Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Contentment, gratitude and tiny habits...


Have you noticed that when we decide to focus on a particular attitude adjustment, habit or character refinement, that numerous opportunities to be challenged in that area seem to arise with regularity?

Let me share one of the things God deposited on my heart one late September day in 2018, just after we moved into this home. That still small voice told me to make this home a house of praise. Immediately I decided that music and singing would be a big part of life here, and though we've gone through changing seasons of mountains and valleys these past few years, beautiful hymns and inspired instrumental music have very much become a grounding point at the beginning and end of each day. 

But the other night I could not sleep, so I crept out of the bedroom to sit in the faintly moonlit living room, and gave the Lord time to speak once more into my heart...because obviously He needed my complete attention, away from the daily rhythm of homemaking.

What had I been missing during the day as I read His Word, prayed while cooking and cleaning, pondered problems as I stitched and knitted? 
Well, it was all about contentment and gratitude. And praise.

Not the praise of lifting my voice in song.
But praise in gratitude for all we have, for all HE has provided, for His protective hand on our lives and for always, always being a loving 'ear to hear' when we're treading another valley. 

I released this stitchery back in 2016 and as I sketched the design, then adding fabric and thread to create the final piece, I knew without doubt that the contentment I was craving would only come if I practiced heart-felt gratitude before God. 

So, my little rendezvous with the Father in the middle of the night this week was in fact Him reminding me what I already knew but had somehow slipped from mind...and it also confirmed why I felt led to make the theme of the blog this year "A Year of Contentment". 

I've contemplated a number of ways discontent has entered my heart, and as I listed them during the night, the Holy Spirit changed each one to a praise of gratitude...

# I'm only 5'1" and our dining table is too high so I need to have a pillow on my chair in order to eat. I don't do any work at the table for the same reason.

Jennifer, how blessed you are to have a lovely table that seats your family, that brings all of you together for tea parties, celebrations, meals.

# Being this height I am constantly needing to carry a stool around to reach into cupboards, the linen press and the pantry as the previous owner was tall and built the kitchen accordingly.

Jennifer, how blessed you are to have a pantry stocked with nourishing ingredients to feed your loved ones and visitors. How blessed you are to have ample bedding and towels and linens for your needs. How blessed you are to have appliances which make your day to day life easier.

# We have a very old bathroom and shower, and living here in the tropics, the presence of mould is a constant enemy which must be attended to.

Jennifer, how blessed you are to have clean running water with which to wash, cleanse and drink.

# Three years after the floods, we still have bare concrete floors in the main bedroom and my husband's study, as we had to remove the sodden moulding carpets in both rooms back then.

Jennifer, how blessed you are that your dear husband has worked to replace all the drainage under the house, installed two new pump wells and pumps, replaced all the pipes from the pumps along both sides of your property, repaired and replaced damaged guttering, and installed many other flood-retardant measures in and around your home. You saw the difference this made recently when so many in your town faced flooding once more. 

You see what I mean?
My grumblings blocked out gratitude, and if gratitude is lacking, so is contentment. And friends, I am longing for a contented mindset in every area of my life - except my relationship with the Lord. When it comes to that, let me never think I know enough or have enough, but let me always long for a closer walk with Him. 

I have this pattern in my shop (it's one of the Gentle Domesticity series), rather a timely reminder. 
Maybe you'd like to stitch it as a reminder, maybe you won't need one - but if you do, pop over HERE 

Every little bit...

We've had a lot of rain the past few weeks and the weeds grow faster than the garden plants - why is that, I keep asking myself. It's back breaking to keep pulling them, but we do it anyhow. 

When Blossom gave me the three small pots of miniature roses for Christmas I placed cardboard under them as that's the easiest way to stop the weeds, but we had no mulch to add on top (even better weed deterrent when used together)...and then rain, and more rain, and thousands of baby cane toads (dreadful pest and they kill native frogs) all through the grass and weeds, and jumping in the swimming pool. Keeping on top of things waned with hubby only having one day off a week, and my inability to cope with our tropical heat after 9am.

However, I've been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear, and going slowly through the chapters because I like to think about what I read, and not run ahead with ideas which may or may not be followed through in practice. 
Atomic means very tiny, and I am discovering that very tiny habits can make a huge difference to life. My first habit to change was swimming. I swim most days, but then I can miss a week, which might turn in to two because I fall out of the habit. You see its not safe to walk around our neighbourhood, so swimming is my daily exercise...when I remember.

For about six weeks now, I have been swimming my laps every single morning after breakfast, and occasionally I'll do another set of laps before dinner if hubby is late home. It's become a habit that has improved my breathing, healed my back pain, and greatly improved my overall energy as each week the number of laps increases. I do around 360 to 450 strokes a day depending on whether I swim once or twice, and I do this even in the rain. 

So back to those potted roses and the weeds. Whilst we simply don't have the time or climate to spend hours in the garden each day, the regular atomic habit of doing a small section of the yard in the coolest part of the day is reaping results. 

We bought more sugar cane mulch (this is the sugar cane region of Australia and it's readily available) and every morning I weed one small section, lay it with cardboard, and then the mulch. 

A bit like the hare and the tortoise really. Slow and steady gets you over the finish line. 
Of course our finish line is way off, but it's heartening to see results from 20-30 minutes a day. 
Fertilising the pots and adding new mulch also protects them from the heat.

Afternoon downtime, once the chores are done and before I begin dinner prep, is a mix of reading, knitting and stitching a new pattern...and possibly a Poirot or Marple on the telly.

