Category: faith

BuildingBlocks
{Note: I’m kind of bemoaning the fact that I made this the first building block. I do heartily believe it’s of utmost importance, but this is a loaded word even in Christian circles, and I’m a little bit afraid to post my thoughts out where everyone can see them. I’m pressing “publish” with prayers that you’ll read with an open mind – and if you disagree, please share your heart. Tell me where you see it differently.}

So. This came as a bit of a shock to me, but: apparently, I’m more of a traditionalist than I thought.

I didn’t start out that way! I was 21 when I got married, and even though I could probably have given a well-thought-out speech defining submission within the context of Christian marriage, the truth is that I wasn’t living it out. It took me years – close to ten YEARS – to see where my error lay.

My old pattern was to talk (and talk and talk and talk) my way into convincing my husband that what WE wanted to do was what I wanted to do. If we had a big decision to make, I could debate and argue until I was blue in the face. My strong verbal skills coupled with my innate stubbornness created a monster. His typically-male need for more time to mentally gear up for an argument coupled with his laid-back personality created a conflict-avoidant tendency to agree with whatever I was arguing for simply to end the conversation. And so I gave myself the comforting delusion that the way I approached him WAS a valid expression of submission.

I’m entitled to express my opinion! I told myself. He gets to make the final decision. The buck stops with him. I’m not going around spending money or making time commitments behind his back. It’s just that I’m usually on the “right side” of the decision…  so once I present my case, he just can’t help but see the light and agree with my brilliant insight into the situation. I’m not only a great example of ‘submission,’ but DUDE, I’m the help-meet-iest wife ever!

When I finally looked at my habit with clear eyes and an open heart, I saw that I was manipulating many situations. I was exactly the opposite of submissive – I was being controlling, and what’s worse, I was being passive-aggressive about it.

We had to learn a better way to communicate so that we could put God’s plan for relationships into effect. For my side, I had to learn to share my opinion {just} once. And then I have to stop talking. That part is REALLY, really hard for me! But it’s crucial. My husband is the kind of guy who prefers to gather all his information (which is usually my opinion, some research or data pertinent to the decision at hand, possibly the opinion of others

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ContagiousContentment

I have realized recently how much deeper my state of contentment has grown over the past few years. Some of that is due, I’m sure, to the fact that our life has gotten easier (by many measures) since the end of Chris’ residency. I struggled more with finding contentment when I was worried about paying our bills all the time. So in that regard, feel free to ignore everything I say on this matter. Maybe, a little voice in the back of my head nags, I’m only content because our finances have improved. Maybe I don’t have a right to speak on this matter at all, it says, because I’ve certainly not mastered it!

But then, on the other hand: I know there are people whose income dwarfs ours, who do not feel content. And my inner sense of satisfaction and happiness is so much broader than only being content with the stuff we have. So I think it would be unwise and unfair to say that’s the only thing which impacted my level of contentment. A different little voice – this one from somewhere deeper inside than just the back of my head – tells me that I can speak from where I stand. So from the very start, let me be plain: I know I’m not at the end of this long road! But I’m further down the path than I used to be, so I want to share what I’ve learned so far and encourage you if you’re walking this way.

Here’s what I know for sure. I’m full of hope that one day, I can state with Paul:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13

I think that most Christians, if we’re honest with ourselves, feel a little intimidated by this passage. The Apostle Paul has been arrested, jailed, and mistreated and can still proclaim that he has learned to be content in all circumstances? Jeepers, mister, I get uncomfortable when I notice the neighbor’s new car (or grill, or playset, or well-behaved children). It’s easy to think that if we don’t have that unassailable level of smooth contentment now… we never will.

Throughout God’s Word, we hear the message of sanctifying and redeeming grace. As with other aspects of our character and inner life, contentment is a product of the Holy Spirit working within your heart and mind; it is not something we can force ourselves to have by the power of the will. A vague, simple wanting (I wish I could just be happy!) won’t generate deep contentment. You might be able to produce complacency all on your own! But for

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Socrates Contentment
We’re thinking about contentment, friends, and I find myself both challenged and inspired by thoughts like these. Do you have a favorite quotation or maxim about contentedness? Please share!
#ContagiousContentment

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This may be a strange thing to write about when a person finds herself in the middle of selling one house in order to buy a larger one. But I’ve had a few conversations lately which have turned my heart toward the notion of contentment, and I think it bears examination.

