making peace

I've had a publicly difficult relationship with the month or so following Christmas. Growing up December 26 was the Worst of All the Days, because that meant that all the anticipation and advent and merriment were over. And I was rarely fooled by New Year's. New Year's Eve and Day just aren't as fun, and if you pretend otherwise, you're lying.

The past couple of years, though, I've finally started to make some peace with the last week in December. I can't definitively say the same for January, but if I can move past my childhood dread of the end of December, then maybe someday I can make good with January too.

Adulthood has introduced me to the frantic aspects of December. While I did make a point to step back throughout the month and simply enjoy the season, I admit to liking this liminal period before reality hits hard next week. We've had an easy dose of routine mixed with a healthy amount of vacation mode. My to-do lists have dwindled, replaced by brainstorming and daydreaming about what 2015 will bring.

I started reading the Outlander series, which I've seen pop up on some of my favorite blogs over the past year. It's adventurous and intriguing, with a dose of smut thrown in for good measure. It's delightful vacation reading, and now that I'm fully immersed in the 18-century Scottish Highland, I keep calling Asher "my wee bairn." So. (Knowing that I have seven more books after this first one makes me feel giddy. Is this what it feels like to read Harry Potter straight through for the first time?)

My in-laws gifted me an online script lettering class for Christmas, and now I'm itching to get my hands on some good graphite pencils so I can start practicing. I went to Michael's today to pick up some basic supplies and was so underwhelmed by the brand selection and appalled at the prices, that I'm just going to order them on Amazon instead.

I like having this week after Christmas to slow down and dawdle out the rest of the year. Giving my mind and heart a rest has been oh so good for me. How do you feel about the end of the year? Have your attitudes about it changed as you've gotten older?

Happy New Year!


cracking the case

I think I've put my finger on why my posting has dwindled so dramatically this year. It's not like I feel that I owe anyone an explanation about my posting (or lack thereof): I honestly wanted to know why my brain has rewired itself to the point where I can hardly think of things to write about. And recently I figured it out.

First I actually have many things I can write about. Writing is how I process emotions and events and thoughts, and I need it. But these past several months I've felt this pull to be more private with my thoughts and my family. I can't exactly explain why I feel this pull, and I don't plan on making this blog private; but that shift in my mentality has obviously affected what I write about and when I write about it.

Lately my mind has been full of dreams and prayers. I've been focusing more on what I want for me and my family and less on what others may expect from me. I've felt the gravity of my role as a mother and the importance of my role as a woman and a friend. I've been refining my relationship with God and figuring out who and what He wants me to be. So it's been a full year, even if I haven't shared as much of it with you as I have in years past.

Life is so good, and I'm so happy to be living it (though I may not post much about it right now). Thanks for sticking with me, even when I withdraw. For now, I'd expect posting to be about the same as it has been: minimal. And I'm realizing that minimal is okay right now. Life comprises a million and one seasons, and right now I'm in a season that calls for less blogging and more present living. You understand. I'm positive a long and prosperous writing season is in my future.

So merry Christmas, and I hope your holiday is as lovely as I expect mine to be! Christmas with a lively toddler is bound to be both magical and exhausting. I'm off to live it!


these days

These days I've been

:: listening to the Serial podcast like every other 20- and 30-something Millennial in the country
:: making Christmas lists, but not yet checking them twice
:: fawning over pictures of my fresh-from-heaven niece
:: managing our road-trip preparations through All the Lists
:: continuing to power through the now-streamable Gilmore Girls
:: starting a new Christmas-themed cross-stitch sampler
:: loafing around in faux-fur-lined, sequin slippers
:: paying a doctor copay to be told that our resident toddler "just has a virus"
:: sneaking Trader Joe's dark PB cups from my baking cupboard
:: stocking up on all the snacks from Trader Joe's all in the name of our upcoming Oregon - Utah road trip
:: smearing Nutella on all the toast
:: calling Josh when Asher gets dressed and says, "Me look good!"
:: scheming to get a babysitter so I can go see Mockingjay
:: enjoying making our way through Doctor Who ("About time," says all our Doctor Who - fan friends)
:: jamming to the Pentatonix Christmas albums
:: drinking all the cocoa

It's been a lovely November, really. I can hardly believe Thanksgiving is a week away. We're headed to Utah so that our family can all be together with Emily and her new baby. We're road-tripping there, which means 13 hours in the car with a toddler. We're also driving down with Josh's parents, so I'm crossing my fingers that four adults will be sufficient to manage one toddler on such a long trip.

