Self on a Shelf (by Guest Blogger Rachel Axtmann)

Ahhhhh…I just recently finished cleaning up my home. The decorations are all down and neatly placed (thrown) back into the red and green bins and packed away until next Christmas. The bit of extra space I once had in my living room has returned. My countertops are clear, free from a bazillion sprinkles and the gingerbread house remnants. I have a feeling of peacefulness now that my home is back to normal. Don’t misunderstand. I do LOVE the coziness of Christmas, and the beauty and wonder of it. In fact, this year was the best yet, just watching the joy and excitement the season brings to our children. But, once it’s over, I really look forward to returning to the normal routine. When it’s all put away, I always light a clean scented candle and with the freshness it brings, I begin to think about a new year and a fresh start.

Funny though, I am able to pack away all of my decorations, clean up the house, and focus on a new beginning, but there is one part of the season that lingers a bit inside of me. There is one part I just can’t “put away” as easily. It sticks around. And, unfortunately, I’ve noticed this becoming a yearly post-Christmas trend.

In December, I become so keenly aware of all there is in the world to consume and to have and to wish for. This year, I started shopping for my kids online (thank you free shipping, you have won my heart). Anyway, when you place an online order, this nifty little thing happens, you start getting emails from that store about 18 times per day. They let you know about new bargains, last minute deals, and things you just can’t live without. But, instead of deleting those new glittery messages, I’ve got to admit some just plain lure me in.

Recently, I stumbled across a new line of active wear. At first, I saw just a few items that caught my attention, and so I took the opportunity to view the entire line. My little eyes grew brighter . . . and I could feel my heart pounding just a little harder . . . it looked so comfortable and fit-flattering, yet stylish, and easy to work out in (should I decide to do so). The more I thought about this collection, the more it started to put my current work-out clothes from the clearance rack to shame. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that if I had them, I would for sure exercise more regularly and for sure feel better about myself.

Convinced that this was for my health, I took myself on a little field trip to the store. And sure enough, it WAS better in person! I had a blast trying it all on – pure dreaminess! I had visions of exercising and eating kale dancing in my head. Oh the healthy possibilities that this new clothing would bring! I wish I could tell you that this active wear was the ONLY thing I was tempted with, but I might have also looked at new cookware, a few new cute pairs of boots, some canvas bags, new home decor for my living room, and last but not least, some super cute hand-stamped jewelry – you know, just some “must haves”.

Here’s the thing though, before I began my online shopping, I was so very content with what I had. I felt blessed for all of the many ways God has provided for my needs and even some straight up wants. We were living within our means and sticking to the budget we had set in place. But once my eyes took in all the other possibilities, what I had lost its value to me. I never knew what I “needed” until I learned what I didn’t have. And then, discontentment settled in.

I began to covet those items. I was willing to step outside the boundaries my husband and I set in place financially. I was ready to just donate those old tired items that were totally fine and serving their purpose just a week ago. It would all be okay, just this once, right? We could swing it. It’s Christmas after all! Thankfully, before this all happened, I calmed down and drove home.

I’m not sure about you, but comparison leaves me feeling icky. I struggle with it – often! But for me, I really tend to feel it around the holidays. Maybe you don’t ever look at clothing or material things, but perhaps you compare your friendships to others, or your marriage, or the vacations you take. Or maybe, you compare the way others parent and how their kids seem to behave, or the “fun” projects they do with their kids thanks to the insanely “amazing” world of Pinterest. Instead of thanking God for what He has given you, you covet, or even envy, what someone else has or does.

When we begin to compare what we have with what others have or what the world offers, we never win. Theodore Roosevelt once wisely said,

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Please don’t hear me wrong, I am not saying that we shouldn’t have nice things. What I am saying is that we need to guard our hearts. Are the things you desire causing you to be discontent?

For me, I know I need to scale back. After Christmas, I need to take a break, and plan to start the new year with a heart of thanksgiving instead of a heart of envy. I need to be more careful with what I am choosing to look at with my eyes. How about you? If looking at certain items, browsing social media, or visiting certain stores are causing you to feel discontent, maybe you would like to join me in setting up some boundaries?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” – Matthew 6:22

I am committing myself to a healthy start in 2016, full of light. Now that my decorations are put away, so will my discontentment be too. It is time to put my self on a shelf, along with the holiday décor. With God’s help, I can get back on track! And, you can too.

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.” – Proverbs 14:30

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***Thank you, Rachel for sharing your story. I know many women can relate to this!***