“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Last Wednesday I spent a day of work at an elementary campus. I work at high schools so this isn’t the norm for me. I was working in the counselor’s office when the counselor leans over and says, “There might be a little noise in the hall. Kindergarten is coming through.” My first year of teaching I taught first grade and there is nothing so cute as those littles. So I perked up and waited for them to walk by the open door. A minute later lines of itty bitty kids with one hand behind their backs and index fingers over their mouths start to wriggle by as their teachers followed and shushed the talkative ones. (I was always a talkative one.) Some of the kids paused and looked in the office for a second then continued on. Others smiled and waved, and I waved back probably more excited about this interaction than they were. Mostly they stumbled over each other unaware of their audience of one. One little girl waved as soon as she saw me and kept walking. Then she stopped in her tracks, turned back, stuck her little head in the doorway and whisper shouted, “We’re going on a FIELD TRIP!” and gave me a big thumbs up and a toothless grin. I beamed back at her, gave her a thumbs up, and whispered, “Have fun!”
My heart about exploded into a million pieces as she quickly skipped to catch up with her line. Almost immediately I could hear my thoughts crashing through my brain, “UGHHGH!! I can’t wait to have a babyyyy.” “God, why aren’t I pregnant yet?” “I neeeed one of those little kids.” Not one of the ones in line. For heaven’s sake, I’m not a kidnapper. I just want one of my own and sometimes my thoughts and desires about being a mommy are overwhelming. And I feel like my prayers aren’t being heard. Is that true? No, I know better than that and, as Michael likes to remind me when I am being petulant, feelings aren’t facts. But they are real.
Five minutes hadn’t passed and I started to hear screaming in the hallway. “I hate this stupid school! You’re a stupid teacher! Leave me ALONE!” Of course, nosy as I am, I poked my head out of the door to see a small child, maybe 2nd grade, starfished on the ground and throwing a tantrum. I’ve been in education long enough to have seen plenty of tantrums. It was being handled so I walked back into the office and continued my work unphased. I’ll tell you what though, my own little tantrum from about five minutes before seem to be “handled” right in that moment as well. I didn’t think about “poor, childless me” for the rest of the day. In fact, I thought, “Michael is playing poker tonight so I don’t have to make dinner and I’ll have the apartment to myself!!”
A few weeks ago, the same kind of situation occurred. I was at Old Navy (because I’m so fashion forward) walking around and I see a mom and her daughter (maybe 5th or 6th grade) laughing and talking and seeming to have a great time. A few emotions hit me. One, I missed my mom, because I usually do. And two, a twinge of jealousy rose up in me and I thought, “That won’t happen for me for a good while if I don’t have a baby soon.” Then I walked into the dressing room a few steps behind them and as I’m changing I hear the oh so familiar bickering of a mom and her preteen. “Ugh! Mom! That shirt is gross. I’m not going to wear that.” “Hannah! For God’s sake, just try the shirt on!!” And I smiled to myself and thought, “Yup! A gooood while.” Shortly thereafter there was also a mom and her (Teenage? I didn’t see him.) son arguing because she kept telling him to try on the burgundy pants and he didn’t seem to be familiar with a color wheel because he kept saying, “Do you mean red?” “Yes.” “Then why didn’t you just say red then?” [sic] I could feel her eyes roll in unison with mine all the way through the dressing room door.
This weekend it happened again. I was in the produce section at HEB and overheard a little girl tell her dad that she wanted Cuties because “they are little and I am little too” and of course I’m melting because she’s precious. I walked down a couple aisles to grab some bell peppers, which happen to be right in front of the seafood, and I could hear the shouting before I get there. “I want to see the lobsters! I want to see the lobsters!! I want to see the LOBSTERRRRSSSS!!” I don’t know about his mom, but I was ready to dunk that kid in the tank so he could catch those lobster claws.
I have these feelings of unfulfillment about a lot of things, not just having a baby. That’s just the example that God seems to be placing in front of me most frequently. I want a house, I want to travel more, I want things other people my age (or younger…Jesus Chroist!) seem to have already. I don’t like the feeling of falling behind in a rat race. I like to be ahead of the game.
I felt like this when it seemed like all my friends were getting engaged and married and I wasn’t even in a relationship. But that season of singleness also ended and here we are married for nearly five years now. Often I am reminded, sometimes with amusing encounters like these, of how grateful I should be right where I’m at. The grass isn’t always greener and even if it is, greener grass means someone is working hard to keep it that way. Maybe God is just letting me know that I should be content with a lighter work load for the time being.
Michael and I don’t have children yet, but we have this gift of time together that we won’t always have. I don’t have to come home and take care of anyone else but myself and Riggins. I am not wiping noses or corralling a tantrum at HEB. We might not be in a house yet, but that’s coming too and probably sooner than later. But for now we have this apartment that I actually love because it’s cozy, and it’s ours. And it’s the only place we’ve lived since we moved to San Antonio, so we’ve made all our memories here. I don’t have to focus yet on all the extra chores that come with owning a house like yard work and making the proverbial grass greener.
While we are constantly waiting and working for the next thing, there is always some part of our current story to be thankful for. You might be hoping for something different than I am. You might be waiting on a promotion, or maybe you’re where I was a few years ago waiting for the right person to walk into your life, or maybe there’s a big step you want to make but you’re not ready yet. Remember these are only seasons. Seasons end and seasons change. And though one season might seem to last much longer than expected, like this year’s winter that keeps trying to peek back in, it will eventually become spring. And there is beauty in every season.
I have to remind myself of that beauty, or more like God reminds me of it, as often as possible. The only thing that will counteract discontentment is gratitude. Feelings aren’t facts, but feelings are real and they affect our outlook. If I maintain a discontented heart because life isn’t moving at the pace I expected, my eyes will be closed to reality and that will spoil all the wonderful things happening around me. If I leave the door open to frustration and impatience, I close the door to joy and peace. The good news is, we can choose to be content, we can choose to be grateful, we can choose joy right now in whatever moment we are living in.
Whether you write down what you’re thankful for or you just live in a healthier mindset, keep propelling your gratitude forward. You’ll find that it not only changes you and your day-to-day, but it also will also affect the people around you. They say misery loves company but like attracts like, and a joyful heart will be a magnet for other joyful hearts.
I hope you find joy and gratitude for today,