Category: faith

We are not alone.

Dear friends, we are not the only ones wondering about how to shed the miasma of discontent. A venerable crew of bloggers have gone before us on this path. And since contentment can be so #contagious, let’s consider what others have learned & shared!

Start everyday by offering praise to the Lord.  Sometimes we can get focused on expressing our needs to God instead of just giving thanks. Find a way to include the entire family in a daily habit of gratitude and cultivating contenment. Use meals times or bedtimes to say and record your blessings as a family.”  ~Denise In Bloom

Sarah Sandel, at Sarah Writes, blogged a 31-day series about A Contented Heart. In her Day 5 post, these words brought me to tears:

“I do not wish to fling platitudes in your face or minimize your pain & weariness. I know this these things, I have felt these things, I have my own shares of not-enough more often than I like. So hear what is True and Good when I say: your feelings are not always accurate indicators of reality. There is a deep truth to contentment in Christ that does not change with your circumstances. “I have learned to be content” does not happen on the mountaintop, but in the low, low valley where Christ becomes all. He does not become all here in that He was not all before, but in the valley we begin to see what always ways, if we will allow Him to reveal it: that Christ Jesus is all, is sufficient, is enough for weary, aching heart and the wounds we are bandaging. He is enough.”

That is a good word, right there. Go read alllllll her entries. Soak it up.

Keri shares one of my favorite Psalms in her reflection on contentment over at Growing In His Glory and then remarks:

We must trust that the Lord will provide exactly what we need, when we need it. Like a baby, we may clamor for more “milk,” but as our souls are sanctified, that rooting will eventually cease. Then, we will become content with whatever the Lord supplies.”

 

And there are heavy hitters. Nancy Leigh DeMoss, from Revive Our Hearts Ministries has a whole “Cultivating A Contented Heart” series both in print & audio, which you can stream or download.  Ann Voskamp, as you might expect, contributes words of wisdom and grace. Carl Richards weighs in over at The New York Times, and Glennon Doyle Melton pens her insights at the Momastery.

Click a few links this morning and ponder. It’s my prayer that the words of one of these authors will touch your heart and help you catch the germ. Contentment is part of God’s plan for you, and gosh: it just feels really good. It’s delightful to be delighted in whatever life-stage you’re in… with whomever shares your life… at whatever work you are doing… with just the things you

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{Welcome back! Have you read the first few posts in this series? You can get caught up here. Go ahead: I’ll be right here when you get back.}

When I was in 9th grade, I attended a Christian summer camp. It was a formative life experience – not only because I met my dearest friend, Sean (remind me to tell y’all that story sometime) or because I learned awesome songs with killer motions– but because of a camp counselor named Thea.

After I’d gone back home, Thea and I wrote letters for a few months. At some point, I must have been complaining about my miserable, difficult, terrible (no it wasn’t, not at all) life… as 14 year old girls are wont to do. In her return missive, Thea sent me this gem, scrawled in bubbly script with blue ink on college-ruled notebook paper:

Thea Message

Her words have floated before my eyes over and over again throughout the last twenty years. God bless her; she likely didn’t know how deeply she would impact me! It’s just such a valuable truth. We are all, as Christians, told to serve others with love.

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
~Galatians 5:13

As Thea pointed out, when we are actively engaged in helping someone else, our hands and minds are too busy to “feel sorry for ourselves.” In other words, we shrug off the shroud of discontentment when we dig in to do good for another person.

Why might this be? Well, I certainly believe there’s a spiritual component. I believe that God blesses us when we keep His commands, and service is one of the things Jesus taught his followers about more than once. I believe that God desires for His children to be at peace – to be content – and He wants to give us unshakeable peace that isn’t dependent on our circumstances.

”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

In His wisdom, God built these physical bodies for us, too. Last year, researchers published a neat study demonstrating the link between service and good health. Okay, now, I realize that there are no guarantees in this world – you may volunteer, serving with all your heart, and still get hit by a bus. But I think it’s beautiful that when we help others, the benefit to us isn’t just mental or spiritual; our physical bodies are rejuvenated, too. It’s “good for you” in every sense of the phrase to put your hands to work on behalf of someone else.

