Saturday, July 9, 2011

Being content with being discontent

My baby girl grabs onto my young Indonesian friend as she toddles, her steps a mixture of certainty and caution. My almost 1-year-old baby probably can walk, but still prefers to do it while holding onto to someone. I know how she feels.

I watch as these two girls, who both break my heart with their cuteness, interact. And I smile with a mixture of contentment and longing. The 11-year-old friend of mine, who is all smiles right now, lost her mother a couple of years ago. Her dad hasn’t been in her life for years. I love having her in my home, playing with my kids and giving me an opportunity to care. Though I spent the morning doing chores that won’t last, I cherish moments like these that overflow with purpose.

To be honest, I stumbled through this past week, swinging between contentment and discontent. I read in an email from my brother, who I haven’t seen in two years, that his trip here this month has been cancelled. I’d already envisioned the birthday party I was planning for my baby girl, with her uncle and aunt there eating cake with her. Will she be turning 3 before they hold her? I tuck deeper into my heart my secret dream to live close to them and other family, the desire to see my kids’ sticky hands touching the actual skin of their relatives instead of just smudging the computer screen on Skype calls.

But then yesterday, I ate lunch with my family—my two adorable kids and my husband who knows my heart—aching with contentment. I know these moments of sticky mango clinging to smooth baby eyelids, and imaginary plane and train rides with my 3-year-old will be gone too soon. I already ache with the someday-missing of these young kids of mine. And I know enough to be content right now, finding joy in my sleep-deprived, sweaty state, pant legs covered with the stains of motherhood.

Also this week, I sat in the home of an Indonesian friend, enjoying a relationship that doesn’t make sense. Her family of 10 lives in a one-bedroom house. She speaks a language that I will never fully understand. She and I have different explanations and ideas and methods for almost everything we do, in child-rearing, in cooking, in spending money, in believing. I sat both content and discontent, thankful for such a unique relationship, but longing that someday she’d share with me my most important Relationship.

I’m learning to be content with my discontent on this island on the other side of the world. I give thanks almost every day for the opportunity to love and serve and be used—both in my home and out in the world. But I long for what I don’t have—extended family close by, solutions to poverty, Colorado autumns, a sense of knowing the job is done or will ever be done.

I used to add guilt to my discontent, wondering why I hadn’t learned “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

But then I realized that the secret, perhaps, is learning to live with the hunger, with the want, knowing that I can do this through Him who gives me the strength to do it.

So, I toddle and stumble, my steps a mixture of having and wanting, knowing that when I cling to Him, I don’t fall.

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