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“How can you all have so much joy when you are going through something so painful?” That's the question the new face at my support group asked last night. Followed by, “I want what you all have!”

As I have mentioned before, this group I attend is not faith-based. Of course, if I were to personally give witness to where I have found such joy, all fingers would point towards God. And yet, there is more to it than faith.

It's also about community.

I have always known that God did not create us to be alone. Genesis 2:18 clearly lays this out for us: “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” But this isn't just about man finding woman. This is about man not having to go it alone.

And we do this, don't we? We try to go it alone. Be it out of shame of our circumstance or fear of rejection, how many of us choose isolation over connection? How many of us stop reaching out, strap on our masks, and white knuckle through the day, relying on our own strength? Maybe this sounds familiar to you. And if so, I ask. How's it working for you?

You see, I have recognized an undeniable truth. When I am connected to community I thrive. I become inspired and animated. Notice, I did not say, “when life is smooth sailing, I thrive.” My life circumstance is not what controls me. Only Jesus controls me. And when I immerse myself in community; be it a coffee date with a friend, a Wednesday morning at WWP Bible Study, attendance at weekly Mass, or going to my support group, loneliness loses its grip, making way for joy. The truth of “me too” wipes out the lie of “no one understands”, and like a Gospel miracle, I am healed. No doubt, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. No question that when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. (Matthew 18:20)  And in the most beautiful way, this overwhelms me.

If you read this and feel sorrow because you do not have a community to run to, I am here to say...you do. Walking with Purpose is not about selling Bible studies and throwing pretty pictures up on a website. Walking with Purpose is about handing out life vests and anchors to women struggling to keep their eyes above the waves. Women who are swimming into a storm believing they have to go it alone. We are about sisterhood and support and encouraging one another.  If you do not have a parish program near you, please reach out to us. Let us help to connect you someway, somehow. And no. I am not working on commission nor was asked to say this. This, sweet sisters, is so ridiculously heavy on my heart, because my Walking with Purpose family is what gave me the strength to walk into that other support group. In her Netflix special, Call to Courage, researcher and storyteller Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” I learned how to be vulnerable from my WWP community. And I do not exaggerate when I say, it has saved me.

When searching for Scripture verses that best describe community to me, my eyes fell upon Hebrews 10:24-25, and a smile spread across my face, and truth be told, it is still there. “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Something about we should not stay away grabs me. It is how I feel about my support group. It is how I feel about Walking with Purpose. It is how I feel about a certain friend who calls me in the middle of the day to shout, “I know you are writing and I hate to interrupt but I have to talk to you about the Holy Spirit!” When you encounter people who allow you to be vulnerable and encourage you to be the best you can be, how can you stay away? And when you find friends with a common thread, who weep when you weep and rejoice when you rejoice, how on earth can you not be encouraging?

How can there be joy in the midst of so much pain? Because “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Praying the Holy Spirit fills us with the desire to step out into community, to supply us with Sisters who are eager to love us and lift us should we fall. Grant, I pray, all our shame of not being worthy be destroyed, as we courageously step into our place, advancing the Kingdom of God.

Bible Study

In the spring of 2018, my parish wrapped up its first full year of Walking with Purpose. Women's hearts were full, leaders were engaged, and our parish clergy and staff were supportive; but more than anything, participants were excited to share their experiences with others.

This newfound enthusiasm is exactly what makes Walking with Purpose parish programs so special. You may have heard comments just like these:

Finally, this is exactly what I've been waiting for, but better!

I love that it incorporates scripture, as well as our Church's history and teachings all in one!

I love my small group!

It's true that Walking with Purpose fulfills a longing for many of us. We want to share what we've found, which is fantastic! This is evangelization at its finest, and the Holy Spirit at work in our Church.

There are a few challenges as we seek to share abundantly what we've found, but hold tight! Walking with Purpose Bible studies allow us to meet the needs of many women in one place at one time without draining our leadership teams. This is an opportunity for us to admit that we cannot (and should not) do it all. We must hold our Walking with Purpose programs loosely.

As my parish approached its second year, we had the following to look forward to:

  1. We were adding an evening program and a second leadership team.
  2. Our daytime program would have second-year participants and women who were coming in new. We would have women in one room doing two different Bible studies.

My dreams as we approached our second year included:

I committed these dreams to prayer, and remembered them during daily jogs with my sidekicks, Annie and Rosie (Yellow and Black Labrador Retrievers, respectively) while praying the Rosary. I'm not great at sitting still, so with fresh air and some movement, I found myself face to face with the image of our Savior through the eyes of our Blessed Mother.

The prayers on these jogs allowed for the Holy Spirit to lay out a plan which became a tremendous support to our parish program. Key ideas came to fruition:

First, we looked at all of our Opening Your Heart small group leaders as one group so that our daytime and evening Opening Your Heart small group leaders could support one another. This group received a one page leaders' guide for each week's lesson.

Second, we created a video conference meeting time for all of our Opening Your Heart leaders. We used the leaders' guide to go through the main points of the lesson and discuss any ways that we might make the week special. Most importantly, we prayed for each other and the women in our groups. This was especially important for our evening leaders because this was their only leadership team meeting. Two of my favorite parts of the video conference meeting were that we could be in our own homes and we could record the meeting for those who needed to listen later.

Third, our daytime Opening Your Heart leaders were excited to experience the study planned for our returning participants. Even though they would not lead that study, they completed Touching The Divine as their personal study, which we all discussed at our daytime leadership team meetings.

