The Battle for Contentment

We talked about the Biblical aspect of self-control and God’s role here, so today we are talking about our role. Sometimes, I leave it all up to God because I know He is the one who changes hearts and transforms me. This passage that I shared in the previous post has been so powerful to remind me that I have a role too though.

As the Hebrews were promised the land, but had to take it by force, one town at a time, so we are promised the gift of self-control, yet we also must take it by force.” Source

It is so funny how God works. I started the Contentment Challenge (started by Nancy Ray!) on February 1. I was hoping it would teach me about contentment and spending less. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I have a shopping problem. You may not find me out and about at the mall every week but online shopping is a struggle for me. I shop for things I THINK I need for a successful business, to help me stay organized, to motivate me to work out, the list goes on. And having a business account means I can look picture perfect to my husband because I NEVER buy clothes with our personal account. At the end of the year, this miscellaneous category that cannot be written off as a business expense is technically considered my income. This makes me cringe!! I would never spend the amount of money I spend on clothes and other items if it were transparent to my husband as the number I see in this category. Just being honest here.

As I’ve researched this whole self-control issue and started this contentment challenge, I have come to tie the two together.  If our hearts are content, we don’t need these things that we indulge in without thinking. Imagine being OK or dare I say happy without the things that currently so easily tangle us and are the whole reason for us needing to learn self-control.

So what is this Contentment Challenge? You may remember me having Nancy Ray share a guest post on the topic last year but here are the basics: 

No shopping for 3 months for anything but necessities: no clothes, no home goods while strolling through Target, etc. Instead putting that energy into enjoying life’s little pleasures that God brings instead of things, giving away clothes and reading inspiring books. Books I am reading during the Contentment Challenge: Profit First, 7 and The Fringe Hours. I would also recommend The Hole in the Gospel, Margin168 Hours and Love, Skip, Jump.

thanks1To prepare:

1. I read all of Nancy’s posts on Contentment Challenge to get inspired and motivated. Here is a round up of all of them. I even read posts written by other people who were doing the challenge. I found it super encouraging and really helped me get psyched up about doing the challenge.

2. I journaled on the first day to prepare my heart and to really commit. I didn’t want to say a month from now that it just kind of fizzled out because I didn’t REALLY say I was going to do a whole three months. I also wanted to be able to look back on it at the end to see where I had come from. 

3. I am spending more time in my Gratitude Journal as well. I think this will keep me focused on all I do have which makes for a content heart.

4. I unsubscribed from every Gap email and all the other ones too. I used Even if you have done this in the past, it may be time to do again. Getting emails saying I had GapCash to spend was sooo tempting. I like to think I’m smart enough to know these are marketing ploys, but I still get hooked! It’s the fear of missing out rearing it’s ugly head. Unsubscribing was harder than I thought. What if I need to buy something and I miss a good deal?? And don’t get me started with Likeittoknowit. I’m still getting over this one. 

I can tell you I am already learning so much! Here were some thoughts from Day 1:

1. I love how limitations force creativity. The weather was warmer than usual and though my winter wardrobe is fine, my warmer wardrobe for my current figure (which is not exactly the same as last summer) is not great. Day 1 and I already was thinking, I need to get new clothes! I ended up finding something new to pair together. And ironically, it started raining while we were walking in to church. I got pretty soaked and was quickly reminded, had I had on the perfect new outfit, I would have been just as drenched and probably bummed.

2. I noticed my limitations with my wardrobe have lowered my expectations for how I dressed. Knowing spending is possible means there is always this subconscious higher standard to achieve. And if you have money to spend, you are always striving for it. When you can’t spend the money, you just kind of decide it doesn’t matter. No more striving. I’m OK wearing the same thing over and over again. It has been incredibly freeing.

3. I want to live free. The sermon title for today, this Day 1 of my challenge was Unshackled. How incredibly fitting. I tell y’all, God is hitting me at all angles with this message of a life of freedom that can only come when THINGS are not my answer.

I am now on Day 20 and I have definitely seen a shift in my thought process. I had to buy Vivi a few things because she is growing like a weed. There were necessities BUT hopping online to buy “necessities” is normally my gateway drug to buying the cute white keds I just noticed, or maybe a bathing suit and a much pricier paid of PJs than were really necessary. As I mentioned yesterday, online shopping is my weakness and the few necessities in my cart would have justified all my purchases. This time at checkout, I deleted 4 things from my cart. It was sad. (She would have looked so cute in the keds.) But so liberating. I didn’t need to buy them to be happy. And that made me VERY happy! 