I have all the laundry and all the cleaning to do before tomorrow night, not to mention all the packing. So, I'll sign off. I hope your Thanksgiving is so lovely and that you're surrounded by family and wassail and rolls. All the rolls.


final thoughts

And here we are, the end of October with far fewer than 31 posts about contented living. This topic certainly has more facets to explore, but today I'll leave you with a thought that's been settling in me all month.

One of my friends commented on a post earlier in this series joking about how maybe I could divulge the key to contented living. The thing is that everyone's contented life will look different. What makes me content is different from what makes you content. And that's okay. The key, though, is simple. The secret is one that we all must discover on our own before true contented living is possible.

{If we are to live a contented life, we must listen to God to know when to move and when to rest.}

A contented life is one inextricably tied up with trust in the Savior. A contented life is defined by our relationship with our Heavenly Father, because the more we come to know Him and how He speaks to us, the better we can discern when to move and when to rest.

Contented living is as much about growth and evolution and change as it is about acceptance and peace and stillness. The key is knowing how to balance it, and the key to balance is Jesus Christ. I know that not all my readers believe what I do, and I hope I'm not alienating anyone by being so forthright. The truth is that everything meaningful and good in my life--contented or otherwise--exists because the Savior, and I can't pretend otherwise. The way I live my life is inexorably connected to my relationship with God, and I'm not going to hide that from you. 

I hope that as you go through your days that you can find manifestations of Heavenly Father's love for you, because it is real and unending and powerful (even if you're not sure He exists at all). I hope that you can find contentment within that love, that you can find peace and purpose, direction and motivation. A contented life is one wherein we relinquish control in favor of faith in One who knows us and loves us. Contentment is knowing and embracing that we are small yet important, weak yet bursting with powerful potential.

Thank you for following along this somewhat inconsistent series. I'll be back sometime in November with a good list post for you!

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


a confession

So. Obviously I have not been posting every day this month. Here's the truth: I burned out. And when I burned out I started producing lackluster content. As the host of this whole 31-days thing wrote, "You don't need my obligation."

I have a couple more thoughts I'd like to explore with you this week, so don't fear: I'm not completely giving up. The thing is that contented living means knowing your limits, and my limits this month fell short of the daily posting.

Thanks for understanding, readers. I truly have enjoyed this topic and its exploration, even when my posts haven't met the "official" goal.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


Austen on contented living

This morning I was reclining on the couch reading a book, while my husband and son played on the floor with the wooden train set. Asher was intent on the train path, and Josh and I laughed at Asher's words and rudimentary sentences. It was all very content.

And then it's easy to wonder why I can have such a peaceful, happy, and fulfilling Saturday morning while another mother around the world can't find food to feed her children. Enter Jane Austen, who gives us one of the keys to contented living.

Photograph by Rick Harrison (Flickr).

True contented living is accompanied by a healthy dose of humility. The moment entitlement enters into your heart is the moment your life becomes smug instead of contented. Contented living is recognizing that peace is not only a gift, but a manifestation of the Divine. And when it comes to heavenly things, we can't help but see ourselves for how both small and grand we are as children of God.

Part of contented living--and also gracious living--is accepting our blessings and allowing ourselves to be happy, even when we don't have the answers to the world's inequity. If the Savior can take care of me and my family, then He can also care for the hungry, poor, and sick. Not to say that I can kick back and not act when I'm needed, but rather, when we find ourselves facing a period of contentment, we should allow ourselves to embrace it rather than feel guilty about it.

The thing is that we don't do anything to "deserve" whatever happiness we have. So what we need to do is live with gratitude and seek for the contentment within our blessings.

One last shout-out needs to go to Holly, who designed all the Saturday printables for this series. She is seriously talented, and it's been so much fun working with her on this!

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


year four

Four years ago Josh and I knelt across from each other at an altar in the Denver Colorado Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At the ceremony there were no photographers, no string quartet, no printed programs. We were dressed in white and surrounded by most of our dearest family and friends. We sat in the holiest of places, the air charged with the presence of unseen angels. We looked each other in the eyes and made promises to each other and to God. We chose to be sealed as husband and wife forever. That day was beautiful.

The years following that first day of marriage have seen both laughter and tears. Contentment in marriage isn't a constant, unfortunately. It comes in moments of grace from heaven, moments to be imprinted on our souls as a confirmation that yes, you chose this life and it is good. A contented marriage is won from work and love and sacrifice and more love again.

Contentment in marriage is a divine blessing, a rest for the soul and an anchor for the heart. This life of mine with Mr. Wilson is far from perfect, but I love it and I love him.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


spooky reading update

I'd like to interrupt the regularly scheduled 31-days series for a quick update on my spooky reading.

