My son’s friends are all starting to sport mullet haircuts, and my daughter thinks low-rise jeans are the coolest things. Are you cringing along with me? What is happening with fashion lately, and why does it feel like we’re entering the twilight zone?
We are told these fashion styles are new and exciting, but those of us who have been around for more than 30 years know these trends have been around before.
Ecclesiastes 1:9–10 says it best: “Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes goes deeper than passing fads. It speaks to the meaning of life, spoken from the perspective of one who has seen the effects of a life seeking all different kinds of things. The author of Ecclesiastes highlights where people tend to spend their time and energy—primarily pursuing money, pleasure, and wisdom—and the bottom line? “Vanity of vanities…all things are vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
The Hebrew word for vanity, hevel, means futility, a chasing after wind, a grasping after shadows.
For centuries people have sought money, pleasure, and wisdom. In many ways, we are not unlike the generations that have come before us—even if the way we experience these things looks different. In essence, they are not new. Generations pass and the lessons learned by our ancestors are often forgotten by future generations. Whatever we have accumulated during our time on this earth will eventually fade away. Yes, even the low-rise jeans will leave one day (praise the Lord).
However, if there’s more to this life than what we see (2 Corinthians 4:18), and our lives matter to God (Isaiah 44:2), then everything we do matters to Him (Colossians 3:17).
And the difference between a life that is meaningless and a life that is meaningful?
Surprise, it’s you! More specifically, it’s what you choose to do with the one life you’ve been given.
You are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You are able to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
You are able to offer encouragement to those who are afflicted, because you have received encouragement from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
We have been given this time on earth to glorify God and bring others to Him. Everything else is vanity.
Sisters, we are uniquely equipped to tell the coming generations about the goodness, truth, and beauty of God. It’s our privilege to be His witnesses and ambassadors. We can share how God has worked in our own lives and in the life of our universal Catholic Church, with 2000 years of tradition and a history that extends even beyond that. Using the fleeting things of this world (money, pleasure, and wisdom) for His glory and to bring others to Him is precisely how we flip the switch from meaningless lives to lives rich in meaning.
Let us not be women who chase after the wind or grasp for shadows. Let us be women who stand firm and hold out our hands to offer the good news to a generation that desperately needs it (much more than low-rise jeans).
Everything else is vanity.
I recently picked up I Thirst: 40 Days with Mother Teresa by Joseph Langford, M.C., and this line spoke to me:
“God is eternally fresh and alive. It can happen that we grow stale by force of routine, at which point we need to enter again the freshness and vivid life of God’s call.” 
Let me ask. Does God feel fresh and alive in your life?
As the pastoral co-coordinator of our Walking with Purpose parish program, I asked our leadership team how they were feeling as we gear up for a virtual kickoff; specifically, what fruits of the Holy Spirit could they use a good shot of before we welcome the 100+ women who are eager to dive back into God’s Word? One woman spoke up. “I need joy. I don’t feel joy.”
Can you relate?
For many women, it is the face-to-face fellowship that brings them joy. For others, it is understanding Scripture for the first time. But the reason why Walking with Purpose is so much more than a Bible study is that in encountering Christ through Scripture in community, you inevitably encounter yourself. What do I mean by this? I mean it is only when we come to know Jesus in the way that He lived that we discover our true selves and what He created us for. He created you with a purpose, you know. He has a personal and intimate call for each of us. Even during a pandemic.
I think we can all agree that the last eight months or so have worn us down. We have isolated and sanitized and we have no idea what day it is anymore. As a result, watching Mass on the couch has become easier than remembering to register for a spot at church. The initial zeal for family get-togethers on Zoom has grown old, and there are even those of us who have decided to pass on our favorite Bible study this fall because the idea of meeting virtually makes us want to pull our masks over our eyes and drive into oncoming traffic.
Please don’t do that.
It’s not safe.
Just hear me out.
I am sick of the screens, too. Going virtual for everything, including my beloved Bible study, kills me; not only because I crave human contact, but because I have the technology skills of a dead monkey. Yes, I said dead, because I don’t want to insult the living monkey who can figure out Zoom breakout rooms and screen-sharing way better than I can. And yet, here we are and we don’t have many choices, but this I do know: not choosing to help women encounter God through Bible study will never be an option for me. This is my call. Nothing, not even a pandemic, will mess with that.
