• Kate Clinton

The Day the Kids Floated Out to Sea

Ecclesiastes 6:9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless–like chasing the wind.

Contentment. Most of us are chasing it. If I get the house of my dreams, I will be content. When my kids are older and more self sufficient, I will be content. If I just made a little more money, contentment would come. But we seem to be missing the point. “Contentment is defined as a mental or emotional state of satisfaction, maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness.” Thanks Wikipedia.

The Bible has a verse about contentment that flabbergasts me just reading it. Philippians 4:12 says “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Verse 13 goes on to say “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Paul wrote this after many extremely hard trials. Why do I have such a hard time feeling like I can claim this verse over my life? A life that hasn't been near as hard as Paul's? I get grouchy when I am hungry. I don't like living in want. Contentment in any and every situation seems out of my reach.

We went to the beach recently for Spring Break. I found myself feeling almost content. The sun was warm on my face. I had a cold diet coke. Sea shells were plentiful. But I was the only one in charge of our four kids. Jim was in the hotel catching up on some work. And those of you on vacation with kids, at the beach, know you can never fully relax. You have to make sure no kid is sucked up in a wave. Bitten by a shark. Stung by a jellyfish. There is a constant request for snacks. They steal your towel and drink all your drinks. They feed all their snacks to the seagulls and complain because they are hungry. Someone always ends up with a foot injury from a seashell. They dig in the sand like a dog with you in the cross hairs of the flying debris. It's just hard to be content and enjoy the moment.

On that particular day, I was sure my biggest ocean fear was coming to fruition. Remember, I was the only one in charge of my children's safety. I saw them all happily playing on the big paddle board. I felt like I could stare at the ocean and drift off for a couple minutes. When I looked back, they had drifted way too far into the ocean. All four of them. With my six year old sitting on the back of the board, happily kicking his little toes in the water. Like 10 perfect little snacks for a shark. I calmly walked to where the waves where crashing and tried to yell to them that they had gone too far out. They smiled and waved and went further into the ocean. The current was pulling them out. I quickly became a frantic woman, waving my arms like a air traffic control man. My oldest finally noticed my carefully planned hand and arm signals and started paddling for the shore. Except it wasn't working. For 15 minutes I kept up with my “Get here right now” hand gestures and Caleb kept rowing. Finally, he figured out he should jump in the water, hold the string and swim, pulling his three siblings to safety. Good thing too, because if this mom would have had to swim out there and pull all four kids in, I would not have been happy.

When they all safely reached the shore, I put them all on a beach chair time out. As I turned, stomping up to where we were sitting, I saw a couple I quickly envied. An older couple, nicely wrapped up in beach towels, sipping something cold and calmly reading a novel. I told them they looked comfy. They replied, “Enjoy this time, it goes by so fast.” Ugh. There's that saying again. I really am trying to enjoy this time, but it is so hard to find it fun. I am having a hard time being content with where I am right now. There never seems to be any quiet time. Any down time. Raising kids can be a downer on contentment. If I had a house keeper, I could be content. If my kids were perfect, I could be content. Oh wait a minute. That isn't what being content is. It's about being happy where you are. With what you have. And who you are with. And finding a mild form of happiness. Enjoying the giggles and snuggles. The silly conversations on the way to yet another practice. Realizing that God put you where you are at now and will take care of you where you are heading. I am not sure contentment will be found every second of every day, but maybe being content means being deliberate to count your blessing, enjoying the stages of children while realizing it will be hard. To stop looking forward to something that may be in the future and notice where you are at now. I am still trying to find it. I think I may be looking for it in the wrong place. The expectations I have of what would make a better life clouds my good life now. Looking for something better keeps me from seeing what is good. God desires us to be content. It sure is hard for this sinful human to get there, but I am trying. Even if I have sand in my eye and kids floating out to sea.

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