Recently, after a few years of being away, our family of six moved back to the Tacoma area. It was a fairly bumpy and uncertain season of moving, looking for jobs, a new home and schools. But God gave us such good gifts! He placed us in good jobs, schools and a house all back in our home town. We are delighted to be back at Discovery and in our old small group again with dear friends. He gave us a very soft landing place.
In the months since the move, my husband Chad and I would often stop and say to each other, “We have a good life, God has given us a good life.” It has been a sweet season of contentment.
One of the attributes of our new house is an apple tree in our backyard. At first, it was just a fun climbing tree for our kids. We didn’t even know what kind of fruit tree it was. But eventually it blossomed, then tiny green fruit matured to dark red apples. Then, early this September, we decided it was time to have our own little family Apple Harvest.
We climbed up tree limbs and ladders, working together to pick, bend and shake the branches until the tree rained down its last apple. We filled the kids’ wagon and large baskets with our new treasure. It was quite the haul and we were all so excited!
We then got to play with a really cool, borrowed contraption. It peeled, cut and cored the apples as we churned a lever. And if that wasn’t enough fun, soon our kitchen was a lab of bubbling apple sauce, and assembly lines of apple pie and apple crisp.
Throughout the day, our kids said things like, “This is the best chore ever!” or “Thanks Mom & Dad for such a fun day!” And although we honestly had put little planning or effort, and zero money, into this day, we took the high praise and agreed, “This really was so fun.” We had tapped into a sweet day of contentment, away from phones and screens, being present with the good things and people God had already given us.
And it was right there within our own yard.
In the weeks since then, I have thought a lot about that day in the apple tree. As Fall begins, our family marches on to new things – school, sports, work, music, errands, appointments, dreams of getting a new puppy or doing a new activity. Life and busyness and (let’s be honest) screen time easily take over and contentment begins to slip away.
How can we strive to be content? Psalm 16 illustrates a spirit of contentment in a world fighting for our attention and affection. And this is what I hope can be our battle cry:
1 Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
It is too common in our culture, to become discontent and disconnected with the life we were created to live. We scroll through the internet and see other lives, experiences and things that suddenly leave us discontented with our own. We distract and pacify ourselves with our phones, hobbies, or habits. But ironically, the more you run after those “other gods,” the more you miss out on the actual life God is inviting you into.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I confess, I don’t always delight in the boundary lines God has given me, or call them pleasant! They can feel too small, and I find myself pushing at my limits and peering out at other people’s pleasant places. Other times my portion feels too big, and I am overwhelmed with the responsibilities and busyness of life. But often the things that make me feel this way are not even within the boundary lines God has given me.
So I go back to the image of that apple tree, filled with good things that bring such contentment, within my very own boundaries. I go back to the question: What is my portion? What has God put on my plate right now? That is what I want to be grateful for and awesome at: as a parent, spouse, friend, neighbor, servant… the list goes on. God has given us a delightful inheritance! In pleasant places! So many things He has for us to do and be – perfectly designed for us, and all within our own boundaries. Nothing but His path, and His presence will bring more true and lasting contentment.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
This fall, why not trade in one of those “other things” you run after, for a “good thing” that God has given you? Put down that distraction, and go for a walk in the crisp fall air with a friend, your child, your spouse, or just with God. Commit to the things He has given you now. Talk about what He has portioned for you, and how you can go about the path He has laid out for you with greater fullness of joy and contentment.