PURPOSE

For the first time since our wedding 6 years ago, I can write out my thoughts about our life in a few paragraphs without it feeling like a complete blur. Finally there are a few things that have come full circle & I can see clearly what I have learned and where we are going.

At the beginning of this year, both my husband (Tyler) and I stepped out of vocational ministry in our local church, and left with a lot of personal baggage. When we first started dating in 2011, Tyler started his job at the church the same week–and that’s how our life had felt: our relationship and the church went hand-in-hand. We entered marriage & life with many misconceptions: understanding what God calls you to, what it means to have purpose, the purpose of work, vocation versus ministry, what we expect of each other, and the list goes on. We both jumped in at the church with two feet with the assumption that “God’s work is the best work.” As anyone will tell you, ministry can eat you alive if you are not spiritually prepared (1 Peter 5:8). It was evident after a few years that something was off, but we could not put our finger on it. Was it us, not being cut out for this type of work? This is just how ministry is, drudging and difficult? Halfway through Tyler’s tenure there, we were sent on a sabbatical because we had reached a breaking point. Looking back, I still don’t think we realize how delicate our marriage & spirits had become. Tyler had been struggling with chronic neck pain from an injury & reaching for pain-killers to alleviate more than just his symptoms. His anxiety was becoming unmanageable. I was doing what I know how to do–internally shut down, lean on my strengths and march on, trying my best not to let things fall apart. This whole time, I had this undercurrent agony of, “if this is what God has called us to now, why is it misery? Why doesn’t this work energize us, and why don’t we like going to work everyday?” I had this dreadful image in my mind of years working away in vocational ministry while we function weary, tired & strung out attempting to “make the church work”, all the while our personal lives fall apart. I was at a point where I knew that this was not worth sacrificing our life together for–and I could see the threat of collapse. 

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One of the sweet things about God is that rarely do we understand what he’s teaching us or where he’s leading us in the thick of the fight. When we came out of sabbatical our heads were clearer, we had more trust & understanding for each other, but our hearts were still unsettled. It was within that next year that God graciously taught us how wrong our understanding of work had been. We both had this idea that, “I love the Lord, I want to serve Him, and the best (most direct) way of doing that is by working in ministry.” This didn’t take into account any of our strengths, our natural tendencies and most importantly what God has called us to. It was a religious view of God and did not take into account that he is a loving, personal God who relates to us as a son & daughter, wanting everything for our good (the Gospel). Scripture tells us that there is no such thing as “holy work” and that work itself is a function put in place by God that is fundamentally good (more on this later). Since leaving the church our desire to see people come to Christ has not diminished, but our closeness to God himself continues to grow– and that cannot be replaced by religion.

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By God’s grace, at the beginning of the year Ty began a job working as a content manager at a local business coaching firm, while I transitioned into being a full-time stay at home momma. I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I had made a decision to stay at home with my kids and I had many unspoken expectations of myself to be this idyllic mother I imagined in my head that would magically emerge when I was no longer working outside the home. Oh boy. I walked around with a guilt that I didn’t understand for a few months, feeling as though I was swimming in the lack of structure and time that had suddenly been gifted to me. I consistently found myself looking for something to put my hands or head to work on while being met with the unreasonable expectations in my head that, “you are a stay at home mom, and that is your full-time job now-quit finding ‘work’ to do! Go play with your kids for hours, make all the food, plan all the fun things, be the woman that you see others being!”

Can you see it? I was falling into the exact same thinking I had 6 years ago at the outset of life. I was making the assumption that there is an honor to mothering that is exceptional compared to other work. Even just reading that makes me cringe. What does that say about women who never bear children? Women who are called to careers outside the home? Women who work a job while also mothering their children in the same house? Is God not pleased with their faithful obedience to him, by doing what they are called to? It was me who was missing it. In all my striving to do what I thought would please God I was not asking Him who he has created me to be.

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In my angst, I picked up two books that have greatly helped shape my understanding of two things: expectations of self and work. Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen was one of those books that my soul just desperately needed at the time I read it. She ministered to & preached God’s word to me through her words written on those pages. I found this freedom to God & the gospel that I had not experienced before. I had (still do) been striving to prove my own salvation, unable to admit with finality, “I can’t do it, but God can.” It is very difficult for me to hand over my struggles and weakness to God, actually trusting that Jesus’ blood atones for my sins. My first reaction is usually, “I can do this. I can handle it.” So whenever I’m met with difficulty-becoming a stay at home mom and feeling like I’m falling short-what do I do? I try harder. I put more structure and disciplines in place. I try try try. This has been a theme in my life that has worn me thin. Jennie writes, “to get to the place of where God can be enough, you have to first admit you aren’t.” As simple as that sounds, it doesn’t take into account our enormous pride that keeps us from admitting our weakness. Who wants to admit their weakness to others? Especially to other women who look like they have it together? Who seem to manage anything and everything? As self-conscious and self-concerned people, it is definitely not in our interest to shed light on those things. But you know what? Everyone is messed up. Ev-ery-one. And I know that sounds like a token thought, but it is absolutely true. And the minute you are brave enough to admit it you will be amazed at the freedom, rest and sincere friendships you will stumble upon. There is great freedom in admitting our weakness to one another for the sake of holiness before Christ, but it is a place only God can bring you to. Actually understanding what Christ means when he says, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) has changed how I think everyday & how I trust Him when I’m faced with my own weakness.

