We all like shiny new starts, like a new school book, a new computer, a new outfit, a new job. And a New Year promises the same: a fresh start, a chance to be someone better. Not a great start then for the Wright household who were dosed up to the nines shivering in front of the fire on New Year’s Eve, with a ‘survivors’ photo for those that made it to the end of the fireworks!
Which made it all the more ironic that we had decided as a family to keep a journal of contentment and thankfulness starting on the 1st January! But in the spirit of Paul’s words, ‘I will be thankful in all things, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation’ - we came up with a list!
The paradox is that our very human nature knows that we should be content yet we forget in an instant and we yearn again for the sparkly, the new, the novel in all areas of our lives.
When my eldest daughter was 7 she went through a period of being so unhappy at school that I ended up having meetings with her head teacher.
The head teacher was puzzled as my daughter seemed fine during the school day. She suggested we kept a diary and my eldest had to write down three good things and three sad things that happened each day. And you guessed it! The three sad things came easily; the three good things less so. But when she sifted back through her day, she was able to remember three good things and her mood lifted; so much so that after a couple of weeks we abandoned the diary altogether.
Paul writes about learning the ‘secret’ of being content, and I think part of the secret is in remembering the good things. During the last meal of any family holiday we have a tradition of each recalling our best, worst, and funniest moment of the holiday. Apart from much hilarity, friends and family will remember incidents that we have already completely forgotten about, but we all love being reminded and reminiscing. On our last holiday my youngest daughter’s best moment was ‘the great chips she eaten in one particular meal!’
So despite our shaky start to the year, at bedtime I am deliberately taking time to write down one thing, moment or experience to be thankful for. In my case, I have a beautiful tiny hardback book as my record, others use a jar and aim to fill it with notes of thankfulness. So when my prayers become too focussed on petition—praying for something or someone, I can return to my well of thankfulness and put the spotlight back on God.
Contentment may be a secret to be learned, but if we start with thankfulness our hearts are prepared to God’s grace – there joy, richness and contentment lie.
‘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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ Philippians 4: 11-12
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blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.