I had slated Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice for this month, and last night I decided to quit reading it. I don't quit books often, but this one is not only slow going as far as narration style goes, but the brand of creepy didn't jive well with me. I like a good creepy book: Dracula and Something Wicked This Way Comes are both excellent reads with a significant creepy factor. But the creepiness in the Rice novel made me feel icky more than intrigued. So I quit.

We don't have much time left in the month--if you can believe that!--but I decided to dive into The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, a lovely little novella that I'm hoping will make me laugh and smile. And I think I'll try and get through a Wilkie Collins novel by the end of the month. Wilkie Collins is a mystery writer from the 19th century, and I've really enjoyed what I've read of him. His books are actually free in the Kindle store, so I just downloaded The Haunted Hotel on to my iPad.

If you decide to forge ahead and continue reading Interview with the Vampire I'd love to know what you think about it. And if you want to switch gears with me and try out some Wilkie Collins, let me know what you pick!

Happy reading!

what productive discontent looks like

{simplyfreshdesigns.com--this may have been in their now-on-hiatus Etsy shop, so I'm using this image purely for graphics, not as a printable. Thanks for respecting others' property.}

We need discontent. And yes, we've talked about this. Yes, we all have seasons of discontent throughout our lives. So what do we do with them? 

We get to work.

Unhappy at your job? Either make your job work, or find a new one. Discontent in your home? Identify the source and find a solution. Stuck in a toxic relationship, romantic or otherwise? Change it. The thing about discontent is that it can suck us in and keep us there if we let it. Yes, discontent has a time and place, but sometimes it will want more than it deserves. And we need to fight it. Work your brain, your body, your spirit. 

Discontent can be a trigger to let you know when something in your life is off-kilter. Last spring, I had a weird month, a really weird month. I felt completely unlike myself, and I eventually hit the point where I told my husband, "I'm not happy, and I don't know why." That was my trigger that said, Something isn't right. So I researched and searched every cranny of my brain to figure out why I felt the way I did, and soon enough I found the problem: hormones. My pharmacy had switched my generic brand of birth control because of an availability issue, and while I was informed of it, I hadn't made much note of it. I felt every light go on in my mind when I discovered the root of my discontent: pesky hormones. I promptly called my doctor and found a pharmacy that could get the brand I was used to. Discontent: taken care of.

Now, not every period of discontent in our lives will be as straightforward as my birth control example. My point, however, is clear: use discontent as the impetus for change. Use it productively, and don't succumb to the doldrums. Get to work

***I should note here that mental illness is exempt from this work-solves-all-your-problems mentality. Some brands of discontent are rooted in brain chemistry and should be treated appropriately. Obtaining appropriate treatment from health care professionals is certainly a part of contented living.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


a heart like the Savior's

The more I study contented living, the more I realize that learning to be content--and discontent--is all part of a grander endeavor to become like Jesus Christ. Much of what a contented heart comes down to is trust in God's plan for our lives.

Living contentedly means knowing that God will guide us and direct us, that even amid the storms in our lives, peace is there if we but seek it. We may not have control over what happens in our lives, but we can control our hearts. We can choose who we become and we can act accordingly. 

Contented living is about choosing and trusting and seeking, moving forward and letting go all at once. And while I can't seem to articulate precisely how that makes our hearts like our Redeemer's, I know that it does. Contented living is in so many ways Christlike living.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


Helen Keller on contented living

{This image designed by Holly, exclusively for this blog. It's optimized to print as a 4x6}

Perhaps contented living has as much to do with hope as it does about peace. Thoughts?

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


FMF: long

During this series, I'll be participating in Kate Motaung's Five-Minute Fridays. She issues a one-word prompt to inspire five minutes of writing. These short posts may not be anything spectacular, because the purpose is to write and post, without over thinking (or even that much editing). So we'll let this be what it is, and I'll see what I can do about tying in each prompt into my theme of living contentedly.


How easy it is to wish for something different, to yearn for better days. I'll look back on certain periods in my life and marvel at how beautifully simple they were, and sometimes I wish to go back to those days even if just for a little bit. 

Some days I long to be taken care of by someone else, to yield up my boss-of-the-house role for a time. Yesterday was an especially trying day as far as motherhood goes, and I ended up collapsing on the couch feeling both mentally and emotionally battered. It was just so hard. I wanted out.

Yes, I know those moments of wanting out do pass, that ultimately I wouldn't really want to be anywhere else. But sometimes you do. And maybe we would do well to let those moments of discontent ride their course as well as we allow the whole seasons of discontent. I went to sleep last night already feeling exhausted by tomorrow's demands of toddlerhood. But I woke up today, perhaps not feeling as content as I prefer, but feeling better, better enough to face another day. 

Sometimes we long for easier times, for happier and simpler moments. And that's okay, as long as we eventually buckle up and face what's given us.