Has the pandemic messed with your call? Because if so, I want you to be on guard and pay close attention. It is not the pandemic messing with you. It is the enemy. He doesn’t want you to encounter Christ. He doesn’t want you to lead others to Christ. And he surely doesn’t want you to live out your purpose. He wants to steal your joy.
He has no idea who he is dealing with.
As our fearlessly positive WWP Founder and Chief Purpose Officer Lisa Brenninkmeyer shared with the National Team on our company call, “Could it be that the enemy is panicked because he thought he shut us down in March?” Friend...do not let him shut you down. I am speaking to the woman who is so lost in grieving what day-to-day life used to be, she has forgotten what God is able to do. Our God can move mountains. Our God can part the seas. He can clean the leper, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead back to life. Surely, He can work miracles through our Zoom calls, too. Do not underestimate God. Our circumstances are not an obstacle, but a great opportunity. I believe we will be able to reach more women and bring God’s light to places we never could have before. We may not have an open chair, but we do have an open square. The possibilities are endless.
But we need you on board.
I know what you are thinking. “But this isn’t how it was supposed to be.” You love the pink tablecloths, hugging your participants, and the sisterhood that has saved your life in a million ways. Personally? I enjoyed eating every last cracker and cube of cheese left on the platters as we broke down tables and chairs. I agree. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But I imagine the disciples felt the same way, staring up at Jesus as he hung on the cross. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Or was it?
Because death did not hold Him, did it? He took the most horrific tragedy and turned it into the greatest victory. He always makes a way for us. Today is no different.
God wants to work big things through us and for us. No matter the season or circumstance, He invites us into His life. Friends, do not let “virtual” get in the way of the Lord’s call on your heart. Do not believe the enemy’s lies that you cannot have intimacy or meaningful conversations through screens. Do not give him permission to keep you from being who God made you to be. Mother Teresa reminds us of what God says to each of us: “‘I have chosen you.’ Never be tired, Sisters, of repeating that sentence. We have been chosen for a purpose: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls.” 
The women are thirsty. I bet you are thirsty, too. And I happen to know where we can quench our thirst. As Jesus says to his disciples, He says to us, too: “Come and see what you were made for: Come and know the love of the Father. Come and see where I live. Come home!”
It is time to reclaim our joy, sweet sisters; to enter again the fresh and vivid life of God’s call. It is time to come home.
With love from your virtual sister in Christ,
P.S. We know how creative our Walking with Purpose community is, and that meeting virtually does not mean an end to the hospitality we are known for! If you have a great picture of your virtual kickoff or a hospitality hack, we would love to see it. Please share with us by posting your picture on your social media and tagging Walking with Purpose using our handles on Instagram (@walkingwithpurpose_official), Facebook (@walkingwithpurpose), and/or Twitter (@walkingwpurpose). And don't forget to add the hashtag #wwpcommunity.
 Joseph Langford, M.C., I Thirst: 40 Days With Mother Teresa, (Augustine Institute, 2018), p.33.
 Joseph Langford, M.C., I Thirst: 40 Days With Mother Teresa, (Augustine Institute, 2018), p.34.
There's a lot to be said for playing it safe. It's predictable, comfortable, and doesn't cause ripple effects. It gives us the impression that we aren't hurting anyone. We're neither hot, nor cold-we're coasting in neutral. But playing it safe can also leave us stuck in situations that are stifling for our souls and deadening to our hearts.
Most of us can point to something that happened to us-something hurtful- that caused us to vow to do all we could to never let it happen again. Perhaps it occurred in childhood. Maybe it was in the context of marriage. It could have been an unhealthy relationship with a friend or a family member.
When something really damaging happens to our hearts, we automatically want to protect ourselves. We are determined to learn from our mistakes, so we vow to do things differently in the future. We might vow never to make waves… or never to need someone again…or to never cry…or to keep the vulnerable parts of who we are hidden. We vow to play it safe.
The vows are as varied as the myriad relationships in which we have been involved. But all these vows have one thing in common; they are based on our fear of what will happen if control is lost. We make vows, convinced that we have created a hedge of protection around us. What we don't realize is that the vows only offer a false sense of security. We don't recognize that we've replaced trust in God with trust in our coping mechanisms. Without meaning to, we move away from freedom and love, and towards slavery and fear.
