How to Invite Contentment in Unfinished Conditions

Since buying our home in March, we’ve been renovating the place, and I’ve shared parts of our kitchen remodel story with you here on the blog. Through this process, I’ve discovered that unfinished things awaken my old enemy of perfectionism, disguised as “the next-thing” syndrome. It tries to steal the beauty of progress by running a to-do-list of unfinished tasks through my mind.

Wanting to get ahead and take ownership are positive traits, but there is a gray area where this “next-thing” mentality becomes a problem. It can encourage a subtle spirit of discontent and restlessness that distracts from “the main thing” that matters more.

Let’s go to God’s Word to find guiding practices for fighting “the next-thing” mentality.

Fight the “next-thing” mentality by remembering “the main thing.” @khogrefeparnell

Say No to Hurry

How do you respond to urgent matters? If you’re like me, I tend to drop everything and try to put out that fire and then have to figure out where I left off.

Don’t be like me. Be like Jesus instead. When He received an urgent message that His friend Lazarus was dying, He actually chose to delay his arrival, because He wanted to increase the faith of those with Him by performing a miracle (John 11:4).

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (John 11:5-7 NKJV).

Did you catch that? The wording here reveals that because Jesus loved this family, He waited to respond.

The truth is that we can better love people when we don’t hurry. Hurry breeds anxiety, forgetfulness, and a rushed spirit. Hurried actions suggest we need more and we need it now to be content. The focus is on ourselves, not others. On the flip side, intentional actions leave room for prayer and thoughtful preparation.

Granted, none of us is God. We don’t have the foresight to know that the situation will turn out all right as Jesus did. However, His example is still relevant for us. Instead of reacting like a reflex, we can pause and be intentional with our next steps. Doing so reveals consideration for others over ourselves.

Learn to be Present

Although Jesus performed wonderful miracles during His earthly ministry, He knew what His primary purpose was: “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NKJV). In Luke 18, He confides in His disciples that they must journey to Jerusalem so that He can fulfill “all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man” (Luke 18:31 NKJV).

Have you ever had a mission or task to fulfill? I’m not talking about dying to save the world like Jesus, but maybe you’ve had a deadline to meet, a ministry to manage, or a project to complete (*cough* like a kitchen renovation). In those times, I tend to get tunnel vision: focusing on the goal so much that I lose sight of my surroundings.

Even though Jesus had the literal weight of the world on His shoulders, He remained present. As He approached Jericho on the way to Jerusalem, He met a blind man who begged for mercy and for his sight to be restored.

Jesus didn’t tell Him, “Can’t you see I’m busy? I’m about my Father’s business and have to get to Jerusalem. You can’t even imagine the anguish I’m going to suffer. I’m going to die to save you. Isn’t that enough?”

No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Instead, He offered the gift of His presence to this needy man and met him right where he was.

Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42 NKVJ).

So too, we can offer the gift of being present to our families, friends, and even complete strangers in the middle of unfinished work. Instead of being task-focused, we can be present to love the people in our path.

Focus on What Matters More

We’ve already met Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, but I want to include another part of their story because it touches at the heart of “the next-thing” syndrome. At a different time, they were hosting Jesus in their home, but while Martha was slaving in the kitchen, Mary was no where to be found! Martha finally spotted her, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach.

Frustrated that all the work fell to her, Martha ratted out her sister to Jesus: “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40b NKJV).

Martha was so focused on the next thing that she was missing out on the main thing: Jesus was in her home, sharing His presence and wisdom with her family and their guests.

What if she had seen Mary, and instead of getting upset, realized that she herself was the one missing out? Maybe Martha would have pulled out the paper plates instead of the fine china so she could listen in too.

Remember the Reason

I really hope that one day, I’ll wake up a Mary, but I suspect I’ll be a Martha to the end. Hopefully, a reformed Martha. Let’s not be so consumed with the task that we forget the reason for it.

For me, that looks like welcoming people into my unfinished home and prioritizing community over perfection. For you, it might look like something completely different.

