The 25th Hour Studio
I was inspired this morning by a conversation with one of my lovely former Penthouse roommates, Rachael. Before you start judging, the Penthouse was the name for our cozy 2nd story apartment during our senior year of college. There were five of us living there, thus breaking Chapel Hill's brothel law (which they are apparently enforcing heavily now on that street we used to live on, as per several Daily Tar Heel articles I've read over the past few months), and the year was entirely lovely and loud with the very best people living under our roof.
This morning we had a brief text conversation about being content in the stage of life that you're in and how incredibly challenging this can be. We both come from different places as far as what our current life circumstances are, but I'm realizing that the feeling is always there. I remember praying for this sense of contentment for months when I was struggling with engagement rings all around me. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be another friend with a shiny ring on her left hand and a soon-to-be-worn white dress in her closet. I woke up every day never knowing how I was going to feel that day regarding sparkly rings and starch white dresses. Some days I was incredibly excited for my friends and could barely wait to be part of their wedding and marriage; other days, I was writing tearful prayers in my journal and asking for the ability to be happy for my friends. Most days, I was doing both of these things.
Do you know what's funny about praying like this? God rarely just makes you happy. Or kind, or content, or peace-filled, or patient (which is why I was long ago advised to NEVER pray for patience! A joke of course, but I do pray for this carefully). He's not your fairy godmother, waving a wand and granting you your heart's desires, nor is he a genie in a bottle giving you three set wishes. More often than not, you're given more chances to grow into those things that you want to be. Which is why I laugh a little bit to myself when I think about how I prayed for the ability to be happy for friends with sparkly rings. Because it led me to the year of nine weddings. And in the year of nine weddings, I learned to be genuinely happy for those around me and the stage of life that they were in. And I learned to be happy in my own, as well.
I still prayed fervently for this sense of peace and for contentment and true joy for my friends, and shortly thereafter, Scott and I were engaged and entering into the stage of life that I had so desired and envied for so long. And do you want to know something? Even with the sparkly ring, I still struggled with feeling content even when I knew I was about to have the dream-- the wedding, the God-fearing husband, the friends all gathering to celebrate, the white dress. And do you know something else? Even now, I struggle with feeling content with where I am. My sense of happiness and well-being is so shallowly defined by my life circumstances. I am tossed in the wind like an autumn leaf, so happy to be dancing around on a crisp fall day, and so immoveable and paralyzed when I'm pinned to the ground by a fierce rainy day. When my joy is defined by my circumstances, I'm bound to be rollercoastering through life with the highest highs and the lowest lows, questioning what's wrong with me and why I can't be more "even" (is there medication for this? group therapy? a tarot card reader who can help?).
What it really comes to is laying your life at the altar and surrendering your circumstances. Whether you are single, engaged, happily married, not-so-happily married, divorced, pregnant, wanting to be pregnant, a mother, a father, a homeowner, a nomad, working your dream job, or working to pay the bills, you are in a place that is so so important to the rest of your life. And if you're not "living the dream" right now, know that maybe it's because you're looking for something outside of where you are. Maybe you're consumed with what's next instead of finding good things with where you are. Things will change, and you will not always be in the place you are in now. But if you're always waiting around for what's next, you've signed a contract for discontentment. You're like that leaf blowing in the breeze, set for your fate to be determined by the wind and weather that day.
Lay your life and your circumstances down and surrender to a God who already has the plan laid out for you. You're not always going to know what the plan is or where it will take you, but that's where you learn to trust. Do you know why I write my Small Joys posts weekly (or monthly, or bimonthly, or annually, depending on how much time I've been putting into writing at that time)? It's to celebrate the small moments of happiness that can be found in whatever season I'm in. It's about gratitude and being aware of the immense blessings that surround me when I feel tempted to float around in the breeze of my circumstances. It's about being grounded and knowing that my real joy in life comes not from where I am in life, but from knowing that I've been rescued from this and from the deepest places of despair to a new life in Christ and to a life defined by bringing Him glory in all that I do. And that includes my attitude about where I am in life. He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30). His plan is great than my circumstances.
I hope you have a happy Friday and that you are finding beautiful things in the midst of the somewhat mundane. Feel free to send prayer requests or handwritten letters my way (I'll accept hand-typed letters or e-mails, too. I don't actually discriminate with writing too terribly much).
Lots of love,