Do you often beat yourself up for mistakes? Yeah, I’m guilty as charged. I don’t fret so much about the mistakes I made growing up or the ones I made in university, but the ones I made as a parent when Ian was younger. The evil one knows how to get to me. He knows the buttons to push. He knows how to punch me in the solar plexus of my feelings.
For example, at one of our yard sales, I gave away some of Ian’s baby clothes. Aaaaand had a mini-meltdown along with it. Letting go of those sweet rompers, overalls, onesies, and shirts made me long to gather my little son in my arms, hug and kiss him as long as I wanted. And it brought up all the regrets that I had stored in my brain. All the times I had a cutting remark. All the times that I just wanted to pee alone, and I locked the door not letting him come in. The memories of his cries haunt me.
Back then, when I was busy bathing, feeding, diapering, dressing, and rocking, I wasn’t thinking that the days were fleeting; I was just thinking of how tired I was. How great it would be when he was potty-trained. How I couldn’t wait until he could go to sleep by himself. How much relief it would be when he could have friends of his own so I could just be Mama.
Alas, the days of cuddling are gone. He’s 17 now, and I’m doing good if I get a “hello” or a smile. Now, there are days that I would give anything if he would let me hold him again. And just like that, I let the evil one win again…
What will it take to be satisfied with what’s right in front of us in the here and now? We aren’t familiar with the feeling of contentment. Either we look toward the past for the “good ole days” or we look to the future for life to get better. But we rarely care to live in the here and now.
Discontentment is not a modern idea. King Solomon’s personal thoughts in Ecclesiastes are the musings of an old man wishing he had been more content:
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun– all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9: 7-10 NIV)
Whether we are wise, foolish, titled, serving, rich or poor, Solomon concludes that we all have a future 100% mortality rate. Therefore, he implores us to follow God’s commandments and be content with what we have by enjoying life in the present.
Maybe he seems depressed because of so much regret, but lean into the real meat of these verses: enjoy the here and now. If you look for the future to fix your discontent, you will miss the joy you have right in front of you.
So, where are you now?
Are you unmarried, newly married, or without children? Then do what you can only do when you don’t have children. If you like to help out, then take a weekend and volunteer relief efforts somewhere that needs your skillset. Are you thinking about having kids? Offer to babysit or rock someone else’s child–it will help you know if you’re ready to be a parent or help your birth control efforts. If you’re a homebody, then stay up late watching old movies or gather a bunch of friends and play board games. If you have a significant other, then take ballroom dancing lessons as a couple. I knew this couple in college who used to dress up, go to McDonald’s for a date and then dance at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs where a piano, saxophone, and drums created beautifully romantic music for dancing, and it was free! Talk about a cheap date!
Surrounded by littles? Blow up a balloon and try not to let it hit the ground. Build a fort out of your couch cushions, blankets, and dining chairs. Go outside and catch lightning bugs. One night when Ian was about 4 years old, Keith built a fire outside burning debris made up of fallen branches. Ian went to the back of the house, loaded up three lawnchairs on his red wagon, hauled them to the front, and set them up around the fire. Then he asked me if I would get him a blanket, so I did. Next, he asked me if we could have marshmallows, so Keith found three pieces of wire and we roasted marshmallows as the sun began to set. Keith asked me quietly out from the side of his mouth, “What are we doing?” I said, “We’re making memories.”
Got ‘tweens who have forgotten what it’s like being a kid or teenagers who can’t wait to grow up or think they are already grown? First, take away all of the technology–you included. Next, put aside the sleep schedule, the PTA meetings, the (gasp!) Wednesday night church. Forgive the bad grade and the chores undone (they will still be there tomorrow). And then….discover the majesty of meteor showers and waterfalls. Revel in the sound of ticklish laughter and the squeal from cold water sprinklers on the lawn. Glory in the scents of singed chocolate chip cookies made by amateur chefs. Laugh at each other eating s’mores with marshmallow chins. Taste the crunchy eggs at breakfast while camping. Feel the simultaneous fear and joy of watching your baby conquer a ropes course.
Finally, don’t forget to archive. Keep your phone charged or give everyone a throwaway camera and let them take pictures. Write in a journal. Press postcards, flowers, concert tickets, yard sale price tags. Trace little hands and fingers and even big hands and big fingers. These are the things that contentment is made of.
It’s sobering, isn’t it?
Live your life with joy now, whatever now is for you. For all of us who know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord, this life is just the beginning, but we don’t have to wait to have joy in Heaven. We can choose to have joy with our loved ones now. For some, your now might be so difficult you can’t imagine enjoying anything in this life. Pray for God to give you joy where you are and show you moments to enjoy your family right now.
I remember telling Keith, “I wish that we could (fill in the blank).” He would say, “Honey, you’re wishing your life away.” He was right. I didn’t realize that I needed contentment, not another “rush” of excitement. Thirty years later, it’s too late to savor some of that time, but I pray that I can create a contented now. It’s not too late for many of you, dearest moms. Learn to love the life you live now so that you can learn contentment.