I understand WHY I should serve… what I don’t understand is HOW I can serve.
Fair enough, you say. There are lots of good reasons to

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ContagiousContentment

My friend Carla is such a blessing. She’s the first Owensboroan I ever met, and the way we were introduced was such a fun little hug from God. She was the smiling, friendly reassurance that I would “find my tribe” here!  Not only do I love hanging out with her at playdates and small group, but I also love, love, LOVE her online presence. She has “caught” the contentment contagion, and today I’m pleased to have her guest posting here with her thoughts on encouraging our children to have contented hearts!

—————-

Michelle challenged me to write a post about contentment to link up to the wonderful series she has going on contentment.  She said she thought it would go well with my year of Embrace as well as my 2,014 Items in 2014 posts.  I heartily accepted the challenge right away knowing exactly which direction I would go with the post.   We’ve been struggling for a few months now with helping Katie feel content with what she has and I’ve sorta been cranky about it lately.  There’s nothing like a blog post to help you sort through your thoughts and help you see a situation from multiple angles.  But before I begin to pick the age appropriate splinter from my daughter’s 4 year old eye, let me work on digging that old plank out of my own!

I held onto a lot of things as a child. I saved every card, letter, school paper, etc.  My closet was piled high with memento tubs.  Surely my children would love to see the “A” I got on a vocabulary quiz in second grade!  I also held very sentimental attachments to certain toys.  I had a pet net and a pet chain decorating my room.  If I ever put one of my favorite dolls on either rather than in my bed with me, I felt the weight of their eyes staring at me in sadness.  I literally couldn’t sleep until I rescued them from their cages.  I identified quite well with sweet Andy at the end of Toy Story 3 and I may or may not have cried when Woody and Buzz watched their owner drive off into the sunset.  To be completely honest, several of the toys we have in the playroom today were mine as a child.  I’m even guilty of gifting vintage Barbies to Katie for Christmas last year!

How appropriate it is, indeed, that my little Katie loves all things Toy Story.  Here we are years later and a new generation is finding all those sweet pieces of childhood difficult to part with.  I’m sure Katie senses pressure to let go of things because I haven’t always been as gentle as I should be about suggesting we let go of a few toys.  I suppose in many ways I’m hoping that we can guide our daughters to be less attached and sentimental to objects than we were as kids.

In an effort to meet Katie where

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{Welcome! I’m in the midst of a series of posts about contentment. It all started here, and I wrote about the first building block here.}

IMG_4161

Have you ever watched a toddler build with wooden blocks?  Left to her own devices, a toddler will probably start by grabbing a couple of blocks, licking them, and banging them together.  When a big person gets involved, he demonstrates this magical property blocks have: stackability! The toddler is amazed! She watches as her sibling or daddy or babysitter stacks one after another, that tower rising further and further into the air… and then she gleefully knocks it over, and starts trying to build her own tower.

Hopefully, friends, this series will work that ‘magic’ for you. Maybe you have one or two of these building blocks laying around already, and you’ve begun to see how they feel in your life. Maybe you haven’t tried stacking them up the way I did. Since you’re not a toddler, I don’t expect that you’re going to come try to kick down MY tower of blocks; but perhaps you’ll consider building your own!

Not long after those lessons in submission, God started showing me how ungrateful I could be sometimes. This wasn’t anything new in my life, I suppose I should admit. As far back as I can remember, say 10 or 11 years old, my daddy used to jokingly call me a Serpent-Toothed Child:

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth
it is to have a thankless child!”
~Shakespeare, King Lear

(You know, for years and years, I thought that was in the Bible? Turns out it’s from the Bard instead.) Nevertheless, when my lack of gratitude reared its ugly head from time to time, showing up as entitlement here and disrespect there, Dad would let me know I was being an “STC.”

Years later, when I was a sophomore in college, my mother sent me a VHS tape of “Madame Blueberry: A Lesson in Thankfulness.” If you haven’t seen it, you can watch a clip at the link, but in short: it’s the tale of a blue (sad) blueberry who is dismayed when she sees all the STUFF she doesn’t have. When she meets a child who is thankful for the simple things in life, Madame B realizes how wrong her priorities were.

My mom knew that, even at 18, I loved those singing vegetables. And she was concerned that I wasn’t always grateful for the life I led. I certainly did have so much for which to be thankful. Her care package was a gentle reminder to take my focus off my {real or imagined} “have-nots” and put my focus back where it belonged.

Gratitude is life-changing. Focus-shifting. Re-centering.

Gratitude Contentment

If you are in the midst of the hardest circumstance of your

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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