Hello. I’ve started this post three times now and I keep erasing my words because I don’t know how to lightly transition into what I’m going to write. So, here goes.
God has put it on my heart ALL YEAR LONG to give up spending money on things I don’t need. I’ve done a fair job at cutting back on expenses and simplifying. We even went papertowel-less a couple months ago. But, you know what? That was easy. The thing I’ve been most afraid of is saying no to shopping for stuff. Stuff that brings me temporary comfort. Stuff that is disguised in “I need this” clothing. Stuff that tries to take my attention away from what matters more. Until now, I’ve felt my stuff and the needs behind why I buy that stuff were stronger than God’s ability to be sufficient for me. I am still
scared out of my mind hesitant about doing this because the alternative to spending money on things I don’t need is seeing clearly that God is enough for all of my needs and letting go of control of my happiness. Letting Him be my happy. And that may take work or struggle or facing how very connected to my stuff I am. Me + stuff = BFFL. OK, it will most definitely take all of those things. It will take me learning a new deeper lasting happy.
Gracie at my parents house last weekend, playing piano for the first time. : )
A few months ago, my dear friend Nancy posted that she was doing a “Contentment Challenge” where she wasn’t buying anything new — clothes, accessories and stuff — for three months. Read her post about MTH and how God placed this on her heart here. Right around that time, I went to a conference with her where Jen Hatmaker, author of 7, was speaking. I sort of laughed the idea of giving up spending in my heart. Haha! Yeah right. That’s too hard, I thought. I’m just too weak.
And you know what? I AM too weak. And that’s exactly the point. After months of praying and being challenged by scripture, I am seeing that God made us that way so we would rely on Him fully. Paul’s words in Philippians have been ringing in my heart the last weeks:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:12-13)
Grace making buttermilk biscuits with my mom last weekend.
I want God to be the only source of my strength — my true sustenence. Not new clothes or a better bigger prettier faster ____ (whatever it is at the moment). I want to rely on Him to make me feel whole and new again, not Target (sorry, old friend). I want to live simply and give abundantly. Like, actually DO it. I want to have margin in my life to stop and get on my knees to pray rather than be surfing Amazon for lightning deals. I want to be weak so He can be strong in me.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12:9)
But, before I tell you what I’m doing, 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.
So, if you are not doing this challenge with me, I still love you a whole lot. With sugar on top and extra sprinkles! I won’t judge you for making your Christmas list and checking it twice. I still have a shop and a business that people buy things from, but I pray each purchase inspires them to what matters or somehow points them to Him. You could certainly argue that no one needs a wedding magazine or PowerSheets. That is true. But, I make them because God put in on my heart to inspire people to what matters in marriage and to help people set good goals that build His Kingdom. For me personally, filling out my own PowerSheets this month is partly what brought me to write this post. I got my head clear, took a good look at my goal progress this year, and — with just a few months left in the year — realized it was TIME. Time to stop worrying about taking this Challenge and just do it. So, remember that a close relationship with God is not about spending vs not spending or being a missionary vs being a designer. It’s about the heart. It’s about using what you have — or don’t have — to glorify Him. If you do join me in this #ContentmentChallenge, remember the heart of why we fast from something in the first place – to glorify Him. To draw close to Him. To live with less so that He can be exactly what He is – more.
Painting for the very first time with my mama. So many sweet firsts on our visit.
The Guidelines (modified from Nancy’s just slightly):
- Prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months or plan for them. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need, and the opportunity for you to say your goodbyes to Target.) I’ve already made my list of things I will likely purchase and have prayed about all of these things: family photo albums from Artifact Uprising (my pictures are useless on my computer and need to live somewhere we can see and feel them), a Christmas tree (actually counts as a donation since we get it from Trosa), business needs (needs only), and I’m not counting Grace’s needs like the obvious — diapers, wipes, warm clothes for winter and her 2nd birthday is the week before Thanksgiving so I’ll probably get her some balloons. The rest I may make.
- I am fasting from buying new clothes, household items, accessories and general stuff. There’s a lot in that category and for me, it’s mostly the occasional trip to Target that gets me in trouble. Food, items for basic living and experiences (like going to visit the zoo with Grace) are not a part of this fast for me.
- I’m also focusing on giving during this time. I’m trying to give something away every day. Whether something physical, a prayer or encouragement. Just something that is given to someone else.
- I am hoping to do this through the New Year. Yes, that means Christmas is included. After organizing our whole house this weekend, I know we have more than enough craft supplies to make gifts for family. Also, charitable donations don’t count, so I can still do my yearly holiday purchases from Heifer.org as gifts for people.
UPDATED 12/3: After much prayer and God presenting many opportunities for us to fill needs for others, we have decided to give gifts that bless others and help them feel hope, not just donations. We’ve already started and it has been so gratifying!
- Choose something to read during this time. I recommend any of the following: Seven, Interrupted, and the Bible : ) (Feel free to leave additional recommendations in the comments!) I’m trying to finish the Bible by the end of the year (in Amos right now) and also have Radical and Not a Fan to finish.
- Gifts are okay! Remember the heart of this. It’s not about rules. If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously. If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is to learn more of ourselves and the Lord.
- Necessities are okay! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”)
- Actively pursue something good that helps to replace your tendency to buy stuff as a source of comfort. Something that points you back to what matters most. For me, it may be prayer, singing hymns with Grace, reciting scripture out loud, slow dancing in the kitchen with Ari, painting, gardening or taking a deep breath and thinking about Heaven, where we will have no stuff anyway.
I would also recommend using this as a time to become a better steward of your finances. I know, I know! First I tell you I’m giving up shopping and now I’m talking about budgeting. (!!!) Stick with me here… : ) Having a financial plan has helped me to get to this point because I have been learning that all I have is not mine. We are just stewards of what God has given us and we are to use it wisely. We are blessed to be a blessing. For a general primer on money management, read The Total Money Makeover and our resident Creative Director, Emily’s, Marvelous Money posts. With the help of Nancy’s husband, Will, who is also our financial coach (I highly recommend him!), we’ve outlined a budget and we now have solid goals like working to aggressively pay off Ari’s student loan so we can get to things like saving for Grace’s college and helping my parents if they need support in their later years. Will also gave me a list of scriptures about finance that I have tacked to my office wall so I am constantly reminded of where God wants my focus. My mind and heart can get so off-track!
OK. I have to get back to work, but let me finish by saying this: (as my dear friend Emily says) grace, not perfection. I didn’t want to blog this because I am human and fallible and I will likely mess up somewhere. But, what makes me oddly excited about even the thought of “messing up” is the hope that God will change me in this experience. He already has in preparing for it.
In our garden together last week. I love getting out with her and hunting for garden treasures. My tomato
plants trees are out of control!
I am excited to get to know Him more and to rejoice in Him more. I am excited to simplify. I am excited to learn to be more resourceful. I am excited to savor what I do have more. I am excited to learn a deeper gratitude in this.
I’d love to hear from you if you are joining me in this. I’ll be using Nancy’s #ContentmentChallenge hashtag to keep you updated on my progress and can’t wait to be encouraged by yours, too. Here’s to living with less (even though in comparison to the rest of the world we are so rich regardless) and to learning to be content!