I was thankful for. This exercise has truly been priceless this past year as I believe it’s made me a slightly more positive person.
(II) I only did this while looking in a mirror once, while the rest of the weeks I simply wrote two things down in my journal. I’m not sure if it was all that beneficial in helping me be more content. By the fourth week I had to think really hard about two last things I liked about my body, which required me to first eliminate the things I didn’t like. Oh well. Nobody’s body is perfect. I may be hairy and have lopsided knees, have wispy gray hair and disfigured knuckles, but I still have much to be grateful for in this body God has blessed me with. Someday I will have a new body that will work perfectly. Until then, I must keep my eyes on Jesus, take care of my body and choose to be content with what I’ve been given.
4. Homemaking- (I) Avoid Pinterest, blogs, magazines, etc. that will encourage me to compare myself to others, and (II) Freeze grocery spending ($140 for whole month) and use up pantry and freezer items this month.
(I) I used Pinterest on several occasions, but I don’t think I perused it just to waste time during December. I was off Facebook for the month (though twice I logged in: 1) to respond to an event invitation and 2) to contact a friend in a time of need), which proved to be more beneficial than I realized. I didn’t know how refreshing it was until January 1st, when my fast from social media ended. I spent over an hour “catching up” and afterward I felt so disgusted with myself for having wasted so much time in one sitting. It also reminded me once again of what my life was “missing.” My News Feed was bombarded with pictures of family and friends with their little ones. While I love seeing each one, it’s still a stinging reminder of the fact I’m still childless.
Needless to say, I’m glad I stayed away for a month. To be honest, I was so busy I hardly missed it. Though, admittedly, I did find myself looking over John’s shoulder a couple times while he perused his own Facebook account. He was sure to give me hard time about it, too. “I thought you were off Facebook for the month… ha!” As for blogs and magazines, again I was much too busy to miss these things.
One of the reasons I stayed away from social media was to avoid comparing myself to others. As Theodore Roosevelt “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I believe it is also a thief of contentment. One Thursday evening I had a Christmas cookie exchange with the ladies in my church. Two batches of my cookies did NOT come out the way they were supposed to. It’s a little embarrassing how terribly they turned out. Yet, instead of get upset, I laughed out loud at the pathetic mess I’d made. Then, I promptly sent the picture below to my sisters and mom with this text:
“Do you think these are Pinterest worthy? Hahahaha!”
Below are the Pinterest images of the cookies I was ATTEMPTING to make. Good thing this was a month of not comparing myself to others!
(II) So… as far as freezing spending goes… it didn’t happen. Not. At. All. In fact, I went over a “normal” month’s grocery budget. I should’ve known better than to set such a lofty goal during December of all months.
5. Interactions– (I) Give generously ($140 to those in need from normal grocery budget).
(I) So even though I didn’t cut our grocery budget in half, thankfully, since both John and I worked way more hours this past month than usual, we were still able to give generously. What a blessing to make more so you can give more! It truly is far more wonderful to give than to receive.
WHAT I LEARNED IN DECEMBER
Lesson #1: My Husband Cannot Satisfy My Deepest Needs
I was given plenty of opportunities to press into Jesus during John’s absence this past month. As I mentioned earlier, our schedules clashed more than I anticipated and there were several days in which I literally only saw him when he or I climbed into bed for the night. I discovered how lonely such days could be, even though I’ve been separated from him for over a week at a time on other occasions. It’s just different when neither of you are away on a trip.
I knew I’d see less of him during December since it was peak season for delivery drivers, but I’d expected to at least be able to spend an hour together before heading to bed. In reality, many days I merely received a quick, “I love you,” and smooch goodnight. All of this to say, I cannot rely on quality time with my husband to satisfy me. He won’t always be there for me because he’s only human and mortal. The only One Who will always be with me is Christ. It’s wonderful to have a godly spouse to share life with, but he cannot meet my every need, nor can I meet his every need.
Lesson #2: My Dream Job Cannot Satisfy Me
William Bennett tells a story in The Book of Virtues about a young boy who is given a magic silver ball with a protruding gold thread that when pulled will speed up portions of his life when he is bored or tried. He uses it only a little bit at first, making an hour pass in a second, but slowly he begins to use it more and more, until he reaches the end of his life with much regret:
“But sadly when he comes to the end of his life, Peter realizes the emptiness of such an existence. By allowing impatience and discontentment to rule him, Peter has robbed himself of life’s richest moments and memories. With only the grave to look forward to, he deeply regrets ever having used the magic thread.”
