Contentment is a Choice

My husband was going through old financial statements a few days ago and we were aghast to read the numbers. During the first year Jesse was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650. I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years have past was a shock to our systems.

Our rent alone during those months was over $500. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little! No wonder we rarely ate meat and did so many other pretty “extreme” things. (Yes, we had money in the bank to cover most of law school, but that money was locked up in CDs and we’d both decided that it would be untouchable to us except in the case of a dire, life-threatening emergency.)

Our commitment to live within our means and stay out of debt was hard. There’s no doubt about that.

I remember we’d pay our tithe money, our rent check and our basic utility bills and then we prayed that somehow the rest of the money would stretch until the next check would come in. How we were going to afford basic necessities was constantly looming over our heads.

And yet, those months were some of the most precious and memorable in our lives. We saw God provide for us in amazing and unexpected ways. We learned to be wildly creative. We were forced to be incredibly entrepreneurial.

Most of all, we discovered that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.

Contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you’re planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.

And remember, no matter what difficulties you might be dealing with today, somebody else would love to be in your shoes.

photo by tanakawho

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. Cindee A says

    Amen to that I just finished reading how you started this site and it was a miracle of God! God bless you and the friend who God put in my path to direct me to your site!

  2. Jennifer says

    Thank you! Your post was just what I needed today!! I used your last paragraph as my facebook status!!

    Warmest wishes for a very Happy New Year!!!

  3. says

    i loved this post. i loved it for its story, its sense of encouragement and most of all, its timing.

    my husband and i have recently decided to start focusing on areas of our life where we can improve and contentment is one of those areas. while we are happy with all that we have, we realize that sometimes we focus too much on what we don’t have. as a couple, we need to practice choosing to be more content.

    we are also making it a point, each and every day, to focus on gratitude and remind ourselves not only how lucky we are but how far we’ve come. we’ve experienced the “sticker shock” of looking at old check registers and wondering how on earth we made it through those times.

  4. Kara says

    I needed to read this post. I just had to lower my safety net for each payday because of how much I want to set aside to pay off debt. I was shocked and wondering how we could do it. Making this sacrifice now, will put us in a better position later this year and in life.
    It also reminded me to be content with where we are with Dh’s job and the role/position I was just offered this morning.
    Crystal, may I borrow this article for my volunteer work? This article really goes with the section that I teach.

  5. says

    Thanks for that reminder! What a great lesson, especially this time of year. I know that having little money can be especially hard during Christmas when you want to give your friends and family all they deserve but just can’t afford it. We had to spread our shopping out over about 4 months to make it happen for our kids and nieces and nephews on a pretty modest level. For our parents we made the Memory Baskets that you posted about with all their favorite snacks and they loved them! Thanks for being so diligent in posting home-made gift ideas, they really helped!

  6. Kathy says

    Thank you for reminding me of my blessings. You are truly an inspiration to your young and not so young followers.

  7. jill says

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with the situation of a husband’s constant discontentment with a smaller home? He feels the walls are closing in on us. We are in no position to move anytime soon and have another baby on the way. His constant complaining and me not being able to fix the situation is really bothering me. I feel that no matter what situation we’re in he will want more, so it’s more a matter of an attitude issue. I just dont even know what to say as I’ve always been a content person by nature. I generally try to point out the positives in our life like we are debt free. I can be a stay at home mom with our kids rather than have to work to pay a lg house payment etc, but it just seems to frustrate him.

    • says

      @jill, I’ve been reading “Lies Women Believe” and in one section she talks about how important it is for us to pray that God will guide our husbands and that it is our job to submit to their will for our family. She even gives an example of a woman saying, “But if I didn’t step in, my husband would have let our family go bankrupt!” She responds to that by saying, “Maybe bankruptcy is exactly what God needs to get your husbands attention and you are keeping him from it.”

      Prayer for him and a humble example can go so far in a marriage! God is watching over you and your family and He will never leave or forsake you :)

  8. Jerilyn says

    Have you ever read a biography on George Muller? He had recorded over 50,000 answers to prayer in his life (30,000 were immediate). Very encouraging read! This is why I enjoy keeping numbers/reciepts/a journal, etc. like your documents it helps us look bad and see how faithful he was.

    We had something similar happen. In 2007 when we did our taxes we realized that we had only made $5,000 dollars the whole year on our own- we had some help that year as my husband lost his job, and we had a baby, and moved across the country, so our parents gifted us some money so we could make it through. We were so excited the next year because our income tripled- to $15,000. He was faithful with us then and now even though we make much more than that (though not a TON more ;)

  9. Megan says

    I agree completely with the post. After receiving our last checks of the year, my fiance and I combined grossed little more than $25K – and we also have 2 kids. We purchased our vehicles for $1,000 a couple years ago and we rent for $500. Though our children were “surprises” (birth control failed TWICE!! – got my tubes tied this last time!) and we had to use Medicaid, we were able to float $1,000 of our tax check through most of the year. We almost never go out and don’t really desire to – it’s more fun at home and we’re both very leery of restaurant cleanliness.