I can’t wait to keep sharing about what I learn over the next three months. If you are anything like me, you might read this and think it sounds cool, but doesn’t really fit your season/lifestyle/personality/etc. This was me the first time I heard about it. I was pregnant and by golly (can I pull off saying ‘by golly’?), I had things to shop for. Vivi is 16 months old now so I thought it was time to stop making excuses. This lesson will be waiting for us to learn until we learn it so don’t put it off like I did! I regret not starting earlier (because who ever regretted learning to love things less?) but I’m so glad I have started. I’d love you for to join me so we can encourage each other through it!!

Leave a Comment!!

  • These last two posts have challenged me so much! Thank you for your transparency. I am in a season where I am trying so very hard to honor the budget that my husband has set. I have a little one who is 7 months old and soon, spring will be here. This time, last year, I was pregnant, so did not purchase “normal” clothes. I try to justify purchases by telling myself (and my husband) “I need this because…” OR “she needs this because its just too cute!” The past two weeks I have been praying and trying to change my mindset that it is OK to wear things over and over and over. Who really cares anyway?! Confession, I sometimes dress to impress. You have helped me realize, I too can benefit so much from Nancy Ray’s Contentment Challenge in this season of my life. God is working on me.

    P.S. I got a prayer journal this year as a Christmas gift. It has changed my prayer life!! 🙂

  • Ah! I love this post Val! Sooooo good and your honestly is the best! Because it is so true and so me too! I haven’t decided if I am going to do the challenge yet, I am also a follower of Nancy’s blog and my husband and I are actually doing Dave Ramsey’s plan right now to become debt free, so in a way I am kind of doing it but I would love to fully commit! Being a photographer in Michigan, I’m usually ‘laid off’ in the winter months (which I do enjoy lol) but the money no longer is flowing in so its always an adjustment because then too, my husband see’s my purchases! Yikes! haha … So I’m in the same boat! I have a hard time seeing other bloggers blog their kids rooms, clothes, houses, and thinking I want/need that same outfit for my little man too! But I hope to continue to follow these inspiring girls and just find my own contentment verses cutting their blogs out. If that makes sense. Need to find that contentment though. AND also being pregnant again, I try to make most of my clothes work … but loved this little reminder! 😉 Thanks Val! I feel like I can relate with pretty much every single one of your posts/instagrams! xoxo -Leah

  • This is great. Good luck with the Challenge! I did it last year for three months at the beginning of the year and again the last four months of the year. I honestly found the first two months easy and then the last month was difficult. Then afterwards, I went and spent too much money on unnecessary stuff, and felt so guilty. I hadn’t REALLY changed because I typically do most of my shopping late Spring and in June. (I went back in my credit card bills and found that out). Over the summer I found the Greater Than Rubies blog ( and her approach to remixing clothing and “breaking up with shopping” theory really hit home with me. I decided that I didn’t need to buy any more clothes and so I didn’t for the last four months of 2014. I wrote out why I was doing it and what my boundaries were – Kindle books are ok once/month – clothing was not okay, etc. I did spend money/gift cards I received for Christmas. This second time I did it, it really stuck with me!

    I now approach my closet and Pinterest in such a different way. Instead of oooh I love that outfit, where did it come from, I think oooh I have a shirt similar to that, maybe I could pair it with that skirt instead of my jeans? It has honestly been revolutionary for my closet, me, and my wallet! And I’m finding that by putting outfits together that I am inspired by instead of buying clothes that they are wearing has allowed me to begin to find my personal style.

    This year for 2015, I am focusing on simplifying. I am only going to buy 12 new items of clothing all year, including shoes and jewelry. I have already purchased a chambray shirt (classic piece) and am looking to add some white jeans soon. Replacing items such as worn out gym sneakers or a hole in my classic black work sweater do not count since I do need them. Also, my husband and I have set a “play money” budget for me each month which includes meals with my girlfriends, purchases for our house, presents for others, beauty products, and my clothing purchases. So far I am enjoying it, but I never could have done any of it without first going through two Contentment Challenges and changing my mindset.

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  • Thank you so much for sharing this, Val! It is such an encouragement and is really great to see other people fighting to stay content. I find myself struggling with that everyday and keep thinking “if I could just have this one item, then I’ll be fine”, but of course that never worked.

    So, thank you for being honest and sharing your journey with us. Your posts are a huge source of encouragement to me as I am doing the Contentment Challenge as well!