This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


gratitude list 02

:: dark chocolate
:: Diet Dr. Pepper
:: children's Tylenol
:: sunny fall days
:: new jeans
:: a new dessert cookbook
:: phone calls with my Number One (that's my sister Emily, in case you didn't know)
:: my sewing blog

I don't even have the energy to go searching for images for this post, because as the first three items on my gratitude may indicate, it's been a long couple of days over here. You know when you can't make your toddler happy no matter what you try? That's when you really need a gratitude list. And dark chocolate. Obviously.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


seasons of discontent

Last year when I was talking about gracious living, it seemed like an absolute mentality. Either you were gracious, or you weren't. And even when your life hits a rough patch, you can still always choose to be gracious. Contented living is different. It's foolish to say that we all need to be content all the time. That's not how we're made. Living contentedly is a fluctuating endeavor, one that ebbs and flows just as surely as we breathe in and out.

We will all experience seasons of discontent in our lives, and that's okay. When they happen, we needn't feel the urge to rush through them. The six months leading up to my move to Oregon were intense: my grandmother had died, I'd graduated college, I'd worked a challenging internship, I moved states, I got married, and I had started a new job. Most of these things were actually good things, but all compounded together, they made for a monumental adjustment. Discontent was a natural part of my transition. I see now that I needed it, because if I thought I had to be happy all the time, then I could have seriously hindered my progression.

What are the seasons of discontent in your life? Maybe it was a new job, or leaving an old one. Perhaps you weathered discontent when you had a baby, or maybe when you lost one. You could have moved homes, or maybe you were stuck in a home you'd rather leave. Maybe your marriage went going through a rough patch, or you could have been yearning for companionship that you have yet to find. 

We can't hurry through discontented seasons, because in reality we need them. And sometimes periods in our lives can't be rushed, however much we'd like them to be. Take grieving, for example. When you've lost one you love--a brother, a son, a wife, a mother--the pain is all-consuming. To say that grief is discontented is to put it lightly. But you can't rush it. And just because you're discontent and grieving doesn't mean that something is wrong with you. It means you're human. You're beautifully human, and you live a beautiful life full of things both glorious and heartbreaking. None of us could ever be content if we didn't know how to work through the discontent.

Discontent can change us, and it can change us in good ways. When we find ourselves face to face with a discontented season, don't automatically reject it. Work with it, figure it out, and allow your heart and soul to grow. 

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


barriers to a contented life

What can stop us from living contentedly? Well . . . many things. Maybe most things. Things like

:: marriage
:: singlehood
:: divorce
:: widowhood
:: being a stay-at-home mom
:: being a working mom
:: being an empty nester
:: being a parent, period
:: being unable to have children
:: not having enough money
:: relying on your money for happiness
:: unemployment
:: working a job that drains you, and not in a good way
:: living an unhealthy lifestyle
:: becoming obsessed with a healthy lifestyle
:: not having enough time
:: having too much time

And the list can go on and on and on and on. I've said it before: discontent is easy to find. And conversely, contenting living is simple in theory, but highly disciplined in practice.

So where does this leave us? In the throes of discontent? Maybe. But this awakening also leaves us a reminder of our own power as people who can choose and change. If you want to lead a contented life, start now. Because you can.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


why "fixing" discontent is actually treating only the symptom

Several years ago I heard anger described as a "secondary emotion." When you're angry, you're actually feeling a primary emotion that's causing your ill temper. That's really stuck with me. Now when I feel angry I try to identify what it is I'm actually upset about: am I disappointed? frustrated? anxious? uncertain? tired? Only once you nail down the real problem can you make any progress in finding resolution.

Discontent is no different. If you're feeling unsettled and unhappy, there's a reason for it. Maybe it's something big like the job you have or discord in a key relationship; or maybe it's something as simple as disappointment at a canceled trip or even out-of-whack hormones. 

The key to understanding discontent is to realize that you actually are in control of how you feel and how you live. Don't drown in discontentment! Find the problem, and fix it! And if you can't fix it, find a way to work with it. The glorious thing about contented living is that it doesn't discriminate--you really can be content in any circumstance. And as I type those words I realize how easy it is to say something like that, and how difficult it is to make that happen.

Yes, sometimes we find ourselves in situations and periods that we can't see a way out of. Sometimes, for a period, discontent is inevitable. Yet, discontent need never defeat us. And that's a topic for a whole different post. So.

