“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” – Philippians 4:12 (New Living Translation)
This could be the headline for my life for the past year. Here we are, Christmas night, with a new year knocking on the door. I can’t help but reflect on 2014….and the year before that, and the year before that. Our pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about how God interrupts our lives from time to time. He talked about how Mary and Joseph had a plan for their lives and in the midst of those plans, the birth of Jesus…..no, the news of Jesus’ arrival …… the angel’s appearance, interrupted those plans. We have plans, but sometimes those aren’t God’s plans. When we are interrupted, it is an opportunity to view things with excitement, anticipation, peace, and to submit control out of our hands and into God’s.
The past three years I have discovered that God rarely interrupts (or allows our lives to be interrupted) in just one area. It’s usually in multiple areas of life — marriage and family, work, spiritual life….the list could go on and on. That’s the whole idea behind the cliche “when it rains, it pours.” I have fought with this interruption when it did not please me or when it was uncomfortable. I have embraced this interruption when it was something I wanted or liked. However, I have learned — no, make that am learning — all about Paul’s attitude of contentment in every situation. Regardless of if the plans make me happy and excited or fearful and hurt, I must live with those circumstances but beyond or outside of them in terms of my perspective. I must learn to be content in all situations as Paul stated in Philippians.
Today was a small example….insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but an example, nonetheless. Today is Christmas. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I LOVE Christmas! The tree, the family gatherings, Will Ferrell in Elf, spiced cider, sparkling lights, kids in cheesy one-piece pajamas, the traditions. I love it all! For weeks I have been anticipating what today would be like. I imagined my parents’ spectacular breakfast feast…..stuffed french toast for crying out loud! I salivated when I thought about my grandmother’s marshmallow and pineapple salad. I pictured the smile on my sweet niece’s face as she unwrapped the gifts I had carefully chosen for her. And my personal favorite….seeing my sons play with all their gifts early Christmas morning. I know Christmas is not about gifts. We limit our gift giving in this house so we can keep things in perspective, but it gives me great pleasure to see smiles and giggles of excitement.
This morning at 6 am my toddler called for me as he does most mornings. I woke everyone in the house, got the kids out of bed, and then brought D into my room so I could put my slippers on (yes, I realize this is sounding more and more like T’was The Night Before Christmas, but just go with it…..). And then the dry heaving began. I grabbed D and ran to the bathroom just in time to prevent a clean up on aisle 9. He continued to be sick repeatedly. He would not touch his presents. He laid listlessly in my arms as my teenager was nearly bouncing off the walls to unwrap his gifts. Four hours and two sets of pajamas later, I laid on the couch snuggling the toddler while my husband and oldest son took off to my parents so they could enjoy our previously made holiday plans.
Now it is 11 pm. The toddler is in bed asleep having been puke and fever free for 12 hours (woo hoo!), my teen is spending the night with his grandparents, and I have not seen my siblings, parents, or grandparents at all on Christmas. Was this the picture of the holiday I had in mind? Absolutely not. However, I am learning to be content.
This isn’t meant to be a statement of self-righteousness……oh, I am so awesome because my plans fell through and I love God anyway. This isn’t meant to be a comparison…..oh, my Christmas wasn’t as good as your Christmas but I thank God anyway and you complain. It isn’t meant to be a statement to elicit pity……oh, woe is me. My child didn’t get to open all his presents on Christmas. It is merely meant to be a reflection of my spiritual journey…..learning to be content at all times. This is really what peace is all about. It’s not about just compromise or negotiation. It’s not always about peace between individuals or nations or people at all. Sometimes it’s about being at peace with life and whatever situations you encounter. At the risk of sounding flippant…..it’s kind of like when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. No…..that’s much too simplified, but you get the idea.
Today, my Christmas involved plans that were interrupted. Were they interrupted by God? No. I don’t think God made my sweet little boy puke. But I do think even these situations can be turned into opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. Instead of loud toys and running children, I had a lot of silence…..well, silence minus the Disney Jr and Nick Jr playing in the background. I had quiet and stillness. I had time without the need to fill said time. That is a rarity for me. In embracing the silence, stillness, and quietness…..the nothingness, we find true contentment. The satisfaction of just being…..regardless of circumstances. And today was a Christmas of contentment for me.