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further  than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.  –L Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Contentment, the feeling of satisfaction and happiness, can be such a fleeting emotion. Another way to frame the discussion about contentment is to take the negative approach: contentment is the absence of want, it is the lack of envy. There is peace in the circumstances of the moment. A content heart is cheerful and pleasant, just as it is.

ContagiousContentment

I’m going to devote my next few posts to gathering my own thoughts about contentment, rounding up the excellent viewpoints of bloggers and theologians, and sharing quotes and Scriptures that can inform the discussion.

Do you struggle with discontentment? Have you found a way through the struggle and landed in a place of peace? Join the conversation. Comment below or tweet @MichelleNebel  #contagiouscontentment.

 

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I’m a pray-er.whenYouPray

I pray popcorn prayers and breath prayers. I have prayed novenas and for a brief period of my college years, I prayed the rosary. I have prayed a Wesleyan chaplet and prayers to St. Peregrine. During our school year, I led my children in The Lord’s Prayer and ‘free’ prayer time every morning. I pray with lifted hands, I pray while dancing in my kitchen. I pray before I pull my car out of the driveway for a long car trip, I pray when I find myself stuck in Atlanta traffic. I pray for my friends and for people I’ve never met other than online. I pray on my knees, I pray in bed, I pray with my eyes open while I walk around the backyard with my family.

But today I did something new.

This morning, I prayed aloud, up on stage, in the midst of corporate worship. I felt the weight of the listening ears, and my heart thudded & my knees quaked. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray, because otherwise I am sure I wouldn’t have formed a coherent sentence.

I’m not afraid to pray out loud, even in a group, but praying during worship and on behalf of a whole congregation was scary!

A sweet friend texted me at 12:30 to say that her family, at lunch after the service, all agreed I had done a fine job up there. It was so kind of her, because I was feeling fairly mortified that I had probably repeated myself and not made a lick of sense.  It’s a relief to know that I did, apparently, put together rational subjects and verbs, and wasn’t an enormous stumbling block of confusion to the congregants standing in their rows.

And now I’m going to go and pray that my name won’t come up on THAT list again for a long time.

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Home staging is a big buzzword in real estate these days. You’ll hear about it on HGTV, and see it on the DIY network. Bloggers love to talk about staging, and it’s all over apps like Houzz and Pinterest.

If you haven’t dipped your toe in the staging waters, I’ll explain:

“Home Staging” is the act of turning a lived-in (or vacant) home into a neutral, appealing space for the purpose of attracting potential buyers. Home staging removes the personal touches of the current (or previous) occupants and creates a ‘blank slate’ where buyers can envision their own furniture, family, and life.

Home staging, my dears, is a pain in the butt. We’ve done some staging here – hid away the 5’x7′ rug to make the entry appear larger; slipcovered the ratty loveseat in our front room, tidied up the bookshelves (but a true home stager would make me pack 75% of those books and have ‘styled’ shelves); removed all the homeschool items, hung new curtains, and turned the schoolroom back into a dining room (but a real pro would probably make me create a faux ‘leaf’ to extend our dinky table and buy slipcovers for our ugly mismatched chairs). We reduced the items on the kitchen countertops (but if I were hardcore, it would be nothing but the KitchenAid and the Keurig!) and took most of the toys out of the family room (that room might pass ‘real’ muster, actually). Purged things from the kids’ rooms (again, probably a pass), but we didn’t change the office-slash-guest room (and a properly staged home has no dual purpose rooms. You’re supposed to pick one and make it shine!). Bought new handtowels for the powder room and hung the nicest towels in the other two bathrooms.

Living in a house which has been staged feels stilted. This is still my home, but it’s “off.” It’s like sitting in a nicely decorated hotel room. I feel awkward if I leave a dent in the sofa cushion. On the surface, it looks great – and it’s supposed to, that’s the point, for real estate purposes.

But today I was thinking about how many Christians are walking around fully staged. We are prepped and polished. We have packed away our unsightly clutter and mess – but it’s not really gone. We have hung up new curtains of humility, modesty, patience, grace – but there remains pride, greed, selfishness, anger.

We want to gleam and glow, and when others in the church ask how we’re doing, we give them our “listing” answer. (Four beautiful bedrooms! Gas fireplace! Eat-in-kitchen!) “I’m so blessed… Things are really busy, but we’re doing great….” I’m not saying that we’re being dishonest when we present these generic answers, exactly. After all, the houses on your local real estate market really DO have the features with the funny abbreviations: 4bd, FP, lg bkyd…. Right?

What I am saying, though, is that one of the functions of the body of Christ is to

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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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