In those moments when you're swept over with waves of discontent, stop and listen and seek. Just as your doctor examines your symptoms to find a diagnosis, take stock of your life and find those areas that need fixing, or even removal. Let that discontent alert you to the real issues, because when you can fix the actual problems, contented living is not far behind.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


"participative assent"

{We can and "ought to be content with the things allotted to us," being circumstantially content but without being self-satisfied and behaviorally content with ourselves. Such contentment is more than shoulder-shrugging passivity. It reflects our participative assent rather than uncaring resignation.}
--Neal A. Maxwell

This is but a small portion of a wonderful talk on contentment. (You can read the full text here. And you should.) Contented living is largely a spiritual endeavor, one that is active and humble and ongoing. When I remember that, my own efforts at cultivating a contented heart are centered and focused, because without the Savior to guide our growth, we can never find the true and ultimate peace that contented living promises.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


Longfellow on contented living

Sometimes contented living means accepting what you're given, accepting that you can't change all the things. Cultivating a contented heart perhaps means that trusting is the best, surest course.

(And for me, letting it literally rain is the best of all the weather.)

This printable was designed by the lovely Holly and is optimized as a 4x6 print.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


FMF: care

During this series, I'll be participating in Kate Motaung's Five-Minute Fridays. She issues a one-word prompt to inspire five minutes of writing. These short posts may not be anything spectacular, because the purpose is to write and post, without over thinking (or even that much editing). So we'll let this be what it is, and I'll see what I can do about tying in each prompt into my theme of living contentedly.


When you settle for something, essentially you're choosing apathy. And as we've discussed earlier this week, contented living is not settling. Contented living is not apathetic. In fact, living contentedly requires you to care immensely about your life, your choices, and your mentality. 

Contented living requires us to care so much that sometimes it could seem overwhelming. We have to care enough to choose different thoughts and different actions. We have to care enough to approach our entire lives differently. We have to care enough to find that balance of acceptance and action.

Today I care about how my emotions affect my family, about how my contentedness impacts those around me. I care about emotional accountability, and I care about my attitude. I care about my blessings and my trials. Every moment of contented living is a moment of caring.


This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


when you wreck the car

First off, I had a car post in last year's 31-day series, so if car problems are going to be a thing for me with this challenge, then I will never write for 31-days ever again in my life. You understand.

So, I wrecked the car--six weeks ago. We just barely picked it up from the auto body shop last night. It was a nasty wreck involving my car, a big truck, a blind curve, a city fence, and an RV parked in the backyard behind said fence. Miraculously, no one was hurt. (I am still thanking God for that.)

But these past six weeks managing the fallout have been difficult for all the inconveniences. We moved our damn car seat no fewer than five times into as many vehicles; drove an insurance-paid rental car for 30 days; borrowed another car at the grace of friends; talked on the phone countless times with Vicki the insurance case worker and Mike the auto body technician; waited for a cumulative three weeks for insurance approval; and paid a pesky traffic ticket. Good hell.

In moments when the weight of life pressed down, my frustration with this situation easily gave way to discontent. I'd cry, "I just want my car back!" I'd think, "If only I'd come to a full stop." I'd find more things in my life to be unhappy about: a headache, the laundry, a meeting, another insurance call, the weather. Because the thing about discontent is that it replicates quickly. Dealing with the aftermath of our car accident made discontent easy and even desirable. Because if I give up my emotional accountability then I can make myself a victim instead of one who acts.

I'll be honest: discontent is easiest. It's easy to find the bad and amplify it. Seeking good and striving for that balance of contented living takes mental and emotional work. It takes slogging through car repairs and phone calls and switching out that car seat one more time and still choosing to say, I'm glad it's not worse. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for protecting our family. This trial will end.

Things will settle down a bit, now that this car thing is behind us. Pretty soon I'm sure I'll hardly think about these six weeks when I didn't have my car and had to rely on the graciousness and mercy of others. My mentality, though, I hope will stick with me. Contented living takes practice, and if we can seek contentedness in those moments when discontent is calling us, we will come out stronger and more peaceful.

I hope you don't think I succeeded in living contentedly that whole time, because I didn't. I had to emotionally reset more times than I can count, and I had to battle guilt and shock and frustration almost daily. But I didn't give in to discontent. I fought it, even when it threatened to consume me. And while I may not have been completely content during this trial of mine, I tried not to forget that God always promises eventual peace and wholeness.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


gratitude list 01

{this t-shirt choice was entirely incidental, I swear}

:: my new(ish) glasses that make me not hate wearing glasses
:: Asher's Brio train set
:: streaming television

:: new sewing patterns
:: my crew of Oregon friends
:: chocolate chip cookies
:: FaceTime with my parents and siblings

:: library books
:: Asher running down the hall stark naked pretending to be an airplane
:: that cool breeze coming in through the window

What are you thankful for today?