Finally, we wanted to communicate our schedule and Connect Coffees clearly despite offering two studies at one time. To do this, we created a one-page document with the Opening Your Heart and Touching The Divine schedules side-by-side. We did the same with our invitations to Connect Coffees. We created an attractive one-page invitation with a brief summary of both studies' talks. These were emailed, texted and handed to potential guests. We began to talk and pray about our Connect Coffees a couple of weeks in advance. We promoted them as “easy evangelization” while reminding women that when God places a friend or neighbor on our hearts, we must respond. We began to share simple evangelization tools with everyone in our program. This included prayer and obediently responding to God's prompting by asking the friend more than once (that's the hard part).

I have a dream for each of our parish programs and my dream is a big one! I'm not afraid anymore of asking for big dreams when I know that God has placed them on my heart. So here it is:

Let's all offer Opening Your Heart in our parish programs every time we meet.

Our God is not a God of limits or boundaries. He is a God of miracles and overcoming obstacles. Let's just do it! Yes, you! Place an option for Opening Your Heart on your registration forms alongside each and every one of your study offerings. I promise God will work out the details. I love Lisa's “I Declare” over a fear of the future from 2 Timothy 1:7 --

I declare that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.

Let's counter our fears with truth in God's word and offer our parish program up to our Father. Sisters, breathe in the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians, “Let us be confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” May God bless you abundantly for placing your trust in the arms of our Savior and incorporating the details for welcoming new women into your parish program through Opening Your Heart.

 

P.S. Walking with Purpose has turned many of these ideas into leader tools and training videos which are now available in the WWP Leadership Portal! If you don't yet have access to the online Leadership Tools, register for access today.

 

Based in Kansas, Emily Thengvall is a Walking with Purpose Regional Area Coordinator (RAC), supporting WWP parish program coordinators at 33 parishes in the midwestern and southwestern US.

Dear friends,

In my writing and speaking, I often quote other authors in order to more succinctly illustrate a point I am making. After receiving feedback from the July Positively Purposeful message, I feel it's important to say that the selection of a quote does not indicate an endorsement of everything said or written by that person.

When the quote by Ted Tripp was selected for the July Positively Purposeful message, it was chosen to illustrate the point that when we lower standards of acceptable behavior for our children, instead of encouraging them to ask God to help them when it feels impossible to do the right thing, they miss out on a wonderful opportunity to see how they need Jesus in their lives, too. It was not intended to advocate or endorse any specific method of discipline or child-rearing.

Blessings, Lisa

I could hear the coins jangling in her pocket as she climbed up the stairs to my room. Some small change was missing from a dish, and I had just asked who had taken it. Greeted with silence and no admission of guilt from any of the kids, I told them I was going upstairs to wait. Whoever took it could come to me on their own timing, but we weren't going anywhere until the truth came out.

With tears in her eyes, my daughter admitted that she had taken the money. “What was going on in your heart when you took it?” I asked her. “Can you remember what you were thinking or why you felt like it was okay to take money that you hadn't earned?”

She burst into tears. “I took it because the five dollars I earned working in the garden is gone! I put it in the empty Uno box and someone threw it away. I can't find my money, and I saw that money sitting there, so I took it.” She sat on the couch, full of misery.

We talked about how hard it is to do the right thing when life feels unfair. How easy it is to justify all sorts of things when we feel we're owed something. But at the end of the day, it was stealing, and she knew it. I asked her what a better response would have been. We talked about 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. [We all get tempted. Our situation isn't unique.] And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [When we say we just couldn't help it, that's not actually true. In our own strength we can't, but God will always help us make the right choice.] But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I asked her what she thought was her “way out.” What else could she have chosen?

I told her that choices have consequences. She would have to give the money back to her brother and ask him how she could serve him to show him she really was sorry.

I asked her if she felt like it was hard, maybe impossible, to be as good as God wanted her to be. She gave a big nod of agreement. And then we got to the good part-the good news.

Every time our children (or we) mess up, it's an opportunity to be drawn to the Cross. My daughter was right-it is impossible to be as good as God wants us to be. God tells us to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Perfect?! we think. I can't even be perfect for an hour, let alone a lifetime. So what is the solution?

"We need Jesus. He died so that we could always be forgiven when we make mistakes. And He sent the Holy Spirit to us to be inside us, to help us to make the right choices and overcome temptation."

Ted Tripp addresses this question in his book, Shepherding a Child's Heart:

The focal point of your discipline and correction must be your children seeing their utter inability to do the things which God requires unless they know the help and strength of God. Your correction must hold the standard of righteousness as high as God holds it. God's standard is correct behavior flowing from a heart that loves God and has God's glory as the sole purpose of life…The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources…Dependence on their own resources moves them away from the cross. It moves them away from any self-assessment that would force them to conclude that they desperately need Jesus' forgiveness and power.

“I know it's so hard,” I said. “And that's why we need Jesus. He died so that we could always be forgiven when we make mistakes. And He sent the Holy Spirit to us to be inside us, to help us to make the right choices and overcome temptation. Let's pray and ask for God's forgiveness (He'll always say yes), and then ask the Holy Spirit to help us make good choices-to give us the strength to do the things that are hard, but right.” She prayed and we hugged. Everything felt good again.

I'd love to say that this is how it goes every time someone in my house needs correction. This takes time, and I don't always stop what I'm doing to discipline in this way. Too often, we're on the go when I've caught someone doing something. I say that we'll address it when we get home, and then I forget all about it in the busyness that follows. But summer affords opportunity not just to slow down and relax. It gives time to slow down and be a better mom. Not a perfect one-but one that asks the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to do the things that are hard, but right.

Blessings,
Lisa

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