Monday, December 23, 2013

the contentment challenge

Merry Christmas Eve Eve everyone! Tonight our church has a special Christmas service and I cannot wait to hear the beautiful voices singing praises to our Lord! Christmas hymns are my favorite! I pray that you experience the Greatest Gift this Christmas-- God's grace through His son Jesus Christ. 
Oh how He loves us!

Today I wanted to invite you to consider joining me in a challenge that will begin in January. I have seen several posts about The Contentment Challenge on Instagram and Twitter. After reading more about it, I felt convicted to participate. Beginning January 1, I'm diving in. The Contentment Challenge, started by Nancy Ray, is basically a 3 month (or whatever timeline you decide to follow) fast from making extra purchases. You can read Nancy's full Contentment Story and posts during her challenge here.

I am so thankful for Dustin's financial wisdom. While we were still engaged, Dustin created a budget for us to follow once we were married. I am sad to say that I did not have the same mindset coming into our marriage. I am still learning so much about the importance of giving and saving, rather than just frivilously spending. I tried my hand at being the "Budget Police" and let's just say I should have referred to myself as the "Budget Barney Fife." I would attempt to justify spending quite a bit extra at the grocery on seven million different specialty cheeses and other impulse buys of ingredients/utensils that really aren't necessary. Don't even get me started on the Dollar Aisle at Target…

What really has become clear to us is that we have not been good stewards of the financial blessings God has given us when we don't give generously, save, and spend wisely. It also revealed to me that I have not been living out my gratitude for the closets and dressers overflowing with clothes, the kitchen cabinets jam packed with ingredients and utensils, and the several nooks and crannies of our home into which I have squeezed excess stuff. Especially when I am constantly adding to our growing collection of pig everything and anything with a "C" on it! I should confess that I am somewhat of a hoarder-- my momma prefers to say that we are very sentimental. She is correct, we are, but I am learning at some point you have to let go. You have to simplify. Which is why when I read about the Contentment Challenge, there was no denying the feeling that I should participate.

From January 1 to March 31 (and possibly longer if I feel led to extend it) I will be saying "no" to non-essential purchases:
-trinkets from the Dollar Aisle at Target
-scented candles
-cutesy decorations
-pigs (real and inanimate)
-monogrammed everything
-impulse buys at the grocery store that just sound/look tasty & are not on my list
-new clothes or accessories
-anything that is not a necessity

I will follow The Guidelines listed in Nancy's original post. I plan to spend the next three months simplifying our home and routine rather than adding excess to it. My focus will be to give thanks for what we are blessed with, rather than add to the on-going list of "wants" that I often try to pass as "needs." I want to donate our excess to families that are truly in need and would appreciate it. I hope to conclude the Contentment Challenge with a greater appreciation for the simple things--for our things--and a deeper understanding of the Lord's generous heart. I hope to replace my impulse to buy and obtain with the desire to give and serve. 

So here's your invitation. Will you join me--and several others-- in the Contentment Challenge? I ask that you prayerfully consider it. While this definitely is a personal decision and process, I do find it encouraging to know that there will be others participating, including Nancy who is going through the Challenge again. I am so thankful for my friend Cathy who has promised to hold me accountable. I would love to be there for you as well! You can find others who are participating or have participated with the hashtag #contentmentchallenge on social media sites. I fully believe in support systems! 

I am so looking forward to 2014 and to gaining a deeper understanding of contentment. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about this very subject. He knew that strength from Jesus Christ would empower him to do all things. In chapter 4, verse 11 Paul wrote: 

"…for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances…"

Even if you don't feel led to participate in the Contentment Challenge, there is so much to gain from this verse and those around it. In any and every situation, we are to be content. It is a learning process. Paul uses the phrase "I have learned" twice in two verses. Let's make it our goal to learn contentment in 2014. Don't worry about doing it on your own-- He will give you His strength to do all things and I would love to encourage you as well. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

planning and dreaming for 2014!

