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Question: I am very discontented with our house. This restless dissatisfaction has been growing with each year and each new baby. The difficulty is that we live next to my husband's family (his parents, his two siblings and their families). My children are very close to their grandparents. We are only two minutes from our very good parish (including our adoration chapel). We also have a supportive homeschool community. In short, to leave our location would be hard for our children. The space we have is adequate, I just feel the walls closing in. I feel like I am obsessed on the idea of a new house or an addition. Everyday I feel less grateful for my home and more disdainful of it. I have prayed and prayed for a more contented heart, but I can't seem to shake these emotions. Do you have any ideas or advice about how to rise above discontentment?
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Your letter is very powerful in that you express with a truthful heart the root of your challenge. Discontent.

It would have been very easy for you to desire a different surrounding or circumstance to ease the burdens that you are having. Isn't it always the way? When we are dealing with emotional or spiritual battles we have a tendency to focus upon the one thing in our life for which we should be grateful. It is as if the Tempter knows that we desire a purity of heart that will allow us to grow closer to Jesus as we work through the burden Jesus alone allows. Yet because I sense in you a docile and teachable spirit the Lord has been able to help you see the real challenge in your life. That of discontent.

When we are facing circumstances that are not easily changed or that appear to have us trapped it is vital that we take stock of all aspects of the situation. You spoke to the many positive aspects of your lifestyle and this is good. However I sense there are those issues that are unsettling. In order to go forward into solutions and understanding it is best to clearly define the parts of your life that are calling for attention. Is there a certain anxiety because your husband wants to begin a new career? Are there issues that are coming to light due to the arrangement with your in-laws being so close? Maybe this living arrangement has worked well for a long time but now as your children get a little older there are some issues that need attention. Is your home in need of a thorough going over paying close attention to clutter control and tidiness? Are you feeling like you are at a standstill and unable to move forward because there are emotions that need addressing? Are you able to articulate your feelings to your husband? Remember that our husbands are our partners in this journey and through the Sacrament of Matrimony a couple is anointed by the Lord with the graces necessary to work through life challenges.

There is a lot to consider when we are trying to work through feelings of discontent. It is not as easy as it sounds. One can not suddenly be satisfied with everything in their life without first bringing to light those matters that are at the bottom of our feelings. This takes a holy and prayerful response. Give yourself the time in prayer to examine all the issues surrounding your lifestyle. Write down your feelings. Pray for the guidance and the insights of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' gift to us is His peace. That is an awesome and sometimes overwhelming thought. To be happy is nice but it is like dust. We may be happy today and sad the next day for whatever reason. (Sadness that stays and keeps us from going about our daily routine of personal care, etc. is serious and needs to brought to the attention of our health care provider.) Peace is that certain feeling of calm despite situations that are a challenge. Peace makes it possible for us to think clearly and to receive clearly all that the Lord instructs us to do.

The first step in dealing with discontent is to thank the Lord for everything in your life that is making you discontented. Doesn't that sound backwards? :) For example: I praise You, Lord, and thank You for the challenge of living in such a small area. Help me to fully use each part of this space according to Your will. Help me to address those issues that are directly related to our limited space. If 'things' are our challenge then help me to rid myself and my family of unnecessary items thus creating more space. I praise You, Lord, for giving me the space I have; show me how to use it well.

Now lest you think that I am a saint! :) This is the hardest prayer for me to make. I tell myself that the space I have must be enough because the Lord gave me this much and He always gives me exactly what I need. Whew. That takes a lot of prayer to say that and believe it. I fall short constantly.

Feelings of discontent are my thorn. Just as St. Paul described his thorn that the Lord would not take away, this is mine.

Your letter has been a powerful reminder for me of the truly holy witness that is possible when one deals with circumstances and situations that are challenging. I admire you greatly and wish that I were your neighbor. Perhaps I could come and help you for a time and together we could give your home a 'makeover'. This would be a practical help and of little importance. I say little importance because your sweet nature and patient approach is a far greater treasure.

Go forward and take joy.

Let us pray this morning for all those families that are living in homeless shelters due to situations that have forced them from the security and safety of a structure they call home. Jesus, we ask that you empower our dear sister in Christ as she faces the very real challenges that are allowed in her life today. Give her the wisdom and the insights that are of the Holy Spirit to discern the actions that will be the most helpful. Give her the physical strength to deal with the limitations and people issues that she is facing. St. Monica, pray for us. St. Joseph, Earthly Provider of the Holy Family, pray for us. Lord, we ask a special prayer for this dear mom's husband. Anoint his efforts to care for his family. Keep him healthy, holy, and able. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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