- Often we believe If I just had “that one thing”, it would be easier for me to be content. What’s that one thing for you right now?
Right now, “that one thing” would be perfectly balanced time. Just the right amount of time for my husband to be home from work to hang out with the family, just the right amount of time for me to play with and enjoy my kids (before they get bored or cranky!), just enough time to invest in others outside of my family, time daily for myself, etc. I think that life will be better if everything were perfectly balanced in the way that fits my personality and interests.
- I’m sure living abroad hasn’t always been a straight paved road. Tell us a little about your journey toward contentment. What were some of your roadblocks along the way?
Oh, I’ve had many! The most recent “roadblock” was the journey of building a house here in Bolivia. I never imagined the number of things we would have to figure out on our own, the number of times we would get disappointed that things didn’t happen when people said they would, or aspects that wouldn’t come out like we had asked. It took longer, cost more, and never quite seemed to be up to our standards. I realized so many times along the way that my desire to control, my rigid demands, my expectations, the idol that had become a perfect house, and my anger were all keeping me from being content.
- What was a go-to habit when you were feeling discontent? (e.g. looking for plane tickets online)
Vegging out at night and watching TV shows online or burying myself in a novel are my go-to habits. Sometimes I choose something healthier like talking to a godly friend or exercise.
- In the years you’ve been on the field, what one season, or set of life circumstances, would you say was the hardest for you when it came to feeling content?
My husband and I spent many years planting a church (on a team) and then leading ministries in that church. For lots of different reasons, it was a very challenging place for us and not the best fit for our giftings. Although it was not a waste, we felt almost constantly like we just weren’t very good at what we were doing or excited about it. I struggled so much with finding contentment in that time and really questioned if I had anything to give.
- What Scripture[s] do you cling to—or what do you seek out, if it’s not Scripture—when you are feeling discontent?
I think the Psalms are always helpful for me because there’s so much of a mix of sadness and despair joined with the hope that the Lord will rescue, renew, be faithful to His promises, and make all things right. It’s a recognition that some things are not what they should be or you hoped they would be, but in the end, the Lord is good and on the throne.
- How do you define, or reconcile, the difference between the heart’s discontent and a holy discontent2? What do you do with a holy discontent?
Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize the difference between these two in my own life. When I take the time to sit down and meditate on my heart’s condition, I can often see that my heart’s desires aren’t bad (like wanting fruitful ministry, lack of cultural frustration, peace between myself and my family members), but I sometimes react to that desire in a sinful way – through unfairly high expectations, wanting to control situations or people, becoming easily offended, etc. I suppose my holy desires turn carnal when I try too hard to take things into my own hands and/or am not trusting the Lord to work in circumstances that have taken a turn that is away from my own plans.
- Tell us about a time when you and your spouse (or you and your children) were not aligned in your level of contentment at the same time. How did this play out? What tensions did it create? How did you recalibrate? (or…Were you ever both discontent at the same time?)
A couple years ago, my husband reached the point of burnout. He was angry and depressed and was coping very poorly in his relationships with Bolivians. He became very inwardly focused at home and generally felt that he was no good to anyone. I found myself overcompensating for his depression, trying to keep things afloat in our family, oftentimes angry at him, but mostly worried and sad. It was an incredibly challenging time in our family and by God’s grace, we decided to step away and seek help. The Lord brought much healing to both of us through a counseling/rest ministry in the U.S. and time sharing with a professional counselor. We returned to the field within a few months and into a new ministry that is a much better fit for our family!
1. Here I’m defining this as an internal state.
2. frustration or concern brought about by the needs of a broken world; the things that break God’s heart and compel you to action, likely aligned with your calling and purpose on the field