“I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Philippians 4:12
Being Content When Celebrations End
It’s so easy for me to feel empty when celebrations end. My husband and I were engaged for almost three years before we got married, and while the bulk of the wedding preparations were completed in the last nine months or so before our set date, the dreaming, planning, and excitement began from the moment he proposed. Most of it was fantasy, as we dreamt about the music and the flowers and the dress, but a good portion of that dreaming did make it through to our big moment.
And then it came, and then it went. It was done. At the end of my wedding reception, as the catering staff carried out the trays of leftovers and my now-husband said goodbye to the last few guests, I didn’t want to leave. I spent over an hour standing at the kitchen sink, still in my wedding gown, washing dishes. My euphoria that day, and that night was borderline ridiculous, and I didn’t want to come down off of that high. If I put down the last serving spoon, said goodbye, and drove away, my wedding day would be over and even with a new last name, I would be the same person I was the day before.
Of course, I did leave eventually, and that day did change some things, but sixteen years later I still have a hard time allowing special celebrations to be over. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle for me. For example, prior to any celebration or holiday, I set high expectations. Like Clark W. Griswold, the famous character from the National Lampoon’s movies, my expectations for family events are too high to be realistic, and when the inevitable happens, and things aren’t perfect, I fight disappointment. But by far the biggest disappointment I experience with any special moment is the one that never fails to happen. It ends.
Here in the U.S., the Christmas season has the audacity to arrive right at the beginning of winter. As the weather gets colder and the neighbors’ houses begin to sparkle with colored lights and inflatable snowmen, I feel my Christmas excitement revving up like a New England snow blower. I spend most of November and December filling every second of my days with decorating, planning, cooking, and Amazon Prime-ing. Then I stretch all of that into the night until I hit a grumpy wall of exhaustion and allow myself a few hours of sleep. On Christmas Eve I never get more than 5 hours of sleep (this year it was 3), as I rush to get everything “just perfect” between the time my kids go to bed (late) and the time they wake up (early). After maybe an hour of fun, it’s all done. The rest is a warm-hearted denouement of food, rest and trying to find all the little pieces of torn wrapping paper. New Year’s Eve is nice, but it is little more than a pleasant way to say goodbye to “the most wonderful time of the year” before the full reality of life hits us again.
Being Content Through The Januaries
And then we’re here: The Januaries.
It seems SO UNFAIR after the twinkle lights come down and the garbage truck takes away the last cardboard shipping box, it’s still cold, still dark by 5 pm, and still life. My kids still fight, my husband still goes to work, there’s still dishes in the sink and bills waiting to be paid. January 2nd rips the rug out from under me, and there’s nothing to look forward to for a long, long time.
But as I think about January, I think about the shepherds returning to their flocks, and the wise men returning to their kingdoms. The joy of Christ’s birth was so big that the heavens literally opened, angels sang, and a new star appeared. Their hearts must have been so full when they realized the prophecies they’d been taught their whole lives were true. The Savior was here.
But the Savior was a baby. And while they waited for Him to grow up, there were still sheep to take care of and studying to do. There was Christmas, but there was also January.
For the second year in a row, this year I chose a “year verse” to focus on in 2019. Last year I found that choosing a verse and a topic from God’s Word to focus on throughout the entire year helped me see how much God wants to show me in a single verse, and how much closer He can seem when I filter the events of my year through a single aspect of my walk with Him.
It also really helped me fight The Januaries. Choosing and focusing on a year verse helped me reframe my goals and tasks for the year ahead, allowing me to fine tune each one and turn my attention toward Him. My year verse for 2019 is Philippians 4:12:
“I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”
Most people are more familiar with Philippians 4:13, “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me,” but I’ve deliberately chosen to shift my focus to 4:12. I find that, if I put my attention on Paul’s message in 4:13, that “I am able to do all things,” without putting that idea in the context of 4:12, where Paul explains that he has “learned the secret of being content,” I start to think that God will enable me to do whatever I decide I should do.
I start going down dangerous rabbit trails that lead me to believe God will make me Wonder Woman – I want to scrub the entire house today, and I should keep my house clean, so God will give me the energy to do it; until He doesn’t, and I’m too exhausted to do much more than breathe tomorrow.
I want to buy a new car, and I should have a vehicle that’s a little nicer and more reliable, so God will make sure that we can pay it off pretty quickly, right? Taking Philippians 4:13 out of its context causes me to misread my radar, and I wind up taking my focus off God’s plan for who He wants me to be, and reorienting myself around what I want to do.
Being Content In All Circumstances
So this year, with God’s help, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to be content in all circumstances. I’m tired of my moods ebbing and flowing with the tides of my health, my emotions, my kids’ arguments, my husband’s workload, and the weather. I want to be as content in January as I am in July. If God is the same whether I am tired or energetic, sick or well, in plenty or in want, then I want to praise Him likewise.
That’s the goal. If we meet, I hope you’ll remind me of it, and hold me to it.
It’s easy to dream of now, when “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is still running through my brain and my Christmas tree is still in the front window, but when it’s still cold in March, or when the summer sun brings mosquitos, it will be harder.
I can’t learn this without the challenges 2019 will bring, but if I do, January 2, 2020 will be a good day too.