It is true when I think about it, I am surprised by contentment. It is not what I considered in my decision to live here. My reasons were strictly practical, proximity to where my dad lives in a residential care home and budget constraints. Six months have passed since moving day…
I am drawn to the light outside – beyond the living room window, which is large for the space and graced by cotton voile sheers that camouflage white vertical blinds. The blinds are not my favorite, but this is not my property. The one exterior wall in the ground floor apartment faces the parking lot. A single row of cars gaze at me with blank stares and glances reflected off chrome that assault the eye in full sun.
Beyond the cars are five mature trees that flank a wooden fence. The trees are meant to provide a view barrier of the motel whose windows and doors face my window and door. I am grateful for the trees though they fail in their mission.
— A Room with a Different Kind of View —
View is important to me. Raised on a farm, the landscape outside my bedroom window was green with acres of sweet-smelling alfalfa, stately walnut orchards and vineyard rows. Since then I’ve lived in many different environments: a tract house in the suburbs with a quarter-acre of manicured lawn, a small mountain home perched on a ledge overlooking a ravine lush with sage and scrub oak. Finally, a multi-million-dollar home on a mountaintop, owned by my then-husband, with an unobstructed view of the ocean and infinity edge of the world.
The vista from that property fed my soul, it wouldn’t have mattered to me if the house had been a one-room cabin. The setting was glorious.
It surprises me now to realize how important the living room window is to me, considering the view. Once upon a time I would have been appalled to imagine I’d live here, it makes me feel ashamed, but it’s true.
For years at a time I worked very hard to be in the position to buy real estate and own my own home. It was important to me for many reasons. Independence, investment for future security, a place to host my family and friends and pride of ownership.
But circumstances in recent years have dramatically altered my lifestyle by my own intentional choices.
— Drawn to the Light —
In the process, I’ve had opportunity for periods of serious reflection. As a result, there are a list of things I no longer try to do – or to be. The way I measure my own success as a person is dramatically altered. There is nothing I need to prove to anyone, most of all myself. It’s such a relief.
I am grateful for the not-quite-five-hundred-square-feet of shelter, privacy and comfort of my apartment. An ideal place to write. It is luxury. Plus, there is something I didn’t understand before. It’s why it doesn’t bother me to look out to a parking lot, and beyond to the two-story motel.
What I now realize is what draws me to the window is the light, it is the light that matters, that pulls me toward itself… the view is secondary, wholly unimportant in comparison to the light.
It is here the light shines on the homeless who wander by or stop to place their belongings against the fence and recline to rest in the shade of a tree. My heart breaks, I pray for each one, and seek ways to be of practical help.
There are frequent sirens in the night and the rumble of amplified bass as cars pass slowly by. Occasional voices are raised in raucous laughter or argument on the sidewalk. Prayers are offered up to the Source of light.
— Contentment —
It is here, inspired by my surroundings, that I am surprised by contentment. Without any fanfare, God altered my perspective, I consider this new view to be a gift from Him.
Paul speaks to contentment in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
This verse indicates something more to me these days. An awareness that contentment is something we receive, not what we conjure within ourselves. It seems to be a by-product of gratitude.
Years ago, my daughter Amy designed and framed a gift for me. Ever since, it travels with me to be displayed wherever I live. Words are super-imposed over a photograph of men gathered together in an impoverished village in Mexico. It is where Amy was part of a mission team demonstrating the light of God’s love by laboring to build a dwelling. In less than desirable surroundings. The text is a quote by a Scottish minister, George MacLeod:
“I simply argue that the cross be raised again,
at the centre of the marketplace
as well as on the steeple of the church.
I am recovering the claim that
Jesus was not crucified
in a cathedral between two candles
but on a cross between two thieves;
on a town garbage heap;
at a crossroad of politics so cosmopolitan
that they had to write His title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek …
and at the kind of place
where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died,
And that is what He died about.
And that is where Christ’s own ought to be,
And that is what church people ought to be about.”
God knows what He is about in each of our lives. He is the Engineer of our circumstances, the Source of light and the Provider of our contentment.
As always, I’d love to hear from you, drop me an email.
“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Genesis 1:3-4a