My Contentment Story

When the Lord put it on my heart to do the Contentment Challenge earlier this year, I had no idea what a huge effect it would have – not only in my life, but in the lives of others. After hearing so many voices, reading blogs and emails, and getting lots questions about what the Contentment Challenge is all about, I felt it was time to share my experience and offer the invitation once again, beginning January 1st, 2014.

The Contentment Challenge
blogposts from 2013

1: I am Content
2: The Contentment Challenge
3: April Goals + Guidelines
State of Satisfaction
Legacy
Simplicity
Gratitude
4: May Goals + Guidelines
Start Living
 Halfway!
Grateful or Frustrated
5: June Goals + Guidelines
: Final Post
: Nicaragua Missions Trip : Part 1 & Part 2

(My trip to Nicaragua was not part of the challenge, but it brought me perspective and clarity on why the Lord let me to do this in the first place – to look outward and not inward. To focus on the truth that when we say no to stuff, we are saying yes to giving financially to greater causes.)

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Photo by Graham Terhune

In summary, the Lord laid it on my heart in a big way to give up shopping for unnecessary stuff for 3 months straight. I didn’t want to, and I fought Him on it – trying to even convince Him it would be better for 1 month, or 2. But His voice was clear : THREE months was the timeframe. So, I gave up shopping for “stuff” for the months of April, May, and June of 2013.

It changed my life. 

When we look at this world – the poverty  and hunger and suffering that so many countries face daily, I’m ashamed and disgusted this was such a hard thing for me, but I’ll be the first to be honest and let you know it was not easy.  The first month took a lot of motivation and self control, then it got a little easier as the months went on. Like breaking a bad habit, the “need” for shopping faded with self discipline and time. There was a reason the Lord told me 3 months! The lesson grew more profound as the days went on. By the end of the 3 months, I had a fulfilling lifestyle; I felt like a new person.

I learned that I had relied too heavily on things for my happiness: the latest nail polish trend, a new scarf, a pretty wreath for my front door, seasonal decorations, the sale rack at Anthropologie, the newest dress at Target. Things that make life beautiful on the outside, not things that make life more beautiful on the inside.

All in all, I wasn’t content in my life. Even though I had a happy marriage, a wonderful home, a business I love, money in the bank, my health, a wonderful church… even though I had (and still have) “it all,” there was this nagging, awful feeling inside me that said, “Nancy, you need this ________. You won’t be complete if you don’t have this __________.”  (You can fill that blank with just about anything.)

When doing the challenge, I saved money, which I knew I would do. But what really surprised me is how much TIME I saved! By cutting out that unnecessary spending, I shopped for groceries at my grocery store (gasp!) and not Target. (It was closer to my house, faster, and cheaper!) I didn’t check my favorite online stores for deals during work hours. (Which I used to do. Shameful.) And eventually, that immature voice of materialism became quieter and quieter. My focus shifted from my outward appearance (clothes, decor) to what I was accomplishing (my work), how I was feeling (healthy and energized from exercising) and how I was spending my time (date nights with Will, reading a good book, walking my dog, etc).

At the end of those 3 months, I felt FREE. I had saved so much time and money! I had given clothing, stuff, and money away to those in need, which was so rewarding. I had cleaned out my house of even more stuff, making room to breathe again. And then… when I went inside a store, I wasn’t as slave to the sale, or the new merchandise that was shiny and cute. I could look at them and appreciate them without feeling a need for them, and keep on walking. I felt fulfilled, not depleted. Yes, I buy things now. Shopping is not the enemy, unless you are a slave to it (which I was). Living a balanced life is the goal here! Stuff is not the enemy, but being ruled by your need for stuff is absolutely the enemy. It will leave you with a rotten life – an empty and depleted spirit.

My friend Stephanie shared her similar story with me: “I did the 90 day contentment challenge this year.  I learned that Target shopping was a habit.  It’s not that I spent that much money there, but all of those little expenses, a necklace here, a scarf there… really add up.  Now when I go to Target I can walk past those aisles and buy just the things that are on my list. I learned that I felt just as beautiful and special borrowing a dress from a friend for a special event, than running out and buying one…. Stuff is just stuff.”

Friends, this was a game changer for me. It was hard, but it was good. Doing the Contentment Challenge took hold of those bad habits and replaced them with habits that created a more fulfilling life. Hear me out – it was one of the best decisions I made in 2013, and I encourage you to join in on the 2014 Contentment Challenge if you feel you should. Only you can decide to change.

I can honestly say I am now living a fulfilled, content life. I am free.

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(On our mission trip to Nicaragua in July)

Contentment Challenge : 2014 : So, here’s my invitation! Whether you’ve done it already, or whether you want to embrace it for the first time, I’m inviting you to join me. My goal is not to make this legalistic, but to invite you to a place of heart change. For you it might be 2 months, or it might be a year. Like my friend Lara said when she embraced the challenge:

“…let me preface it by saying this:  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.”

THAT is my invitation, friends, for the Contentment Challenge in 2014 : to listen to God’s voice, to embrace a challenge that will push you to a deeper relationship with our gracious Lord, and a greater understanding of His loving heart.

We all KNOW that Jesus was not motivated or driven by shopping or having things. In fact, He demonstrated that life was about loving the Father and loving people. It was about listening, serving, and loving.

I won’t be sharing how long I’m going to do it this time, because honestly, I don’t know. I was on the fence about doing it again until the Lord led me to this post, waking me up to the fact that this is still something He is calling us to. For me, 2014 won’t be about breaking a bad habit, but rather listening to the Lord daily, sitting at His feet, learning from Him. I’m still praying about it, because it’s always better to hear God’s voice rather than make it legalistic. Please prayerfully consider it before closing this window and moving on with your life. I can promise you, your life will be richer and fuller because of it! Oh, and DON’T do what’s comfortable for you. Do something that stretches you. I promise, it will be worth it.

Be sure to use the hashtag #contentmentchallenge when posting about it. It has been a great source of encouragement for all of us!

Here’s to a content, fulfilled 2014!