Your Contentment is a Choice

The summer is moving all too quickly, but also so slowly. It’s a feeling I’ve never quite experienced except during these hot summer days with no central AC. I am a wimp in more ways than one in the heat and humidity of the Midwest. Chicago effectively turns into a swamp June through August, and I’m ready for it to be over. 

But on the days when I’m less grumpy, less sweaty or upset about how much I sweat, I remember how beautiful summer is. I remember I live in a city with about 5,000 beaches and bike paths and three months of sunshine. On those days, I celebrate these summer months. 

My husband and I have tried to enjoy these moments more recently. Until this month, we had filled our summer with a wedding, travel, a book launch, and a brand-new job. Most days we are just tired—two introverts trying to juggle life, a new marriage, and a new person who lives in our space 24/7. With every passing day, though, we settle in a little more—into life, into love, into the beauty of this season. 

We’ve recaptured wonder. July is sunscreen and sand and summer heat. It’s the sound of music playing on the beach or on the basketball court. This month has taken on the sounds of a city bursting with life—busting at the seams with people eager to soak up the sunlight before winter returns to our world. 

To be honest, friend, I’ve struggled to love this city. I miss the quiet of my hometown. I miss the sound of tractors in the field. Nothing has quite replaced those Indiana sunsets or the peace and simplicity of my rural town. 

But these July nights have come close. We’ve spent more evenings at the beach, enjoying picnics and books and friends. These nights are not quiet or peaceful. This week roughly 100 cars sped down lakeshore drive with mufflers that echoed all the way to our beach towels. Planes consistently streamed over our heads, landing at O’Hare airport a few miles away. We still had to dodge terrible drivers and busy traffic. Chicago is still Chicago. 

Sometimes this city can feel like a machine—like something that is trying to produce as much as it can, slowly suffocating the humanness of its people. But on Wednesday, we ran into two old friends in a city with millions of people. We watched a group try to keep a volleyball in the air—diving and laughing. We listened to the sound of waves hit the beach and kids playing in the water. All around us were people meeting after work, families enjoying a picnic, friends passing a bag of chips.

After two years here, I’m remembering that contentment is a choice. It’s a posture rooted in gratitude. Sometimes it feels far, but it’s an idea the Father keeps revisiting day after day. I’m reminded of Philippians 4. I’ve learned to be content it all things, in all situations. Whether with plenty or with little, Paul tells the Philippians the beauty and freedom of contentment. This is where I’m trying to live, too, because I have plenty. 

So as silly as it may sound to someone who longs for the city, for the hustle and chaos and noise and life of these streets, I’m learning contentment here. I’m learning to see the beauty of this place—the beach, the airplanes, the families enjoying a picnic. And I’m learning to love the sounds of July—cicadas, kids in the park, music from the basketball courts, and waves hitting the shore moment after moment. 

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