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


"the beginning of greatness"

Sure, talking about contented living is easy enough. How hard is it to discuss the ideal of living a full and satisfied life? It's what we all want, at some level. We were divinely designed to seek peace, seek contentment. 

Where do we start, though? My grandma had many aphorisms by the end of her life. She was not hesitant to share her life's wisdom, and I was eager to listen. One of my favorites is this: "It is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time." Don't believe her? Just try it. Spend five minutes making a gratitude list and tell me how you feel afterward. 

Gratitude is the root of so much goodness, including contentment. Gratitude is powerful, much more so than we realize. Several years ago, one of my church leaders (now passed) said the following regarding gratitude and its potential:
A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.--James E. Faust, "Gratitude as a Saving Principle"
 If you're floundering and wondering where to begin finding your balance within contented living, start with cultivating gratitude. When your soul is grateful, your life is primed for contentment.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


balancing contented living

Somewhere along the line I heard someone talk about content just being a nicer way to say settle. I disagree with that.

A line exists between contented living and settling, albeit a fine one. Yes, those who are content are happy with their current lot. But contented people also aren't doormats. They are ambitious, yet accepting. They're easily pleased, yet not gullible. 

Contented living isn't about denying yourself the best of what your life can offer; rather, living a contented life means that you know when to move and when to be still. Contented living asks you to know what you're choosing and also what you're not choosing. It's knowing what you can change, and coming to terms with what is beyond your control. 

Living the content life is a balancing act of the mind, one that you consistently need to be working on; otherwise, you'll lose your way.

So, no. Contented living is not just another way to say that you settled. Settling is perhaps even a cause for discontent. The line is fine enough for me to have a difficult time finding the right words to describe it. If you live a content life, then you have decided to take control of your mind and your choices. Far more than what your exterior may indicate, contented living starts with your thoughts and then projects outward. So let's start there, in your mind. Let's start now

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


fallen men {and women}

{Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy}
2 Nephi 2:25

Yes, this world in an imperfect one filled to the brim with imperfect people. And yet God still designed us to seek and occasionally find contentment.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


Tolstoy on contented living

Before we talk about anything today, I need to tell you about this image. I collaborated with my friend Holly on this, and she's agreed to design a set of printables for this series. She's blogging her own 31-day series on girl power, and she's really just wonderful. Do yourself a favor, and follow her series. And then come back here and download this lovely number. It's optimized to print at 4x6.

Do you agree with my pal Tolstoy? In my faith culture, perfection is something spoken of frequently, and it can be easy to fall prey to discouragement. But if we gave up striving to be better, where would we be? Once again we come back to the depths of the word content. Perhaps we need to be happy with what God gives us, and still keep a mind and heart open to progression. Perhaps contented living is grace for the imperfect, reassurance that yes, an imperfect life can be a lovely one--and I have a feeling that God always intended for us to find peace and yes, contentment, within our imperfections.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


FMF: new

During this series, I'll be participating in Kate Motaung's Five-Minute Fridays. She issues a one-word prompt to inspire five minutes of writing. These short posts may not be anything spectacular, because the purpose is to write and post, without overthinking (or even that much editing). So we'll let this be what it is, and I'll see what I can do about tying in each prompt into my theme of living contentedly.


Contented living is in some ways the opposite of new. Temporally, perhaps contented living is enjoying what you have, without seeking more or bigger or better or, well, new.

But then again--and I'll stress this repeatedly throughout this month--choosing to be content is not settling. It is not passive acceptance of the status quo. And that, dear friends, may be very new to you. Contented living may be a new way to think about our minutes, hours, and days. It may be a new way to slow down and think and savor and live.

Just as the world glorifies being busy, maybe it also praises certain forms of discontent. (And later on this month I do plan on examining what productive discontent looks like, because discontent itself isn't inherently bad.) How many acquaintances and friends do we talk to who say outright, "Yes, I'm happy with where I am right here and right now. Right now things are good." Not too many. We say things like, "It's good, but."

That mentality is not new--it's everywhere. So today, in the spirit of contented living, let's revolutionize our spheres of influence and give ourselves--and those around us--the permission to simply be content, if only a little while.


This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


the flip side

Before we move any further in this series, we need to define what contentedness isn't: discontent. And I have a feeling that discontent will play a large role in our exploration of contented living. If we are ever to live a contented life, we must understand the alternative. The more I try to define content the more I find myself trying to nail down discontent; one is essential to the other.

So if contented means happy and satisfied, discontent must mean unhappy and dissatisfied. When I think about what it feels like to be discontent, I feel unsettled and out of place.

All of us have had periods of discontent in our lives. Perhaps some of those stints are unavoidable (an idea I plan to examine later in the month), and likely some of that discontent is ultimately needless. Discussing discontent in the wake of content may make us feel uncomfortable sometimes, because really what we're doing is inspecting our own souls for vulnerability. And that's never easy.

