THE CONTENTMENT CHALLENGE

Hey friends! Happy Monday! It is quite the Monday around here as I start my second round of whole30, finish out a month of doing Pilates everyday (or mostly every day), and gear up to join Nancy Ray in her Contentment Challenge starting on Friday!

I'll be honest: not shopping or splurging on extras for three months straight scares me. What if that (insert thing everyone seems to have) isn't available anymore once the challenge ends? What if it goes on sale and I miss a good deal? What if I really, really want it? What if I miss out?

But to be more honest, the struggle with contentment is one that runs DEEP for me. I've been wrestling it for months and months, or even years, it feels like. And I've thought about doing this no-shopping-for-three-months challenge before, but I always talk myself out of it, only to have God nudge me in that direction again. I really feel like He is asking me to do this - to be faithful and obedient, and to seek my true contentment in HIM alone.

So, I'm doing it! For the months of April, May and June I'm giving up shopping. Giving up Starbucks. Giving up running to Qdoba because I'm lazy and don't feel like cooking the dinner I planned. Giving up browsing on Etsy "just to look." It's going to be hard, I have no doubt about that. But dangit, I'm ready to break free of these materialism chains. I want my soul to rest in Christ alone, and not my closet.

There's a few things I'm doing to prepare for The Contentment Challenge, so I wanted to share them with you here! I'm definitely learning that preparation is the key for success in anything, so here's how I'm preparing to be successful and steadfast with this no-shopping thing:

  • Unsubscribe from store emails. As soon as I get an email from a store, I hit "unsubscribe." You can also use unroll.me. I definitely don't need to be tempted with LOFT's annual sale while I'm trying to keep my eyes on Jesus.
  • Recycle store mailers as soon as they come. How do these people even get my addres?! The catalogs from West Elm and Anthropologie and Boden are going straight to the recycle bin before I can turn their pages filled with beautiful goods.
  • Unfollow Instagram accounts. Y'all, this is a hard one for me, especially the small, handmade shops I love. But to have their beautiful goods constantly in front of my eyeballs, filling me with discontent, spells trouble for success with this challenge. I went through and unfollowed a bunch of accounts yesterday. I want Instagram to be a place to be uplifted and encouraged, not a place where I scroll endlessly wishing I could buy x, y and z.
  • Plan for a hobby or something to fill your time. Matt and I are picking up a jogging stroller we scored off Craigslist tonight, and I'm taking up running again! I'm really excited about it. I also plan to read a bunch and play more board games with Matt in the evenings, rather than stare at Pinterest for things I can't buy.
  • Swear off "window shopping" and Pinterest. This goes with recycling those store mailers and unfollowing Instagram accounts I suppose, but I'm swearing off online window shopping for the next three months. So often, I find myself searching Amazon or browsing Etsy "just to see." I always wind up with things in my online cart that I think I need, then have to delete them all from my cart because they aren't in the budget, then feel sad that we "can't afford them" even though I was equal partner is establishing the budget in the first place. It's ridiculous!
  • Keep a list. I plan to keep a list of things I think I want or need during these three months. If, at the end of the three months, I still feel it's a need or something I REALLY want (that is in the budget), I'll consider buying it then. The reality is that I am fortunate to have all my ACTUAL needs met. Food, water, clothing, shelter, transportation. Anything else is just extra, and I can sit on those decisions for a few months and survive the wait. It's good for me.
  • Read a convicting book. I'm re-reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess again and plan to read 1-2 other books on the same topic. This particular book ROCKED me when I read it a couple years ago, and I'm excited to read it again within the context of this challenge.
  • Practice gratitude. I used to be really diligent in keeping a gratitude journal, but that habit has fallen by the wayside. I'm going to refocus on counting my blessings - by literally numbering them in a journal - as a means of fostering contentment. When I have eyes of gratitude to see everything I ALREADY have, I don't desire new/more/better stuff as much.
  • Keep it Christ-centered. This should be number one, but the biggest thing I'm doing is focusing on the REASON for this shopping break: to fix my eyes on Jesus. I'm purchasing Nancy's Contentment e-book and devotional and will be praying HARD for Jesus to bring revival and growth in this area of my life. As with anything, it's the WHY that matters. Why do I want to give up shopping for three months? Because I want to break the chains that bind me to my material goods, I want freedom from the fear of missing out and I don't want to continue to be filled with envy over what other people have.

