I struggle with the idea that life happens in seasons.
I understand it, but I don’t live it out very well. Sometimes I find myself in certain seasons — necessary seasons — and immediately want out. Is my family in a place of financial hardship? Must be something we’re doing wrong, not something we need to learn. Is my health worse than usual right now? Again, must be a fault on my part, not a hint that I need to slow down and rest more.
It’s hard to be content when you have something better in mind. But it’s not impossible.
My husband and I made some decisions last year that have made this year challenging for us. I quit my part-time job in finance to pursue writing and stay home with our baby. He started a business. We believed they were the best decisions for our family in the long run, but the responsibilities and financial challenges have made this last year very stressful. (And if I know anything about money, it’s that progress happens very slowly. Sometimes it feels like it’s not happening at all.)
Finding joy in this season of slow progress has been almost impossible at times. But we’re here right now, so I want to be as content as I can.
Are you also in a challenging season of life? How can we add glimpses of joy to each day?
Make your physical space as comfortable as possible.
Before we bought our house, I went through a season of severe discontentment. Suddenly I hated our cute little rental. We didn’t have enough space, everything was dingy and old, and I was tired of asking for permission to do every little thing (like paint the bathroom). Now I look back on our first home together with fondness. It was perfect for us, and I’m embarrassed that I felt dissatisfied and ungrateful for God’s provision for even a moment.
No matter where you’re living right now, even if you hate it, do something to make the space your own and bring you daily joy. Frame your favorite photo, add a cozy blanket to the couch, light a candle every morning, keep fresh flowers by your bed, or spray the interior of your car with peppermint, lavender, or Joy essential oil to make it smell nice. You can even put Batman on the wall. It’s your call.
Focus on what you like about the thing that dissatisfies you.
The big window in your small living room. The pretty paint color in your cluttered bathroom. The flexibility or income your job provides. Make yourself at home in the good things.
Set small daily or weekly goals that don’t seem so far out of reach.
For instance, if you’re trying to pay off a debt or save for a vacation, put an extra $15 or $25 towards it each week. If you’re trying to write a book, aim for a chapter a week instead of a whole book in a month. Tackling any project or goal in smaller chunks will make it more manageable.
Take good care of yourself.
If you’re eating junk, not exercising, not sleeping enough, and drinking a bottle of champagne every night, you’re going to feel bad, regardless of your circumstances. Your physical health affects your mental state. The better you feel physically, the easier it will be to handle the difficult seasons of life. Taking good care of yourself will help you take good care of your family, too.
Get your mind off of yourself.
This sounds contradictory to my last point, but here’s what I mean: Instead of spending every moment of the day wallowing or worrying (even though it’s tempting, I know), do something nice for someone else every day. Something small. Buy someone coffee, compliment someone, pray for someone, let someone into traffic instead of cutting them off. Ease someone else’s burden, no matter how small it seems.
Make a joy book.
My mom bought me a coloring journal a few months ago when my anxiety was flaring up. Some pages have beautiful, intricate designs to color and other pages are blank for writing. I decided to turn it into my joy book. It’s where I write Bible verses I want to memorize and meditate on and quotes that refresh and encourage me. In dark moments I can open the book and read some of those words aloud to remind myself that God is good and that all of our affairs are in His hands (Luke 12:22-26).
Consider the progress you have made, not how far you have to go.
Maybe you still have a long way to go before you can afford the car, get out of debt, lose fifty pounds, get promoted, or whatever you’re looking forward to. But wait. Put down the box of tissues and resist the urge to hide in bed and binge on Friends reruns for the next two weeks. Giving in to self-pity sounds appealing in the moment, but ultimately you’ll feel worse. Instead, look at the progress you’ve already made. Consider every little baby step. Even if you’ve only saved $100 for the down payment on your dream home, you’re still that much closer than you were before. Stop everything you’re doing right now and list the steps you’ve taken to get wherever you want to go. Done? Good. Now you can go watch an episode (or three).
Slow progress towards anything good can be frustrating, but it’s still better than no progress. I don’t want to wish this phase of life away when there are plenty of things to learn and enjoy.
How do you find joy in your seasons of slow progress? Let me know in the comments!