Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the picture of my own contentment…
This was our wedding. This is my absolute favorite picture of us. I was perfectly content in that moment–the joy on my face reflects the peace in my heart.
Now, here’s the rest of the story…as much as I love that day, it was FAR from perfect. The reason this picture is black and white is because we were both drenched with sweat (you can see that our clothes are stuck to us in the color version). We were drenched with sweat because it was still hovering near the 90 degree mark, well after sunset that evening. Just after we finished setting up the tables and chairs for our OUTDOOR wedding, the skies opened up and it rained buckets. However, the sun came back out, the tables dried, and apparently that is the moment when Mother Nature’s thermostat choked out. The cool breeze associated with early summer sunset never arrived. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the hottest, most humid June night I have ever experienced. It was a time, y’all!
My dress was stuck to my rear end, my hair was stuck to my head, my Maybelline had melted off my face…but I would live that evening 100 times over again if I could. I was perfectly content.
This week, Joe’s lesson is about being content, regardless of your circumstances.
I believe most of us think that contentment is a hard thing to come by. Maybe that is because being happy or being at peace kind of comes and goes. But is that really the reason it is hard for us to be content? Or are we just really used to being comfortable?
Many times, it is easy for us to be satisfied when we are comfortable. That is not the contentment I am talking about this morning. Paul challenges the idea of only being content when things are good in Philippians 4:11 when he says, “ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.“
Contentment isn’t something that comes naturally to us. I believe that we have to learn to be content. What kind of classroom do you think God would use to teach us contentment? It probably isn’t the lap of luxury that teaches us to be thankful. Truthfully, the hard times we experience are better at teaching us to be grateful for the blessings our Heavenly Father provides for us.
Paul had plenty of hard times to learn from. 2 Corinthians 11 tells us that he was “put in prison, whipped more times than can be numbered, faced death again and again, was stoned, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, robbed, overworked, cold and many times went without food”. I’d say Paul had every reason to complain. Yet, in his letter to the Philippians, he did not blame anyone or complain. Instead, he rejoiced in Christ because that is where his focus, attention and devotion remained.
Paul tells us in Philippians 1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Not only did he find contentment, but he also understood that any trial he endured personally was used by God to further His Word.
Paul was confident that his circumstances were under God’s complete control. He understood and believed that God had a plan for him, and that as long as he kept his focus on Him, the result would be contentment, regardless of the situation.
As we go out into the world this week, let’s try to be more like Paul. If you are in a season of troubling times, be content in knowing that God is in control. Fix your eyes on Christ and know that God will turn your mess into a message if you’ll let Him.
I love all things Wizard of Oz. You’ll find Oz memorabilia in my home, all over my classroom, etc. I used to tell Joe that I wanted be placed in my casket with my feet showing, rather than my head, wearing a pair of ruby red sequin slippers. I also requested having someone sing the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”….to which he always replied, “I think ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ would be a more appropriate choice!” 😁
Just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, to me, there is no place like home. When Joe and I moved back to Seven Springs to live “on the pond”, we were both finally home again and I was at peace. We were close to our parents, worshipping at our home church, and I was teaching in the county where I had been a student from kindergarten through 12th grade. We had both endured some difficult times to get back to this point, but everything had finally fallen into place. We were home. We both loved to be there.
I have always loved a Friday afternoon, but especially so when I was with Joe. After a long, stressful busy week, the idea of coming home to him made me excited and relieved all at the same time. I loved the prospect of the time ahead of us where we could relax and let the worries of the week fade away. I didn’t always know what we were doing on the weekend, but it didn’t really matter much.
**Warning** I am about to get mushy…if you can’t handle it, you may exit now…
As I was saying, what we were doing didn’t matter much. Once I found myself safe in his arms, looking into those beautiful blue eyes (if you didn’t know him…whew, chile…those eyes were something else!!), I believed had everything I would ever need.
I had it bad for that boy. I still do. ❤️
So, of course, I was perfectly content. I was happy. I was comfortable. It was easy to be content in those circumstances. On December 4th (the day before Joe passed away) I wrote the following words in my journal: “Cam is going to the mountains. Caegan is going to a State game. Date night with Joe tonight. All is well in my little world.” And then it wasn’t well. At all.
As Joe said, I was about to learn a lesson in the biggest, most difficult way…and it would be the classroom of my saddest day where God would begin to teach me. Since that day, I have learned many things, including the fact that I am a pretty stubborn student. I ask the same questions over and over. But God, in his ever patient way, is helping me mold my question into a statement.
Why? Why, God? Why did this have to happen to me? How can you love me and watch me hurt this way?
Isaiah 54:10 states ” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion for you.’ “
Something about this verse touches my heart in a way that helps me mold my question into a statement of what I know to be true: God loves me and has compassion for me. He will walk me through this valley and He will use it for good.
When I think about our wedding day, I realize that the circumstances surrounding it were a little bit miserable…actually more than just a little bit. But look at my face…do you think that mattered to me? Not one bit, because my eyes were focused on Joe and my heart was full.
My friend, I don’t know where you are….what your circumstances might be. I hope all is well for you. I pray that for you every single day. But if, by chance, that is not the case, I want you to read that last paragraph again. This time, I want you to replace the word Joe with the word Jesus.
You can “why” yourself until you are sick, and you won’t be any closer to changing your circumstances. TRUST ME. I’ve tried. What you can do is adjust your focus.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Trust and believe with all of your heart that if He brought you to it, He will bring you through it. One step at a time, He will get you through.
I have said, “something good has just GOT to come from this” many times since Joe’s death. Maybe this blog…Joe’s words…are part of that. I don’t know if reading his words help a single soul, but I know how it helps me. I am amazed every single week at how timely Joe’s message is for what is going on in my life. If I am being really honest, Sunday is the toughest day of my week. It was Joe’s favorite time at home and there is not an inch of space on the pond that doesn’t make me miss him so much I can feel my heart breaking all over again. I see him everywhere I look. And that is hard…so very hard.
So, I look down and then up. Down at his notebook. Up to Jesus. I pour myself into The Book of Joe on Sunday afternoons because it is the only way I know to get through the hours of a day that seem to encompass Joe in every way. I give you his words and I pray fervently that God will use them to reach someone. If just one person needs to hear Joe’s words…if just one hurting soul finds some glimmer of hope…then something good has come of this. And something good has just GOT to come from this.
They say home is where your heart is. My heart will always be with Joe. But my home is with Jesus, yesterday today and forever. So, let the rain fall. Let my dress stick to my back and let my makeup slide right off my face. I’ve got my eyes locked in on the eyes of Jesus. He will make my heart full. He is my home.
There’s no place like home. ❤️
-Words of Wisdom from The Book of Joe