The bottom line is that we’re all works-in-progress in this journey to grow more like Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, God places these unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

God places unfinished tasks and projects in our path, not to make us discontent, but to remind us that we are to be about our Father’s business, not our own accomplishments.

Can you relate to the “next-thing” mentality? Which practice can help you fight it effectively today?

~ Kristen

I’m grateful this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

Everyone’s Going to Prom but Me

Have you ever complained or even silently whispered, “Everyone’s going to prom but me”?

“Uh, Kristen,” you say. “Prom season is over.”

To that, I reply, “You’re right. I’m not really talking about prom.”

Last week, I had the chance to catch up with one of my close friends for the first time in a while. She asked how marriage is treating me, and I told her we’re doing great. Life is just overwhelmingly busy, and I don’t have time to do all the things I want or think I should. Plus, I confessed that I need to get off social media. It just makes me feel “less than” when I see so many of my friends being absolute rock star writers, and I can barely scratch out a weekly blog post right now with all my college assignments piled on top of my teaching load.

“Oh, girl, I get it,” she said. “It’s like, Everyone’s going to prom but me.”

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you feel that way right now. I’ve got good news and better news, so grab your coffee and join me for a few minutes.

The good news: Prom is wonderful, but so is Netflix in your pajamas.

We focus too often on the glittering spotlight, the shimmering dresses, and the most sought-after dates. Okay, maybe we did or maybe we didn’t care that much about prom, but stay with me. Maybe you could care less about the limelight or best-dressed award, but do you crave that travel adventure, that real-life “forever” romance, that dream home, or that other seemingly unreachable goal? Ah, now we’re on the same page, right?

Maybe you spent prom night on the couch in your pajamas, because you didn’t have a date. Or maybe you were like me, a home-schooled tomboy who didn’t have the option to go to prom (and frankly, didn’t care).

However, I’ll confess I’ve felt “left out” in other ways, and if you’re being honest, so have you. Maybe what we’ve wanted have been really good things, too, but for whatever reason, God hasn’t seen fit to give them to us.

Maybe a rejection is God’s mercy in disguise. Maybe a “no” is just a “not yet.” Or maybe a “no” is an opportunity to see if we will trust God regardless of what eventually happens.

The bottom line is that we can still find contentment of the purest kind when we don’t get to go to prom. We don’t find it in our circumstances. We find it in our Savior who supplies all our needs as He sees best (Philippians 4:19). The Apostle Paul shared his own personal example:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

Ah, we quote verse 13 for a spiritual pep talk on a regular basis, but how often do we notice the preceding verses? Do we ask God to let us be content when we’re full and when we’re hungry? When we’re on the mountaintop and when we’re feeling oh so low?

Our God who is with us in our prom-like moments is also with us on the couch when we’re alone and nursing our broken dreams with ice cream and Gilmore Girls. His presence can sweeten our less-than-photo-worthy moments and remind us that He alone satisfies.

The better news: Prom will come around again.

The Bible’s wisdom literature is among my favorites. Why? It points out the common-sense truth that we forget in the heat of the moment when we’re tempted to cry, Everyone’s going to prom but me!

Truth is, everyone isn’t. Social media creates a FOMO (fear of missing out) culture, thanks to all our beautifully filtered photos and featured life highlights. I mean, hello. I don’t post updates about all the student papers I grade or now the papers I write, because no one’s interested in my daily workload.

What I do share (and c’mon now, so do you) are those “prom” moments. Most recently, that special moment was my wedding, one of the happiest days of my life. So much joy and answered prayer rode on that day that I couldn’t wait to share about it!

However, let me jump to the other side of the fence (because I’ve been there too). For the many years I was single, scrolling through wedding pictures on Facebook was more like an exercise in self-mortification. Please don’t misunderstand. I was happy for my married friends, but I felt left out. Everyone was going to prom but me.

Here’s what I had to learn: God’s timing and plan are better than mine, and everyone’s stories are different.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Special thanks to Solomon for putting that so eloquently. Read the next seven verses for his full summary, and then, journal a few lines of personal application to where you are right now. All our dreams might not be realized, but God has seasons of blessing in store regardless.