    All that said, we’re very content to know that being smart with our money has me able to pay OOP for college this next semester – I don’t qualify for financial aid due to past circumstances. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and delayed gratification is the best!

  10. says

    Great reminder for all of us.
    God IS good.
    God will provide.
    Be humble and listen to what God wants from you.
    Thanks!
    ~Jenn

  11. Angela says

    Amen! Thanks for sharing the little reminder. It’s all about the perspective we create for ourselves. Contentment is key… focusing on Him is essential. Looking back we’ve seen a similar cycle. From a gross joint income of $30K to $100K with health insurance provided by employer to $50K without health insurance provided. I love being creative.

  12. Kelly says

    Thank you! We just finished paying for car repairs on both of our vehicles, and I was stressing about how I will pay bills now with those unexpected payments. Thank you for the calm your post has brought me.

  13. Cindi Ellison says

    I had already chosen this word as my word for 2011…no resolutions..just a word..well besides saving money and living within my means. Your post touched me so much and I just want to say how much I am enjoying your blog!

  14. Cora-Sue says

    Thank you for a great article.I live on $694.00 a month. I pay rent,some utilities,buy my prescriptions,buy groceries,and still have the bad habit of smoking.So spend money there too. I have started paying off a doctor bill that is long overdue,and I have 3 other bills totalling about $4000.00 that I am planning on paying off. I am not a religious person,don’t go to church,but I do believe in God.
    I have not read the Dave Ramsey theory,mainly because I laugh everytime I think about the money people pay for his books and classes. He is becoming rich from everyone who pay for his advice. But I feel that is everyone’s own personal decision.
    I raised 4 children entirely by myself on about $6,000.00 to $8,000.00 a year and they never went without,sometimes had to wait a while for new shoes or whatever but they always got them. This year for the first time in 3 years I did Christmas for all my children and 14 grandchildren,and even though it was not a big amount–$500.00 total.It was all paid in cash so I don’t have to worry about paying it off now.
    My only concern is how are things going to be this next year. They say gas will be $4.00 a gallon by spring,$5.00 a gallon by the first of next year. And grocereies are supposed to raise a lot this year. Hopefully everyone can make it through those changes. Still I am contented,maybe wish I had a little more to just be able to buy something I want once in a while instead of just things I absolutely need.
    But God bless you and yours and keep up the good work with your posts.

    • A says

      @Cora-Sue, Dave Ramsey’s books and materials are at most libraries, too, just so you know! I was surprised to discover that our library had not only his books, but also lots of the DVDs!

    • Erin says

      @Cora-Sue,
      Cora-Sue,
      We paid off $58,000 in debt after reading Dave Ramsey’s book which we got free from the library. We’ve since bought the book (maybe $15?) which I am sharing with my neighbor right now. I hope it blesses her family. $15 is nothing compared to the $58,000 we paid off, and so worth it. My parents have since followed Dave Ramsey’s plan and paid off debt and increased their savings.
      There are a lot of scams out there, but this is not one of them :).
      Oh-and if you can’t get to a library easily, Dave Ramsey does have his Baby Steps online at his website for free.

  15. Kate B says

    Amen!!!! I think people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. I also know that God is faithful.
    This year we pared Christmas down, a lot, and I have never been so content.
    I paid cash, out of my everyday budget, and didn’t feel pinched or anxious.
    I have been simplifying my life a lot since I started reading your blog. Thank you so much for the encouraging posts, Crystal.
    Happy New Year!

  16. Meredith says

    Great post!! I’m so happy to say that my husband and I just paid cash for Christmas!!! What a blessing. Keep the great blogs coming. they’re so encouraging!!

