Reading Ginny’s post this morning, I was surprised to feel how it resonated with me. I love her writing and photography and always find it beautiful but today it touched me in a whole different way.
Last summer during our annual pilgrimage to Emerald Isle, NC (which the kids look forward to like it’s Christmas), we did something spur of the moment and totally unexpected. We drove up the coast to the Cedar Island Ferry and went to Ocracoke Island. The drive took us up through small coastal NC towns. Smaller than the small town we live in, which if you’ve been here, you know that’s saying something. I loved looking at the places, the small general stores, the abandoned post office in one that is now overgrown (and we’ve promised to go back and if it’s still there get a picture, it was that kind of place). We got to the ferry and could not believe how much we loved the ferry docking area. Picnic areas, a small store, a hotel and restaurant and little benches and swings to sit on. We rode the ferry and the kids thought it was the greatest thing we’d ever done. Once we got to the small island that is only accessable by boat, we had lunch and visited the small British cemetery and explored a bit before we had to turn around and go back home.
When we had told my parents that morning that we would be gone all day on this trip my mom’s response was, “Won’t you just be driving the whole day?” well, we spent more time on boats than in the car but her response is what I’d guess to most people what would be fairly typical.
But there was some kind of magic in that day. The joy we had at just driving through those small towns and letting the kids play while waiting for the ferry. And of course the time on the ferry was exploration and snacks and wind in the face. Our time on the island was so brief but we enjoyed every moment. We even found Mater there. And the ride back was as magical as going. For a day that could have brought monotony we found beauty. We traveled the Blue Highways, we ate junk food, we bought candy, we saw a graveyard that most forgot and saw a lighthouse. We were on a small barrier island crammed full of people in the heat of summer. When we left that morning, I had no idea why God would have put that desire in our hearts to go that day, but I was grateful that He did.
Sometimes, we have to find contentment in our current state. Whatever state that might possibly be.We may be embracing chaos or monotony. This is not a new idea… St Paul wrote of it to the Philippians:
I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. Philippians 4:11-12
Some translations have “self-sufficient” replaced with “content” and that is very interesting to me. Because our contentment is often as a result of our being self-sufficient in finding joy in the situation or circumstance. Even if it is mundane, ordinary, unexpected, upsetting, sad, frightening. There is always God there and so there is always joy.
We outgrew our current home when we had Shelby, to be honest. When I think of possibly leaving this home, I am often trying to fight sentimentality. This was our first house. It was built to our specifications. Our children were brought here from the hospital. We buried our first dog in the backyard. But the practical part of me looks around and sees lack of space to breathe, move and store things. This was never more evident than last week when we were iced in and the kids only rarely could go outside and we were all forced into being together. There couldn’t be any runs to the store. Our Wii got a lot of use even for it being our Wii. We watched movies. We read books. We cleaned. And we napped, a lot. And we were on each other’s nerves. Constantly. We failed in that moment to embrace the joy of one another and being together. We failed to find joy in having that time given to us.
If only we could have thought back a few weeks to Christmas when our living room was cozy with bodies and the Christmas tree and even more crowded than last week. The contentment of Christmas seemed to slam shut just before Candlemas for us. The excitement of a new situation was not embraced as it was last summer when we took an impromptu day trip in the middle of our vacation. Our true contentment rests in Christ, not these situations, but when we fail to realize where our contentment resides, we cannot embrace change and we begin to see our surroundings in a less than favorable light. St Augustine said it beautifully when he said:
Our hearts are restless till the rest in Him.
And in that rest, we find the contentment that we crave. The contentment that makes even a crowded house on endless snow days, a busy Christmas and the chaos of a day on the fly sing with joy.