Seeking Contentment in Every Season

Seeking contentment

When was the last time you felt true contentment in your life?

For months now, I’ve relished a feeling of peace and contentment that I’ve been missing for years. But just recently, I feel like something is off, as if there’s a hole in my life, and I’m desperately trying to put my finger on the crux of it. Perhaps it’s a certain longing, knowing that the infant stages are slowly slipping through my fingers as I begin to purge my house of baby gear and infant boy clothes. And, if we’re being honest, the girl clothes I had been saving, just in case.

I go through phases of wondering what it is, trying to fill this longing myself.

Is it staying home with my baby? I pray relentlessly about that option, knowing that my heart wants nothing more.

Is it writing? Writing has always fulfilled me, and it’s the one dream that has remained constant since I was seven. I build a blog, start a new writing Instagram account, join a writer’s membership group, and submit articles to magazines. I write 62,000 words and then let it sit for two months. I debate about going to a conference with an all-star lineup of motivational author-speakers.

Is it throwing myself more into my school counselor role? I continue to build yet another Instragram platform and create content for my Teachers Pay Teachers store for other school counselors to use. I write a children’s book and keep it under wraps, wondering whether to seek out a publisher. I make a spreadsheet comparing different publishers.

Is it a combination of some of these things? Staying home and writing? I look into my options for opening a daycare in my home to fund my dreams but quickly realize that would not fulfill the longing in my heart, instead adding wear-and-tear on a house that’s already impossible to keep clean underneath three small boys and their messes.

Is it a new pet? I research cats, visit SPCAs, donate to local shelters, and fill out endless adoption applications all over the country. I clear my schedule for a last-minute trip to another state to meet a potential puppy to rehome, my family just one of several other families hoping to be considered. I take my boys to play with puppies both at the pet store and at a breeder’s farm, just to hone in on which breed/age might be the perfect to later adopt for our family from a rescue. My arms are empty, with nothing to show for it except a newfound cat allergy and 13 applications that were never quite fast enough despite relentless searching and refreshing.

I return to something that absolutely fulfills me, one of the fondest memories with each of my babies.

I commit to rocking my baby during his naps. It’s that simple. I turn on my essential oils diffuser, close the blackout curtains, and for two-to-three glorious hours every afternoon, I rock my sweet baby. Desperate to make up for all the naptimes I miss when I’m at work August through May, I attempt pack 10 months’ worth of snuggles into two months. I let my friends and neighbors know I’m not available in the afternoons for playdates. I race home from whatever summer morning adventure we’ve been on, obsessing over getting lunch on the table before noon because I know that around 12:15, the baby will start fussing from his highchair, anxious for his nap and that blissful quiet, one-on-one time with Mommy.

My older boys (ages 3 and 5) know not to disturb naptime, although that doesn’t stop them from running full-speed into the nursery, flinging the door open to tattle or ask for snacks a dozen different times in piercing whispers and whines. But the baby’s afternoon nap has become a sacred tradition in our home. My Hillsong playlist cued up on iHeart Radio and the scent of Sweet Orange diffusing in the nursery cue my baby’s whimpering to become giddy coos when we enter his darkened room. This time is just as important to him as it is for me, especially since he is the youngest of three little boys and cannot always have my full attention. He nurses and is asleep within seconds, it seems, but I don’t put him down in his crib. This is as beautiful a rest for me as it is for him. I never fall asleep– despite only sleeping 5 hours each night– instead, I marvel at how unfathomable God’s love is for me, as I rock my sweet boy. I know that one day, he’ll have dreams and goals of his own, but for now, his love and need for me is probably at its greatest. I also realize my mom’s love for me as I rock my baby the way that she rocked me. She always sang to me, no exceptions. I don’t always, if we’re being honest. I let iHeartRadio take care of the soundtrack most of the time.

The baby’s still-fuzzy newborn hair turns sweaty and strawberry blonde with the full weight of his melonhead pinching my left forearm. His baby toes are too adorable for words and I know that even as we rock, they’re quickly becoming dirty, stinky, little boy feet.

My heart is already sick knowing that these special moments will come to an end when I return to work on July 30, less than two months away. I’ll still have weekends, of course, but I’m afraid we’ll lose this bond once he’s back at a sitter and our weekends are full with family time.

I fiercely guard my sweet time with him. The house is almost quiet. I bury my nose in his soft cheek and marvel at the beauty of this baby. He was completely a gracious gift of God, one for whom, for a long time, I felt undeserving. So much on social media makes it seem like some mothers are more worthy of a pregnancy than others, that some babies are more of a miracle than others. That guilt has always ridden my pregnancies of the full joy I should have been embracing, along with the burden of fear of yet another miscarriage.

It took me years –and four pregnancies–to realize that I am responsible for my own feelings about these things. My wise sister told me during my 4th pregnancy that I was just as deserving of that pregnancy as anyone else. No exceptions. I’ve stopped trying to stifle my own joy to protect myself, to guard my heart from fully embracing the gift, one for which I’ve never felt deserving. I’ve stopped trying to please everyone at the expense of my own mental health. Because, for the most part, it’s just wasted energy, and will hurt my confidence and stamina as a mother.

