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.

Dear Student Me: A Thirty-Something’s View on College

The last two months have been a blur with the wedding, honeymoon, speaking event, and travel. In addition, I also started a summer college class for my teaching re-certification, because that’s just how the timing worked out. But when is life not busy?

However, I’m making the best of the course about technology in education, which is actually quite interesting. Besides, having a student ID again has its perks. Who knew I’d be claiming student discounts at thirty-something?

In all seriousness, though, this going-back-to-school experience has shed a new perspective on college that, if I could, I’d share with my teen- and twenty-something self. Maybe you’re in college or know someone who is. If so, I hope these thoughts will be encouraging to you.

Be less of a perfectionist.

Hands down, I struggled with perfectionism in college. I remember crying on the sidewalk outside my history class because I scored an 88 on a test. I did all the bonus essays in speech class to get my grade to an A. I even volunteered to do most of the work in group projects because I didn’t trust the other members to do the work right. (They were usually very happy about this arrangement.)

While I’m proud to have graduated Summa Cum Laude, I wish I could have told my younger self to be less hard on myself. I still strongly believe in the importance of doing my best work, because the Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NKJV)

However, no where does the Bible praise perfectionism. When I spoke with the ladies of Connersville Baptist Temple in May, we looked at Martha as an example of someone whose well-meaning expectations almost stole from her something far better. She wanted to be the perfect hostess, but that’s not what Jesus cared about. He cared about her heart. Listening to what He had to say was more important.

“… Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe we perfectionists mean well, but we miss the mark and often life’s greater blessings.

Dear student me, do your best but don’t obsess.

Prioritize better.

Even though I had a campus job and full load in college, those responsibilities hardly compare with the ones I have today. As a newly-wed student working a full-time job, I definitely have more on my plate now than I did back then. The beauty of this reality is that homework can’t get first place, and as a result, I have to prioritize better.

In college, students are discovering freedoms for perhaps the first time away from Mom and Dad. The perfectionist in me, as we already discussed, didn’t take advantage of free time like some students might, but I was perhaps just as guilty of misplaced priorities.

The Bible places a high value on how we use our time, because no one is promised tomorrow. Regardless if we live out the length of our days or find life cut short, we need to be good stewards of the time given to us.

Although there are many relevant verses on this subject, I’d like to focus on I Peter 4:7-10 today, because it provides some guidance for how we’re supposed to spend our time. I encourage you to read these verses on your own and then consider these takeaways:

  1. Pray seriously.
  2. Love fervently.
  3. Give generously.
  4. Serve specifically.

These points could be a post in themselves, but for now, let’s focus on that last one, which was a real stumbling block to me until I learned that I didn’t have to do everything to serve Jesus. Instead, we should prayerfully consider the unique gifts God has given us and His will for us in whatever season we’re in before we sign up for the next service (or class) project. For young people, time seems abundant, but that’s no reason to spend it foolishly.

Dear student me, prayerfully consider how you use your time.

Switch up your setting.

In college, I was guilty of retreating to the desk in my dorm room and hobbitting there for hours on end. There was no interaction with other people. I enjoyed the blissful quiet (because my roommates were extroverts or actually had social lives). My goal was efficiency, and I knew myself well enough to understand that I did my best work in quiet spaces.

However, I wish I had relocated my laptop to the cafe or even spent more time in the library instead of hauling the books back to my dorm room. A change of setting can be equally refreshing, and honestly, being with people wouldn’t have hurt my social life.

God never intended for us to do life solo. A very important point here is that I’m not talking about singleness or marriage. God’s will for people in this area is a completely different topic. What I mean by solo is to live in isolation of other people. After all, how can a person who’s isolating herself carry out any of these biblical commands?

  • “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
  • “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

These verses just scratch the surface and hold more life application than one post can discuss, but I hope you see the point that we’re meant to do life with people.

Today while I tackle homework, I try to be more intentional about unplugging my laptop and camping out on the couch next to my husband. We might both be working on our laptops, but we’re doing so together.

Dear student me, don’t be a hobbit.

Wherever you are in life, whether college or otherwise, may these thoughts encourage you to be your best self in your season and steward your opportunities and time well.

Kristen

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3 Pitfalls of People Pleasing

Does anyone else out there struggle with the problem of people pleasing? What are some core values we can keep in mind to help us be honest with others and ourselves? I’m excited to share this post with you, which published today on DailyPS.com, and welcome your comments.

Post excerpt

As a youth leader for six years, I often challenged teens not to conform to peer pressure but to let God’s Word transform their thoughts and actions (Romans 12:2). Recently, I realized we adults suffer from a subtler form of this problem called people pleasing.

Those of us who dislike conflict and change (or is that all of us?) find this problem particularly painful. If we’re going to conquer it, though, we have to take an honest look at the pitfalls of putting others’ opinions over what we know God has asked us to do.

Pitfall #1: Pretense over Transparency

Perfectionism often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing. We want others to think we have our lives, jobs, and relationships immaculately intact. We crave acceptance and applause at the cost of quenching the impact our messy, imperfect stories can make.

Can you imagine if the Apostle Paul had attempted to cover up his past crimes against Christians? He would never have gained anyone’s trust or been half as effective in spreading the gospel. Instead, he proclaimed from the rooftops “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV).

Are we afraid God can’t use cracked vessels? A quick study of Scripture reveals the very opposite is true. In fact, He chooses the most unlikely people to accomplish His will. Yes, transparency makes us vulnerable, but it can also open doors to the most unexpected, amazing places.

To learn about the other common pitfalls and find help to overcome them, click here to read the full post on DailyPS.com.

~ Kristen