The contentment challenge: the wrap-up

Hi friends! Happy Thursday! Today is June 30th which means it's the LAST DAY of the Contentment Challenge! (Not sure what the Contentment Challenge is? Go here!) You guys, I can't even believe it. I can't believe I did it! Three months of minimal shopping. I say "minimal" because I can't truly say I did no shopping for all of April, May and June - but I'll get to that. Three months of digging deep and falling in love with my very own life. My actual, off-Instagram, ordinary, small and mundane life. Mundane but also amazing. Because here's the biggest thing I learned: there is joy and wonder EVERYwhere, if only you'd open your eyes.

There were so many moments during the last three months that I caught myself thinking "my heart could truly burst, I just love this life so much." Simple, ordinary moments, like sitting on the back patio with my husband, or watching my baby boy splash in his baby pool, or taking a morning walk around my sweet town square, sipping hot coffee and watching the storefronts and offices come to life. It is an incredible feeling to be head over heels in life with the life you are actually living, instead of the imaginary one we keep pinning to our fifty million Pinterest boards. 

So where am I going from here? I'm still not 100% sure. I definitely think the minimal shopping is going to continue. Oh, to follow up about that. Although I did WAY less shopping over the past three months than ever before, I can't honestly say I did NO shopping. I bought three books, I bought a Wild + Free tshirt at the local event I attended, I bought a photo editing app for my phone. A few other things here and there. But overall, my wallet didn't see much action these past three months. And it was so good. So good that I want to keep it going. The focus became on experiences, rather than stuff. Matt and I took Xav and Scout hiking. I'd grab the stroller and the leash and head out for an afternoon walk when I was feeling unfocused or overwhelmed, rather than my previous habit of getting Starbucks and wandering around Target. Oh! A note about Target. I think I'm sworn off Target forever. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Target. But Target is a huge stumbling block for me, for whatever reason. I went in one time during the Contentment Challenge. Just one. We were on our way to a bbq and had forgotten wipes for Xav, and Target was the most convenient store to stop at. Y'all, I had to pray the entire time we walked through Target. This was not that long ago - maybe two weeks? - so I'd been doing this contentment thing for over two months, but it all went out the window when I walked through Target. Suddenly I hated everything in my house, hated everything in my closet, and felt like I needed all the cute things. For whatever reason, Target is my super vice. So I think I'll be avoiding it from now on.

Another major takeaway is that I've stopped saying "I need that." Because the reality is, my needs are met. Every single one of them. In reality, the things I'm saying I need are just things I want. I know, I know. "Semantics," you might be thinking. But I think catching yourself when you start to say "I need..." is a super helpful habit to get into. After I went on a mission trip to Haiti in college, I eliminated "I'm starving" from my vocabulary. Every now and then I slip up, but rarely. Because I saw people who were actually starving on that trip. So it didn't seem okay to me anymore to say "I'm starving" when really I just wanted some Cheese-Its, you know? The same is true about stuff. When I say "Oh my gosh, I need that dress," it feels a little like an insult to God, who has met all of my needs. So I'll be chewing on that whole thing for awhile, and working to keep "I need..." out of my vocabulary.

It was also so cool to see how God provided during the Contentment Challenge. The first week of the challenge, my sweet friend Val sent me a copy of her book and the accompanying journal. It was one I really wanted to read, but wasn't going to be able to buy for 3 months. It felt like God was really seeing me and saying, "see? I got you. I'm with you." Also, thanks to an incredible deal over at schoola.com, I ended up with $500 in credit to spend on clothes for me and Xav. Yeah, what!? Originally I planned on waiting until July to start spending the credit, after the Contentment Challenge ended, but then I found it expired so I went ahead and used it. I got an entire new wardrobe practically, and got clothes for Xav in the next 3 sizes, for FREE. An incredible blessing. And I'm not saying that God will reward your obedience in giving up shopping by sending free books or shopping credits your way. But I DO think he loves to show us how lavishly He loves us, whatever that might look like in your particular life, if only we give Him the room to.

I do believe I'm walking away from this experience a changed woman. It took three months for me to see, really see, that stuff cannot and will not ever provide true and lasting joy. Gone are the days of feverishly researching every tiny purchase. I'm all for doing your research when it comes to big buys, that's just common sense, but the stakes get really high when you think whatever item you're about to buy holds the key to your happiness. It just doesn't! All the stuff that fills our houses, it's just stuff. It's going to fade and rip and break and wear through and the shine will dull. Meanwhile, the kingdom of God will remain as sparkly and wonderful and true as ever. 

So that's where I want to fix my eyes. On the kingdom of Jesus, instead of the Target aisles filled with Nate Berkus. I want to appreciate beautiful things not for their beauty in and of themselves, but because they reflect the beauty of our great and endlessly creative God. 

Most of all, I want to stay awake and aware of the wonder that is my life. My very ordinary life. I'm currently typing this wearing running shorts (that I've worn for the past three days) and a tshirt (that I also slept in last night), my very messy hair in a wild top knot (because the minute I turned on my curling iron, the baby woke up from his nap.) The dog is making a slobbery mess on the floor beneath my feet and my sweet baby boy just dumped out the entire paper recycling bin - his current favorite game. My life is not Pinterest perfection. It's not all curated for Instagram. It's not straight from the pages of a magazine. But it is beautiful. It is grace-filled. It is good.

It is good, and I am content.