As my 28th year of life rounds the corner, I have found myself in a lot of deep introspection and contemplation. What have I learned this past year? How have I grown? Did I make the most of it? Did I learn and experience all that I wanted to? Did I pass the life lessons that presented themselves to me these past 12 months? Did I do brave things that pushed me out of my comfort zone? Have my decisions and reactions been spirit led? How have I changed for the better? And most importantly, what do I want this upcoming year to bring?
Each year on my birthday I write in my journal a list of goals for the next year. I make a list of skills I want to develop, books I want to read, weaknesses I want to strengthen, bad habits I want to overcome, projects I want to complete, places I want to visit, and choose a few character qualities/traits to focus on throughout the upcoming months. So, as my birthday approaches I have been asking the Lord to help me select some fitting goals that would help strengthen my relationship with Him, my role as a mother and wife improve, and overall – will just help me to progress in the right direction and at the right pace. I have felt quite a few things come to me that I am excited to focus on and study over the next few months, but one has really got me thinking and so, this blog post was born.
A few months ago in a blessing given to me, I was blessed with the “gift of contentment”. At the time I was pregnant, sick, and struggling to feel like I was getting anything done or going anywhere in life. I felt very “discontent” with my situation and wanted to change things. This gift came at the perfect time, along with a powerful reminder that whenever I feel myself becoming discontent, I can call on heaven’s help to strengthen this spiritual gift in that moment and see the beauty that surrounds me.
Contentment is defined as: a state of happiness and satisfaction
I am generally a very happy person and am a big believer in creating the life you want to live. But as happy as I am, I still find myself at times struggling with contentment – and because of that, I am always on a mission to improve my surroundings. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with growth and wanting to improve – there is a fine line between wanting to improve and set goals because you are happy and love yourself, and then wanting to change things because you are unhappy and choosing to be ungrateful, miserable and comparing your bad to someone else’s good. To me, contentment means wanting to grow and improve but all the while being grateful and happy with your currently dealt hand. I have found that gratitude is often the key to unlocking a brighter future and that when we live in a constant state of gratitude, blessings flow into our lives in abundance … and contentment seems to be part of that package.
As I have been meditating and asking the Lord about what He wants me to focus on and set my goals towards in this next year of life, the words I have heard are very, very clear.
This year will be a year of developing and strengthening the gift of contentment, and with that in mind, the Lord has already helped me to develop quite a few other goals and projects that He has specifically designed for me to improve this spiritual gift. It’s remarkable how He works in small details and how beautifully so many pieces come together when we ask Him questions and follow His lead.
Happiness is self-contentedness. – Aristotle
Here are a few self-reflective questions I have asked myself that have generated a lot of answers in helping me to identify triggers that seem to cloud out contentedness:
What causes me to be “discontent” with my situation? How do I stop comparing myself? What things can I cut out of my life that seem to influence me negatively? How can I foster more gratitude in my day to day life? How can I remember to be more present and see the beauty all around me? How can I keep my life’s purpose at the forefront of my mind? Who can I surround myself with more that can teach me contentedness by example?
I have realized through the course of my life that when I am not growing spiritually, I begin to feel very empty and search for worldly things to bring me happiness instead of allowing the Savior to strengthen my sense of purpose and worth. A few years ago, before I met Skyler, I was in a very rough marriage. My life was the epitome of empty, as was my heart. I felt alone and often unloved, but I chose to live apathetically and seek material wealth to buffer my emptiness. I lived in a custom built designer, half-a-million dollar home, traveled to over 37 countries, filled my home with expensive things, drove a nice car, and kept up with the best of them … but I was not content. It wasn’t until the Lord ripped the carpet from under me – causing me to give up all my “Telestial wants” and pointed me on a new path of wholeness that I began to feel content, and really, truly, happy.
Excessive consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothes, fancier technology, and overfilled drawers. It promises happiness, but never delivers. Instead, it results in a desire for more … a desire which is promoted by the world around us. And it slowly begins robbing us of life. It redirects our God-given passions to things that can never fulfill. – Joshua Becker
Because that was me, I often see this pattern in those around me. People seeking for more – the biggest, the newest, the latest – wearing their lives out in comparison and trying to find a fulfilling life because deep inside their hearts, they are empty.