Can y'all believe that in just TEN days we will be wrapping up 2013 and ringing in 2014!? I'm so excited. In just a few days the mister, the puppy sisters, and I will be packing up to go home for the holidays and weddings I mentioned in my last post. I am so looking forward to some quality family time, celebrating the birth of our Savior, eating some delicious food, and witnessing two of my best friends say "I do." This weekend Dustin is in Arkansas depleting the duck population and since the next week and a half will be jam packed with festivities, I am taking some time to plan and dream for 2014.

For some, resolutions may seem silly or a waste of time. For others who are more goal oriented, resolutions are essential. To be honest, I have been on both sides of the spectrum. However, when I honestly reflect over the past year (and even beyond) I can always find things that I wish I would do differently. For me, having a written goal is much better than simply thinking about it. So I am going back to the pen and paper this weekend (and the keyboard, obviously). I also know that accountability is crucial to any goal setting experience, which is why I have rounded up some of my people to keep my heart and actions in line. I highly recommend you do the same with any resolution or goal you intend to make. I plan on sharing more specifics regarding my goals in January, but I did want to share a couple of ways I am preparing for the New Year now.

-Agendas/Planners: My name is Hope, and I am an Agenda Addict. I don't think I have ever had the same one twice because I always want to try another one. When I came across Emily Ley on Instagram, I fell in love with her beautiful Simplified Planners. After following her posts for a while, it is clear that her heart is even more beautiful. I knew that I wanted to support someone who is making great things happen. My momma knows I adore planners and asked me if she could get me one for 2014 as a Christmas gift. How could I say no!? She agreed to allow me time to write in it before she wraps it up for me to open Christmas morning so for the past couple of weeks I have been doing just that! If you are still on the fence about a planner for 2014 and are looking to simplify your life and focus on what truly matters, Emily's Simplified Planners are for you! I am looking forward to being more organized, simplified, and encouraged each time I open my agenda next year.

-Power Sheets: At the Influence Conference in September, I had the privilege of hearing (& later hugging while passing each other at the elevator) Lara Casey speak. If you are familiar with the beautiful Southern Weddings magazine, then you have seen this woman's work. Her words of wisdom are also floating around the world wide web and Pinterest! I fell in love with her magazine while planning our wedding almost two years ago. Her love for Jesus, family, life, and all things Southern won my heart. Hearing her speak fanned the flame in me to make things happen. Her practical, honest approach to life is so motivating. On her personal webpage, she has a shop full of inspirational artwork. She also has some pretty amazing pages called Power Sheets. My Momma also included these in my Christmas gift! She knows the little things that make me happy! Basically, they are a package of sheets with outlines and tips for making goals and plans for the year and each month. Part of the process includes the Powersheets Prep where you write your dreams, your fears, and your goals. Talk about an awesome process for someone who enjoys writing! Definitely check these babies out if this kind of thing gets you excited.

-Lists: I am a list person. Grocery lists, to-do lists, prayer lists, goals lists, 1000 gifts lists, I love all the lists. One list that Lara Casey recommends is to identify what you are saying "Yes" to and to what you things you will say "No" in the upcoming year. I really enjoyed this and encourage everyone to try it.

In 2014 I will be saying YES to the following: 
*reading and memorizing Scripture
*loving my husband in his love language
*learning more about dietetics and nutrition
*following our budget 
*developing more contentment
*encouraging others daily
*giving and receiving grace
*serving our church and community
*prioritizing my health
*spending quality time with family and friends
*& much more.

In 2014 I will be saying NO to the following:
*too much screen time
*& much more.

2013 has been a wonderful year. I have loved reflecting over the highlights and counting all of the gifts. I have been thankful to look back on the moments that were difficult and see God's sovereignty in the midst of what appeared at the time to be a foggy season. I know God has so much in store for us for 2014. Our Christmas Cards this year were designed by the lovely Jessi from Naptime Diaries. The verse that inspired the design is Ephesians 3:20:

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
 according to the power that is at work within us…"

With His guidance, let's plan and dream for 2014.
How amazing is it to know He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine?
To Him be the glory! 

