Arduous Contentment

It is no secret that this summer has been hard.  Realistically, you would probably hear me talk about it in the first 3 minutes if I was asked, “how is it going? ”  I have had a specific disdain for Honduras as of late, and while I know why my frustrations, homesickness, and general “blahness” of living here has crept in lately, keeping it at bay is another whole beast.  But than I thought…maybe I shouldn’t keep it at bay, sometimes it is good to lay it all out there, let the beast scrape its claws a little.  It is real, gritty, and necessary to bare your fears, frustrations, and "blahness" for others to see.  And I mean “others” in the sense of not just your close friends, family and confidants.  But the “others” that naturally come from writing it down and sending it forth for all to read. 

So here is where I am at….

The heat of June, July, and August here is no joke.  Couple that with no air-conditioning, dirty dusty air, and humidity so thick that at times you feel like you could reach out and squeeze a cup of water from it, and than picture yourself amidst that background nauseas, and stuck on bed rest for two months.  You get the picture.  Yep, I was in full out…”I cannot stand living here” mode,  the “we made a big mistake, this is the worst idea ever” mindset.  

I knew that it was a few tablespoons of those lovely pregnancy hormones, mixed in with a large heap of being sick to your stomach, add a cup of fear and frustrations of bed rest, add a sprinkle of loneliness, and a dash of feeling miserably useless while feeling like a shell of yourself, and blend it all with the feeling of powerlessness at so many levels and your left with building a beautifully destructive cake of discontentment.  And as I am moving out of that phase, as the bed rest has been lifted, as I have gotten back into work, as I have been able to connect with our friends, our church community, as we have been able to open our home and host, and as I have been able to play legos and superhero adventures with Gavin again, there has been restoration. The cake of discontentment I had built begins to crumble; but not of course without leaving some sizable chunks to linger on the plate.

I would be lying to say…”well, that was that,  and all is great, it was a few months of short-lived misery”.  It is still hard and a conscious-effort, as the popular phrase tells us... "to turn that frown completely upside down."  Fall is coming.  My most favorite of seasons.  I catch myself dreaming about those crisp cool fall days with bright red and orange leaves falling, as you picture your family picking apples and going to pumpkin patches, while drinking a delicious steaming pumpkin-spice latte…oh wait….we live in Honduras…none of those things happen...ever!  And as I wake up from those dreams to sauna-like humidity, palm trees, smoky air, and a place that has never heard of pumpkin patches; it is all to easy to effortlessly slide another piece of that yummily destructive cake of discontentment onto your plate and let yourself wallow in your self-pity as you savor another bite.  As your friends post instagram pics of themselves gripping mugs of hot apple cider around a fire with friends, and you can almost smell that glorious smell of dry leaves, and they are all dressed in cute flannels and chic fall leather boots.  You soon finding yourself having a particular disdain for your flip flops, endless ways you try to incorporate beans, bananas, and papayas in your diet, and the smell of smoke from your neighbor's burning trash.

And I think that is ok to acknowledge this, to not stuff it.  To say, "This is real!".  Because life here is hard, it is prickly and blah at times.  It is gray and dreary some days, some seasons,  But I want to aim to not let the gray and blah stay completely dreary, allowing for some sunshine to begin to peak in.  I want to aim to know how to better pulverize the crumbs of dissatisfaction and blahnesss left on the plate.  As I have been praying for contentment, and as I have been rehearsing and replaying Paul's words in Phillipians 4:12 "...I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want."

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And yet, it was through the most joy-filled pure and simple acts of a few actions I have witnessed through the eyes of my four year old's excitement that has really begun to cement those words from Phillipians. The simple acts of a preschooler have handed me a big fork to squash those leftover crumbs of dissatisfaction left from that destructive cake of discontentment.  This "squashing" started to play out the beginning of this month.  To give a little background, September in Honduras is “National Pride of Honduras Month”, or something like that.  I am sure they have a better way to say it.  But essentially the month of September is spent celebrating different days and holidays, showing your Honduran pride.

September 1st is Flag Day.  I pick up Gavin from his preschool class, and he is grinning from ear to ear and waving in my face this Honduran flag he had made, talking a mile a minute how cool it is that it is flag day and the importance of the flag.  During this month, they also play the Honduran National Anthem on the radio during different times of day, and Gavin adores this song, he hums along in the back in his booster seat and always asks me to play it again (he doesn’t quite understand how the radio works).  Along with this, it is National Kids Day on September 10, and all the schools here do a celebration and party of sorts. For Gavin’s school celebration, we all marched into the big soccer field and all the parents and kids of 4 and 5 year old kindergarten flew kites together.  Gavin was ecstatic!  Not to mention it is Independence Day on September 15, complete with parades and fireworks.  Making it extra special because it also happens to be his birthday. 

So, I was in my car the other day, waiting in the line to pick up Gavin from school and the National Anthem came on the radio and all I could picture is my little guy's face light up and him frenetically waving his homemade flag.  And as I was looking over the cloud dusted beautiful green mountains in front of me, watching the kids in their school uniforms walking home from school, as a man drove by selling eggs from his pickup truck with a megaphone announcing his egg sale deal of the day, this national pride came over me.  This pride for where we are, this pride for the community we are becoming, this pride for the country we live in that fights and doesn't back down or give in, this pride that we are here for a reason and a purpose, this pride for living out and intentionally loving our neighbors in this place.  It all began to wash over me.  And I felt some of the crumbs of dissatisfaction and discontentment fall off the plate. 

True contentment is as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.
— G.K Chesterton

My next “aha” moment came during the kite celebration at Gavin’s school.  There were at least 200 kids and parents all crowded in the sweltering humidity while the unbelievably hot 10 am sun was beating down on an unshaded soccer field, and we all had sweat pouring down our backs and faces, ok…actually pouring everywhere!  I had another gush of pure pride watching Gavin with all his classmates running freely, sporatically, and joyously through the maze of kids and parents all together flying their kites as Latin music played on in the background.  It was a hot beautiful chaotic mess, and I was proud to be part of it.  I couldn’t help but replay the ways that Gavin unknowingly and simply showed me his love and pride for his country, for the place he only knows as home.

Are there days I miss waking up and putting on a sweater and sipping a pumpkin spice latte and I daydream about watching Gavin pick out a pumpkin or go apple-picking?  Of course, without a doubt!   They will always be there.  My love of American fall, like many other missed favorites of my past, will always be woven in my fiber.  But I also have some new threads beginning to be woven pretty deeply in my fiber as well. And I think if someone took away big juicy papayas, men selling cold coconut water from whole coconuts on the side of the road, and yummy Baleada stands, all this playing out to the tune of catchy fast Latin beats from a blaring speaker up the road.  I know I would miss these things something fierce, and honestly just as much.  And there is contentment in knowing this to be true. There is contentment to be found in knowing there is always room for more thread weaving in those fibers of ours.