Thursday, August 22, 2013

Discovering Purpose

What is my purpose?

I don’t know how you feel about it, but that’s one tough question to answer.

Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done, created, or why something exists.
So, to rephrase – why do I exist?

As a Christian, I’ve read my Bible, I’ve watched Facing the Giants, I know the right answer. My purpose -our purpose - is to honor God. We exist to bring glory to His Name.

But how do we do that?

Years ago, a dear woman in a Sunday school class I attended as a new Christian answered the question in this way, “We bring honor to God by trying to remain sinless every day.”  Well, that sounded like a great answer!

…until I got in the car to ride home - with my husband behind the wheel and four young children in the backseat.  Sinlessness went right out the passenger-side window, along with my patience, kindness and self-control. Did my purpose go with it too? 

No. But I didn’t know that then. I spent years and years searching for purpose in my life, searching for a way to bring my Father glory, searching for a good response to the “Why am I here?!” dilemma.

Now as a slightly more mature, but not quite ripe Christian, I have a better understanding of purpose and of bringing honor to God through realizing my purpose.

God is, and always will be, the Creator. He forms our physical being, molds our character, carves out unique areas of strengths, and uses dazzling splashes and whorls of vivid color to paint the valleys, peaks, highlights and shadows of our personalities. Each one of us is a work of art created by the Master.  He saw me, He saw you, and called us good. He delights in how He made us. 

Our unique purpose is found in the artistic details. When He created me, He created a woman who is passionate about food, who loves the written word, who likes to laugh and tease, but is most comfortable deep inside her head playing with sentences and images and solving life’s problems.  Woven within my tapestry is creativity, curiosity, hospitality, responsibility and a pressing need to relate to the people around me.

These are all very purposefully planned elements God used in His creation of me. Now my purpose is to use each of these gifts according to their purpose - I cook, I plant vegetable gardens, I feed people, I plan parties, I write blogs and stories and poems -  giving thanks to God and bringing honor to His name.

I look at it this way – my husband’s grandmother made us an intricate patchwork quilt for our wedding. She
poured a lot of love, thought and energy into its creation. I had a choice to make; I could store it, or I could use it.

If I didn’t use its size to drape a bed, or its warmth to cover a shivering body, or its beauty to grace a barren wall, what would be its purpose? It wouldn’t be functioning as a quilt. People couldn’t appreciate its warmth or admire its beauty. I would never be able to thank someone for complementing the quilt and then say, “Rob’s grandma made this for us. Isn’t she an amazing artist? Isn’t she generous with her time and talents? Isn’t she so loving to have given us this beautiful gift?”  Her attributes would go unnoticed by the people in my life, buried in the back of my linen closet with the handmade quilt. Hiding her gift to me wouldn’t honor the woman I loved.

And so it is with all the talents, characteristics, abilities and personality that God magnificently patched together in each of us.

It took me too many years, dozens of dog-eared books, and employment at Shepherds Ministries to figure out my purpose, which is why I’m so happy for our college students. They each will go through a new class called On and For Purpose (O4P) in their first year of the college program. 

Miss Houk and Mrs. Konopasek, two women passionate about helping others discover their purpose, teach this important, life-changing class.

Miss Houk
Mrs. Konopasek
Last week, the students started their personal path to finding Purpose by learning its definition. The teachers led them through a variety of activities designed to relate to their different learning styles.

The tactile learners benefitted from writing definitions of key words from Psalm 139:13-16:

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

The visual and auditory learners absorbed the lesson best by watching DVD clips from Facing the Giants 

“If we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him.”

and reciting Psalm 139:13-16. 

And the kinesthetic learners no doubt thought the Play-Doh® activity was pretty cool. The students were asked to take the dough and create something in five minutes. Then they were to share their object and its purpose with the rest of the class.

Mrs. Anderson
This lesson was a success! The students were engaged, and they understood the meaning of purpose by the end of the class.

Later this semester, Miss Houk and Mrs. Konopasek will guide the students in discovering their individual personalities and strengths, and then learn how to communicate what they find out about themselves in a way that others will understand. By the 2nd semester each student will be able to write their own personal purpose statement which will become part of their resumes. I’ll cover these lessons in future blogs. 

Please pray for our students as God reveals His purpose for their lives in the coming months.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In the Beginning

In the beginning, on the first day of school, there is the potential for darkness – homesickness, sadness, fear, uncertainty, behavior issues and exhaustion.

It’s difficult to gauge how a year might start when many of the students have left home for the first time. Or they’re living with strangers whose routines or personalities may be very different from their own. Or the disciplines of college life seem overwhelming after the easy, breezy days of summer vacation. Or the food doesn’t taste like their mom’s. 

I walked down to the college building yesterday not knowing what to expect. Would I see a bunch of long, sad faces? Would paras be comforting sobbing students in the hallways? Would the instructors’ faces be ridged with tight lines of superhuman self-control?

Nope, nope and nope. 

Walk with me and see for yourself…  

Lindsay couldn't be more excited to start her third year of college.
Dallas and Daniela thought learning about using a time clock was pretty cool!
Katy has her new student ID.
Bethany smiled sweetly when I asked her if she was glad to be back.
Does this look like a stressed out teacher? Mrs. Kolkman is too cute to look stressed...

Joe and Daniela wait to select either a lanyard or clip for their IDs.
Donovan gives his third year a thumbs up already! Sean isn't quite sure yet...
Half of the second year students go over the technology policy.
The other half of the second year students are setting up their computers with log-ins and passwords.
Maika looks like she picked a funny password.
Audrey pauses in her computer set-up to bless me with her beautiful smile.
Megan isn't sure she's ready to see me or my camera again...
The second year guys are serious about the instruction they're receiving from Mr. Andrus.
Our first-year men are talking about Daily Living Skills.
These guys are trying hard to ignore the camera and stay focused on the topic. Good job guys!
The first year girls talked about the Shepherds Nursing Department.
Nurse Melba kept it short and to the point. Look at those smiling teachers in the back row!
Joe practices how to clock in and out for his internships.
It's Christian's turn to practice. Mrs. Konopasek points out the instructions.
I had to ask, "What on earth is Olya doing?!" She was part of a skit demonstrating one of the Shepherds College character traits - discernment.
The first-year students ended their school day with a photo shoot. Leibforth Photography stopped by to take class & individual photos.
And we called our first day good, very good.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at