To Have Purpose

When I was single, I thought that I would only find purpose if I had a boyfriend. When I was dating, I thought that life would only have meaning if I was married. Now I’m married to an amazing guy, yet I caught myself just the other day wondering if having kids would give me the fulfillment I felt that I was lacking. What does it mean to have purpose?

I felt like I had “arrived” (whatever that means) when my sweet husband and I rented our first home, bought our first couch, and settled into a routine together. But then I wanted to buy a “better” couch, buy a “better” house, and get “better” jobs. I wanted us to get more education and more possessions and more friends and more fun experiences. Where does the cycle end?

What does it mean to have purpose? | www.graceupongracetoday.com

What is My Purpose?

Having grown up attending a Christian school that was affiliated with a Presbyterian church, I learned the Westminster Catechism. I remember reciting lines and lines of it before my fifth grade Bible teacher. Over a decade later, there’s only one line I can still repeat word for word: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (You can find the Westminster Shorter Catechism at Creeds.net.) Therefore, what is our purpose? That we glorify God and that we enjoy God.

John Piper is oft quoted as proclaiming: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I see “satisfaction” as being parallel to “enjoyment.” Likewise, Piper argues that God’s demanding of our praise and adoration “is his highest virtue, and your highest joy.” That is our purpose.

What About…?

The human life does not seem to line up with that, unfortunately. Typical American Christianity argues that family and prosperity are the chief ends of man. One of the two Christian radio stations in my area is touted as being “family-friendly” and consistently relays information directed at parents and children. It is as if singles and couples without (or with grown) children are somehow less Christian. I get the message that the radio station is not for me because I do not have kids.

Is a spouse, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence what Christianity is supposed to look like? We are all too guilty of turning our “American Dream” into a “Christian” goal. Have we forgotten that the Savior of the world did not own a home or get married or have a savings account? What did he do? He glorified God.

A home and a marriage and a savings account and a family are good. But they are not the best. In summing up Philippians chapter 1, John Piper explains: “Christ is glorified in you when he is more precious to you than all that life can give or death can take.”

“Nothing Can Separate Us”

See, “life” can give a child. “Life” can give a house. “Life” can give a spouse and a job and a retirement plan. “Life” can give those vacations you’ve always wanted and the next item in your collection and the car you have dreamed about. We forget that death can also take those things away. What are we left with at the end of the day? Either Christ or an eternity without Him. The Apostle Paul writes that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Not even death. Yet, death can separate us from literally everything else.

“To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain”

Why would I not value Christ Jesus higher than everything else? In life, I have the opportunity to love Him, to serve Him by ministering to others, and to enjoy Him and all that He has made. In death, I have the joy of spending eternity worshiping Him and enjoying His literal company. To the Apostle Paul, life was good and death was also good, because both meant that he got to be with Jesus.

Living in the state of constantly wanting more and better and bigger has left me tired and empty. I realize now that getting a boyfriend did not complete me. Neither did getting married. Neither will having kids. I will only find my purpose when I glorify God, when I make much of Him, when I enjoy Him, and when I am satisfied in Him.

What does it mean to have purpose?

It means finding everything I need in Christ. It means going to Him first when I am sad, stressed, overjoyed, or at peace. It means not self-medicating with the things of this world when only God will satisfy. It means I do not compare my life with my Instagram feed – I compare it to Scripture. It means I do not ask Google what it thinks about my life choices – I ask God. It means I choose to cultivate friendships with people who love God and challenge me.

John Piper writes that when we realize our purpose, we see the treasure that Christ Jesus really is. We want to share him with others because we know His intrinsic value. We want to give freely of our money because obeying God by serving others is more important than our retirement plans. We want to deny our immediate desires in order to do what God immediately desires.

Deny Yourself

What does it mean to have purpose?