I wish y'all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

7 on the 7th: Christmas favorites

Y'all, the Christmas spirit is flowing in the Curtsinger household! As I mentioned last week, I have been so excited to unpack and decorate our home. I think it is safe to say the halls are decked with all things Christmas! We have over 10 inches of snow on the ground thanks to a winter storm that came in Thursday night. It just adds to the Christmasy atmosphere! Narrowing down my Christmas favorites to seven was difficult for me because I have so many! I absolutely adore this time of year- the family time, the celebration of Jesus' birth, the sparkling lights, the beautiful colors, the chance to reflect on the previous months, and the time to plan for a fresh year. This December is especially full of love as two of my best friends are getting married! My sweet sister Gracey is getting married on the 28th and I could not be happier for her and Will. Gracey was my Maid of Honor and I am blessed to stand beside her as her Matron of Honor. Three days later, I am so excited to ring in the New Year with my dear sister-friend Rhiannon, her fiancé Keith, and all of their loved ones. Rhi was one of my bridesmaids and I am so thankful to be one of hers! Love is definitely in the air this month and I love it! Without further adieu, here are my seven Christmas favorites:

1. Advent
This year, I am so excited (& possibly obsessed) about Advent. I know many people observe the time leading up to Christmas day with countdowns, Bible studies, videos, crafts with their children, and more. This is the first time for me to participate in and learn about Advent and I have loved it. I have been following along with the She Reads Truth Advent devotional and it is fabulous! These writers put so much time, love, and work into their plans and it is so evident! You will be so blessed by the readings, prayers, and hymns that accompany each reflection. I definitely recommend finding a way for you and your family to reflect on this special time and really celebrate the Reason for the season.

2. The Greatest Gift
This book could technically still be considered part of Advent, but it is a favorite all on its own. The premise of Ann Voskamp's second book is to retrace the lineage of Christ. Each day includes a reading, a beautifully written portion by Ann, reflection questions, a quote, and an idea for putting love into action. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed this book. Her ability to point out parallels between the Old and New Testaments is amazing. She makes you think about things in new, fresh, real ways. My friend Brittany and I joked about underlining and wanting to post every sentence-- we were also kind of serious. If you haven't started an Advent plan, it is not too late to begin reading this beautifully inspired and written book. 

3. The Twelve Days of Christmas
I have this infatuation with countdowns I believe. In addition to loving Advent, I also love the Twelve Days of Christmas. We have a tree in our room that is decorated with ornaments from the twelve days of Christmas. Last year I snagged a couple of pillows from Target that are red and gold with the the Twelve Days of Christmas written on them. I just think they're so fun! Of course the song and parodies of the song are fun as well! 

4. Christmas songs
I have come to learn that you either love or loathe Christmas songs. I can't imagine anything besides loving them but to each their own! I love them all-- Baby It's Cold Outside, Santa Baby, Joy to the World, Silent Night, O Holy Night, and more. Thanks to Pandora, we can listen to all kinds of Christmas carols and hymns! I also enjoy finding ways to incorporate meaningful lyrics into our decorations whether by prints, chalkboards, or canvases. 

5. Christmas movies
Just like Christmas songs, I love all Christmas movies! I grew up watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon one!). Elf, The Holiday, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story are all favorites as well. I also can't turn down a good ol' classic Hallmark Christmas movie. It doesn't matter if I can predict the plot and ending, I still love them! The 25 Days of Christmas movies on ABC Family is just splendid in my opinion! 

6. Christmas red
Red is one of my favorite colors. I have always been drawn to its boldness and deepness. This time of year I love seeing it even more-- the poinsettias, the candy canes, the Christmas decor, and the fashion. Red nail polish always makes me think of my mom because her nails are almost always this color! One of our favorite polish colors this time of year is OPI's An Affair in Red Square. It is a deeper red that has just enough shimmer to make it festive.

7. Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.
This verse has always been one of my favorites. When preparing for this month, I knew I wanted to be intentional about focusing on the Reason for the season. I also knew that it would be a busy month with lots of Christmas parties, family get togethers, the weddings, and settling into our home. I want to take time to be still-- so far so good! I want to soak up each moment in His Presence, which is the greatest gift of all. I want to take the time to name each of the gifts He gives and live my thankfulness. I want to celebrate this season of Advent in the everyday moments. I want to be still and know Him.

I pray that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

I would love to hear about your Christmas favorites or traditions!

Have a blessed day!