Tag Archives: contentment

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It? (Guest Post)

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It?

By Steph Beth Nickel

I had an epiphany recently.

I would have said, by and large, I was content—happy even. But then I took a closer look at my dreams and aspirations.

"The grass isn't always greener."

Work Life

I serve as church administrator. The hours are good. I have every Friday off. I enjoy interacting with the other staff members and those who call or pop into the office.

But part of me would enjoy earning enough money from writing that I wouldn’t need to work outside the home. Odd … because I’m an extrovert.

Ministry Life

I am involved with the Awana program at church. I love the kids and enjoy sharing the truths of Scripture with them.

But I would like to help develop a more active ladies’ ministry. Plus, I’d love to have the opportunity to once again speak to ladies’ groups at other churches and at workshops, seminars, and conferences. Years ago I spoke fairly regularly.

Writing Life

Most of my writing opportunities are in the area of nonfiction. And I’m honoured to be a contributor to HopeStreamRadio and to be working on a follow-up to Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances.

But I have tried my hand at fiction and have gotten some great comments. The fact that I love to read novels is likely why I would like to write short stories, if not full-length fiction. Plus, I have an idea for a series I’d love to develop.

Spiritual Life

Having dreams and aspirations isn’t a bad thing, but it can get in the way of obeying Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV).

Whatever you do …

So whether I’m creating the bulletin, cleaning toilets (as co-custodian with my hubby, I do that too), or hitting the best-seller list (not really a dream of mine, but you get the picture), I ought to be doing it for God’s glory. [Tweet this: Do each task in a way that honours God.]

While both women’s and children’s ministry are important, for now, I’m involved with children. Not only should I do it “for the Lord,” I must remember that I can be instrumental in pointing boys and girls to Jesus and that’s an incredible privilege (Matthew 19:14).

I have a number of writing and editing projects on the go. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, I must buckle down and focus. I must also, more regularly, give thanks for these opportunities. I have this moment; the next isn’t guaranteed. If I am to write fiction, I will—someday.

How about you? Do you consider the different aspects of your life and wish they were different?

Just remember … the grass isn’t always greener [tweet this].

As believers in Jesus, may we commit Colossians 3:23 to memory and seek to live it out.

 

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Contentment’s Secret

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.
Philippians 4:12, NIV*

Paul goes on to say that his secret is to rely on Christ’s strength (verse 13), a verse many of us have memorized. He trusts that God is enough in the moment, and he doesn’t waste mental energy with what-ifs.

Our guest speaker on Sunday challenged us that anxiety comes from dwelling on the future, but contentment comes from living in the present. Now, a person can do a bundle of complaining in the present without Paul’s attitude of God-reliance, but anxiety does feed on the unknown future.

What could go wrong? Will we have enough, be enough? What if we don’t like what happens?

When anxiety whispers, I remind myself, “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there.” Paul’s words suggest I should also be saying, “Here, in this moment, Jesus is here. His strength is enough.”

Christ, who strengthens us, help us rely on Your power in at work in our lives, to help us do the Father’s will and to help us live with surrendered, trusting spirits. Protect us from fear of the future, and protect us also from discontent in the present and regrets for the past. Help us live in You moment by moment, following Your leading and not relying on our own understanding.

Our song this week is the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed,” sung here by the Antrim Mennonite Choir. The chorus comes from Paul’s words to Timothy, and it echoes his contentment.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Intentional. Present. Contented.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6, NIV*

I usually think of this verse in the context of counting my blessings, but it came back to me this weekend as I sifted through my gleanings from the 2014 LIFT retreat.

Before leaving home, I had opened two email devotionals that spoke about rest. The retreat theme was “Run YOUR Race,” yet those devotionals tuned me into God’s message for me.

Our retreat speakers shared many things, and these are the tidbits that spoke most directly to me:

  • own your journey; accept/embrace who God has created you to be and what He wants to do in/through your life
  • how we journey is as important as the arrival
  • listen
  • discern the things you’re called to do, and the things you’re called to put away
  • intentional living: what does God have for today?
  • fully trust God to show up

Speaker Amanda Andrus compared “today” to one square in a waffle. It’s surrounded by many other squares, but this is the only one I’m in. How does God want to fill this day? What might He want to do with this square of time?

Somehow this spoke to me about being present in the moment—instead of always pushing forward, straining to get into the next measure of time. There’s so much to do, but we can’t do it all anyway. How much better to be faithful in the moments we’re given? How much more contented will we be when we’re not pushing the boundaries God has set?

Yes, this is about living a Christian life, and yes, it’s active, but do you sense a soul rest here? Tie it in with this tweet I saw from Ann Voskamp the next day:

God our Creator, You made each of us unique and gave us a place in Your plans. Quiet our spirits to know Your leading, and help us to follow, day by day, in Your strength. Let us not miss the opportunities of today because we’re itching for tomorrow. Find us faithful, in the little things as well as in the big. Help us be contented in the now.

Here’s the song that blessed me most in my time at the retreat: “Oceans,” from Hillsong United.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Remembering God’s Promises. Again.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Psalm 138:8, NLT*

Don’t we forget this, sometimes?

