Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
Ever wonder why you were put on this earth? Have you found “purpose” in your everyday life? Maybe your aim is to achieve some sort of generic personal fulfillment? Experience the American dream? Raise the perfect family? Become rich and famous?
Lisa Brenninkmeyer’s book “Walking with Purpose” is a life altering guide book. She gracefully, wisely and humorously walks you through how life is SO much more than achieving these almost cliché, mostly impossible, personal bench marks. Thoughtfully, she points out how eternally important it is to understand that we were made by God and for God. Until we realize this incredible truth, we will most likely flounder about as we try to make sense of it all.
It’s hard to ignore that the world around us is growing increasingly secular. Our Christian faith and the practices that accompany it are being severely challenged and whittled away at on a daily basis. How do we stand firm, confident and knowledgeable in our faith? Are we loving well or are we always on a treadmill of “hurry-up” that takes us away from what is truly important in life?
This is where Lisa and Walking with Purpose comes in. Her book and enormously popular, steadily growing Bible study by the same name, is touching countless hearts and minds for Christ throughout the country! Their mission statement … “Enabling women to know Christ through Scripture,” is bringing Catholic women into a deeper more satisfying relationship with Jesus.
That’s it! The key…Knowing Christ in true relationship form not just as a religious figure. In depth teaching and woman to woman discussion on the loving, relational aspects of Christ is allowing Walking with Purpose women to apply what they are learning to everyday life. The results? Women living out a more grounded and more authentic faith than ever before.
Here’s what Lisa had to say…
1. What is it that made you feel passionate enough to start up “Walking with Purpose”?
It at all started when I was observing some women in church. Their faces appeared blank as they struggled to keep their kids calm during mass. To me their faces were saying… “What am I here for, is this even worth it?”
I thought long and hard about this. Why would anyone who may not have a deep relationship with God understand the importance of making Him a priority in their life?
I began to see why they were so frustrated. If they are just showing up at church to check it off their weekly To-Do list, then what sort of inspiration is there in that? Secondly, where is the spiritual drive to get through the chaos of Monday through Saturday?
One night I reluctantly went to a church family meeting. I say reluctantly because I knew that we would discuss more “doing” of events but nothing about addressing the deepest spiritual needs of parishioners. But much to my surprise… a woman spoke out. She gestured the sign of the heart and said, “I want to know God personally.” I perked right up!
Soon after this a friend recommended that I lead a new Bible Study to teach scripture to the women of the church. It started out with 8 women who just wanted the best for their kids and knew there was something missing in their lives. Without advertising, it spread to 16, then 30 and grew to 100 women with 50 children in a children’s program!
Coupled with these women’s desire for community, wanting to know where to go in an increasingly secular society and wanting to be rooted in scripture… “Walking with Purpose” was born.
2. Being a wife and mother of 7 children, how do you make the time to do all that you do? (Writing, speaking, traveling, mom stuff, wife stuff?) How important is morning prayer time and a structured schedule to you?
By living out the 7 essential principles I’ve written about in my book (see all listed in later question), I manage my time as wisely as possible. I set aside time for my most important priorities. My personal prayer-time is non-negotiable; can’t be messed with. I also like to journal prayers and thoughts to tune into what I am really feeling. Basically, I like to get all my garbage out on paper! If I am feeling bitter or angry about something…this is where I get it out! As God works through it, He releases it and the result… freedom!
I tune into my husband’s needs for the day. I find it extremely important to know your families love languages. I make sure to have quality time set aside with him. Taking the time to have a cup of tea with my husband Leo is sometimes just what is needed.
Then my kids. These guys trump all of my outside activities. However, I carefully weigh priorities and events where I am asked to speak. If the event is in front of say 350 women, it may mean that takes priority over some home-front activities. So the truth is… I don’t serve on the PTO, or go on all of my kid’s field trips. I don’t always get that meal to a friend and I can’t be there for many friend based activities. What I don’t want to see happen is that any of my children resent ministry. However it is important for them to witness the excitement of seeing changes in life and in people for the good of Christ!
I am a big believer in disciplined sleep time and make it a habit to “honor” much needed sleep. This of course enables me to buckle down and dig into my writing. This chunk of time I set aside to write is so crucial to the success of “Walking with Purpose.”
3. What is it you want women to understand the most about prayer AND about their personal relationship with God?
The most important part of prayer in our lives is that it is like oxygen in our relationship with God. Without a prayer life we don’t connect. God wants to know the real you, messy as you are. It is here that God changes and comforts us. Not our cleaned up best version of ourselves. He wants to work in us and through us. The starting point is understanding how very very much God unconditionally loves us. This is where He invites us to draw near.
