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 had this pattern in my shop, but have just removed it as I'd like to share it with you as free download.
Maybe you'll stitch it as a reminder, maybe you won't need one. But just in case, please use the link below and may it bless your heart and inspire an attitude of praise.
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,