Four years ago, God moved my family from the beautiful Pacific Northwest, to the beautiful snow-covered lands of Northern Michigan. We traded an ocean for the Great Lakes, wet drizzly winters for cold snowy ones, and exchanged mild valley seasonal temperatures for cold-colds, and slightly muggy warms. Lots of give and take but we have really come to embrace our new life here in Michigan.
Just one problem: I love the heat.
Granted, there wasn’t a ton of hot weather in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but summers were typically warmer than here, and we often experienced a good stretch of piping hot summer and fall days. And even though Salem isnâ€™t considered sun country, our move to Michigan reduced our sun intake even further! Also, my best friend Danny, and my brother Dan, lived just a 12-hour drive away from our Oregon home, so in a dayâ€™s travel we could be jumping in their pools enjoying the dry desert heat of Southern California.
In fact, I remember being with Danny this past November, and walking outside in nearly 80 degree weather near his house in Yucaipa, California. In Kalkaska, Michigan, winter was preparing to make its arrival by peppering us with 20 degree highs and the occasional snow dusting. I was so thankful for the sunshine, so empowered by its warmth and penetration to my soul, and I remember asking God, "Why can't I live where there is more sun?"
And the Lord reminded me, "I know how much you love the sun. Look, I brought you to CA in November so you can enjoy it. So enjoy it!" I was struck by the fact that my lament of not being in the sun more often was keeping me from enjoying the sun while I was in it. In other words, my pursuit of the sun was keeping me from enjoying the very thing I was pursuing.
Back in March, Traci and I had an amazing anniversary celebration and enjoyed 8 days of rest, connection, Spring Training baseball and awesome Mexican food while being immersed in pure Arizona sunshine. I realized that a lot of people in life are trying to pursue that experience as a life ambition. They want to enjoy days and days of pleasure, of baseball, of sunshine, of sex, of dinners out, of time uninterrupted etc... without any sense of a greater calling. They have made the pursuit of pleasure their greatest desire and calling.
While I loved our time away, and while I know in my flesh I could certainly get used to that kind time with Traci on a VERY regular basis, I am thankful that when vacation ended, we returned to a life focused on major projects God had given us. We returned to work-in-progress and to see great things accomplished for the Lord.
I am thankful that these periods of rest, these breaks in the action, allow us to process what God is helping us become so that we are more prepared to do what He has for us to do. That combination of becoming and doing is so powerful, and you can't become while on vacation! Yes, vacation can be a supplement to the great tasks at hand, but vacation by itself, the vacation life, doesn't create the character that is needed for the work of the Lord.
I'm thankful there is more to our lives and marriage than just vacation. YES, I absolutely LOVE taking time off with Traci and I can't imagine life without these periodic breaks, these fantastic shared experiences, and these profoundly intimate moments shared with the absolute love of my life. But what makes them so sweet, what makes them so awesome, is that they are sandwiched between amazingly difficult work, they are surrounded by days and days of struggle and tension and they are situated between calendars that are full of obligations, prayer requests and God-sized dreams that never seem to stop. What makes rest so precious is the work that precedes it. And I'm thankful God has given us over to a great, mighty and VERY exhausting work!
Being able to be in the moment, whether at work or rest, is the heart of what it means to be content. Wikipedia defines it this way: “Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation…” It is being in the moment, at ease, even when the moment isn’t easy! Contentment isn’t about being in perfect circumstances, it’s about choosing your response regardless of the circumstances you live in.
And it is an attitude we should strive for! The Apostle Paul tells us, “…but godliness with contentment is great gain…” You. Can. Choose. To. Be. Content! Contentment is what allows me to enjoy the sunshine in Southern California in November, even though I know I’m returning to chilly winds and falling snow when I fly home to Kalkaska. Contentment allows me to embrace opportunities for personal and spiritual growth, even though it hurts and sometimes leaves me with more questions than answers. Contentment allows me to rest deeply while on vacation, even while knowing that a heavy workload awaits my return.
Choose contentment today, so you can fully experience every moment of life, good and bad.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!