As I rock, I still wonder about this longing in my heart. Ultimately, I am the only one who will pursue my dreams; I care the most about them. I am on this journey with God. Other people have their own paths, and while I have the beautiful option to encourage and support them, ultimately they are going to see their dreams through (or not), because they most likely care more about them than anyone else.

I wish I knew, six years ago, that family time is one of my most cherished gifts. I wish I knew that I could say no to other things–good things, even– to commit more time to family. I never realized that simple family time is just as valid a commitment as any appointment on my calendar. My oldest went to a sitter at only 7 weeks old because I didn’t know I could take 12 weeks of maternity leave. I’ll never get that time back.

I’ll never get it back.

So mama, take care of yourself. Look out for yourself, because no one else is going to walk God’s marvelous path for you. No one is going to pursue your dreams for you because you care about them the most. This includes your priorities. If rocking my baby to sleep is a priority, I treat it just as importantly as I would a doctor’s appointment, and I refuse to feel guilty or indulgent about it, because it is just as worthy an excuse as anything else. Our priorities are worth it. Our relationship with God is worth it. My 15-month-old is certainly worth it.

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Feature image by Kathy Denton Photography

Approaching Indecision with Prayer

Raise your hand if you suffer from decision fatigue.

Guilty over here.

And because I cannot always trust myself to make decisions confidently, I put them off. I procrastinate and then second-guess my original choice or hold out in case something better comes along. It’s the reason that despite a better-than-perfect GPA in grade school, I always dreaded taking multiple choice tests, always narrowing my options down to two and then talking myself out of the correct answer by overanalyzing the choices.

One Sunday in early April, my husband and I found ourselves in the left lane on the interstate behind a white Honda Accord whose right turn signal had been on for quite awhile. Jerry Seinfeld called a similar situation the “eventual left.” I checked our blind spot – nothing was even coming. And yet the Accord remained firmly planted in its spot in front of us. When it finally decided to make a move, the Kia Sorento in front of it got over at the exact same moment, and the Accord quickly retreated to its original position.

Indecision and second-guessing can literally drive us to doubt our own ability to make decisions. We wonder which lane will get us there faster (Office Space, anyone?) or more successfully. We waffle between our different choices, even if both are good, even if both will still lead us forward, when really we just need to pause.

We lose ground in the waffling, but never in the pause.

A pause offers us the chance to pray, listen, and bring our indecisions and uncertainty to God, the only true voice of clarity. And once He gives us clear indication, we can put our signal on and go confidently in that direction, not paralyzing ourselves in questioning God’s call.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6, NIV)

Friends, let us pause in those moments when we are unsure, before we make our decisions public, in prayerful obedience, and move forward only when we know that we are aligning ourselves with God’s course for us.

Today, consider your own tendencies. Do you waffle in indecision and second-guessing, do you make bold signals even at the expense of acting prematurely, or do you just slow down to pause, seeking God for His direction?

I’d love to hear your reflections in the comments below.

We need healthy pauses.

How many decisions do you think you made today?

At a statewide counselors’ conference earlier this year, I attended a session (wearing my infant) where our icebreaker was to write out every decision we had made just in the previous 15 minutes. I left the room to nurse my sleepy baby and by the time I returned, the participants were already deeply engrossed in their lists. The point of the exercise was to show us just how many small decisions we make, all day, every day. It’s no wonder that our decision-making ability is finite and by the end of the day, we’re exhausted by all the small decisions that brought us to that point.

Those were just minor, everyday decisions. Now ask yourself – when was the last time you truly stopped and listened before moving forward with a big decision or action?

This is where we can use a pause. You might pause to pray, to think, to decide, to listen, to discern, to breathe, to react, to consider, and to protect your time.

If you’re like me, the habit of pause might not be one you practice often enough.

With this space, I’ll help you create a habit of pausing in every small, great, and wild moment that life brings. Pausing allows us time to savor the precious fleeting moments of life – the seasons, the senses, the memories that happen in the white space – if we just allow ourselves to stop long enough to notice them, to be aware of them, and to name them when they’re happening.

Pausing also affords us time to consider our next best steps in whatever decisions we face. It reminds us to catch our breath, pray, and truly listen for direction. It keeps us from speaking and acting out of haste, which can lead to regret and miscommunication. We are so impressionable, and without taking the time to pause and truly listen for our own unique calling, we run the risk of being influenced by what others are doing around us.

I hope that you will join with me as I offer healthy moments for you to pause in whatever season you might be facing. Leave a comment below to share how or when you use pauses in your own decision-making processes.

In the meantime, I’ll hope you’ll join me over on Instagram @tendingwild.

TEND | to care for, inclined to be, to move, direct, or develop one’s course in a particular direction.