When 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.
We 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).
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…
…celebrated holidays with our fun & crazy family
(something we hadn’t been able to do while living overseas)…
…celebrated birthdays with skads of family and friends…
…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…
…had Theo, right here in this house…
…boogied through family dance parties…
…built a chicken coop ourselves, and raised baby chicks into laying hens…
…enjoyed the pool (especially on those hot summer days)…
…and enjoyed the freedom that comes with having a yard to play in
(something we never had while living abroad).
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.