One of the benefits of the #Blogtober14 challenge so far has been that just getting into the habit of writing regularly is churning the creative juices so I can write on things that are more relevant to the vision I have for this blog rather than always following the prompt in front of me. Today’s inspiration came from Lara Casey, who shared the Contentment Challenge she took to follow her friend Nancy’s example. (Links to both challenges below.) The Contentment Challenge made me think back to my reflections on seeking balance and, as I read through Lara’s and Nancy’s posts I heard the still, small voice of God pushing me toward taking the challenge myself.Read about Lara’s Contentment Challenge.
In search of contentment
I feel pulled in a million different directions and weighed down by what has quite frankly been a very difficult couple of months. I need to refocus, slough off dead weight (physically and spiritually), and embrace contentment in my life. Do I even know what contentment looks like? Don’t get me wrong, I feel happy emotions but the most typical ones I can call to mind are the “blah” ones: stress…exhaustion…frustration.
I really want to be content.
In order to do that, I’m going to follow Lara’s advice – first, to make a no/yes list. I am saying “no” and “yes”, respectively, to the wrong things in my life and I am suffering for it. Besides, that will help me segue perfectly into…
My Contentment Challenge
The guidelines I will use to complete the Contentment Challenge have been tweaked from those that Nancy first shared and Lara customized to fit her own challenge. I won’t ask Brian or anybody else to join in with me, but I’m certainly hoping for some company along the way!
Prep time: 14 days
For the next two weeks I will “prepare [my] heart, organize [my] closet, and make any necessary purchases” to get through the challenge. This isn’t supposed to be a shopping spree a la “one last adventure through Target”, but more of a “I need a kitchen utensil organizer” trip. Starting November 1, the Contentment Challenge is on.
Duration: 2 months…okay, maybe 3
I am taking a step back from the three-month commitment to pursue contentment, because I am a fraidy-cat. Legitimately, though, I want to use this challenge as a way to close out 2014 and restructure our lives to go into 2015 with a new focus on what’s truly important in our lives. Of course, there’s nothing that says we can’t continue through January and kick-start the year the right way, so we’ll see…
So what does the challenge entail?
- Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. I have chosen (and will purchase/borrow during the next 14 days) the books below, in addition to the ones I’m already working on.
- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
- The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart by Mark Achtemeier
- Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla & Jon Kabat-Zinn
- The Power of a Woman’s Words by Sharon Jaynes.
- I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, accessories, and general stuff.
- Gifts are okay! One of the things that is clear about the Contentment Challenge is that the spirit of it is more important than living by the letter of the law. If I am gifted an item I will receive it with grace, and when it is time to give a gift (Christmas is coming, as are some new babies!) I will give it with the same. “The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.”
- Necessities are okay! I may need new snow boots if mine start to leak, and if I do I will buy them. If Arthur wins his months-long battle against one or both pairs of glasses in our house, we will buy new ones. And of course, food is a necessity (but dining out is not).
- You must actively pursue something – anything – that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Thinking of things to do will be EASY. Doing them…well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it? I will build off the purging and organizing of the next two weeks to make sure that everything in our house flows, so we can spend less time cleaning and fixing and more time just living. I want to continue writing my book, something that is just gut-wrenching but also one of the biggest sources of contentment I have. I want to decorate for the holidays and take Arthur on outings to enjoy the fall and winter.And, most importantly, I will finally prioritize my relationship with God. I will set aside time for prayer and deeper Scripture study and for the ministries in which I’m involved at the church. My faith journey, as anyone’s, will take some interesting turns in the coming months and I’m rather anxious to see what the next big change will be – by next week I’ll know…
Lara’s preface was absolutely perfect, so rather than try to improve on it I will simple leave it here for you to enjoy as a postscript:
this is not about rules. It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do. If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that. Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines. God is bigger than rules. It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart.
This, like the point about necessities above, is not a loophole to “get out of” fulfilling this challenge. It’s a reminder to go into the Contentment Challenge with the right mindset and for the right reasons. To that effect, purchases for Arthur and “experiences” are not included in this fast for me. Those purchases will be prayerfully considered so we can stay within the spirit of the challenge, but not arbitrarily limited to follow the “letter of the law”.
My intention – one thing to which I want to keep saying “yes” – is to chronicle my progress here while blogging about the other things that are important to me. I think the search for greater contentment is pretty universal and if my stumbles and successes can help you find your contentment then I’m happy to share! I’ll also follow the example of the two awesome ladies before me and use #ContentmentChallenge on Twitter and Instagram to share over the next few months, so I hope you’ll join me!
Tomorrow I head off to the East Ohio Conference’s fall Candidacy Retreat, so I hope to share about that – and maybe a secret about me – tomorrow. Enjoy the weekend!