Jesus said that if anyone is to follow Him, they must deny themselves. I do not want to deny myself. I do not want to give up what I want. But what if the way to purpose, satisfaction, and joy is by obedience to someone other than my desires? Yes, family is good. Children are good. Homes and cars and savings accounts are good. But these are not my ultimate goals. These are not my ultimate priorities.

Counter-intuitively, my goal is to deny myself my desires in order to serve the God who already owns everything in the universe. The beautiful part of this is that God does supply my desires when I put my joy in Him first and foremost.

See, my goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That will give me purpose, joy, and fulfillment even when the outward circumstances of my life do not look picture perfect.

What practical choices can you make in your life today to find your purpose in Christ?

What Does it Mean to be Held By God?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-Matthew 5:25-34

What does it mean to be held by God? | Thoughts by Grace Upon Grace Today

What have you been anxious about recently: upcoming bills? School or work requirements? Broken relationships? As women, we are faced with so many obligations, concerns, and worries every day. It is exceedingly difficult to heed our Heavenly Father when He commands: “Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, NIV)

You may be wondering how you can just stop being worried. The fact is God isn’t asking us to avoid our emotions or shun our feelings. Instead, He is asking us to bring our worries before Him “by prayer and petition,” as Paul says in Philippians 4:6. He is asking us to acknowledge Him and trust Him as bigger and more powerful than anything else on our minds or hearts.

Sometimes it seems as if the insufficient paycheck, the infertility, or the illness has knocked us out of the loving arms of Christ. In fact, the opposite is true. Our Heavenly Father encourages us to turn back to Him and to trust Him in our worries. He is holding us tightly in His grip despite the anxieties within us.

Sisters, when you feel far from the Lord due to life’s uncertainties, turn towards Him again in prayer. Rely on His grip around your life. He will not let you fall. He holds even the birds in His hands; He definitely holds you.

This devotional originally appeared in the April 2017 edition of Her Binder Project, a free printable devotional for women. Click here to see what else I have written for Her Binder Project.

What does it mean to be held by God? | Thoughts from Grace Upon Grace Today

Mother’s Day: Beautiful Unique Gifts

As a newlywed, this year will be my first mother’s day with a mother-in-law. I have been racking my brain for what would make a nice gift. Honestly, this sweet lady raised my wonderful husband during his difficult years – I want to honor her with something special! I am so excited to have collected these gorgeous and unique mother’s day gift ideas to share. These gifts are perfect for mothers and mothers-in-law, and also grandmothers, aunts, nieces, and sisters-in-law. If you are looking for beautiful, unique, personalized, precious, and not-too-expensive mother’s day gifts, keep reading!

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Mother's Day Gifts Guide | Grace Upon Grace Today

Personalized

Mason Jar From the Kitchen Self-inking Stamp
Personalization is so fun! Why not personalize a self-inking stamp for your mother, grandmother, or mother-in-law? I love this “From the Kitchen of…” stamp by arrayforhome at Zazzle.com. It comes in nine different colors and two different sizes. It would be perfect for a lady who likes to cook and bake. Isn’t that mason jar image adorable?
Woodland Wildflower Personalized Social Stationery Notepad
You can completely customize this Woodland Wildflower notepad by kat_parrella (right) because Zazzle.com makes it so easy! What a beautiful design for mothers new and experienced! See more notepad designs here. Zazzle.com can personalize almost anything… Yoga mats and aprons, too!

DecorativeWatercolor World Mom Hand Lettering Quote Throw Pillow

When you picture your mom’s home, does it seem as if she is missing something? Perhaps a couple throw pillows on the couch or something to hang on the wall in the kitchen? This watercolor throw pillow from JunkyDotCom communicates Mother’s Day sentiments in a cute way. It’s also available as an outdoor pillow!

If a special lady in your life has a favorite or cherished china pattern, like my grandmother does, a piece that she’s missing might make a lovely gift. Replacements, Ltd. has one of the largest collections of replacement china and glassware patterns, and they make beautiful custom pieces out of extra china. For example, I ordered a clock made out of a plate from the same pattern as my grandmother’s china. It made a memorable gift for both of us. (You can see my grandmother’s china pattern in this post’s featured image. Isn’t it lovely?)

