Four inches of snow in Houston.
As Texas plunged into single digits with multiple days of a windchill below freezing, millions found themselves stranded with no power or water. Living along the Gulf Coast we have weathered hurricanes and endured power outages for much longer periods, but somehow this seemed different. Maybe for those of us close to the shoreline it was the unusual sight of snow we experienced as opposed to the natural disasters we usually face that arrive with rain, wind, and sweltering heat.
As I write this it will be 9 days before our plumber can fix the frozen pipes that burst throughout our home. It is frustrating, but we are just one among thousands experiencing the same difficulties. Our attitudes in life are a choice, and this is one time I am having to act upon that choice. Throughout this last week one word kept coming to mind: contentment. This state of being is different than happiness. Happiness is defined as experiencing frequent positive thoughts, such as joy, interest, or pride. Whereas contentment can be described as a deeper feeling of satisfaction and gratitude. Happiness has a short lifespan, but contentment is longer lasting and goes much deeper.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians many of us think of the well-known verse that says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” When my husband and I first married we dedicated these words as our family motto. We went as far as adding a sassy ending, “…so get out of my way.” We often repeat, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, so get out of my way.” These are motivating words we live by that help us overcome naysayers who have often told us our goals or dreams cannot be accomplished. These words remind us the “negative Nancy’s” have no power over us when God has clearly told us WE CAN.
Louie grew to love the fire. Spent hours gazing at the flames.
As common as this verse is to many, and as personal as it is to my family, I had not spent as much time studying the words written just before. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV-emphasis mine).
As my husband and I were taking inventory of our dwindling water supply, and dividing our food into smaller quantities, I cannot say there was happiness abounding in my heart, but I can say there was contentment. I had a great feeling of gratitude, and a thankful heart for provision. To keep a joyful outlook this past week with every frustration we encountered, I changed my focus to find the good.
Power went out: Grateful for two gas fireplaces
Water shut off: Grateful we had extra water bottles stored up from the pandemic
No water to bathe: Grateful for make-up wipes and baby powder to clean our face and bodies
Toilets not working: Grateful for an abundance of swimming pool water
Pipes burst and flooded our kitchen: Grateful we were safe and for our expert handyman friend who stopped the gushing water
It’s a mess!
Below freezing temperatures with no heat: Grateful for long johns and two dogs that can keep us warm in bed
Son and daughter (in law) also no power or water: Grateful our veteran son knew how to keep his family warm and make a pot of soup over a wood burning fire; grateful for a daughter (in law) that chose to put her trust in her new husband that he knew what he was doing, even when it was scary
My mom lost power/water at same time son/daughter did: Grateful our power came on right as theirs went off and they can stay with us
Wondering how we will feed 5 mouths: Grateful for freezer full of steaks stored up from the pandemic
Father and son cooking steaks over gas stove by candlelight.
Working in a messy kitchen/no power or water: Grateful for family time; father/son cooking steaks together; daughter (in law) bringing mushrooms/carrots from their refrigerator to provide sides with our meal
No bath in 6 days: Grateful for friends with hot water and showers
No plumber available for 9 days: Grateful our friend was able to close off all other pipes and direct water just to our bathroom; grateful to family/friends for the use of their washing machines/dishwashers
This is a short list of the gratitude we found in our contentment. After our family steak night, sitting among broken pipes in a waterless house, our son finished his last bite and declared to everyone present, “This is fun!” You must know him to understand this is not out of the ordinary. He was born with a smile on his face, speaks to every stranger, and finds a playful happiness in his surroundings. He lives in the reality he finds himself in at that moment and treats life as a story to treasure and enjoy. To him, quality time with family means more than most things, so why wouldn’t he think a steak dinner with his wife, parents, and grandmother was fun? He was not looking at what we did not have (water, low food supplies, no heat in his own home), he saw what we did have, and he declared it good.
Enjoying a warm meal surrounded by family, dogs, a fire, and bursting pipes.
A friend reminded me, “One cannot truly appreciate anything unless it is occasionally denied.” I appreciate what we have, and I am also thankful for the lessons that revealed our weaknesses. Once any experience or project is completed, we should always evaluate what we learned. Ask yourself what worked and what did not and if you would change anything next time.
What will I do differently to prepare for the next arctic storm that hits Texas (more likely the next hurricane that hits our Gulf Coast region)?
Keep a big supply of water year-round so I do not have to rely on the stores
Store flashlights inside the house instead of the garage where our sweltering summer heat causes the batteries to die
Stock up on MREs (meals ready to eat) that our military use and can last for decades
And the #1 thing on my list??? Install a generator to power our home!
It is good to find happiness and joy even in difficult circumstances, but it is alright to just be content. This week I was content, finding satisfaction with each day and gratitude for our provisions.
Together with you,