Tag Archive | Richard A. Swenson

Being Content: In the Midst of Typhoons, Tornadoes, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales

By Karen Hendricks

Typhoon Haiyan 2

Debris lines the streets of Tacloban, Leyte island. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, as I write this, there are horrific scenes coming out of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan: complete devastation, bodies in makeshift graves, debris everywhere. The scenes out of America’s mid-west are also disturbing. Tornadoes ravaged Illinois and Indiana last weekend, however, thankfully the death toll was extremely low. Natural disasters are especially hard to comprehend during the holiday season.

Turn on the TV or radio (even the :15 ads on Pandora Radio), check your mailbox, pick up a newspaper, and you’ll be bombarded by ads promoting Black Friday specials. The Christmas holiday season however, doesn’t seem to be kicking off on Black Friday. Instead, it’s invading the turkey-induced peacefulness of Thanksgiving evening. Lots of stores are opening their doors Thursday night so that shoppers can allegedly get the best bargains. What happened to the meaning behind Thanksgiving, the thankfulness that we’re supposed to be honoring?

So in the wake of natural disasters, death, devastation and the pure greed of Black Thursday/Friday shopping… I am offering a solution: being content.

Last spring, I wrote about “the margins” in our lives (click here)—the need for unstructured time in which to breathe, reconnect with friends and family and simply “be.” I have since finished reading the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. My women’s group had some awesome discussions that are still rattling around in my brain!

One of the lasting impressions from this book is the idea of being “content.” What does it truly mean to be content? I thought I knew… but the book helped me to see contentedness in a new light.

From the chapter “Health Through Contentment,” under the subtitle “Inextinguishable Discontent,” Swenson writes, “Discontent as a driving force for a society might make that society rich, but it will bankrupt it in the end. As the coffer fills, the soul empties.”

I always thought of “contentment” as “happiness,” being satisfied with what I had, what I earned, where I was in life. However since the book Margin is written from a Christian perspective, Swenson defines contentment as a two-step process: not only accepting whatever comes from God’s hand, but also putting our faith and trust in God. It’s having a peaceful, secure feeling that God has our back. It’s “a joy that exists in spite of circumstances and looks to the God who never varies.”

Swenson writes that contentment is not:

  • “the comfortable feeling of well-being when all our needs and desires are met”
  • Pursuit of the American dream
  • Keeping our circumstances under control
  • Pretending that things are right when they’re not

Consulting another source… Being content is defined as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”—Holman Bible Dictionary

I know it’s a lot to absorb! But more and more, given the headlines, I am trying to be content, at peace, and thankful.

One other area of my life has me examining this feeling of contentment. So many friends of mine are returning to work, driven by a desperate feeling that they need to earn money towards their children’s college fund(s). Let me tell you, as a parent of a college freshman, I can testify that the cost of college can indeed send you into a tailspin. And I don’t blame them for feeling this sense of desperation.

However, I realize more and more that I am not living out “the norm” by stepping off the merry-go-round of crazy-paced, full-time employment while many of my friends are jumping back on that same carousel. Working for myself, enjoying a handful of clients and the work they send my way, has given me wonderful fulfillment, more time for my family and finally—some margin in my life. A combination of factors helps us afford the cost of college: yes, both of our jobs for which we are thankful, but also an examination of our family spending and our efforts to reduce those costs where we can—trimming our phone/cable bills, trimming grocery bills, cutting out extravagances, etc. This helps separate needs from wants. It’s a challenge, in our society, to be content with life and put complete faith in God.

Food for thought, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wishing all of our readers a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving—filled with a renewed sense of contentment. 

Typhoon Haiyan

Philippine civilians walk out of what remains of the Guiuan East Central Elementary School in Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Typhoon Haiyan 3

A Guiuan woman stands outside of her makeshift shack in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

Rediscovering the Margins in Life

By Karen Hendricks

ikea clock

Photo Credit: Ikea.com

This week marks a milestone of sorts… it’s been exactly a year since I left a (more than) full-time, wonderful but crazy position in public relations. And during the past 365 days, my life has gotten back on track. My health is healthier, my family feels closer, my friendships are deeper, and my home-based business and  freelance work is extremely fulfilling. What an amazing turnaround. And it all revolves around TIME.

How often do you think about TIME during one day? It’s not on our side! Is there ever such as thing as having “extra time” in today’s fast-paced life? (Rhetorical question!) Time goes by too quickly, and those of us with children growing right before our eyes can attest to this fact on a daily basis. (Thank goodness the weather is getting warmer and I don’t have to see the bottom of my son’s jeans creeping ever higher into ankle territory. Shorts are becoming  a part of the daily wardrobe, yahoo!)

My children are growing up, like yours, in a fast-paced, digital world. There isn’t a need for good old-fashioned notebook paper that often, although we do keep a stock in our house for homework. I remember going through reams of notebook paper during my school years! So the word “margin” will forever be tied to an image of notebook paper for me.

One of the wonderful additions to my life, during the past year, now that I have a more flexible schedule and a few pockets of TIME for myself… an amazing women’s group that meets weekly at my church. What an inspiration this group is! Right now we are reading the book Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. The subtitle is Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Wow, who couldn’t use some of that advice?! No wonder it is a best seller… given our hectic lives and crazy calendars.

Swenson calls “margin” that “space that once existed between ourselves and our limits…. When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left.” Some of the best stuff in life happens in the margins, in our unstructured time. This is the time where families enjoy time together or friends pick up the phone or stop by. Basically, relationships grow, within the margins of our lives, according to Swenson.

Think about the margin you enjoy… or are lacking… in your daily life. Do you recognize or ignore your limits? Do you schedule your entire day from start to finish? Or do you have some wiggle room, down time, time to just BE?  My margin is probably not as wide as it should be, but I do have a sliver. And I’m holding onto it!

notebook paper

How wide are the margins in your life?