Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fully Satisfied | The #ContentmentChallenge

Nothing reveals how many things you have but do not need than trying to move across the country in a Volkswagen Beetle. Seriously. I love my car and think it is cute as a button, but capacity-wise it is on the small end of the spectrum. Actually, it doesn't get much smaller (okay, I know about the Smart cars and the Fiat, but whatever...). But you know I put my Proptart skills to work and played Tetris with with my belongings and packed Marshall* to the brim. We could have fit more but I at least attempted to give us a view through the rear window.

While the vacuum bags we used for my clothes were a brilliant find and necessity, the "aha!" moment didn't come until we slammed the trunk shut and prayed it would hold. I had what I need and yet there was still so much I was leaving behind. And I'm talking boxes upon boxes of crafts, shoes, decor, kitchen things, etc. left in a storage unit. My mindset has been one I inherited, to save things for a rainy day and why buy new/again when you already have/had it? I'm still sitting in that thought, but a few more have since come to mind.

*Surprise! It's a boy. My car's name is Marshall. Any Alias fans out there? I named him years ago because I was 1) obsessed with the show, 2) pretty sure my little brother will grow up to be Marshall (the hilarious, adorable, genius tech guy), and 3) Marshall would be the type to drive a red bug with no shame. 


In the spring, the lovely and inspiring Nancy Ray began a challenge aptly named "The Contentment Challenge." Within minutes of reading her blog I jumped on board and Instagramed the key verse, planning to follow along. Yeah, well, that plan flopped to the ground in the speed that I hopped on the bandwagon.  I had good intentions, but no followthrough. Welcome to one of the biggest struggles in my life. It might be a surprise to some, but to others I apologize for the times I have given my word or signed my name and never held up my end of the bargain. Believe me it has happened more than you think or I would like to admit...

Thus the Contentment Challenge fell under that category. The idea has been dancing around in my head in the months since its introduction, but I have never acted upon it. I kept saying, "Once I blog about it, then I'll do it..." But did my fingers ever click those keys? You guessed it: negative. Not until now at least.

It had come to mind yet again but I brushed it off, anchoring that thought to how impossible it would be while working at Anthropologie and after moving across the country? Psh, no. I had a killer discount to think about, of course, and all those things I "need" to make my house a home.

Yikes! Sounds like a heart that is hardly content, and one that finds its satisfaction in stuff rather than a Savior. Can I hide in a hole now? No? Hm... how about in a pile of more things? Still no... okay. 

While I was trying to brush the thought from my mind (or fling it to the far end of the Milky Way), I checked Lara's blog. Y'all. If you don't know who Lara Casey is, check her out. She is someone I have written about before and look up to immensely! At the beginning of this week Lara shared that she would be starting the Contentment Challenge. Her heart and struggle with the idea matched mine and I was struck with guilt and conviction. My items have become my idols, and the way I depend on a lush layer of stuff to bring comfort is not God-glorifying or -relying. Again, yikes!

This morning's YouVersion devotional hit home. In June I started a 5 day study called "Fully Satisfied in His Love". Obviously I haven't been --and I only made it through day 1 way back when-- so I hit the arrow backwards and started again. Oof. Right to the heart. It opened with Psalm 63:5. "My soul shall be satsified as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips." 

In The Message paraphrasing, I tracked back a few verses and was even more so hit by the way I have not been relying on Him. This should be the call of my heart. He promises to provide and nourish us with what we need and so much more!

God, you're my God! I can't get enough of you!
I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open
drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
my arms wave like banners of praise to you.
I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips.
It's time to shout praises! 
I'm sleepless at midnight, 
I spend the hours in grateful reflection. 
Because you've always stood up for me,
I'm free to run and play.
I hold onto you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post.
Psalm 63:1-8, The Message

This is the prayer I want to breathe each day, thanking God for His goodness and protection, rather than making my list of "needs" and noting the places where I "lack" in life.  My hunger should be for Him, not for a fuller closet. My thirst should be for His Word, not for another unneeded Starbucks on the way to work. I want to be able to say "Here I am in the place of worship" not only when in the sanctuary or at Lifegroup. [An echo of this place and ache in my heart is Jimmy Needham's song "Clear the Stage." It has been on repeat and will remain there for quite some time. Check it out and let his lyrics soar! They'll get ya, but it will be so good.]

The Contentment Challenge is not just about giving up things or walking past Target with a sigh. It is supposed to resonate so much deeper and be a lesson learned that lasts. At least that's what I'm praying. 

