I Dreamed a Dream in Time Gone By: Practicing Contentment

I Dreamed a Dream in Time Gone By: Practicing Contentment

Once upon a time, I had great aspirations. After I graduated from college, I believed I was too cultured and intellectual for this provincial life. I was going to shake the dust of my small town off my feet and head to the City. That’s New York City, of course, the only city with a capital C. I’d gone there to meet my favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle. I went to her workshop and fell in love with the Upper West Side. I was going to move to Manhattan and become a writer, reveling in the artistic community I was certain would welcome me with open arms.

I was sitting around wishing for a way to make this happen, when I fell in love with a man whose theme song is “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” His mother had told me one day, a few years prior, that they’d bought a farm for their son, so when he settled down he’d have a place to live.

I’d laughed at the time, wondering whom he would find to settle down with on a farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. I live there now. I wouldn’t call it a farm, exactly. But we do have chickens and a dog. And nineteen acres of glorious fresh air.

I gave up the New York City dream. It was a dream that died hard, folks. For years I imagined that maybe, somehow, we would end up there after all. I still have a fondness for Manhattan, fresh New York bagels, the smell of hot chestnuts on a cold night in the City—that whole beautiful asphalt island. I love to walk the streets and stop at a hole-in-the-wall café, stroll through Central Park, and see a Broadway play. I think you either love the City or you don’t. It’s in your bones.

Slowly, I began to realize I would not want to live in the City at this stage of life, with young children. But maybe we could live somewhere else. Anywhere but here!

We built a house on our nineteen acres. Every time a friend moved away, I envied the excitement and adventure I imagined they were experiencing.

“Everybody gets to move away but me,” I would whine complain.

When Camilla was a baby, Todd’s job was up in the air for a little while, and we toyed with the idea of moving. I pushed for it. I’d spent six years living where I didn’t want to live. It was time we moved, right?

We didn’t move.

More friends moved away. I felt left out. Stuck. I didn’t want to live in this godforsaken countryside anymore. I would have been happy if we just moved closer to town so it didn’t take fifteen minutes to get there from home.

Somewhere along the line, though, I began to see my lack of contentment for what it was. I decided to try to cultivate gratitude in my heart. I began to notice things I appreciated about our location.

I made a mental list:

• We have a huge backyard where the kids can easily go outside to play.
• We can hike in the woods without driving anywhere.
• It’s a very safe, low-crime area.
• I’m an introvert, and it’s easier to find alone time when you live in the country.
• Our dog can go out and play—I don’t have to take him for walks!
• We have easy access to good skiing.
• It’s a reasonably-short drive to New York and Philadelphia.

I still had a hankering to leave, though. I suppose you could call it wanderlust.

Somehow, in the past few years, as I continued to count my blessings, I began to truly love our home. Perhaps when my best friend moved away . . . and then moved back, it helped me see that it’s not so bad here. I began to feel connected to the community around me. I love our church and the kids’ school. Even our rural neighborhood has its perks. We are so blessed to be close to family—to have our parents love on our kids and give me time to write. The kids get to ride the van to school with their cousins. I have even grown to love living in the country. I recognize the community of wonderful writers in our area. They have truly welcomed me with open arms.

Maybe living in the City would be a different kind of wonderful, but I’ve embraced our home here at last. Last year, we even improved our house with some remodeling projects.

And now, my friends, we’re moving.

Relax! It’s only temporary. But it’s true.

Sometimes God cultivates contentment in our hearts so we learn to have joy in our current situation.
And sometimes He teaches us contentment and then He gives us a little glimpse of what we’ve always longed for.

Not that I always longed for Southern California. No, not really.

But I always longed for adventure. To live in another area. To experience more of the world.

So, quite unexpectedly, Todd’s job is requiring us to move 3,000 miles away for approximately six months.

Also unexpectedly, I wasn’t particularly happy about it at first!

But I am now.
Even though I will miss our home dearly, I recognize this new adventure as a gift.

How has God taught you to have joy in your present circumstances?

  • Timothy Madeira
    Posted at 07:48h, 20 October Reply


    I write this with joy in my eyes (ok, they might be tears) as I reflect on your writing and the passage from 1st Timothy 6:6 that says, “but godliness with contentment is great gain.”

    I’m sure you, like I did, read many stories as you were growing up that cultivated that sense of adventure and wanderlust. The interesting thing about most of those stories is the time away usually concludes with the joyous occasion of the homecoming! I pray that your time away will be the same. May God continue to fill your hopes and dreams in his time in the in his way… And we may we all recognize it as it happens and enjoy it in the moment!

    • Alison Treat
      Posted at 09:18h, 20 October Reply

      Amen! Thank you, Tim. I’m learning it’s always better in His time and His way.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 19:51h, 20 October Reply

    Oh that’s exciting! Enjoy your time away. Dan’s job required 6 months in Philly a few years ago and we all moved to East Falls. Being within walking distance of the train and a library is a treasure I will never forget.

    • Alison Treat
      Posted at 19:55h, 20 October Reply

      I’m so looking forward to it now, Sarah! I didn’t realize you guys got to relocate for a while. Such a great opportunity!

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