I know without a doubt that when the chips are down He would fight for me at my weakest. We were created with a void that can only be filled by God. We can spend a lifetime trying to fill it but we will never be satisfied without God in that void. Prayer and meditation is about “Who” you are connecting with, not about calming yourself down. The end goal…filling yourself with Christ.
4. You seem to have awesome insight on what it is that many women really want (or expect) out of life and that they often feel let down. What do you think is the greatest struggle women face?
So many women feel overwhelmingly that they are not enough. They feel that life is asking so much of them and they can just not be the perfect wife and or the perfect mother that they thought they could be. Women who are trying to do it all become very aware of their inadequacies and can often feel great despair. They ask themselves the question “Is this all that there is? It is Jesus that offers us peace to drop these expectations. He wants us to come to a place of “I am enough.” We so often fail and feel we come up short by thinking I could have loved better, done this better, done that with perfection. Here’s where Jesus comes in and says “I got this…be who you are and “I” fill in those gaps!”
5. Tell us about your upbringing and your faith as a child. How does all of this bring you to where you are today?
I was really lucky to be raised in a home where Christ was in the center! I grew up in a Protestant evangelical church. My parents were both very active in church and in Community Bible Study. I grew up surrounded by wonderful Bible stories and learned at a young age how they applied to my life. Because these foundations of truth were instilled in me at a young age, I never wrestled with believing them. That is why I feel it is so important to teach scripture to our kids.
Watching my parents teaching and serving in their spare time made me always think about “giving back” like they did. I wanted to emulate my mom because I saw she was making a difference. I would see her stay up all night long preparing for a talk. What a role model she has been for me!
6. Why is it that you decided to become a Catholic?
Well, I would say that I was very happy where I was. But I decided to convert because I didn’t want any division in my marriage and family.
We spent 10 tough years out of the states where we were not exposed to good teaching. Once back in the states I was able to find some tools, where I discovered deep meaning in the tenants of the Catholic faith. I felt a greater depth and richness in key areas of sin in life. I got involved in retreats and instruction that revealed a richness in worship, surrender, and victory. This was indeed a great blessing to me.
7. What is it that you hope for your own children?
I think it is important as mothers to have one non-negotiable desire for our kids. It is my greatest hope that my children will have a living personal relationship with Christ and serve Him in the kingdom today. We have made a lot of decisions in life based around this hope for our children and with that has come much sacrifice. This has effected where we live, where we worship, who our family friends are and what we invest in for our children. We have had to parent with a boat load of “no’s” and some high quality “Yes’s”. We don’t make our kids do “lame” things, we choose venues that we know will equip them with what it takes to understand their faith and keep it strong.
It is a blessing that each one of my kids knows that God is their #1 priority in life, and they know and appreciate that this is what our family values most. This leads to a rich spiritual life and that is the goal for all of us. Bottom line, is that we need to communicate with our children and be in prayer for them on a daily sometimes hourly basis.
8. What is it you most hope for your women that are a part of “Walking with Purpose”?
My prayer for these ladies is first and foremost that they will have a personal relationship with Christ that is ongoing. That they would see His glory, and not just see Him as a helper. To surrender to God and allow Him to fill them so that they will pursue Him. And as he grows greater they can confidently surrender to their transformed life that is now all about Him. Finally, knowing that life is not so terrifying and nothing in life is happening that God is not aware of.
9. How are you getting the word out to encourage other women to join “Walking with Purpose”?
Grassroots! WWP started off small and grew because of word of mouth. I have a heart for my generation and making available a “safe place” where women are met with grace. There is no hammering here, no politics, no hot button issues discussed. We ask everyone to check these things at the door so we can delve into the truth of God that needs to be renewed in our minds on an ongoing basis.
10. Your book, “Walking with Purpose” gives in-depth analysis on prioritizing your life in 7 categories. Can you give us a summary sentence about the importance of each priority?
- Relationship with God: Our relationship with God is to be the ultimate love story. It begins with us getting out of the driver’s seat of our lives and letting God be the driver. But we are not surrendering ourselves to a dictator, rather to the One who loves us like no other.
- Tending to your heart: God longs to enter the deepest parts of our souls and meet the most profound of the needs found there. The state of our hearts matters to Him, and He wants us to know, deep down, that we are cherished and loved and delighted in by Him.