Part of me is saying, "Wait until October! It's almost here and you can watch your spending for a few weeks, right?" That temptation is dangerous. I know my habits and I'll spend myself into the ground. And so, I start today. And I'm going to need your help to stay accountable. Each week, in one of my posts, I'm going to share my successes and my failures. Things I've said no to and things I've let slide. 

I had a couple of things/expenditures planned for the months ahead but that could change. One of the goals is to learn to approach each purchase with prayer. Do I really need this? Why do I have to have it? Am I buying it for a legitimate reason or simply to feel in control? Is this the way I treat myself or cope with something unpleasant or difficult? In those moments, prayer is needed not the swipe of a debit card.  

The Contentment Challenge: September through December* 2013
We will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and "stuff" for 3 months, to focus our hearts and minds on the root of true contentment. We will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace our addiction to material things.

The Guidelines (from Nancy Ray's blog, slightly edited for my personal challenge):
  • For the next 10 days, your homework is to do the following: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months.
    • I've had a few days to think about this and have made the final Target run. No more knick-knacks or trinkets, unnecessary sweet treats, and no more books or clothes. Be proud, I'm making slow progress! I had a dress picked out for my bonus 60% off and left it on it's rack and I went to Barnes & Noble to read (Bread & Wine by Shauna Neiquist and Much Ado About Nothing are my current choices) and put them back on the shelf after a chapter or two. I did cave in and had Chipotle for dinner, but that was my goodbye to the savory place until December.
    • Like I said, I'm expecting a few expenditures in the coming months and am doing my best to set that money aside ahead of time. I begin teaching my children's theatre classes in two weeks and will buy only what I absolutely need and will allow myself one show per month if the tickets fall into my allotted price range. Also, my school loans come calling near the holiday season so this will help prep me to begin those payments.
  • Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time
    • Like I said Bread & Wine and Much Ado About Nothing are my current reads, but I am adding Seven, The Purpose Driven Life, and So Long Insecurity to read before Christmas. I'm also working my way through the Old Testament so these will coincide. 
  • Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or a piece of deco during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.
    • This is not a plug for gifts, but an allowance for honoring others even if it includes spending. Gifts are in my love languages, but I am a firm believe that a note of encouragement --whether it arrives at a moment of deep need or just as a surprise-- goes a long way. I do have a few family members and friends whose birthdays are just around the corner (plus Christmas, hello!), but this will remain a time to be prayerful and get creative. 
  • Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please get a new one. If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don't start justifying new purchases for items that you already have.
    • There is absolutely a difference between a need and a want, and I am eager to learn. In some places, saying "no" is a piece of cake. But in others... let's just say I don't watch a lot of TV because commercials and advertisements get to me (...that's not the only reason I don't watch much television, but when someone has the ability to skip the commercials boy am I a fan!). Needs as in basic toiletries, replacing a pair of tights, and food are allowed, but I am limiting my fast food to only when out with friends. And friends, let's do something other than eat out or go to Starbucks! This city is full of things I have yet to discover. A jog around the lake, trip to the park, I'm up for just about anything ;)
    • I've also just moved my closet from Dallas to Seattle, so most of my clothes no one has seen yet. I do not need to buy another dress, pair of jeans, skirt, etc. because these are all practically new again. 
  • You must actively pursue something -anything- that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you've always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it.
    • I'm still thinking on this one. I got a gift card for a free week of yoga at a new studio near where I live, and I'm incredibly intrigued by the ballet barre workouts. However, I do not need to drive across the world for classes or pay for these classes when I found a killer (aka kicked my butt) video class that did the works. "Mall walking" is dangerous and absolutely not an option. Why do that when I live three blocks from a lake and have everything I need in my room?  

*Ooh, y'all. You don't know how hard it was to write 'December'. 
I wanted that month so badly. Which goes to show how much I need to let it go.


I don't know about you, but when I read that I am intimidated. I am reminded of my weakness, but where I am weak He is strong. This will certainly be a challenge, but I know I need it. Thanks for jumping with me, and I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Did any of you take the Contentment Challenge? How did it work for you? If not yet, are you considering it? Let me know!

6 comments:

  1. This sounds amazing! Also-bread and wine is such a great book! I would love to hear what you think of it. You should read the book Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt. It sounds like it would be very fitting for this challenge. :)

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    1. I'll check out Packing Light for sure :) And I'm loving Bread & Wine so far!

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  2. You're inspiring! You got this girl :)

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  3. I love the book Bread and Wine by Shawna Niequist. It's so good! I can't wait to hear what you think about it!

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    1. Ooh, I'll let you know once I finish but I'm really enjoying it thus far :)

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