One night, when my husband and I were still dating, we sat down at my friends house to watch a movie on my computer. I had these tiny, poor quality, portable speakers that plugged into the computer. We placed a speaker on either side of us as we watched, and joked about how it was our version of “surround sound” audio. In that moment, I remember being incredibly content. Though we had nothing, we had each other. After the movie was over, I leaned over and I told, my then boyfriend, that I didn’t care what lifestyle we had, just as long as we had Jesus, each other, and our version of surround sound. From then on out, the phrase “surround sound” became our personal mantra of love and contentment.
Contentment is a beautiful thing, but discontentment can creep in very subtly. The first time I noticed I was beginning to be discontent with my lifestyle was during wedding planning. The wedding industry is geared to make you spend more money. After all, you only do it once… right? When I was registering for gifts, the sales lady helping me asked me what I was most excited to register for. When I told her “sheets” she gave me a crazy look and must have thought it wasn’t fancy enough because she then proceeded to convince me I needed a salad bowl that cost more than I would spend on 5 pairs of jeans combined. Yet despite the temptations I finally made it through the wedding without going over budget. In the end, I was completely happy with my DIY, casual, and meaningful wedding.
Just when I thought I was done being tempted with discontentment, the post wedding “I-must-have-my-life-together-now-because-I’m-a-grown-up” thing came along. Maybe I’m the only one that this happened to, but after we got settled into our apartment there was suddenly a sense that I needed matching china, fancy mixers, and a lease on an apartment with wood floors and crown molding. I got the fancy mixer (thank you Schuster’s) as a wedding gift, but the rest I will have to wait on.
My husband and I traded china, wood floors, and crown molding for something more practical: buckling down and paying off school debt. For one year we decided to live in my basement apartment while we get on our feet financially. Though practicality wins, it’s sometimes hard not to notice the weird pipes hanging from the ceilings, the spiders, and the fact that the kitchen/laundry room was made for midgets. But the rent is cheap and it’s all we need for now.
One reason the recent discontentment has been a struggle for me is probably because of comparisons. Last week, as I was using up our wedding gift money and properly outfitting our apartment with “grown up” things, I started admiring other people’s green grass. I began to get frantic as I tried to stretch the dollars to somehow keep up with other people’s lifestyle success: buying SUVs, houses, and landing cushy jobs. Obviously, I came up short. Sometimes the grass doesn’t just seem greener, it actually is greener on the other side.
One of my friends, Andrea, sent a unique gift card where you get to choose from 20 or so different options; sort of a reverse registry. As I was looking through the options the other day I came across a surround sound and DVD player system. We don’t even have a TV, but somehow it seemed like the right pick. It’s much nicer than the surround sound system that my husband and I first loved when we were dating, but there—as I was frantically trying to keep up with everyone else—was a little reminder of the first love and contentment we felt in my friends apartment watching a movie on a laptop.
Maybe someday the Lord will bless me with the things I want; a normal sized kitchen perhaps? But for now, I love our apartment. It’s all ours. Yes, we still watch movies on laptops (except now we will have a real surround sound system to plug into!), but I couldn’t ask for more. Yes, the apartment still has pipes hanging from the ceilings, but there is so much character and so many memories in this tiny place already. Right now, my adorable dogs are perched on “their” chair because I won’t let them on the new couch (another wonderful wedding gift I’m thankful for). I am thankful for them, my new husband, and our little life together. I couldn’t be happier.
I am content when I keep my focus on what I do have rather than what I don’t. When the grass is greener on the other side, there’s always surround sound. What I mean by this, is that when life tempts you to want things you can’t have, remember the moments when you were thankful for the simple things. Rejoice in those things. Give thanks for them because when you do your heart will be so full you won’t know what to do with it except spill it out onto the hearts around you.
Ps. I could only bear to show you the cute parts of the house, except for that one pipe.