“To get to the place of where God can be enough, you have to first admit you aren’t.”

-Jennie Allen, Nothing To Prove

The idea of work and specifically how it relates to “purpose” is something we all wrestle with. Work was put in place as a good, God given task (God gave the garden Adam & Eve to tend & work it) that we view through a sin-soaked lens. Years ago when I was in college, I read through Timothy Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor –during one of my psych classes, which was my major at the time. Whoops. This should have been my first hint at my confusion and misunderstanding of my purpose & how I was to serve the Lord. His explanation of God’s divine intent for work gave me a necessary mindset shift that eventually led to quitting my college courses. I wasn’t certain of what I was to be doing for work or a career, but I was certain that going to college just to go or because I felt like I should was not actually biblical wisdom. I was spending lots of money on schooling because I felt like I “should” just to emerge and be able to tell others around me that I did it. It was difficult to admit to people that I didn’t finish school & “dropped out.” But looking back, I’m so very glad I did, because I knew in my heart that I would never go on to get the necessary schooling to practice psychology or anything in that realm; it didn’t excite me.

(Here is a link to a teaching Timothy Keller does specifically on work & faith that encapsulates a lot of what I’m saying here. His teaching has been the most influential to shaping my mindset on work & its purpose.)

From there I worked a part time job in a retail pharmacy that I actually enjoyed, mainly because of my interaction with co-workers. Seriously, any job can be bearable-and even fun-if you have co-workers to enjoy it with (I’ve spent many early morning hours picking sweet corn in a wet field, and those are some of my best memories!). A year of so after I quit school I was hired on at our church as the Worship Coordinator. The only skill I had that related to that job was that I could sing and I loved music, so there was quite a learning curve. At first I wasn’t sure it would be the best idea that Tyler and I both worked at the church, but it was actually a good thing for me to see & understand the difficulty that Tyler would tell me about when coming home from work. Also, we work together well, which is something I am very grateful for. That job was a very good way for me to do something I love (music, interacting with people) while learning a lot of useful & practical skills that every job demands. But, it still wasn’t “it.” I was drained by the middle of the week and Sunday’s became something to just “get done.” I ended up working in that position for 4 years until I stepped down this January to stay home full time.

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I will tell you, being at home alone for 9 hrs/day with 2 little kids teaches you more about yourself than you will ever care to know. This was a change that I wasn’t prepared for. It felt as though everything had been flying at full speed, coming to a screeching halt with life now moving in slow motion. It was a necessary time for me to slow down & seek the Lord. I realized how accustomed I had become to functioning off of chaos–to the point of where I would create my own chaos just to fill the void. Yes, I am that person. Everyday as Ty would leave the house for work, I would look at our kids and think, “what in the world are we going to do all day?” It’s better now, and I have found our pace. But even as the dust had settled I still had the nagging question in my mind: what is my purpose here? Of course as a mother I am to raise my children with Godly wisdom and love; that will always be my privilege and responsibility. But there was something else. I reached a point where I knew if I ignored the tugging in my spirit I would be acting in fear rather than faith. God was slowly teaching me that the calling on each person’s life is different. Our ultimate focus is to be on Him alone with a faith that fuels our day-to-day work; if we do this, we will have the freedom to each be who God intended us to be while encouraging each other with sincerity and love. There won’t be room for jealousy or self-doubt amongst us because we will be looking to Him for direction, rather than to each other.

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One idea stood alone in my mind that has not moved through all of my striving & learning: home design. I have consistently found this to be something I love to think about, spend my creative energy on & problem-solve within. I see beautifully, thoughtfully & intentionally designed homes, and I just swoon. I seriously love a beautiful vignette, an timeless architecturally designed home, interesting modern finishes and the perfect mix of it all that creates visual interest and balance. This idea has been rolling around in my head for over a year. But I wasn’t able to commit to it at first just like anyone else who is first hit with an idea that resembles a dream: fear, uncertainty, lack of confidence, feeling directionless. And just being honest, I hesitated to jump on it because I feel like it’s a hot trend (hello HGTV) and I didn’t want to simply add to the fury. I was tempted to just cast this idea to the wayside, but the most influential thought that kept me revisiting this idea was, “what is the purpose in having a well-designed home? And does God actually care about it? Where is the eternal value in this?”

