12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I finished nursing my infant, laid him in his bassinet, and reached for my suitcase. I was going to run for it… escape in the cover of night. This was not the motherhood I signed up for, and my sanity was at stake. My baby cried day and night from colic, before falling asleep in the wee hours of morning. He threw up all day, sometimes projectile style, giving Mommy a taste, and if that was not enough that week the pediatrician peered suspiciously over the growth chart, “And… how often did you say you are feeding him?” she asked.
Let’s just say he nursed so often, I barely had time to slop on the utter cream before he rooted me again.
He was failing to gain weight and I was failing motherhood.
In one year, I had everything I thought I wanted, a beautiful home with a pool, new furniture, a new husband, a new dog, a new town, a new name, and on the day of our one year anniversary a new baby….It was maddening!
I missed my old life, coffee with colleagues, the satisfaction of achievement, wandering the beaches of the Tampa Bay, My worn sofa in my own apartment, and most of all… freedom. The first year of marriage, Jay and I drifted down the inter-coastal of marriage fighting over who would man the oars.
When Nick was a few weeks old a friend asked, “I bet you can’t imagine your life without Nicklaus in it?”
I plastered a blissful look on my face and said, “I had no life before him.”
Meanwhile every fiber of my being screamed, “Somebody give me my life back and while you’re at it, I’d like my bootie back too!”
I was discontent.
The word contentment as defined by the world is “A state of happiness and satisfaction.” I would argue God’s definition is slightly different. According the Holman Bible Dictionary contentment is “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances”
In 2013 a Harris Poll revealed only 1 in 3 Americans consider themselves very happy or very content.
Today, I’ve noticed a rise in restlessness among women. Those that seem to have it all, the nice cars, the big house, the great kids, seem to be the most dissatisfied with their life. In my experience, having it “all” didn’t equal contentment as one would think, because I was looking for contentment outside of myself. It is not your circumstances that produce peace. I found three actions I needed to take in order to bring my life into state of contentment.
I.. Identifying your Purpose:
God blessed me with a purpose greater than myself and He trusted me with a baby. He had more faith in my abilities, than I could muster in myself. During those difficult months, as I carried that screaming infant around in my arms, I often wondered, what was God thinking giving him to me? I didn’t realize at the time, there was a new purpose in my life. You have to realize your purpose, and if you don’t have one, ask God to reveal it to you.
II. Fill your Spiritual Well.
I was empty. Those first years, I was a Sunday Christian. I neglected my quiet time and veered away from God’s guidance. I was stepping out on my own, and attempting to mother in my own power. When you are lacking in your personal walk with Christ, you can expect the fruits of the Spirit to weaken within you. I was impatient with my baby and husband. I lacked peace, self control, long suffering, and love.
Several nights practically tossing Nicklaus into Jay’s arms and yelling, “I can’t do this anymore. You take him!”
“He’s only a baby!” Jay said.
I stormed to my bedroom and slammed the door. I resented Jay because he was able to go to work and have the life I gave up. Meanwhile, I assumed he thought I was a bad mother.
I was the woman at the well filling my bucket with destructive thoughts leaving me spiritually dehydrated.
(The story of the Woman at the Well illustrates the need for a relationship with Jesus. You can find that here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4.)
III. Surrender to God’s authority.
I had to surrender to God’s authority and will for my life. Surrender doesn’t come natural to me, I tend to paddle against the current, but I am thankful God’s will is much stronger than my own. With grace, He has bent me into crying “mercy,” many times in my life.
My most recent surrender was my sister. For four years, I obsessively threw out the life-savers trying to find the cure for her breast cancer, while God’s will was to bring her to the shores of eternity.
Before my daughter was born, she patted my belly and said, “When this baby’s born, it won’t be long for me.” She knew I would struggle with letting the life line slip from my fingers.
She was right, around the time Bella was born, I stopped searching for miracles, for Tricia was slipping away, and by the time Bells was a few months old, I was begging God to take my sister.
The two events back to back was almost too much for my heart to bear. I had to let go of my closest earthly relationship (beyond Jay) and embrace another baby, just as I was settling into my writing chair and spit shining my laptop.
Surrendering to God’s will is not always easy, but always brings peace.
The house was so quiet the night I reached for that suitcase. I grabbed clothes off the hangers when Jay began to snore, and my baby made a gurgling sound from his bassinet. I glanced back at the two of them, and knew I was at an important crossroads. I had a decision to make.
I hung the clothes back in my closet. I loved them too much to leave.
‘What kind of mother abandons her newborn?’ The thought landed me on the bathroom tile in a pool of tears. I told God I give up, I’d do whatever He wanted me to. I asked Him to help me find contentment in being a wife and mother and admitted my fears of inadequacy. God’s response to me was as clear as if He was sitting right there beside me. It is the only time in my life, I swear I heard him audibly speak to me.
You know what He said?
“Tammy, the baby’s sleeping. Wash your face and go to bed.”
You thought it’d be some ground shaking insight didn’t you? God isn’t about nonsense.
It was my first test of obedience. I washed my face and went to bed, and that was the first night Nick slept for five hours straight. I felt like a new person the next morning.
I found peace and contentment in surrender, even while navigating the white waters of fear, insecurity, and colic.
Finding contentment is not finding happiness, it is finding peace. It takes work on your part to be content. You must find God’s purpose for your life, pursue a relationship with God, and surrender to His authority or will, through these actions you will find your contentment.
Nick is now sixteen years old, and he is a blessing to me. He became such an easy baby once his stomach issues disappeared, and I found joys in being his mother. By the time he was nine months old, I became pregnant with colicky Christian, and there was a whole lot of surrendering after that boy was born, but that’s another story.