Tomorrow I am picking up Cully May and Rafaella to bring here for the day, so on my to-do list this afternoon are new curtains for their cubby house, and a bit of baking. 

I hope you're growing in contentment. 
It's not really something you can accomplish and always have, but is a day to day decision I think.
Today I choose to be grateful, and I am content.
I pray this attitude, this atomic habit as it were, continues to grow in my heart and mind each day, so that I do not need another tap on the shoulder at midnight from the Father and a three hour Holy Spirit led seminar about my lack of gratitude.
And yet, if I need it? I welcome it.

Bless you heaps,


Maryannep said...

What a BLESSING it is to have a husband who can do most things that need doing at home. I am also grateful for my husband who can usually fix anything except electronic things. We are both retired now and have been married for 51 years. What a slog this long marriage has endured, but thank you GOD that we married and we struggled at different times from different happenings. At times we were both on the brink of throwing the towel in, but God kept saying to me HANG IN THERE. We were 20 and 21 when we married and I thought I was so grown up, but now realise I was still so immature when I look back. 1971 - married on my 20th birthday - April found out I was pregnant and then at the end of December our firstborn arrived - how can this be - it only seems like a couple of years ago. I am grateful for my husband, for my three children, for my two grandchildren, for the roof over my head, for enough food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in.

Lin said...

Thank you Jennifer, lovely post. I know of people who keep a gratitude log so to take 5 minutes a day to jot down a few things to be grateful for is a good habit I ought to get into! Enjoy your day with the girls. xx

Joanne said...

Hi Jennifer,
Was it released in 2016 ? ! That was a encouraging year of stitcheries :)
Well done for sticking to swimming. I read that it take 3 weeks to make something good a habbit.
Why are good habits hard to make and bad habits harder to break ?
Just ordered the new Tilda Cotton beach collection :)
Looking forward to making the " I'm not afraid of storms " cushion when it arrives :)
Soon the weather will be warm enough for me to get out and do a bit of gardening. Haven't done much since October so I will be also starting with 10 - 15 minutes.
hugs, take care,

Rozy Lass said...

This is so timely for me because the word I felt impressed on my heart for this year is "contentment". I've been keeping a gratitude journal for several years now, but never connected the two concepts. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Oh how I needed this today. I've been spending the year two thousand miles away from my young adult children and there are days when it is VERY hard to be there for them but not actually BE THERE....
Thank YOu
Mary Beth

Remembrances said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful reminder! I have made gratitude jars for friends and family in the past and now, through your generosity, I will be able to embroider them another wonderful reminder!

Dots said...

Hi, Jennifer, always inspiring. I believe you could, and possibly should, write a book series. Your mind works in very encouraging ways. You express yourself very well. A wealth of a vocabulary you have, which in my opinion is a gift indeed. I could see you becoming a beloved author like so many that you cherish to read. I can see you succeeding in a huge way. A few cook books, a few homemaking books, some embroidery how-to books, and much more. Yes! I can visualize that about you. For God has gifted you in blogging. You are a success, a natural at conveying what you want to write. Something to think about perhaps?
Sometimes we can't see our own talents. But I tell you, you are very gifted in so many ways.
I like the 'tiny things'...atomic meaning. It is something I have been learning for a while. Only I did not recoginize it until I read what you said about it. And that gives me more food for thought on it. I will ponder that today.
Be blessed, Jennifer.

Patti said...

Thank you for the pattern today and sharing your thoughts. I've requested the book title from the library.

Pink Rose said...

Good morning Jennifer I love reading your blogs and yes I try to find the gratitude 🙏 in all things it’s amazing finding the gratitude in something that you think is negative, I enjoy learning about your garden and I look forward to working on my own , take care lovely lady 💕

Lorrie said...

A lovely post, Jennifer. Gratitude is so important for a contented life, and I need reminders from the Holy Spirit, and from others, to keep a focus of gratitude throughout my days. I love your stitchery and thank you so much for sharing it with us. I have quite a folder of your lovely patterns that I would like to stitch up one day. I also very much enjoyed your "atomic habits" reflections. A little bit every day adds up to a lot.
Take care,

Meadowcreek said...

A beautiful post. I have so many blessings, and yet I often focus on what's wrong. This is a good reminder for me to start a gratitude journal again. Thank you.

Kim said...

I was feeling undervalued as a homemaker most of today (yes, I realize how prideful that sounds, and is) so your blog helped me turn my focus to remembering how my family and I are blessed by my diligence and desire to make home lovely and to be content as a homemaker (there's really nothing else I'd rather do). I was blessed the other evening by my husband of almost 40 years thanking me for loving beauty and creating it. Reading this today reminded me of that. I am so blessed!

Tammy said...

Thank you for the beautiful contentment pattern. It is gorgeous and so true. I am grateful for everything I have and for my husband and family, home...etc...And for my life as a stage 4 cancer patient. Life is so precious. We have so much to be grateful for. But too many of us wear blinders as to the important things in life . I am truly content in my life. I am blessed in all things by God.

Donna P. said...

Jennifer, thank you for such wise words and a wonderful blog posts. I too have been struggling with contentment and gratitude. Your blog entry has helped me see past things to what needs to be seen and done. Thank you so much. You'll never know how much this meant to me - until we meet in Heaven and then you'll know :-)

Sherry said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us. I have chosen the word peace for this year and know that it is available only through Jesus. Gratitude and contentment are a big part of having the peace of God in my life. Thank you also for sharing the lovely pattern.

Annabel said...

Beautiful post Jenny. A home of praise, I love this. I have a re occurring theme of "dont let anyone steal your joy" and even though I am an awful singer I sing! I am also five foot one!! :) xxx