I've been working on my session for our camp ladies retreat and today I kept being reminded how important contentment is in our lives. I turn thirty-three tomorrow, and I often think back over the past year and how God has grown me and shaped me. I think a big part of growing in our lives is learning to be content. It's so easy to always think, "if only" or "when I get there" or "when I have that"...then I'll be happy and content. But the reality is that if we are counting on our circumstances to provide contentment, we will always end up miserable in the long run. Life is hard. It just is. We are busy, things rarely go like we think they will, people hurt us, we could easily live in constant disappointment. We might finally get what we think we have to have, only to realize that the paradise we thought it would be doesn't exist. I came across this quote today- "If contentment is learned by resting in what we cannot see (God), discontentment results from seeking rest in physical things." In my short 33 years of life, God has shown me over and over again that if I'm not satisfied in Him, I never will be. It's not an easy thing to learn, and I'm still working on it FOR SURE.

As we learn to give up our wants and desires for His, it's amazing to see how God molds our hearts. He often uses very painful circumstances to show us the flaws in the things we put our trust in. Sometimes we think if we have a nice house, a husband, a child, a new job, etc, THEN we will be happy. But when we do receive those things, they end up proving to be a lot of work and not the paradise we once thought, and ultimately, they prove to be just broken cisterns- things we are trying to fill the hole in our hearts that only God can fill. They may be good things, but if we are trying to put those things in the place of God, we will always be disappointed. There are many things in our lives that are truly good and do bring joy, but if it is becoming an idol or something we "have to have" then that's where we have gone wrong. 

I think the big thing we need to remember is that if we are not content in the present, we are deceived to think that we will be content with a change of circumstances. What we need is a change of heart. Before we start looking for the next new thing to satisfy our longing hearts whether it is a person, place, or thing, we need to desperately pray that God would change our hearts and make us completely satisfied only in Him, exactly where we are right now. We have to ask for His grace, because in our flesh, we can never do it. There are several very big life decisions that I have almost made, but once I thought about the reasons I was making them, I realized they were selfish and born out of discontentment with my present circumstances. lt's always humbling to realize that, but it's so much better to realize ahead of time then to make the wrong decision and regret it later. Once I began to seek to make Christ the center of my life, and not myself, it was amazing to see how He helped me to have complete joy and contentment, even though the circumstances didn't necessarily change. 

God is a gracious God and can redeem even our filthy, selfish hearts. So we don't have to be discouraged when we see the sins of discontentment and pride growing in our hearts. Instead, we should ask God for the grace to fully trust Him and fully be content, exactly where He has placed us. Is everything good in our present circumstances? Of course not! We were never promised that life would be all good. But each thing that is in our lives is something that can draw us closer to God if we let it. When hard things happen or things don't go our way, we need to cling to Christ and seek Him, instead of grow bitter and discontent and seek for the quickest way out. I pray that the older I get, the more God will give me the grace to be content exactly where He has placed me in life.

 

God is good. This is something we hear people say a lot. It can become trite because people just kind of say it flippantly or tag it onto a sentence. Often times it is linked with something like- "I got the job- God is so good!" or "My tests came back negative- God is good!" But are we really thinking about what that means or are we just saying that because we feel warm and fuzzy inside? When things aren't warm and fuzzy, that's suddenly a lot harder to hear and say. Recently I started thinking about this phrase and why we tend to think of it so much in relation to our circumstances. If we get a promotion, yes, God is good, but if we get a terminal illness, God is still good. And that's because, even though we tend to link it to what happens visibly in our lives, His goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. God is good because that's who He is. That is His character. The Bible says so much about God being good:

Psalm 119:68 "You are good, and what you do is good."
Psalm 107:1 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever."
Psalm 145:9 "The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all He has made."
Matthew 19:16-17 "There is only One who is good."
Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."
Nahum 1:7 "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in Him.
Psalm 100:5 "For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."

These are just a few of the verses in the Bible that talk about God being good. We as humans will not understand it all on this earth, but God will always be good because that's who He is. Just like God is holy, just, loving, and so many other things, God is good. It is a part of his character. When we think of good things, we think of things we like that don't hurt us but bring us pleasure. But God literally IS good. This is why we can say, despite anything going on in our lives, that God is always good. Because no matter what circumstance comes into our lives, God never changes. His character stays the same. God is good when we have a great day, because God is always good. God is good on our worst day, because God is always good. See the common thread here. We could put any circumstances in front of it and the second part would always be true. That's hard to hear sometimes because our finite minds are telling us that doesn't make sense. We don't understand how we can say God is good when something that is obviously not good like death, disease, lose of a job, or heartache happens.

