Since we moved to a new house about seven months ago I have been shopping for a new bedroom set. I want to absolutely love this set because in our 23 years of marriage my husband and I have never actually purchased bedroom furniture, only inherited in from other people. In point of fact, I have already found a bedroom set that I absolutely love, but my love can only be expressed by visiting it in the furniture store now and again, hoping it might go on sale. So far, no sale.
It’s really not surprising that buying new furniture has never been a priority for my husband and me. Since saying “I do” we have moved no fewer than eight times, have had six children, and have lived on one income the entire time. Our very first piece of furniture was the water bed I had in college (remember those?!) to which we added, as needed, futons on the floor, LOTS more furniture hand-me-downs, and even apple crates, which have served as book shelves, toy bins, end tables, and kids’ desks over the years. My decor isn’t trashy nor is it eclectic, mind, you, but it’s definitely not Ethan Allen, either.
One of my children’s favorite old family tales is about how I had several of them sleep in a small wooden toy chest by night and had toys in there by day when we lived in a tiny apartment while my husband was in graduate school. They like to look at the toy chest today and accuse me of being a horrible mother because, “We could have suffocated under that heavy top!” I assure them every time they recount the tale that I had taken the top off its hinges during those years, but not believing me enhances their version of the story.
Since the history of our furniture acquisitions includes so very few direct purchases, one of my favorite, new family stories is that in this last move we specifically set aside money to replace our thrift-store living room couches and our hand-me-down bedroom set. I absolutely love our new couches, but my husband and I are still sleeping on a mattress on the floor and all our clothes are still crammed into one closet, because I haven’t found anything I love more than the bedroom set I can’t afford.
My highly organized personality is on the verge of a nervous breakdown with so much clothing chaos in my bedroom, but strangely enough, my soul is content. I believe it’s an experience of what St. Paul wrote about in his letter to the church in Philippi, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:11-12).”
Now, I know that it’s absurd to suggest that I am actually “in need” of a bedroom set. Over half the world doesn’t even have a soft surface to sleep on, much less a nice bed with matching dressers, but I still see the situation as a useful exercise in living St. Paul’s “secret” of contentment, even if in a much lesser way.
And what exactly is St. Paul’s secret? I’d like to propose that St. Paul’s secret is that he had something, actually someone, whom he absolutely loved. Jesus, of course. Compared to knowing God who is Love, St. Paul had no need of anything else, and the same goes for us today. When we love Jesus and accept his love for us, everything else we need or want pales in comparison. A kind of neat thing I’ve learned is that St. Paul’s secret of contentment works with loves that are lesser than God, too.
For example, our graduate school apartment of all of 550 square feet. I wasn’t content with the cramped living quarters for a then family of six, but I absolutely loved the fact that I could clean the entire place, top to bottom, in about 90 minutes. Now that we have a bigger house, it takes the better part of a day to thoroughly clean it, but I love the fact that I have an official guestroom. For the first time ever, visitors can stay with us without having to kick children out of their bedrooms. Habitually finding and focusing on what I do love about my life really helps me be content with the parts that I don’t love.
So, big surprise! Right in the middle of writing this article, I had to drive one of my daughters to town, and on a whim decided to pop into my favorite resale shop along the way. Tucked in a small corner I found a lovely bed frame! Honestly, I don’t “absolutely” love it and there were no matching dressers (sigh), but it cost about 90% less than the one that I still absolutely love in the furniture store. So I bought it, and I am content, because do you know what I’m remembering? I’m remembering that, so long as I don’t overspend, my husband’s one income is enough to allow me to stay home with our children, the one something that I absolutely-tootly love about my life no matter where we have lived and no matter what matching furniture we have or haven’t had.
So help me and other readers out; what do you absolutely love about your life and what do you do to help yourself be content with the parts you may not love so much? Thanks for reading and for sharing!
Copyright 2011 Heidi Bratton