God is beckoning us to step out, and to trust Him in the scary places. God is calling us to move forward. Perhaps it's a hard conversation He wants you to have. He may be inviting you to stop trying to control someone in your life, and instead to trust Him to intervene. Maybe it's finally working up the courage to say out loud, “I am drinking to numb the pain and I don't know how to stop.” It could be that He's asking you to admit that you are experiencing despair, and that you need professional help. It's a stepping out into the unknown, and even as He extends His hand, our pretend places of safety look preferable to the free fall of trust.
Someone asked me once what scared me about the free fall that takes place when I step out and trust God. She asked if I was more afraid of where I was going to land, or what it would feel like during the process.
The truth is, both parts are scary. I don't like what it feels like to not be in control. Hard conversations make me sick to my stomach. I like to know what's around the corner and I like to be prepared for it. Stepping out and trusting God means that we can end up in some places that don't feel as predictable as before. But those places feel real. They feel honest. They feel authentic.
And that's where God meets us. When we quit pretending, when we stop burying the things that need attention, He stands right in front of us, cups our face in His hands and whispers, “You are so brave.”
He cheers when we take that first, scary step. He knows that's the hardest step to take. God is calling out to our hearts, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine!” (Isaiah 43:1) He grabs hold of our hands, and does not let go for one second. His strength is infused into us, and we find that we can take another step, and then the next. Every single moment of the free fall, He is going before us, “turning the darkness into light… and making the rough places smooth.” (Is. 42:16) He coaxes us forward and promises, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Is. 43:2)
Ask the One who loves you to give you just a little more courage than fear. God is calling you to have faith in Him. All you need to take the first step. You don't need to have it all scripted out. You don't need to have the whole plan in place. You just need a little more courage than fear, and the knowledge of where the free fall ends. Oh my sweet friends…it doesn't end with you in a heap on the floor. It ends with you cradled in His arms. You can rest there. And when the time is right, He'll set your feet back on the ground and say, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Is. 43:18-19)
Grateful for His mercy that never fails…
This blog post originally appeared on the WWP website in November 2015.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Life has kicked into gear around here. No more sipping iced tea on the porch. Summer is over and September calls for organization and productivity. It can feel like a shock to the system after months of an easier pace. Do you have so many balls in the air that you are afraid one is going to drop? Are you hustling through your day, yet in the evening, doubt that you have done enough?
We live at a time in history that is more productive and efficient than ever before, yet so many of us are walking around (rushing around) accompanied by a strong sense that we fall short of who and what we are supposed to be. If this describes your life, how long has it been like this? Weeks? Months? Years?
We can so easily fall into the habit of just existing. Of measuring the value of our lives by our productivity, by whether or not we get the job done, by how far we climb up the ladder. But none of those things can give us joy.
I was talking to someone about this pace the other day. She said it sounded to her like I was treading water while trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air, which sounds pretty much impossible. That description wasn't news to me. It didn't feel particularly insightful, just observant. But then she went on to say something that really stopped me in my tracks. “I think that at the same time, you are kicking your heart away from you. Not because you think your heart doesn't matter. You just don't have time to stop and take care of it.”
I haven't been able to get her words out of my head. I know that above all else, I need to guard my heart. I believe wholeheartedly that everything I do flows from my heart. The heart is the essence of who I am, not what I do. It's where joy is found.
Joy does not reside in a life that is all about checking the boxes, even if the boxes are for really good things like spiritual growth, service, and loving your family. When most of what we do is preceded by “I should” or “I must,” then there's a pretty good chance that we are lacking in the joy department. But this is a tricky thing. God asks us to obey Him, and so a ton of things get put on our “I must” list. People around us need to be actively loved, and that makes the “I should” list a million miles long.
I'm committed to wrestling through this paradox. I want to continue to be sold out for Christ. I want to love people tangibly, and I want to obey God completely. But I want to figure out how to do those things in a way that doesn't feel like one enormous should. Not just because it doesn't feel good-it's because the motivation isn't right. And when we operate for too long simply because we must and we should, we become robotic, and a little bit dead inside. I want to avoid this at all costs, and I'm sure you do, too.