The Lord knows our circumstances and the intents of our hearts, and surely the talents and gifts He has given us. He is able to gauge perfectly how we have performed within what is allotted to us, including by lifting up some of the many surrounding hands that hang down. Thus, yearning for expanded opportunities while failing to use those at hand is bad form spiritually. What we could and have done within our allotted acreage, therefore, is known perfectly by the Master of the vineyard. Their meekness and larger capacity for spiritual contentment may be one reason why God uses the weak of the world to accomplish His work. The worldly are usually not very interested in doing what they regard as the Lord’s lowly work anyway. – Neal A. Maxwell
The Lord has taught me a lot over the years and slowly, piece by piece, helped me to create a life of beauty and contentment, but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I truly understood what it meant to choose contentment versus discontent…
One day, while pregnant with my first child, I had a spur-of-the-moment conversation with a friend who had recently left a big corporate job to be a stay-at-home-mom. She had “it all” from the world’s view, but chose to live a simpler life and sacrifice a lot of worldly wants for what she knew was a much greater purpose and fulfilling calling in life. She expressed positively all the things she had to give up to become a mom, and how she had never once regretted it. But one simple thing she shared really stood out to me, an analogy of a kitchen stove. She said that you can only put one pot of water on the front burner at a time, and when you have a new pot to put on that same burner, something has to get moved to the back burner. She expressed how she had come to realize that a lot of parents who keep certain things a priority, have to put everything else on a back burner – and that she had made up her mind that anything in life could go on her “back burner” except her children, that they would always have the front burner no matter what.
As funny as it sounds, that analogy has stuck with me. There have been many opportunities for me to pursue something since becoming a mom – but I always stop and weigh out the calculations of what it will cost my children if I pursue it. If I feel I can keep my children on the front burner – my first priority – and that it won’t affect them in any way, I choose it. But most often I am quick to identify that the adversary is tempting me with discontent and whispering to me that my children need to come second so I can be “happier”.
Being a mother has brought more joy and contentment in my life that I could ever put into words. Sure, there are definitely hard days where you feel you don’t get much back for what you are putting in. But I constantly have to remind myself that,
So often the world we live in focuses on instant gratification, but most heavenly and Celestial things require much time, pruning, and patience. I have found that discontentment sneaks in when I get impatient with my current situation and the current life lessons that the Lord is trying to help me experience. It’s not until I surrender my will to His that I truly find happiness and contentment in my given circumstances.
Another lesson the spirit has taught me on contentment occurred a little after becoming a new mother. I had left my full-time job to give all that I had to my new little baby who was coming into my life because she had chosen ME to be her mother and to raise her. God had promised that if I made her a priority, everything else would work out and the blessings would flow. They did, and they continue to do so, and God has kept his promise ever since I made that choice. But there have been moments in my journey when I let a little jealousy or envy creep into the dark shadows of my soul when someone I knew had a nice car, or cute clothes, or a nicer house, or especially went on a big fun vacation (because vacations are seriously my love language!). One day I was having a “Kaitlyn pity party” and the spirit taught me a powerful lesson. He reminded me that I could have all those things if I wanted them. I had the power to choose. If I wanted an expensive car, another designer home, big trips, etc. etc. I could have it all. I could get a new, high-paying job and keep up with everyone I was currently comparing myself to …
And all of the sudden a light bulb went on inside of me.
I had already made my choice. And I didn’t regret it. I had chosen to put all of those things aside when I chose to be a stay-at-home mommy. The Lord had clearly directed me to do so, and there was nothing more important to me than being the teacher and safe place that my baby was counting on me to be. So I quickly turned my viewpoint around and didn’t see myself as a victim of circumstances – living off of the unripe fruit of the discontent tree, but rather, I was an agent who had chosen this life – a life of love, sacrifice, and of so much more blessings and rewards than any Telestial anything could ever bring me.
And for the record, I have never once regretted the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. Not once.
Thus, within our allotments we see how the saintly display kindness even within barbed-wire circumstances, yet others have barbed attitudes even within opulence. Meanwhile, the discontented continue to build their own pools of self-pity, some Olympic size. – Neal A. Maxwell
So, when I have found myself feeling a little discontent and the winds of comparison begin to blow, I quickly remind myself that I can have whatever I want – I can choose a job and put my kiddos on the back burner, but I also am reminded of my life before I met Skyler. It was thick with discontent. The adversary is so quick to foster discontent within us, especially when we are on a path of growth and progression. His desire is to distract us, have us stop looking forward and instead side to side at the situations of others. He would do anything to create unhappiness, ungratefulness, and to thwart our progression – especially when we are choosing higher, holier things and sacrificing worldly wants for eternal blessings. My beautiful children have come to me when they did because they had much to teach me about joy, and happiness, and of course, contentment. Nothing is more simple and powerful than watching a child’s world fill with wonder and their natural unfolding contentment with life. Somewhere along our journey we seem to lose that gift. And so, begins my year of contentment and uncovering and strengthening that gift that I seem to have lost along the way.
Life is beautiful if we only stop and look around at all that God is presently giving us. Contentment can be found in any home, situation, salary, circumstance, and life. It is a choice within our souls – a decision I have to make before I even get up for the day. It’s a mindset. And for me, a newly developing spiritual gift in the works.