I can’t even remember the last time I was sick, but this Christmas I came down with the flu, and it was pretty intense.
Our plan was to leave for Savannah on the 22nd. Instead, we found ourselves homebound with no tree, no holiday food, and no family or friends to surround us. It was just the two of us, with me mostly asleep or shivering under three blankets. Let’s just say I have a whole new appreciation for the aching bones of a 90-year-old.
My husband graciously cancelled all reservations. We settled in and accepted the reality that Christmas would be different this year. As it turned out, the flu was a blessing in disguise.
For my friends who are in the middle of life transitions or facing health-related issues, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It seems for many of us, Christmas 2014 was a time to live out the practical side of contentment and gratitude.
Throughout the week, I thought about that first Christmas with no room at the inn. I imagined Mary and Joseph settling into their less-than-prefect circumstances. No doubt, Mary hadn’t expected to give birth in a manager. Yet, in the center of those surprise surroundings was the true spirit of Christmas: the unconditional love of God brought forth and fully manifested through the birth of a baby named Jesus.
In my stupor of illness, absent all the distractions of holiday festivities, I was equally blessed by this manifestation of unconditional love as I witnessed my husband step into his natural role of care giver.
Ralph busied himself with trips to the market, making chicken soup, ensuring I had plenty of liquids and that I took my meds on time. And, in the midst of all his caring actions, the most unlikely gift of all? A question as I painstakingly stepped into a scalding hot shower hoping to warm my shivering cold body.
Do you want me to put your pj’s in the dryer to warm you when you get out?
A comment worth more to me than a diamond bracelet under the tree. Who am I to deserve such a man? Who am I to deserve the unconditional love of God?
Contentment, you see, can seem like a fleeting moment. In a world that is noisy with conflict, ambition, and the need to have more and more, it can sometimes elude us. Yet, here I was smack in the middle of it, and I wanted to hold on to these moments forever, but how?
As the days of Christmas moved forward and I began to regain my strength, I had time to think about this Christmas of different circumstances. As a family, we’ve lived through many scenarios. Scenes of Christmas past flooded my mind from the days of 25 plus for dinner to our first year without Michael. There have been Christmas celebrations in Paris, Rome, and Budapest—each of them special and memorable in their own right.
But this year, at home, in bed with the flu, I was blessed enough to experience the essence of Christmas. As we curled up before the fire watching football and old movies, I couldn’t help think about the source of our contentment. How was it that we adapted so quickly? How was it that neither of us felt angry or cheated at not being able to take this much-anticipated trip?
Here’s what I’ve learned about contentment over the past few weeks:
- Contentment is a Divine Gift.
It’s not something we can manifest on our own because it lives deep in the soul (or it doesn’t). In other words, it’s not dependent on our circumstances. Contentment comes from knowing God and trusting that everything has a season, a purpose. It’s all good. We don’t have to control every situation. We can settle into whatever is going on in our lives, and when we do, we experience contentment.
- Contentment is Intrinsic, Relational, and Habitual.
Scripture tells us that contentment is both a fountain and a stream in the soul. It rises up within us at the deepest level, even as it runs through us in every situation. It’s source is the unconditional love of God. What this means is that our relationship with God is the center of all things.
Similarly, I came to know that our contentment with one another over the holiday season—even in the midst of doing nothing significant—stems from our unconditional love for one another. Contentment, then, whether in business or life, is relational. When our relationships with God and others is in place, contentment springs forth.
Once you embody contentment, it is habitual. You don’t have to start over in every circumstance because it is intrinsic to who you are. Contentment is a matter of the heart—not the mind; it is therefore constant.
- Contentment Produces Gratitude.
What I experienced over the days of Christmas was that our contentment with one another in a different set of circumstances produced gratitude. Even though there was no tree, we were grateful to have our home.
Even though we weren’t able to connect with friends, we enjoyed following their activities via FaceBook, texting, and phones.
Even though I couldn’t taste my husband’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner, I was grateful for a man who cared enough to put forth the effort.
Even though our son Michael is no longer present for holiday celebrations, we are grateful for the many, many Christmas memories of laughter, love, and joy.
On the story goes. Maybe the flu medication has made me sentimental. Maybe I’m just glad to be healthy again. Whatever the reason, I feel blessed that I had the downtime to experience contentment over this holiday season.
My prayer for you and yours is that 2015 will be a year of contentment, joy, and prosperity—no matter your circumstances.