Next year, prom season will come around again. There will be new opportunities, new possibilities. However, don’t forget to soak in and enjoy the ones before you this day, even if they aren’t as glamorous as a prom date. They are here for only a season as well, so savor the moment.

The best news: Prom doesn’t actually matter.

Whaaatt? After all that, you’re going to tell me my prom-like dreams are a waste of time?

Well, yes and no. Cultivating the gifts God’s given us and chasing the dreams He’s placed on our hearts are not wastes of time. The Bible makes clear that we are God’s workmanship, created to do the good works He’s called us to do (Ephesians 2:14 paraphrase). That calling is a good thing and looks different for each of us.

However, God doesn’t need our achievements, even though in His grace, He sometimes sees fit to use them for His bigger purpose. He doesn’t call us to be successful, and he doesn’t guarantee life will be happy or easy. We too often lose sight of our real mission in our side-tracked frenzy to grasp what we’ve told ourselves matters or what the world places its money on.

Here’s another of my “prom” examples: It doesn’t matter if I’m ever a world-class writer or picked up by a major publisher or sell a boat-load of books. None of those things matter.

What matters is if I’m faithful with the gifts and responsibilities God’s given me. What matters is sharing His Word with others. What matters is living a life that pleases Him. What matters is hearing Him say, “Well done” one day.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (I Timothy 6:6-7)

You see, prom doesn’t matter. If we get to go one day, good for us! If someone else gets to go today, good for her! And the next time we’re tempted to whine, Everyone’s going to prom but me, remember this: Prom is nice, but it’s not the point.

Live in abundance, friends!

Kristen

Tweetable

Everyone’s Going to Prom but Me – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Do Small Things Greatly

Life is full of small things, isn’t it? I don’t mean snails and sand fleas. No, I mean the small choices we make, like taking care of our bodies, and tasks we complete, like home and work responsibilities. Since “small” or seemingly routine, non-earth-shattering items construct the majority of our time, perhaps they aren’t so insignificant after all.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for daring adventures and if you’ve been following me here lately, you know I just returned from traveling two weeks in Italy. Everything in its place, right? Although life certainly has its mountain-top moments, it’s also good to adventure on the small scale.

Truth is, God cares about and can use our ordinary, less-than-glamorous moments just as much as those bucket-list accomplishments.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the Bible in I Chronicles. Now this book holds its share of hurdles, including chapters of genealogies, but it also holds a challenge relevant to our lives.

To read on, click over to DailyPS.com where this post appears in full and consider: What “small thing” can you do greatly today?

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Do Small Things Greatly – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

You Can Embrace Your Unfiltered Life

Do you feel “less than” when you scroll through social media feeds, featuring flawless photos and seemingly perfect status updates? If so, it’s time to stop comparing your unfiltered life with everyone else’s filtered ones.

The truth is, all of us filter our content. Case in point. Last month, I was beyond excited to share that my friend and I are making a spontaneous trip to Italy that will let me visit some settings in my upcoming novel. Also last month, my refrigerator died, and I had to spend about the same amount of money to buy a new one as I had to pay for Italy travel.

Guess which experience I shared and which I didn’t? Exactly. After all, no one really cares or wants to know that my fridge died.

But that’s the point. Real life, unfiltered life, is often inconvenient, less-than-ideal, and messy. Nine times out of ten, we don’t show that part of our lives online.

While there’s nothing wrong with putting our best face forward, the drawback is that we’re not presenting the complete picture. When other people look at us, they think we’re perfect. When we look at their feeds, we wish we could be more like them.

It’s a vicious, ridiculous cycle. The Bible makes clear that comparing ourselves to ourselves isn’t wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, let’s learn to accept our unfiltered lives. That doesn’t mean putting our messiness on display for all to see but learning to be content with the places and people God’s given us.

How do we do that? Read the rest of the post at DailyPS.com. I look forward to your comments!

~ Kristen

Tweetable

You can embrace your unfiltered life – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)