I think of this story often when I get bored at work and find myself constantly looking at the clock. Don’t get me wrong, I love my jobs, and they’re a perfect fit for my interests and gifts, but I’m still tempted to wish away the day so I can get home and relax some days. How sad!
I’ve been given a beautiful opportunity to hone my skills as a future mother, to invest in the lives of three precious children, and to have a blast playing with them, yet I still have Peter’s discontented attitude sometimes! This just goes to show that even a job I’ve been pining over and really enjoy cannot satisfy me. It’s the times that I forget self and focus on serving and investing in the children and residents [on Fridays I work at an assisted living home] that I feel most fulfilled after a work shift. That’s because I’m choosing to live like Jesus, and laying aside my selfish desires.
Lesson #3: Pregnancy and/or Children Cannot Fulfill Me
I’ve heard it said that if you’re not content in your current circumstances, you never will be content, no matter what situation you find yourself in. I have to remind myself of this when the desire to be a mother creeps into my mind. After having the privilege of nannying or babysitting an average of 32 hours a week this past month, I’ve discovered two major benefits to watching others’ children:
- I get generously compensated for having fun with their children, and
- I can go home at the end of the day/night and be free from responsibility (and sleep without disturbance)
So, if I’m not content with my life currently, motherhood will be a rude awakening… One day, when I have my own children, neither of these benefits will apply to me. So despite what I tell myself when I feel I’m “missing out” on motherhood, I know bearing and raising children will not bring the fulfillment I desire it to.
Lesson #4: A “Comfy” Bank Account Cannot Gratify Me
A couple years ago, John and I basically lived paycheck to paycheck each month. There were even months when we have to cut into our small savings account because our bills exceeded our take-home pay. But today, both he and I have been blessed with good paying jobs and our savings account is slowly building each month. I realized this past month that despite the fact John is making more than he’s ever made, I’m no more satisfied now than I was just a couple years ago when our financial situation was different. In fact, I probably think about money the same amount as I used to. The only difference now is that I’m not constantly bringing my anxieties about finances to Him. So, it makes me wonder, is a comfy bank account a blessing… or curse?
Lesson #5: Entertainment Cannot Make Me Happy
I already mentioned earlier how staying off Facebook for the month was beneficial for me. Sure, there were times when I was tempted to log in… especially when friends would make comments in person like, “Oh yeah, you’re not on Facebook- you didn’t see that post.” Sometimes I felt a little out of the loop, but in the end it was for the better.
I probably watched more movies and t.v. episodes in December than I had the previous three months combined. I now wish I had made it a goal to limit my Netflix exposure to weekends. Thanks to the booming industry of online shopping, John worked long hours in December, I had many lonely evenings to myself and squandered most of them by watching cheesy romantic Christmas movies. What a waste of time!
Despite how predictable and tacky most of them were, I kept going back for more, night after night. There is no satisfaction in watching sentimental chick-flicks in the emptiness of your own home. I’m disappointed in how many countless hours I wasted. It was always easy to justify, of course: “You’ve worked hard today… you deserve this,” or “This is a good way to unwind for the night,” or “At least you’re getting housework done at the same time…” Yet, I found my mom’s words from my childhood still ring true today:
“Garbage in, garbage out.”
I recently saw an object lesson demonstrated in which clean, pure water was poured into a glass full of murky, dirty water. (The glass sat in a large bowl to catch the overflow of water). As the pure water was poured into the glass, the murky water slowly disappeared, until all that remained in the glass was clear water. The murky water represents our minds, filled with junk from the media and other sources. The pure water represents God’s Word. The more time we spend putting junk into our minds, the more murky our lives become. But the more time we spend in God’s Word, the clearer our lives become. Oh how murky I allowed my mind and life to become this past month! It’s this very reason that I’ve made a new resolution for 2017 to only watch entertainment with or without John on the weekends.
Adrian Rogers makes a bold statement in What Every Christian Ought to Know. He says,
“The most miserable man on Earth is not an unsaved man but a saved man out of fellowship with God.”
I think I experienced this during a couple weeks in December. I allowed my jobs, sleep, entertainment, and money to crowd out the Lord. What could have been a month filled with precious fellowship with Jesus, I spent pursuing the “fleeting pleasures of sin”, instead. Nothing satisfies but Christ alone. I knew this before the month even began, yet I still sought other things for fulfillment.
I’m grateful God is patient and compassionate toward me. And I’m grateful that even though the year has come to an end and my “project” has come to an end, God will still continue to refine and mold me into His image. I still have SO much more room for growth.
…Stay tuned for a summary post about my year-long project. God bless!