The lovely Nancy of Nancy Ray Photography is back to chat with us about contentment. It may just be me, but a new year means I’d like to throw out all my old clothes and things…but then replace them with new ones. Monday we talked about purging and yesterday we talked about creating an inspiring space. Today is all about fighting that urge to replace it with just STUFF for the sake of having stuff.
Hi friends! Nancy Ray here. I’m so grateful to share a theme that God has been teaching me this past year, and He hasn’t stopped burning it into my spirit. It’s a lesson on contentment – and what it truly, truly looks like to be content. Earlier this year, I learned a hard lesson. Like, really hard. I looked in the mirror and really didn’t like what I saw – someone who was a slave to stuff, plain and simple.
I learned that I relied too heavily on things for my happiness: the latest nail polish trend, a new sweater, 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 have a happy marriage, a wonderful home, a business I love, money in the bank, my health, a church I love… 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 __________.” (Blank = cute material item.)
At that point, God placed the Contentment Challenge on my heart: a challenge to give up shopping for 3 months. Extreme? Maybe. Beneficial? Absolutely.
I gave up unnecessary spending the months of April, May, and June of 2013. That of course does not include needs (groceries, medicine, etc) or gifts for others (birthdays, etc), but it did include clothing, decorations, accessories, and any “stuff” that fed my materialism. I did not allow myself to purchase anything for ME, which was hard, but good.
I decided it was time to replace stuff with a content, fulfilled life that included a lot of the following:
Quality time with those you love.
Being a good steward of your finances.
Giving stuff and money to those who need it.
Being thankful right where you are.
It was hard, y’all. There were some things I really, really wanted. I felt that little toddler inside of me screaming, “But I waaaant it!” on a regular basis. Then, I just stopped going to Target. I didn’t stop by Anthropologie every time I was in the area… I just kept on driving. I didn’t check my favorite online stores for deals during work hours. (Which I used to do. Shameful.)
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 waste time online looking for deals. 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), and how I was spending my time (date nights with Will, exercising, 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 money away to those in need, which was so rewarding! 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. 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, a depleted spirit and an empty bank account.
Friends, it was a game changer for me. It was hard, but it changed me. Doing the Contentment Challenge took hold of those bad habits and changed them for good. Hear me out – it was one of the best decisions I made in 2013, and I encourage you to do the the Contentment Challenge if you need to. Only you can decide to change.
I can honestly say I am now living a fulfilled, content life. I am free.
This post is a part of the FRESH START series. A three-week series to get you ready for 2014. Each week will have a different theme, mind, home and body.