- Your marriage: You are your husband’s mirror-the protector of his reputation and the one person uniquely qualified to speak life and encouragement into Him. Of all your earthly relationships, he should get your best-not your leftovers. God-husband-kids-in that order.
- Reaching your child’s heart: You have to decide whose opinion matters most to you- God’s, or the culture’s? If we want to mother in a way that has lasting value, we want to pass on to them the things that matter in eternity, that we need to reach our children’s hearts and pour God’s truth into them.
- Clarify in the clutter of your home: Having order in your home will give your time back that can be spend pouring truths and love into your family. We don’t create beauty and order because that is the highest value- we create it because it gives us the best set up for doing the thing that matters most – loving well.
- Friendships: Having a servant’s heart in friendship must be balanced with Biblical kindness. It’s a matter of encouraging, but being willing and able to gently speak the truth in love.
- Outside Activities: They come last in the set of priorities, but they matter eternally. God invites us to cooperate with Him in his story, and He looks for willing hearts that are willing to be God’s instruments. We waste our time on so many things that will make little to no difference in the long run. Our choices here really matter, and every single woman is needed.
11. Why do you think it is so important for women to know and understand their “true worth”?
If we don’t define our true worth the way that God defines it, then we will search for meaning and fulfillment in all the wrong places. Our worth was measured in one place- the cross- and there, Jesus determined that we were worth everything to Him. When we rest in our worth because it is rooted in our identity as God’s beloved daughters, we can get on with the real business of living. If we miss this key truth then we’ll try to define our worth through outward appearance, accomplishments, possessions or reputation. All those things can be taken away in an instant, and as a result, we live as insecure women. Insecure women are not world changers. Our world needs women who are secure in who they are in Christ, who can get their eyes off themselves and onto the needs of others.
12. What do you see as our greatest obstacles in life that can keep us from truly knowing the Lord?
I think our desire for comfort is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, obstacle that keeps us from knowing the Lord. When we desire comfort above all else, we are going to do all that we can to avoid suffering. This will often mean that we miss out on key opportunities to grow spiritually and get to know God in a way that He was going to reveal to us through that unique set of trials and circumstances. We get busy, we numb, we question, we doubt, all instead of asking, “God, what are you revealing to me about who you are in the midst of what I am going through right now?”
13. Do you feel that God is moving mightily in the Catholic and/or Christian churches? How can we unite those with any poor feelings toward the other church?
I do. So many people are afraid of the future of our country. I certainly understand why – we are facing a level of moral decline and relativism that we’ve never experienced in our nation. But I don’t look to the left or to the right for the solutions. I look up and there is where I see the King of the Universe, totally in control. What was the state of affairs when the early church exploded? The early Christians faced far worse than we are facing. But the Spirit moved through humble people who loved sacrificially and were totally sold out for Jesus. I see this level of commitment to Christ today among so many of His followers. I think that our Church will grow stronger even if we face persecution, because that’s what suffering does in the lives of mature believers. It strengthens, refines and equips us. For far too long, Americans, have had an insufficient view of suffering. We are facing many things that snare us from a spiritual perspective, but God is going to faithfully strengthen us through the very things that the enemy wants to use to take us out.
The critical thing is for us to remember who the enemy is. Satan will always seek to divide Christians. We move into our camps of like-minded thinkers, and then we start to divide there as well. If we can keep at the forefront of our mind that “the other person” or “the other group” is not the enemy, and that division is not God’s plan, we’ll be more apt to fight for unity. We do that by asking questions instead of assuming we already know all the answers. Asking, “Can you explain that to me,” can go a long way. This requires humility, and perhaps we need a little bit of suffering in order to grow in that area.
14. Do you have a favorite Bible scripture and why?
“There was given me a thorn in my flesh…three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. This is the heart of the gospel. It isn’t all up to me. I can’t save myself eternally, and I can’t save myself today. I need Christ to fill in my gaps. But the beautiful thing is that this is what He most most loves to do. When I come with my weaknesses and emptiness, He fills me with His strength. This divine exchange- my sin for His righteousness, my weakness for His strength – is absolutely life-changing when we embrace it!
15. How about a favorite saint?
My favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux. She took the riches of the Catholic Faith and explained them in a way that a child could imitate. The wisdom she gleaned from Scripture ignited a love in her heart for the Lord that was personal and transforming. I believe that no one has explained the gospel of grace better than St. Therese.
Note to our readers: If you want to give the ultimate Christmas gift to any of your girlfriends or family members here is the link to Lisa’s book.
If you want to give yourself the ultimate New Year’s resolution: Check out the Walking with Purpose website and consider joining one near you.