I want to fight for joy, because “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10). If I don't have joy, I'm weak-prone to burnout, discouragement, and frustration. I believe “the joy of the Lord” comes from knowing we are God's beloved daughters, and living out of that reality. As a loving father, God wants us to experience getting lost in pure delight. He wants us to be replenished. He wants the blinders off our eyes so that we can see all that we have to be grateful for. He wants us to take time to rest. In fact, He's commanded that we rest. (Exodus 20:8) He knows us completely-we are the apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8) He wants us to take the time to figure out what truly brings us joy. Not what numbs us, distracts us, or just keeps us busy.
There will always be many things that simply need to get done. Laundry doesn't fold itself and the bills need to be paid. But let's make sure that we lift up our hearts each day and give them a little tending. That we hold them our to our heavenly Father and ask Him to pour out His love and grace over them. He never withholds that request. And let's look for the little things that bring us joy, and give ourselves permission to lay down the uncompleted to do list, and do something that simply breathes life into our hearts.
May we truly LIVE EVERY DAY of our lives and continue to fight for JOY.
As I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed the woman behind me showing her daughter the delicious deli-prepared meals in their cart. I looked back at my two bulging shopping carts and thought ahead to the hours it was going to take me to make the meals for the week. She caught my eye and looked at all my food, so I explained that I have seven kids and that three of them are teenage boys. “Oh, enjoy it,” she smiled. “The time goes so fast!”
“Really?” I wondered. Because sometimes it can feel like time moves slowly, and that I've been doing the same things, over and over again, for ages. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I can see how that's true. But my reality is that when little Charlotte heads off to college, I'll be sixty, and we will have been parenting for thirty-seven years. That's a lot of meal preparation.
After I got home and unpacked the groceries, I made a cup of tea. It was 5 p.m. That's the time of day I most want to sit down, but if I do, I find it really hard to get back up. The clock crept toward 5:30 p.m., then 6 p.m., and my family started getting hungry. I announced that I just didn't feel like making dinner. What I really wanted was for Alice from the Brady Bunch to come through the door and make dinner for us. But then I wanted her to disappear, so no one would know that I had an “Alice.” I didn't want anyone to think I was a slacker. No one seemed very interested, least of all my husband, who was reading the paper and only half-listening. So I finally made myself get up to prepare dinner (it's in the oven), and I think we'll be eating around 8:30 p.m.
It's hard to remain steadfast, especially at this time of year. Summer beckons, and the desire to quit working so hard is strong. It can be especially difficult to remain faithful doing the little things well-all those thankless tasks we're tired of doing. Is there an area in your life where you feel tempted to procrastinate or quit? Yet, you know, like I do, that God is asking you to persevere and finish well?
When I feel the urge to settle for mediocrity, I challenge myself with the following thoughts. They help me re-focus and remain steadfast. I hope they'll encourage you, too!
When I'm sitting on the couch at 5 p.m. instead of staying faithful to the little things, it's often because I'm worn out. I've been going all day, and don't feel I have anything left to give. That's when I need to ask myself where I've spent my best efforts. Have all my energies been sapped by activities outside my home so that what I have to give my family is leftovers? Who gets my best? I say that my highest priority is my relationship with God, then my husband, then my children. I'm convicted by Psalm 101:2, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” It's going to be hard for me to apply this verse if I've given my best efforts elsewhere.
When I'm feeling tired and bored with my responsibilities, it helps me to look up and look ahead. What is it that I'll want to have accomplished in five, ten, or twenty years? In what way is this small task a part of a bigger vision? Proverbs 29:18 reminds me, “Without vision the people perish.” We don't achieve our long-range purpose or vision through one heroic self-sacrificing event. Purposeful living is made up of many little decisions-small steps of faithfulness. Little things matter.
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).This verse can be applied over a lifetime, and also to every day. At the close of each day, I ask myself, “Have I finished well? Have I given time to the things that matter most? Am I leaving undone things that are going to make tomorrow more difficult?”
Let's resolve to remain steadfast in what God has placed before us. Our summer rest will be all the sweeter when we feel we've given our best to what matters most.
Holding you close to my heart as I pray for you,
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