Four-Hundred Square Feet of Contentment

When my daughter was six months old, we packed up all our belongings and moved from our small home in South Carolina to Kansas, where my husband was to begin his doctoral studies. We were full of feelings of adventure and also of uncertainty about what the next few years held in store for us. We decided to move onto the property of a small Christian camp where one of our best friends was the director. In exchange for helping out, we would receive free rent and utilities. The only problem was that both the house and mobile home on the camp property were already taken. So, we decided to make a home out of what was known as “the nurse’s station.” It was a two-room area underneath some cabins that had the potential to become a small apartment. We installed some kitchen cabinets, a sink, a stove and a refrigerator, and our apartment was well on its way to becoming livable. After making a curtain to divide the second room into the semblance of two separate bedrooms and adding our furniture and some wall hangings, our new little home became quite cozy, and we were very happy. In fact, a year later when we had added one more child to our family and it was time to move into a more spacious living space, I was, surprisingly, a bit regretful and sad about leaving our little home where I could hear all my favorite people breathing each night.

I’ll never forget the look on a friend’s face when I showed her around our little apartment. She put her hand over her heart, looked at me with a pitiful look, and said, “I’ll definitely be praying that God provides another place for you to live.” I was amused with her response, because I didn’t feel nearly so desperate about my situation.

There have been times in my life when I’ve had more creature comforts than I did in that 400-square-foot apartment, and yet I’ve been unhappy and discontent with my situation in life. I’ve often wondered, “How could I have been so happy in such a cramped place with no dishwasher, washer, dryer, hardly enough room to fit three of us around the table, and very little space for my daughter to play?”

One thing that I know contributed to my contentment was that I was grateful for many, many things. I was grateful that we had a place to live that cost us nothing. I was grateful that I could stay home with my daughter and didn’t have to take on a job in order to keep my husband in school. I was grateful for the beautiful grounds. I was grateful that we always had enough groceries. I was grateful that we had wonderful, godly friends also living on the camp property. I was grateful for the opportunity we had to minister at a Christian camp. I knew that God had been very good to us, and I was grateful.

I think that a grateful spirit is one of the biggest keys to contentment. The apostle Paul links gratefulness to contentment in Philippians 4:10-11:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (KJV)

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about the passage:

“Paul had a grateful spirit; for, though what his friends did for him was nothing in comparison of what he deserved from them and the obligations he had laid upon them, yet he speaks of their kindness as if it had been a piece of generous charity, when it was really far short of a just debt. If they had each of them contributed half their estates to him, they had not given him too much, since they owed to him even their own souls; and yet, when they send a small present to him, how kindly does he take it, how thankfully does he mention it, even in this epistle which was to be left upon record, and read in the churches, through all ages; so that wherever this epistle shall be read there shall this which they did to Paul be told for a memorial of them.”

I think it’s easy for women especially to think that if we just had a bigger house, more money to give our kids more opportunities, or a nicer car, we would be happy. But it’s just not true. Charles Spurgeon said, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

We just moved into a new house that’s much bigger than the 400 square foot home I lived in a few years ago, but I know better than to think I’ll be any happier and content here than I’ve been anywhere else. True contentment can only be found by being satisfied with Christ and grateful for all that He has given you.

I Tim 6:6 –10 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Two Book Recommendations

I recently finished two books that I’d like to recommend to you:

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow: I expected this book to be more about anxiety, but it is actually an excellent and challenging study on contentment. I had just finished writing an article on contentment before I began reading this book (to be posted here and on SharperIron on Monday, Lord willing), and as I delved into the book, I started to feel silly for even attempting to tackle the topic, because this book is so much more thorough than I could be in an 800-word essay. Most of us struggle with contentment in some way or other, and I recommend this book to you.

Don’t Make Me Count to Three! by Ginger Plowman: If you like Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart, you’ll like this book too. Plowman is somewhat of a disciple of Tripp and borrows from him, as well as Lou Priolo’s Heart of Anger, often. But she’s a woman, and she writes like a woman, complete with humor and helpful illustrations. The most helpful advice for me from this book was that we need to not only tell our children what not to do, but we also need to guide them in what they ought to do instead. For instance, when we tell our kids not to fight over a toy, we need to explain to them what they need to do instead, and then make them practice doing it right then. It’s the put off/ put on principle. This book was just the encouragement I needed as I’m trying to be the right kind of mommy for my two toddlers.

Happy reading!

Published in: on August 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm  Comments (2)