  17. laurie says

    Great post Crystal. Learning to be content has been a process,but here is my story. I am 39 and became a mom in 2004 to a Chinese little girl who was 10mos old. I am single by choice and paid cash for her adoption. Our first yr home was an eye opener financially,but we made it. Fast forward to Nov 2008 and my Claire was placed in my arms in China and she was 12mos old. I also paid cash for her adoption. I started read Dave’s books in early 2008 and am just now finishing FPU and have loved it. I am so proud to say that as a family of 3 we were debt free about 6mos ago and just have our mortgage every month and basic bills. It is my dream and hope to pay my house off early and to use that money to help my girls through college with no debt. I find you blog amazing and I just love that God is all over your blog. Have an amazing 2011.
    Laurie
    DD Olivia 6
    DD Claire 3

  18. Jacque says

    I have had this blog coming in to my reader for several weeks but not only have I not been reading it I have actively avoided it by hiding it down at the very bottom of my list. Not because I don’t like it or think it doesn’t share anything worthwhile (obviously something made me subscribe!) but because it has the word ‘Mom’ in the title. My husband and I desperately want to have a child but are facing fertility issues. While I can usually handle the situation pretty well these past 2 or 3 months have been a struggle. If all possible I have been avoiding all things mom, baby, family, etc., etc. It just hurts too much. But today, this post is exactly what I needed to hear! I needed to be reminded that contentment is a choice and to appreciate the blessings we DO have. Thank you so much!

    • says

      Huge hugs, Jacque! I know we have many readers here who have (or are) experiencing the deep, deep pain and difficulty of infertility and my heart breaks for them and for you.

  19. yulean says

    I just lost my job, I don’t know what to do especially when I just had my a little baby. I worked for the company almost 10 years and now they decided to moved to China, I lost hope. Thank you for your post Crystal that just what I need to hear to make me feel strong for little baby.

  20. Lisa Viles says

    Thank you!! My car was recently totaled and I am getting a check for it tomorrow. I’ve been struggling with what to do and I think I’m going to find something cheap and get it. Who needs a fancy car with remote start and high payments?!?

  21. Deborah says

    Thank you so much for the reminder! My husband works construction and at this time every year things get really tight. I always need a reminder to be content and trust God!

  22. says

    This made me smile, because this is where I am today. For the past year, each and every day I wake up and choose to believe that the God that we serve is faithful and mighty and that He will take care of us. From that springs contentment, even in the most humble of circumstances.

    In all honesty, we shouldn’t be making it each month. Not with both of us more or less unemployed for near a year now and not with sometimes several months going by between our small earnings here and there. We didn’t have much in savings to start with, and yet living simply and being content and trusting HIM…we haven’t really been hungry, and we are still paying our rent and we aren’t in debt.

    And every month, as we pay our bills, even if that is all we do right now, my heart is overwhelmed with gratitude that He who multiplies loaves and fishes is right beside me helping to stretch our best efforts and providing for us in so many beautiful and amazing, even if small, ways.

    I have no idea when this season will end. And it isn’t easy not knowing about tomorrow, and to live on nothing.

    But I am so thankful that He has and continues to help me to be content with where we are, and with the good gifts He has given: a home to live in (which we didn’t have this summer!), and life with my very best friend and sweetheart.

    Someday, it might not be a struggle to get through each month, but I hope I’ll never forget how He is taking care of us right now.

    • says

      Hugs, Chantel! I will pray that the Lord continues to bless your faithfulness to trust Him cheerfully for your daily bread. He is faithful!

    • BS says

      @Chantel, I wanted to tell you that both Crystal & your comment was such a blessing to me today!

      I had just saved and gotten some Christmas money to make a somewhat big purchase, something I had been hoping to do for a while. This morning on my way to work some not so nice person plowed into my car and fled (while I had just exited my driveway) tearing up my car and my mailbox. I will have to pay $500. to get my car fixed. I was/and still am broken hearted in that I was so excited that all my saving had finally paid off. Now, I have to get my car fixed.

      I really just needed a reminder that through all of this God is still in control and on His throne. I don’t understand the why but I am sure there is some master plan of His that will in some way work for the good. It doesn’t seem that way right now. The same God that multiplied those fishes and bread is holding me and my car in His hands!

      Thanks for the reminder!!!

  23. laura says

    we were there a few months ago, about $600 for the month…. it has gone up a little bit with God’s help, but still struggling. It is amazing what the Lord is teaching us during this time.

  24. Jill says

    Your words ring so true in my ears. The one thing I have NEVER EVER questioned was the Lord’s provision. Growing up in a single parent home and being on welfare for 11 years, I learned that the Lord will provide exactly what we need, when we need it, even if it isn’t exactly what I want. As I grew up, and after my mom remarried and we had money, my mindset changed to, well, now that we have it, let’s spend it! What an incorrect way of thinking! And I completely set myself up for financial failure by ever thinking that the money and possessions I “owned” were truly mine. It continues to be a battle for me to see what others possess that I do not, but I praise the Lord for his precious reminder that everything in this world is His, and that I have the opportunity to glorify him with how I steward HIS resources. May I be daily reminded of his faithfulness and provision, even in the hardest of times as we are in now. And may I ALWAYS remember that the Lord will provide exactly what we need, when we need it.

    God Bless!