So that's that! I'm excited, scared and mostly hopeful to break my shopping addiction and find my contentment in Jesus. Are any of you joining Nancy (and me, I guess!) in the challenge? Let me know, I'd love to help stay accountable with you! xoxo!

pregnancy + body image

I was always the skinny girl. Always. In high school while my friends were counting calories and obsessing over jeans sizes, I was eating two Snickers bars on the way to soccer practice. I have never owned a scale. I don't even know how many calories a day a person is supposed to eat - I've always just eaten what I want, when I want, and have never had the experience of it affecting my weight. I've always been athletic, fit and had a very high metabolism. The toned abs. The thigh gap. Smalls and extra smalls, please. The size two jeans. I've always been skinny. And then I got pregnant.

And for the first time in my 25 years on this earth, I hated my body. I hated looking in the mirror. I hated all of my clothes. I honestly didn't want to leave the house some days, because I couldn't stand the extra weight I was carrying on my 5'3" frame. I felt guilty about eating the ice cream because I didn't want to gain even more weight than I needed to, but in the end always chose it anyway because what was the point, the body I loved so much was long gone. Why even bother eating healthy? I'd still continue to get bigger. I'd cringe when stepping on the scale at the OB appointments. My perception of my body was so skewed, and my self-confidence, something I'd never struggled with, tanked because of it.

Working out became less of an enjoyable activity, and something I had to do instead. I walked out of every barre class, not feeling strong or capable, but fat and slow. I wanted to tell all the toned, beautiful girls in class that I used to look like them. It mattered so much to me that people knew what I used to look like. That they knew that I used to be skinny.

I'd scroll through Instagram and catch sight of someone's 3-month postpartum update photo, and burst into tears. I've unfollowed a lot of wonderful, motivational people - not because of anything they're doing (power to you, mamas!) but because of the refinement needed in my own heart. When I'm obsessing over the beauty I see in someone else, it's impossible to see beauty in myself.

Matt told, and still tells, me every single day how beautiful I am. That he loves how I look pregnant. And I can tell they aren't empty words, I can see the sincerity in his eyes. But for those first few months, it went in one ear and out the other. How could I be beautiful? I wasn't skinny anymore.

And that's the crux of it. Skinny. If you'd asked me a year ago how much my size mattered to me, I would have laughed and said it didn't matter at all. If you had asked me if I thought being skinny was important, I would have said absolutely not. But it's clear to me now, having watched my body grow and soften and blossom and change over the last 8 months, how much of my life has been spent glorifying skinny, without me even realizing it. Because I was "blessed" to be skinny my whole life. Because people have always told me how lucky I am. Because I can always find things in my size. Those subliminal messages, they sink in. They sink in and they grow roots and that's how you find yourself harboring life itself, and unable to see the beauty in it.

But God. But God makes all things new. God swooped in and picked me up out of that mess, and has gently and slowly set me on a new path. A new path of healing and health. A journey of seeing myself the way he sees me. You know what? God doesn't own a scale either. Or a tape measure or a means of measuring your BMI. God simply says I made you. I love you. You are mine.

It's not been an easy road, for sure. It's taken a lot of work in my heart and in my head. Repeating affirmations to myself every single day. Literally, every day. You are beautiful. You are providing everything your baby needs. You are already such a good mom. You are sheltering life itself. You are a vessel for this divine soul, this soul that was made in the image of Jesus. You are strong. You are loved. Sometimes out loud, and sometimes in my head, but I have to tell myself these things every single day. And when I start to veer down the dangerous road of comparison, I sit down and make a list. A list of all the physical things I love about my body RIGHT NOW. Not the things I loved pre-pregnancy. Not the things I hope to love again. Right now, this very moment. I bet you could make a list of 25 things you absolutely love your body, too. We're just so trained to see the negative instead of the positive. There's been a lot of re-training needed in my life. And I know what you're probably thinking, because I've been hearing it this whole pregnancy. That I'm still small. That I still look good. That I have nothing to complain about. But those sentiments don't mean a thing until you believe them yourself. And anyone, anyone, can struggle with unhealthy body image and a disordered perception of themselves, regardless of what people on the outside think. And I did. Despite all the Instagram comments and people telling me how tiny I was. I simply couldn't see what they supposedly saw. I still can't, somedays. But I'm getting there.

I still catch myself thinking about life after the baby is born, and in my mental pictures I'm immediately a size two again, with rock-hard abs and a normal bra size (I'm probably in the minority, but I'm hugely not a fan of the increased décolletage). And I have to rewind, start over. Imagine a new photo, a simpler one. A healthy baby, a healthy me, a picture where size doesn't matter.