Again, you can hear my old way of thinking creeping back in. I automatically made the assumption that design has no place in the kingdom of God or for a Christian in the work force. It sincerely felt silly to me to say that home design is important and worthwhile. But there is this backwards, false humility in dubbing something “useless” or “not worth the time” based on a religious view. We (Christians) could say, “coveting and envying another person’s home or spending money on making your home beautiful is vanity. We are to be content with what God has given us.” I’ve thought it myself & heard it from others. And with the frenzy of DIY & home design trend, it can feel that way: frivolous & vain with a consumerist mentality. Yet, we say these things with our lips and quietly strive to attain the very thing we shame. Why do we still seek to attain a beautiful, inviting home? As people we have a consistent tendency of making a good, God-given thing into a twisted & distorted one. A beautiful, safe & inviting home is no exception. We do not want to lose sight of the fact that there is a fundamental purpose for home and creativity in this world that God himself so carefully knit together. I will write more on this in the future.

As people we have a consistent tendency of making a good, God-given thing into a twisted & distorted one. A beautiful, safe & inviting home is no exception.

I picked up the book Called to Create written by Jordan Raynor a few months ago to help me work through this question in my mind. He writes this book specifically with “creatives” in mind–those who are tempted to think that unless their skills are overtly practical, that God is not interested in anything else they have to offer. Does God want your construction skills to build houses for the homeless, or your artistic abilities to create breathtaking watercolor landscapes? Your ability to heal and mend the sick, or your skills in photography that capture the most intimate moments of our life? Raynor writes about how the church has failed to properly understand work and purpose, and reminds us that “the highest calling is not being a pastor but becoming all God called you to be” (when you read his words, some of it sounds like an echo from Timothy Keller’s teaching–Raynor says in his book that Keller has been one of his biggest influences). We have been created in God’s image, which is a hard truth to wrap our minds around. Being created in God’s image does not exclude the fact that he is a master architect and creative mind. There’s evidence in creation itself–man could not create such intricate designs that already exist in nature and landscape, nor could man make anything with our human hands without these things that have already been created for us in advance. The fact that God created elements and particles that join together and form the very structure of everything we touch, manipulate and turn into works of art is an amazing fact of how God has intended for us to create. To make something out of “nothing” for the good of serving others.

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There’s evidence in creation itself–man could not create such intricate designs in nature and landscape, nor could we make anything with our human hands without things already created for us in advance.

All of this culminated into one big idea for me. I knew that if I was to pursue home design, it would have to look different than everything else I’ve seen & read. And HOME THEOLOGY is what kept coming to mind. A way to infuse a necessary need (home) with the purpose and reason underneath it (theology), giving it depth and meaning beyond having the Pinterest-perfect home. I know God teaches us personally and individually for the good of others; it is not meaningless that I have struggled to understand this tension of home design and purpose, and there is a good chance I’m not the only one who has asked these questions.

I am excited to build on this idea and put to use the gifts and calling that God has given me through a few topics that I am passionate about: home design, women–in the workforce and mom’s who are home full-time, and good writing that expands the lens through which we view the world. This site will be a source for the projects that I’m currently working on, books I have read, guest posts and curated content all with the overarching theme of purpose within your home and daily life. I am passionate to see people, especially women, using their sphere of influence to exercise their strengths and abilities for the good of others.

Join me in finding purpose & joy in the every day.

XO-

Lauren

6 thoughts on “PURPOSE”

  1. Great work (or as a striver, maybe I should say excellent thoughts 😉). Love hearing your processing through all this. Finding the difference between human-made, guilt-ridden religion and the freedom of His Spirit. I’ve wrestled with the balance of creative projects vs peanut butter picnics…how using diffrent sides of my brain is so healthy for me. But something else Ive been honing on recently (but still seeking answers) is how design can be a blessing vs Pinterest envy. I’m interested to hear more

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading this and could relate with trying to navigate adult/mom life. You have such skill with home design and I am excited to see where this goes for you! Thanks for being so transparent, I think that is what is needed for others to be open and step away from the pride of “perfection”. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you got a chance to read this!! I am a-ok with busting the “perfect” mold. I need to God to help me keep it that way. 🙂 Love you Amanda!

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  3. Amen x 1000! Excited to see more from you Lauren and how God will use this “project” in your life and the lives of others. We all experience that feeling of restlessness to variable degrees and need the Lord to draw us back to focus on the purpose he lays out for us.

    Liked by 1 person

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