What Does It Mean to Be Content? A Reflection on Appreciating What I Have

Two young children look out a living room window at a snow storm
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Last Friday, my sons and I looked out the window in our home in Seattle for two hours. Two hours! It was the best time. I still smile just thinking about it.

My sons, ages 10 and 11, had finished Zoom school for the day, and I had finished my work early. They came into my office to chat. For two hours we sat in the big blue chairs that look out into our inner-city front yard and snuggled and talked. We watched blue jays bicker, we watched robins gather bits for their nest, and we watched squirrels zigzag across our street to our neighbor’s yard then back again. A large tabby cat we had never seen before sauntered into our yard, piquing our curiosity. We took turns providing inner dialogue for the cat who acted as if the yard was his, until we laughed so hard we couldn’t catch our breaths.

This past year has shown me that I really don’t need that much.

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Before the pandemic, my life was pretty glitzy. On a Friday afternoon you would have found me scurrying around our house ordering a pizza for the kids, setting up the babysitter and a movie while I put on a cocktail dress and dangly earrings to meet my husband and friends for dinner downtown.

I have grown quite content with what I have now; quiet, my family, my home, the time and perspective to sit and do nothing but watch out my window. In fact, perhaps like you, the idea of getting gussied up to drive in traffic no longer sounds appealing.

I think about what St. Paul wrote the Philippians from his two-year house arrest in Rome. “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Phil 4:12-13).

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I think many of us who are experiencing the benefits of living simply are experiencing what Paul did. Paul felt God so close to him that he felt joy and peace and contentment.

Like St. Paul, knowing God is close to me during this last year has made all the difference. As I seek God even more this year, I see him in nature and faces around me and I feel him close in my prayers. I don’t need a fancy dinner out, or high heels or more money. I just want Jesus and all the little ways he shows me he is near every day.

Now Friday is family pizza night. We don’t go out to dinner or order pizza anymore. My husband mixes pizza dough to rise before he leaves for work. He covers the dough bowl with cellophane and draws a face on the plastic with a sharpie. It’s become a Friday tradition to see what “pizza dough face” he’ll draw for us. This is how my husband shows us he loves us and how Jesus shows us he loves us through my husband.

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I think about how contentment and gratitude walk hand in hand. When we are thankful, we are able to appreciate what we have. We don’t give in to the constant struggle of wanting more, of filling our calendar, to do lists, and accumulating stuff. When I am thankful, not only do I see I have enough, I see I have more than I need.

So I thank Jesus for showing me how close he is, through my sons, and birds, and sharpie art and my husband and pizza. And I pray that I’ll keep my eyes open to see where else he’s showing up in my life.

Then I just am. I rest in the grace he has given me.

And I am content.