I'm sure if given a few moments, every one of us can identify at least one person we know who is discontent. So what characterizes discontent, anyway? The discontented people I know feel powerless to some extent, resentful to another. They think that one-upping those around them will compensate for their self-perceived shortcomings, and they fall victim to comparison.

So what does this mean about the one who lives a contented life?

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


contentment, a definition

So, you convinced me. I'm going to write for 31 days straight--again. For those of you not here last year, 31-days is a challenge started by Myquillyn Smith (aka The Nester) to write on one topic for 31 consecutive days. (You can find more on the challenge, as well as hundreds of other participating bloggers here.) Last year I wrote about gracious living, and you can find the index to those posts here. A few weeks ago I opened up my thoughts to this space, asking if I should write at all and what I could possibly write about. I thought I'd be mulling on potential topic ideas for several more days, but later that night it hit me just as clearly as gracious living did a year ago.


It's such a lovely word, isn't it? Contentment. It's a word that makes you feel what it means. But what does it mean, exactly? Naturally I turn to my trusty pal, the MW: "pleased and satisfied, not needing more." Isn't that wonderful? I want to live a contented life, and so that's what we're going to explore every single day this month. 

I feel so right about this topic and am so eager to dig into the meat of contented living with you. I have a couple of new ideas for this series, one of which involves a collaboration with my friend and blogger Holly, who is also writing her own 31-day series. I hope you enjoy the month on this space as much as I plan to!

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.


don't forget about reading spooky next month!

Hello, Monday! Today I'm popping in first to tell you that you've convinced me to try writing for 31 days again. The series starts on Wednesday, and I'll be linking up to The Nester's site with the topic. I've been planning and prepping for a couple of weeks now. Get ready!

Secondly, don't forget about reading something spooky next month! This year, Miranda and I are going to tackle Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. We've both heard good things about this one and look forward to being thoroughly spooked. (It is described as "chillingly erotic" on Goodreads, so be warned. I haven't read this one and therefore can't give an adequate content warning!)

And this year I'm offering a secondary spooky reading option. I have this novella called The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. It's a sequel to that book I read over the summer Parnassus on Wheels. I doubt this one will be especially scary, but it should be a fun read all the same! You can currently find both Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop for $0.99 total in the Kindle store--I'd jump on that if I were you.)

Previous years' spooky reads include:

:: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders , by Vincent Bugliosi (a compelling nonfiction read that is chilling but not necessary spooky)
:: Dracula, by Bram Stoker (a favorite of mine, and currently only $0.99 in the Kindle store!)
:: The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
:: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (a perfect October read full of magic and carnivals and all-around spooky)


to write, or not to write

Remember that time I wrote for 31 days? I think about that project often. It ended up being near and dear to my heart. And now it's already time to start gearing up for the 2014 31 days challenge. The thing is that I'm not sure if I want to do it this year, and if I do want to do it, I'm not sure what topic I'd choose to write about.

Should I do 31 days again? Are you going to try it this year? What should I write about? What would you write about? Maybe 31 days of writing would rev some life back into this space. But maybe I should write for 31 days on my sewing blog. But maybe 31 days of writing would be too much. This month has been on the rougher end of months, what with the car crash and the heat waves and inexplicable funks. I really do love to write, so writing for 31 days could be really good for me.  But it's a gamble, one that I'm not sure if I should take. 

So, what do you think? Should I write for 31 days again


Twitterature: summer reading recap

The calendar says it's not summer anymore (at least not by the school calendar), yet the temperatures here are still reaching 90. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how I feel about that (i.e. I hate it). Regardless of the forecast, it's fall, and I've officially finished my summer reading. I read some really wonderful books this summer, so get ready for some recaps!

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest DisasterInto Thin Air , Jon Krakauer, 2 stars

An audio read for me, this one did not put out. I've heard it's a great read normally, but the narrator (the author, himself, on this one) was awful, and it was all I could do to make it to the end. I'll have to put it back on my to-read list, this time in print. #letdown #audio

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, 3 stars

This book started out strong for me but lost a bit of steam about three-quarters of the way through. I did find Henrietta's story both fascinating and sad. I've heard about HeLa cells in various podcasts and enjoyed learning the story of her, her posterity, and her immortal, world-changing cells. #nonfiction #realscience

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be BeautifulThe Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, Myquillyn Smith, 5 stars

This book changed my whole perspective on my home. I felt freed from feeling the need to perfect my home and justify my decorating. I came out of this book with a boat-load of motivation, my mind brimming with ideas and possibilities. This book was a total game-changer for me, and I'd recommend it to anyone. #gamechanger #idhtbptbb