So how can we make sense of that when things happen that we do not like? How do we believe God is good during hard circumstances? Part of it is just faith. Because God's Word says He is good, I will trust that is true even though I don't see it right now. We can't have this faith on our own. It comes from God's grace and He gives us supernatural strength to trust Him no matter what. Another part to it is to realize what God is doing for us during that time of sadness or stress. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." God is good in that He comforts us. That is huge! People who don't know God don't have that comfort and hope that comes from Him. To go through hard times and have God comforting us is His kindness and goodness displayed in our lives. Psalm 147:3 says, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." God may not always heal us on earth, but He heals our hearts. God gave us His Word which is His good gift to us to comfort, encourage, and admonish us, through hard times and easy ones. We may not be able to find much good out of an earthly situation. It might really be a bad one and cause much pain and hurt, but we can still find goodness in God, because He will never cease to be good.

I have barely scratched the surface of this topic and there is much more to be learned and said, but overall, remember that the next time everything in your being screams out that God is not good, because you don't see any good happening, remember who He is and run to Him for faith to believe, for comfort, and for help. He is good.

I’ve seen lots of these posts before at the end of the year and I love reading through them to get ideas. So, I thought I would share a few things that helped me a lot this year. It was gonna be 10...but then life happened, so it's now only 7. Maybe you’re not into this type of thing...so if that’s the case, no problem; just skip it. 😊 Most of these things I learned by trial and error and definitely did NOT do all the time😂. Also, I am a mom of two kids, 1 & 2, so my things may not be helpful to everyone, but they were to me.

1. Keep a good routine! This is one that became very apparent this year. I’ve always been a schedule girl and liked planning, but haven’t always carried out the plans the best. This year was probably our craziest, especially since we’ve had kids, and so it was very hard to keep a good routine. I found that when things were up in the air, we were traveling, or exhausted from work and didn’t keep our routine, things got pretty crazy pretty fast. When we were home and had a consistent routine, things generally went pretty smoothly. So, I have definitely fallen in love with keeping routine. I can't fix everything, but it can certainly help. 

2. Make a Schedule...and try to keep it. Making a schedule is a huge part of a good routine. Some people say a schedule isn't for them, and maybe there are some cases its not, but for my family, it’s been a lifesaver! We DO struggle keeping it sometimes when life gets crazy, but for the most part, it’s a huge part of our lives. Picking a time to get up, exercise, eat meals, etc, goes a long way to your day being orderly and not chaotic. Think about it, if you just stay in bed until you feel like getting up, eat when you feel like it, etc, then you might be frantically trying to catch up all day and skip doing important things. If you take a little time each week, you can figure out when to get up every day and what you need to accomplish and schedule it out. It really doesn’t take long to do, but helps so much! If you have other people in your house such as a spouse, it's a huge help to sit down and plan a little at the beginning of each week. At the bottom, I will include a little sample schedule that we have been using the last few months, specifically for parent's with toddlers. It took a lot of trial and error, but this is one we have like the best.

3. Prioritize what is most important. Sometimes when I sit down to organize my life or make a schedule, I can get overwhelmed by all that is going on and how little time there seems to be. One huge thing that has helped is to first break my life into catergories- home, work, church, etc, and pick one or two priorities in each category. Then, I schedule all those things first to make sure they really are priority. After that, I can add on what I have time left for. So, for instance, if I want to make sure I workout every day, I need to set aside that time in my schedule...or there is no way I will do it. Otherwise, I get to the end of the day and oops, no time to workout again. Every. Single. Time.😂 Maybe that‘s not everyone, but that’s how I roll.

4. Wake up early. Now, this is one I still fight against. I have always been a night owl- NOT a morning person. I liked how productive I could be in the morning, but usually not enough to get up early unless I had to. The last few years, my husband has helped me work towards being better at that. This year especially, I have really worked hard at getting up early. There is nothing necessarily magical about getting up early, but I love that quiet time, watching the sun rise, where I can get things DONE. Everyone might use this time differently, but there are so many things you can do before 7-8 am. Since I have littles, those 2 extra hours have been a lifesaver. If I wake up the same time as them, it's usually a little bit rough all day. But, if I wake up a couple hours earlier, work out, read the Bible, get ready, and start on breakfast, then I feel so much more prepared when they wake up.

5. Go to bed at a decent time. As you read in the above, I do not like doing this.🙄😆 In fact, this is probably the most recent thing I am working on embracing. But, to get up early, I better go to bed early as well. Because I do need sleep. Since our kids go to bed pretty early in the evening, it’s nice to have a couple hours every night to spend time as a couple.

6. Give yourself grace! This is a huge one! I have tended to be a perfectionist my whole life, so when I decide to do something and then don’t do it, I can get really discouraged. I think planning is great and when we set up structure for our lives, things generally go better. But if I don't feel good one week and sleep in every day instead of exercising, I can give myself grace. I don’t need to get frustrated and feel like I failed. Because in the long run, it’s not a big deal! I just need to keep doing what God wants one day at a time by His grace alone. So when things get off, don't freak out. Just get back up the next day and keep being faithful. 