When I first found out we were expecting, I sort of wondered why it needed to take 9 months. I mean obviously I know all the science of how babies grow, but I wondered why God made it that way. Why did we really have to spend 3/4 of a year on this? Couldn't we get a fast-track version by now? It's becoming more clear every day - it's not just about the baby's growth. It's about the growth needed in every other part of my life. It's a time for learning to surrender your expectations and ideas, laying down your selfishness and pride and learning to love as the Father does, which I think is what parenthood is all about.

I never would have chosen to gain 30+ pounds and lose almost everything I loved about my body. But it's only through this process that I've been able to surrender parts of myself and my life that I could never surrender before. I've spent a lot of time putting stock in how I look, and finding my worth there. But I'm starting to get a glimpse of what it could look like to place my value on who I am in Jesus, and finding my worth solely in being a Daughter of the King instead. And I'll tell you what, the grass looks a whole lot greener on this side.

summer living

manifesto-01  

In honor of the first official day of summer this past weekend, I thought I'd share a new seasonal tradition we started here at Keinsley HQ: the season's manifesto. I was so inspired by Natalie at Natalie Creates and her summer fun list, so Matt and I spent an evening last week grilling out and making our own! Summer in central Indiana is HOT. It's sticky and muggy, which is the perfect excuse to jump in the lake at every opportunity and move slower than normal. As we were writing this list and really thinking through how we want to live this summer, that thought kept coming to mind. I want to live slow these next few months. Breathe deeply, drink in the summer air. Savor the hours and hours of daylight. I want to be really intentional about how we fill our days and weekends this summer and build in plenty of time for REST, for play, for restoring our souls. So without further ado, here is our manifest for how we want to live, what we want to do and experience and try, during this summer 2014!

pick strawberries  // lake days often // play with Scout more // spend tons of time outside // bike rides // go hiking // brew beer // Indians game // sleep in // eat outside whenever possible // camp! // more polaroids, less instagram // canoe or kayak the White River // social media-free weekends // concerts in the park // shop local // read good books // host a cookout // grill steaks // symphony on the prairie // wakeboard // conserve energy // take a road trip 

breath deeply. live simply. move slowly.

It's been such a good summer already. I'm so excited to see the rest of it unfold!

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may goals

photo-15 Happy MAY! My favorite month, tied with October. How can you not love May? It's always the busiest month, a whirlwind of graduations, bridal showers, First Communions, Confirmations, the Indy 500, the start of outdoor concert season, the start of boating season. It's easy to get caught up in the overwhelm, until you take a step back and realize that, while incredibly busy, your weekends are full of celebration after celebration. It's the best! Plus, it all leads up to my birthday at the very end of the month, and I love love love it!

So many of my fave bloggers and ladies post their monthly goals on their little internet corner each month, and I always find myself inspired and encouraged by them. So I thought, why not jump on the bandwagon and start doing it myself! I got into a bit of groove in April, finding systems and things that are working well for me, so I want to continue to build on that through this month, as well.

What's working well: 

  • Scheduling blocks of time in my Google Cal for specific tasks, such as emailing, invoicing, and working on major projects. Something about having it locked into my calendar like that really helps me focus on just that one task and get it done
  • Being intentional about purchases. I have a ways to go in this department and one of my biggest goals in May touches on this idea, but overall I spent a lot less on impulse buys in April. Proud of that!
  • Getting up early!
  • Making time to get ready in the morning and put together a real outfit. I am so much more productive and in much better spirits when I take the time to present myself well...even if the only person I'm presenting to all day is me!

Goals for May:

  • Finish my capsule wardrobe planning and make a concrete, realistic list of the pieces I need. Commit to not buying any other clothing items that aren't on that list NO MATTER HOW CUTE (this is going to be HARD, guys.)
  • No "stuff" purchases this month. Aside from the handful of clothing pieces to finish my capsule wardrobe, I'm committing to not buying any things through this month. Dinner out with friends is okay, gas and groceries and gifts for others are okay. I've been really captivated by this idea of the contentment challenge and want to discover the freedom from things.
  • stay on the #lampandlight scripture challenge and continue to make time to read through Proverbs and journal with my new VMP prayer journal
  • focus on clean eating and not giving in to quick-fix meals...I am starting to feel the effects of all the junk my body is not wired to handle building up and it's the worst. Keeping in mind that, while its tough, avoiding dairy and gluten is to honor the way God made me and focus on that perspective instead of the "rules" and "restrictions."
  • prioritize workouts and make the most of that barre studio membership!
  • Date night with Matthew...even if that means cooking at home and reading the blessing jar.
  • finish the back patio project

And there you have it! This month is already off to a hectic but such great start...here's to conquering goals and focusing on progress over perfection. XO!