I also love the gorgeous monograms that I’ve seen on front doors recently. I even got one for my wedding! Initials are not just for newlyweds, though. Mothers and grandmothers would love this more refined take on modern monogram signs. Look how gorgeous that circle design is!

Faith-BasedDevotional Journal for Moms | Morgan Harper Nichols Shop

I am honored that my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law are all believers. What joy this brings to my heart! If you share your faith with the special lady you are gift-hunting for, why not give her a gift that will bless her soul? Morgan Harper Nichols (the lovely lady behind Her Binder Project) has released these gorgeous devotional journaling for moms pages. They are beautiful and are a perfect match to the monthly Her Binder Project devotionals. (You can also catch seven days of the mom journal for free here!)

A lovely gift to celebrate a significant mother’s day would be a Bible or devotional book. The New Mom’s Prayer Bible comes highly recommended, as does the Mom’s Devotional Bible, and both are New International Version. There are other lovely options for mothers who prefer the New King James Version (this gorgeous large print edition) and ladies who would like to journal in their Bibles (see my review of two popular journaling Bibles). A woman who is interested in learning more about Scripture might enjoy studying the Women of the Bible yearlong devotional. Don’t forget to write a personal note in the front cover of the book!

Which mother’s day gifts best suit your mom or mom-in-law?

P.S. Want to share this gift guide with your friends? (Or give your husband some ideas?) Pin this for later!

Mother's Day Gift Guide | Grace Upon Grace Today

Being a Team in Marriage

To me, the most beautiful thing about marriage is that it instantly lays the foundation for teamwork. Notice that marriage does not instantly create a fully-functioning, healthy, and established team… It only builds the framework for what could be a healthy team. I consider the second most beautiful thing about marriage to be the act of building that team. If you are interested in becoming a team with your spouse and developing teamwork in your marriage, this is for you. Developing teamwork in marriage takes work!

Being a Team in Marriage: developing teamwork in your marriage | Grace Upon Grace Today

When my now-husband and I were going through premarital mentoring with a couple from our church, we mentioned how our small group had recently spent an evening discussing marriage. We were disappointed that the general consensus from the evening was that marriage was difficult and challenging. I expressed my disappointment to our mentor couple that there was no rejoicing in the beauty of marriage, but rather, commiseration in the challenge of marriage.

Our mentors responded along these lines: “Yes, marriage is hard, but it is good, because it is two people working together towards the same goals.”

When two people commit their lives to each other, they make the decision to fight for the other person’s best interests. In that way, they are therefore taking care of themselves, since in marriage, the couple is now one flesh. In addition, a couple following after God has chosen to commit their lives not only to each other, but also to their Lord and Savior. His glory becomes their goal.

My husband and I have the joy (and sometimes headache) of working together: we are teachers at the same Christian school. Literally, our occupations involve working towards the same goals: for our students to be well-educated and to develop relationships with God and with each other.

Additionally, outside of our careers, we have taken the words of our mentors to heart. We have chosen to seek the other’s goals and best interests, so we can not only honor each other, but also live out an enjoyable marriage. For example, my husband chose to do the household chore I hate the most. It doesn’t cost him any extra time (he would be doing something around the house anyway), but it makes me much less stressed to focus on the chores I hate the least instead.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes similarly to the encouragement of our mentors:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)

The last line speaks clearly of a good marriage. Not only is there a husband and wife who seek after what matters to the other person, but they also seek after God’s presence in their marriage. With the Lord as the basis for our marriage, my husband and I are stronger and tighter than we would be otherwise. We have the same goal of glorifying Him.

In all these things, we are becoming a team: fighting for each other, fighting for God’s will and desires, and serving Him. We are choosing to work together instead of sowing discord in our relationship.

How is your marriage a team? What can you do to make your marriage full of teamwork and not discord?