Content With Little, Content With Much

Learn2BContentWhen we moved overseas in 2006, we sold or gave away virtually everything we owned. Personal items, baby books, and a few items we couldn’t sell and really liked went to my parents’ garage. Everything else?

(Imagine me snapping.) Gone, just like that.

Urumqi_apmtWe moved to a somewhat-grimy, moldy-bathroomed, garishly-embroidered-floral-couched apartment in the middle of nowhere in China. It was there, on the fourth floor, on the right. A walk-up apartment, of course. :)

There in that smoggy city, without a car, owning few personal possessions, pregnant with our third child, God taught us contentment with little. We learned the quiet contentment that comes from living in a difficult place, while possessing a bedrock-solid-KNOWING that God ordained it. Honestly, the things that happened in our less-than-a-year there are still some of our favorite, laugh-out-loud memories.

Later, after nearly six years living abroad, we found ourselves back in Texas. When we decided to stay, and Doug found a job, we began looking to buy a house at the very bottom of the housing market drop. House prices were low, and even still, with crazy low prices and low interest rates, homes sat for sale for 6-12 months before selling. We were able to snatch up an incredible house (it’s still mind-blowing to me that we’ve gotten to live here for nearly two years) at a shockingly low price.

Thus began the period of our life I’ll call, “learning to be content with much.”

We have a pool, y’all. A POOL. In some parts of the country, a pool is a status symbol for the rich. In the sweltering Texas summer, a pool is the difference between staying inside from roughly 9:30am-6pm every day, and actually getting to enjoy the daytime (even in July and August).

pool

But do you know what that pool was, for me?

It was something I needed to apologize for, and explain away. I felt GUILTY for owning the pool. GUILTY for being able to afford it. I was guilted into explaining, to each person who came over, how “we just happened to be looking for a house when everything was ultra-cheap. We’d never be able to afford this house normally.”

Though I’d learned to be content–joyful, even– with little, I hadn’t yet learned to be content with much.

Over the past two years, we’ve had family pick-up football games…

Family_football

…celebrated holidays with our fun & crazy family
(something we hadn’t been able to do while living overseas)…

Silly_thanksgiving

…celebrated birthdays with skads of family and friends…

Party_time

…hosted another family in our home for four months, to help them get their feet underneath them in Texas after a big cross-country move…

Hosted_family

…had Theo, right here in this house…

TheoBorn

…boogied through family dance parties…

danceparty

…built a chicken coop ourselves, and raised baby chicks into laying hens…

Built_coop

…enjoyed the pool (especially on those hot summer days)…

Silas_diving

…and enjoyed the freedom that comes with having a yard to play in
(something we never had while living abroad).

Great_yard

We have been blessed, and have wrung every bit of pleasure we could get from these short-term possessions.

Over these two years, God has taught me the heart-at-rest contentment that can come, even in the midst of having MUCH. He has taught me, just in the same way that I chose not to belittle or grump about the “little” we had while we lived in that tiny apartment, that I need to choose not to apologize for, or feel embarrassed about, the “much” that He’s given us here.

He owns all the cattle and made all the stars.

Everything we have, no matter whether it is “much” or “little,” is from His hand. 

We have honestly held these temporal, earthly things (our house, yard, and pool) with open hands, sharing them freely with our care group, neighbors, friends, and the other family that lived with us. He has given us so much joy, and has taught us to be grateful stewards, and I praise Him for it.

Now, we are at a crossroads.

We don’t yet know where we are headed, but my husband is looking for long-term employment. Given the options before us, it is likely that we won’t get to remain in this house. I am thankful for the house, yard, and pool, thankful for the memories made, and thankful for the contentment-with-much that He has taught me here.

God has been so good to keep maturing us, so that we are beginning to wholeheartedly echo Paul’s words:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and
I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance,
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,
abundance and need.
I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:11-13

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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8 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Wow, great thoughts. I’d never seen this scripture looked at from the perspective of plenty; but can see it clear as day now. Thanks, food for thought. :)

  2. I too enjoyed the idea of being “content with plenty”! great post!

  3. Bethany says:

    Good stuff … but two years?! Has it really been that long? Wowzers!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes, m’dear, it has. It’s been almost THREE years since we came back to the US, and more than two years since we decided to stay. Two years ago, I was coming back from Istanbul, having packed up &/or sold all our possessions there. Phew!

  4. Deborah says:

    I really appreciate this post, Jess. As you know, we’re overseas now, but our situation is reversed from what yours was–my husband earns a US salary while we’re here, where his employer provides our housing and the cost of living is so much less than in the States. While we’re overseas, we’re in a time of plenty, and we know that times will be leaner when we eventually move back to the US. But most of my friends here are missionaries, and they’re definitely in the lean times now. I find myself constantly trying to minimize the blessings we have, because I feel like anything else is bragging–even in something as simple as inviting people over, I always find myself saying how grateful we are for the house and that it’s provided for us, because we’d never be able to afford it ourselves, and feeling a bit embarrassed about our “treasures” (large paintings and small sculptures that we’ve collected as we travel), because they didn’t have the option of a large shipment of household effects shipped around the world with them. This post is a good reminder that I shouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed that God is blessing us with material things right now–we are serving Him in a different way right now that my missionary friends are, and He’s equipping us to bless those around us in the way that He knows is appropriate right now. Now, if I could just remember that in time to stop my tongue from “apologizing” for our blessings …

    • Jess Connell says:

      Deborah! I totally understand what you’re getting at!

      Some of the friends we house-churched with worked @ the Consulate & wow I remember! Their apartment complex, etc, were all so swank; the US products they could get made our mouths water. I watched as they received it all with joy and shared it freely with us… (they even gave us Christmas presents like Jif peanut butter or frosted mini-wheats)… they were an example to me in living graciously, contentedly, with much.

      Yes, God has given y’all what you have, and like you say, He’s equipping you to bless others.

  1. April 21, 2014

    […] I loved that house– near family, useful to the Body, with so much built-in fun for us as a family. It was such a perfect expression of God’s grace toward us. […]

  2. December 4, 2015

    […] is the second home of our lives where God is teaching us “contentment with much,” and I continually fight the urge to apologize for it, or explain away the “much” God […]

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