It’s a long way down from our little town to, really, anywhere else. It only takes an hour to reach the city at the base of the mountain, but it is the longest, winding, lurching, occasionally traffic-jammed, dangerous ride of your life. So even though I loathe the heavy clouds that enshroud us every day, its better to don a raincoat and bear it than to try to go anywhere else.
To be “stuck” much of the time inside our 800 sq. ft. apartment with two toddlers has truly been challenging. This season of small-town mountain living has served to push my every button (my preferences for change, big cities, reliable wifi/connectivity have certainly not been catered-to). But today as I watch out my window at my laundry blowing in the clouds, waiting patiently for a glimpse of sunny sky, I sense within myself a glimpse of contentment.
This miracle of contentedness is not my own doing. Ok yes, there are some choices I’ve started taking. Choices to be “present”, to refrain from planning the future when there are so many good and fruitful reasons to be here. But I am starting to see that over the days and weeks of staying in less-than-favorite circumstances, fruit is budding in me. God is growing me deeper, stronger, better.
I don’t know what I thought God was going to do with the “me” of three years ago, but I sure had a rosy view of myself! These days I see Him working only in my weakness. In my brokenness. In my submission, when I surrender my preferences and fears to Him.
Only when I trust Him by withholding my eager striving, then I start to discover peace in surrender. Peace in being fully present. Peace in refusing to rush through today.
These days I recognize my need for solitude, for time to be raw with Jesus, for routine, for breathless walks up mountain roads. Two years overseas, stress, sleep-deprivation and tough circumstances had pushed me to panic attacks and sadness, and for six months now I have been learning to take care of myself… right here.
In my lowest moments in the dead of winter, escape seemed the most logical route (“fight or flight” mode, right?), but we felt strongly that God had peace and health for us right here, in the midst of what we were already doing.
So I have my routines and needs in mind now. But today didn’t go according to plan, and neither did the last four days. We spent much time in the hospital with a colleague, much time flying by the seats of our pants and racing from one phone call to meeting to quick (8 hour) visit to the hospital (make that three). Me trying to squeeze naps and preschool and emergency doctor visits in between these extra things. My husband trying to manage the paper trail and the team members and the doctors. We should have been freaking out. I should have hit my wall. No solitude, no routine, no nothing.
Yet here I sit down amid the fog that creeps in through the gaping window cracks.
I sit down with a cup of coffee and banana bread (When did I find the time for that?). The kids are both miraculously and simultaneously sleeping, and no one else is in the house. And I realize that I’m ok. I’m not overstretched or stressing out. My heart isn’t racing and I’m not questioning my purpose in life.
I’ve been resting in Jesus in the present and the busy-ness. I’ve been asking Him for contentment and grace to reside here and now in my soul. He has opened my eyes to needs around me, with the senses attuned to how I can help… It has truly brought peace and contentment to the present.
Contentment in the small town, the sameness, the clouds, the mold, the rats in the ceiling (who play hockey with the rat poison biscuits at night). Contentment in the heavy sky and the subpar hospital and the ever-absent wifi.
I had no idea that real contentment was possible!
So, I’m thankful for contentment that only comes through being present when the present just isn’t that great. I’m starting to see that the epic world-change I always longed for is really only possible through real people, who commit to being present in very imperfect places. People who are present– even in monsoon.