Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Expectations, or Feeding the Monsters of Discontentment

My special memories of Christmas were simple memories: times of togetherness with my family; outdoor picnics; a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows with our "secret family recipe"; gifts my Uncle Santi would send us, usually a brush set or something K-Mart style…

I take such great pleasure in simple memories that I wanted my children to have them too. I tried to keep Christmas simple and focus on simple joys in every day life as well. Now, when my children and their friends and spouses watch videos from the past, they laugh at some of the "simple" joys we focused on.

Godliness with contentment is great gain, 1 Timothy 6.6 tells us. "Contentment" – sufficiency – it is enough. It is "great gain" because people are so discontent! Our society feeds discontentment. How do we purposefully ward against discontentment? Here are several ways I tried to incorporate the joys of contentment into my life and into the lives of my family:

*Take time to appreciate the "little things" in life – be verbal in expressing joy over a cup of coffee together, simple "regular" things – a bowl of popcorn, etc. In order words, be a "commercial" in expressing delight over little things!

*Make little fun traditions: set out a bowl of nuts and nutcrackers to sit around and share memories while you crack nuts together! Do cooking projects with loved ones; light a fire and make some popcorn and watch a cheesy Christmas or old movie.

*Give SIMPLE gifts to each other! I used to give my children their "own" scotch tape and glue. A new toothbrush was something to get excited about! (I STILL love getting a new toothbrush!) A fun stapler (ha – actually Gary just got ME a fun stapler for our last anniversary gift - hehe). A new color book and crayons. Keep little things special and you will always delight in them.

*Don't just rush out and buy the latest and greatest things and charge them. SAVE for them. Put up a chart. Open a special account. Work extra hours and put the money towards things; give up your Starbucks or a dinner out and put the money towards things. Teach your children to do the same. I can guarantee you that you will appreciate the things you work towards WAY MORE than the things you just go and buy. And you will be way more content too.

*Don't want everything you see. Colossians 3.5 tells us to put to DEATH and deprive of power worthless desire and covetousness. Remember, everything you get you need to take care of. Be content with less and you'll have less maintenance too!

*Enjoy others' possessions without wanting them! I LOVED when my children were little that I was able to go to a good friend's house and enjoy her pool. I was also glad that I didn't have to maintain a pool. I was always happy to enjoy ponds at other places. When we purchased a house that had a pond, I began to realize what FREEDOM it was to enjoy ponds other places – our pond required constant maintenance and financial investment.

*Avoid having the latest and greatest of everything. Wait a few new versions before you update your technical toys. Make sure you need what the newest versions offer before you spend money to update things.

*Deny yourself. Sacrifice. Make these things part of your daily life. Look for opportunities. Your life doesn't consist in the abundance of things you possess. Let your moderation be known to all men!

*Don't "set yourself up" that everything has to be done in such grandiose fashion. You don't have to go to New York to sit in a restaurant or go to a shopping area. If you are in a restaurant in New York, you don't even realize it anyways! Just go to a LOCAL restaurant and enjoy it like a "special vacation" without the costs of leaving the state! Make LOCAL places little "vacation" spots!

*Delight in little things: a walk together; a cup of coffee at a local coffee place; a local playhouse. Stop and watch the leaves chase each other, the snow fall, the lightning flash! Delight in creation. Visit your local library and see what's happening there. Visit your local park and take a walk there.

*Don't be "hung up" on "name brands." Force yourself to get a "copycat" and be satisfied (and use the extra money to pay off your credit card debt from having to have the "real" stuff). Learn the contentment a close friend of mine who is blind told me about: "If every one lived like every one else is blind, they wouldn't be buying all the things they think give them 'status quo' from others looking at their possessions."

*Delight in whatever season you're in: watch the birds outside your window; make snow angels and have a snowball fight; make a snowman by yourself! Support your local artists by going to a concert. Be creative; think creatively. There are so many little things for you to enjoy right in your own back yard. Stop looking for the MAGNIFICANT and train yourself to delight in simple pleasures. You will start to see so MUCH beauty and purpose and life around you!

*Make people your focus instead of THINGS. Visit a neighbor. Call someone in your family that doesn't get a lot of phone calls. Visit someone going through a difficult time.

*Play a retro game you used to play. Marbles. Dominoes. Backgammon. Play a party game. Make a puzzle. Play War or Fish or pinochole.

*Go to the craft store and get a craft to do together. Even a crazy one! Make FUN and AMAZING times doing simple things!

*Focus and talk about the blessings you can NOT see: the IMPORTANT stuff like compassion, forgiveness, redemption, restoration, reconciliation. Make these things topics of conversation.

Challenge: STOP waiting and looking for the "spectacular" and learn to delight in the little things in life that make every day living so meaningful. Learn to be content with less and focus on the things that matter more than material possessions. Make it a point to enjoy the world at your fingertips instead of longing for what is outside your reach!

1 comment:

jessie said...

I can attest: having little can be even MORE enJOYable than having a lot. Downsizing considerably has dramatically increased the joy in our lives. Time is precious. Relationships are paramount. Stuff is superficial and diminishing. I LOVE investing in each other rather than in things!! x0x0