contentment challenge: month two

Here we are, at the end of May. Another year older (my birthday was yesterday!) and two-thirds of the way through The Contentment Challenge. And man, do I feel different. This challenge is changing me at my core. This second month brought soooo much growth and I'm so, so grateful for the heart change that it's brought about!

To be honest, I thought I'd quit by now. I really struggled with the idea of doing the challenge over Mother's Day and my birthday. I love having an excuse to treat myself, and by doing the challenge, I was vowing to not do that. I have to admit, I really love to make a big deal out of my birthday. I usually go into my birthday weekend with super high expectations. Not necessarily for gifts, but for what I want to do and the memories I want to make. I want everything to be perfect. I want to indulge in all of the things. I revel in everything being about me, me, me.

But this year was different.

This year, thanks to the Contentment Challenge, I didn't feel that desire. I just wanted a simple, quiet birthday with my very favorite people. My birthday was SO low-key this year, and it was awesome. I gave my husband my free Starbucks birthday treat, because all I wanted was a plain iced coffee when we hit the drive-thru. I got a small DQ blizzard instead of my usual medium or even large (!!) because I knew that's all I needed. I got up early to enjoy the quiet house to myself and journal, read and pray instead of not-so-secretly demanding that Matt get up with Xavier so I could sleep in. All of this is evidence: the contentment challenge has changed me.

It also hit me like a ton of bricks on Sunday. Sunday was the Indy 500, and it was the 100th running this year, so it was a BIG deal. Pretty much everyone I knew was at the track, and I kept seeing snap chats and Instagram posts about it. In years past, I would've been so annoyed all day. The FOMO (fear of missing out) would have been in full force in my heart. I hate to be excluded from everyone else having fun. Even though sitting at the track in 87 degree heat to watch cars go by isn't even something I'm super interested in, I would've been sad simply to not be where everyone else was.

But this year was different.

Instead, I sat in my overgrown backyard, with my feet in the baby pool, watching Xavier splash and play and have SO much fun with the simplest toys. It was Memorial Day weekend, Race Day, and I was nowhere near the track or on the lake or by a pool. But I was SO happy. SO content to just be there, in that moment with Xavier. Not nit-picking my backyard, or wishing for a bigger or better house, or making a mental list of all the things I'd need to do on Monday. I was just there. Content to just be. The Lord has done such a mighty work in my heart.

And finally, I realized just how much I've grown these last two months when I opened a birthday card and included was a check with some birthday money. Normally, I have a running list of eight hundred things I'd like to buy the minute I get some extra cash. In years past, that birthday money wouldn't have lasted more than two days. 

But this year was different.

That check is still sitting in the birthday card on my desk. I'm still not sure what I want to spend it on. Because truly, I can't think of anything I need. I can't even think of anything I want THAT bad to spend it on. I kind of just want to save it for awhile. Or - gasp - spend it on an experience, like concert tickets or something fun with Matt - instead of clothes.

Here's the biggest thing I've realized: stuff is going to let me down. I know that sounds so obvious, but it's a huge realization for me. When you place your hope, your happiness, your contentment in STUFF, there's so much pressure on those decisions. I would agonize over buying the exact right THING, because so much was riding on it. This thing has to make me happy! I can't buy the wrong one. But now? I know more than ever before that my hope is in Jesus. Period. Stuff cannot and will never fill the void in my heart. Only Jesus can. Stuff is always going to break, tear, fade and sag. The sparkle will dull. It's not going to last. Case in point: A couple months ago, I spent some serious dollars on a pair of Madewell jeans. They fit perfectly. I was convinced they'd make me into the cute, has-it-altogether mom I see on Instagram. After all, they're always tagging their Madewell jeans. When I got home from Madewell, I had a Stitchfix order on my porch, with the cutest chambray tee. Twirling around in my living room in my super cute new jeans and super cute new tee, I felt so sparkly. So skinny. So together.

And you know? Those jeans have sagged a little. The shirt wrinkles really easily. I still like them, and they still make me feel cute, but I know the truth - my ultimate happiness doesn't rest in them. Cannot rest in them. They will never fulfill me.

I feel freedom. Truly. I feel freedom from bondage to stuff. I feel freedom from the franticness of having to choose the PERFECT item, because I know that no matter what, my happiness doesn't rest in stuff. I feel a huge weight off my shoulders. Stuff will never satisfy - only Jesus can. Whoosh, breath of fresh air. It feels so good.

I still love beautiful things. I still love clothes and decorating my house and finding treasures at the thrift store. But I know that I know that I know that all my needs are met, and that my hope and happiness rest in Jesus alone. And man, does that ever feel like the best freedom in the world.