7. Take care of your body. This is one I have struggled with. Last year, I did not do a good job at this. I had just had two kiddos in a year and was exhausted, so in general I had no energy. I was not eating well and not doing any physical activity and kept wondering what was wrong with me. In the past, I had just said, oh well, because those things didn't seem to affect me much. But suddenly, taking care of my body moved up very high on my priorities. This isn't to look a certain way or wear certain clothes, but purely because I needed energy to keep up with two toddlers. In March, I started realizing this and taking small steps to get my health back where it should be. I still have a ways to go as my progress is very gradual, but I have seen huge improvements to my overall energy level and ability to do my daily tasks and not be as exhausted. I know this doesn't seem to make sense, but working out in the mornings actually helps me have more energy, not be more tired. So I highly recommend it. I have a small space and not great weather, so I love workouts I can do on my tv at home.

Well, there are a few things that helped my life this year. Like I said, I didn't do them perfectly at all, but as I worked on being consistent in them, things went way smoother. Ultimately, do your best and rest in God's grace completely for all of it! I look forward to a new year to learn and grow even more! I love a fresh start and a time to get refocused on what God has for me in the year ahead.

Sample Schedule for a Family with Toddlers:

Between 5-5:30- Mom & Dad get up and workout

6:00- Parents get ready for day

6:30- Quiet Time (my personal favorite)

7:00- Couple Devotions/Talk about day together. We like to ask how we can pray for each other that day

7:30- Kids wake up and we eat breakfast as a family (we usually do simple smoothies/cereal/eggs- all easy stuff unless its a weekend

8:00- Get kids ready for the day/Daddy goes to work (or I go to work sometimes)

8:30- Clean up breakfast/Kids play in kitchen/living room

9:00- Independent Play (a lifesaver!)- kids play quietly in a room by themselves for a while. It really helps them with their imagination and helps them start the day calmly. My son loves playing specifically with legos and my daughter loves being a mom to her baby dolls:) I use this time to get things ready for the rest of the day for the kids.

9:45- Music Time- we use this time to work on a song we are learning together

10:00- Snack Break/Reading Time- I love to use snack time for reading to the kids. I put them in their booster seats and read them several books and they love it. I like getting special books at the library to read during this time

10:30- Outside Play- IF it's nice outside, we definitely get out at this time. If not, I have to get creative. Sometime we go to the library, store, or somewhere else if it's bad weather.

11:15- Art/Craft Time- This time is when we color, use play doh, draw, or sometimes do a craft. It can be super easy or more complicated. Whatever you feel like!

11:30(ish)- Learning Time- Right now, my 1 year old can get in the way during this time, so I sometimes let him play in the playroom for it. I do some kind of learning with my two year old whether it's letters, numbers, pbskids.org activity, nothing overkill. I just want her to be learning one little thing every day.

12:00- TV Time/Get lunch ready- In my perfect world, this is the first time the kids watch tv in the day (but that doesn't always happen haha) I turn on a show they like or PBS kids so I can make their lunch

12:30- We eat lunch together as a family- mostly simple things like PB sandwiches or cheese and crackers

1:00- If it's nice outside, this is a perfect time to get out again and run off some energy while mom cleans up from lunch. If not, daddy usually entertains them during his lunch break.

1:30- Daddy goes back to work and I help the kids get ready for their nap. We try to read a story or do something to calm them down. Sometimes I have to stay in their room a few minutes til they settle.

2:00-4:00- Naptime. If they aren't sleeping, they have to be quiet in their room. That is mommy's sanity time to clean, do laundry, work on dinner, etc.

4:00- Usually I let the kids watch one show when they get up. I either sit with them, or I am still making dinner. We used to do reading and a snack after nap time which was good too, but we moved their nap later, so it's too late for a snack.

4:30- Cleanup time. This is one we haven't been great at, but when we are, it helps a ton! While dinner is finishing up, me and the kids go and clean up a little. Picking up toys is the main thing. That way after dinner, we aren't having to clean as much but can enjoy some family time.

5:00- We usually eat dinner between 5-5:30. This is when my husband gets home and the kids are hungry, so I try for that.

5:45- Clean up/Family Time- One thing we have done is my husband help the kids clean up one room and I clean up the kitchen. During the warm months, we love taking a walk or playing outside at this time. It's pretty flexible.

6:30- We start getting the kids ready for bed and cleaned up. We either do bath time or put on jammies and then do our Bible story and songs together. We love this time as a family and try to do it all together when possible.

7:00- Kid's bedtime. After the kids go to bed, we usually have some aftermath to still clean up. After that, we usually try to relax a little playing games, watching tv, reading, etc. We like setting aside one night a week for "date night" where we plan something special usually at home. It's good for us to have focused time on each other. We also like having people over, or going to a friend's house, once a week for fellowship.

9:00- Get ready for next day. We have found that when we make sure everything is laid out for the next day and ready to go, it's way easier to get up in the morning and carry out our plan.

Between 9:30-10:00- Go to bed