Murphy's Law (Molly Murphy Mysteries #1)Murphy's Law, Rhys Bowen, 3 stars

Another audio read, this one was entertaining though unmemorable. I didn't love it, but it kept me listening. #mystery #historicalfiction #meh #audio

The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper, Kate Morton, 4.5 stars

My first Kate Morton novel, this book did not disappoint. I really loved it; it's easily my favorite fiction read of the summer. Part mystery, part historical fiction, this book was unpredictable and captivating. I loved the end and promise not to dole out spoilers. I'd recommend this to anyone. #favorite #readit

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - CityThe Sweet Life in Paris, David Lebovitz, 4 stars

I laughed out loud several times while reading this book. The author's style is very tongue-in-cheek and appropriately self-deprecating. His various anecdotes about his forays as an expat in Paris leave you smiling and wondering how you'd fare in the BHV. #memoir #Parislife

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2)Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)

Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs 1 &2), Jacqueline Winspear, 4 stars each

Both audio books, I really enjoyed these books and found them refreshing from typical mystery novels. Maisie is interesting and complex, and the mysteries themselves follow suit. These are delightful books to listen to, and I'd easily recommend them to anyone looking for an intriguing mystery. #mystery #audio #historicalfiction

The Time in BetweenThe Time In BetweenMaría Dueñas, 4.5 stars

A favorite of my summer reading. I always love anything about sewing, and a story where the protagonist picks up her life with fabric and couture sewing is an automatic win in my book. And a story where the heroine uses her sewing to fight the Nazis? Two thumbs up from this seamstress.

The writing quality is solid and the story is thorough and well developed. This would be a great vacation read or an anytime read. Loved it! #sewingfiction #favorite #historicalthriller

AttachmentsAttachmentsRainbow Rowell, 4 stars

The more I read it, the more I liked it. Endearing characters, predictable yet enjoyable plot points, fun pop culture references. Reading this felt just like watching a rom-com on a Friday night. It's a perfect beach or vacation read, or just a good book to pick up if you need something fun.

Attachments is different from my first Rainbow Rowell read (Eleanor & Park). Attachments is more fun than emotional and serious. Both books are great in their own ways! #chicklit

Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs, #3)Pardonable LiesJacqueline Winspear, 4 stars

Another Maisie Dobbs audiobook. This mystery/historical fiction series continues to stay strong! #mystery #audio #historicalfiction

Summers at Castle AuburnSummers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn, 4 stars

This was a reread this summer, and I forgot how much I enjoyed it. In spite of its awful cover art, this book is a lovely story, full of depth, intrigue, and even a dash of romance. This was a delightful book to reread, and it will certainly be in future reread rotations. #reread #lightfantasy #favorite

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh. 3.5 stars

This was an interesting book to read. I had a difficult time identifying with the protagonist, and that barrier did make certain parts very difficult for me to read. The redemption in this story, though, is impossible to deny. Of lesser importance, I certainly enjoyed learning about flowers and their meanings. I loved how Victoria rebuilt her life with them. #happyandnothappy

Parnassus on WheelsParnassus On Wheels, Christopher Morley, 4 stars

A delightful read about a traveling bookstore and the woman who spontaneously buys it. This is a short and gratifying story that should be on the shelves of every book-lover. #bibliophile #favorite (Psst! This one is currently $1.99 in the Kindle store!)

The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes, 4 stars

A very well written story intertwining past and present, while skillfully examining the intricacies of love, trust, and hope. This is a book I'd easily recommend to just about anyone. The only part someone might take issue with is a couple of sexy parts, but no explicit descriptions. #historicalfiction #readit

Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs, #4)Messenger of Truth, Jacqueline Winspear, 4 stars

Another Maisie Dobbs novel just as enjoyable as the others. #audio #mystery #historicalfiction

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic WorldNotes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, Tsh Oxenreider, 3.5 stars

I liked this far better than I anticipated. I really connected with the pursuit and idealism of intentional living. Most of the time I saw the anecdotes as an example of how intentional living worked for Tsh's family, though sometimes her philosophizing waxes preachy, especially when it comes to travel. I had a lot to take away from this book, and I read it quickly; however it won't be my intentional-living-bible or anything. #nonfiction #intentionalliving #artofsimple

The Middle PlaceThe Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan, 4 stars

A memoir that is refreshingly honest and often laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes Corrigan's attitude about faith frustrated me, but overall I enjoyed reading about her journey. I laughed, I cried, and I counted my blessings. #memoir #nonfiction #countyourblessings

My summer reading tallied at 18! I impressed even myself with that one. What did you read this summer? Anything I need to add to my list?

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy today!
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