Bad news piles up. Globally. Locally. Personally. Even if we’re physically untouched, the sheer weight of what goes on around us can be soul-crushing.

And let’s face it, even when life is really good, there are elements that we don’t like. That could be better.

If we’re not careful, fear, discouragement, discontent and others can pull our focus away from our Lord’s sufficiency. We know the truth of God’s promises, but we forget. (Click to tweet this.)

I find that embarrassing. Every time.

These days, we have “stuff” going on at church. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it, and I do not want to go around this tree again. Been there, done that a long time ago.

Yet where is God speaking to me? In church. First, He told me to be quiet. Hmm. Then He challenged me to accept His timing when I think it’s too slow.

He reminded me that adversity is part of life. It’s often the part that makes for the best growth. And it’ll happen whether I want it to or not.

My attitude needs to reflect hope and trust. Not an unrealistic hope that He will make everything pretty, but assurance that God is good, He is in control, and He will work all things out for good for those who trust Him.

For me, it’s meant repenting of an attitude of discontent. Reminding myself that it’s not about what I want. Recommitting myself to live in a way that honours and trusts in God.

God our Maker and Sustainer, somehow You will work all the messes of life into something beautiful. Forgive our grumbling and our discontent—and our fear—when we don’t like what we see. You don’t like it either, but You can work with it. Help us trust You. Help us work with You to be part of Your solution instead of being part of the negativity.

I love this song from Robin Mark: “All is Well.” Take a few minutes to let it bless you.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God Has Plans for Us

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:8a, NLT*

I love David’s quiet assurance in this psalm. There’s danger all around, he’s calm in his confidence that A) God has plans for his life, and B) God will fulfill those plans despite circumstances which give evidence to the contrary.

The psalm says nothing about what God’s plans for David are, or even whether David knows them or not. I don’t know if this psalm was before or after he became king, because he definitely knew that plan.

God has plans and purposes for each of us, sometimes large-scale leadership roles, but also smaller ones in the everyday.

And we don’t need advance notice of what they are, although we try to insist on it. It’s enough that He knows, and that we be ready and recognize them when it’s time.

Father God, help me be content with the step I’m on. Help me trust You to make the next step clear when I need to take it. Forgive me for those times I’ve strained to see ahead and felt entitled to know what’s next. You know. Let that be enough.

Here’s a song of trust in God from Robin Mark: “All is Well,” from his Year of Grace album. It’s a long one, but it’s beautiful.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

On God as Our Source of Comfort, Why Praising Him is Crucial, and What’s the Point of Life?

I manage most of my blog subscriptions through Bloglines (thank you, MerchantCircle for keeping this service going) and hadn’t logged in for a while. Among the posts waiting to be read were three that I’d like to share today:

What Satisfies You?” at Captured by God mentions an idea from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made to Crave.

What we think about most is an indicator of what we are trying to fulfill ourselves with. Is it God? Or is it something else? [Read God’s Girl’s full post here for a practical example of what this can look like–and the difference it can make.]

In “Tuning our Harps” at Canadian Writers Who Are Christian, Judith Lawrence writes:

We may not feel like singing God’s praises when things go wrong in our lives, we may want to wallow in our misery. However, a difficult situation is not the time to hang up our harps but a time to sing the Lord’s song with even more vigour. [Read Judith’s full post here, and consider what freedom from captivity might look like for each of us.]

In “What’s the Point” at InScribe Writers Online, Karen Toews shares “a twisted version of inspiration for 2011 or my dose of ‘this is the real world, girl'”. Selections from the book of Ecclesiastes convince her that there is a point. [Read Karen’s full post here.]

Thank you, God’s Girl, Judith and Karen, for encouraging words for the journey.

About God’s Business

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 3:23-244:17, NIV1

I was heading for 1Thessalonians when this verse caught my attention. I suspect Paul’s referring to a specific task or calling Archippus has received, but it seems to apply generally as well.

In her comment on last Wednesday’s devotional, Ginny Jaques said “I work for Him 24/7, and He directs my path, even giving me R and R when I need it.”

Some of us have a direct assignment from the Lord, but all of us have work He’s given us to do. People He’s given us to care for.

The Bible says a lot about faithful service, and about relying on God’s strength instead of our own. I love this quote from Brother Lawrence:

Recently I went to Burgundy to buy the wine provisions for the society which I have joined. This was a very unwelcome task for me. I have no natural business ability and, being lame, I cannot get around the boat except by rolling myself over the casks. Nonetheless, this matter gave me no uneasiness, nor did the purchase of wine. I told the Lord that it was His business that I was about. Afterwards, I found the whole thing well performed.2

Father, thank You for what You’ve given me to do, especially for my family You’ve given me to look after. Thank You it’s not about a frantic hurry to complete a set task—it’s about a willing heart that trusts in You. Help me recognize the work You give, and to serve You well. help me recognize and let go of the distractions.

Let this week’s song be our prayer: “To God Alone,” by Aaron Shust.

1New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

2Brother Lawrence, as recorded in Practicing His Presence, © MCMLXXIII by Gene Edwards, Christian Books.