The Grove – Purpose

If you’re anything like me, you rolled around our prompt in your mind this week.


And then you rolled it some more,


And then you felt…tired.

The word has such a “goal oriented” feeling to it, like it’s going to rattle off a bulleted to-do list.  Now, Lord knows, I’m a list maker, an achiever of goals (or at least a believer in goals), but I have a hunch that the last thing that either you or I need right now is a to-do list.

I know I’m not preaching to a bunch of slouches here.  Rather, I think “strive” is written in our DNA.  We’re a can-do kind of group.  And so we do, and do, and do some more.  And somewhere along the line my identity and perhaps yours becomes wrapped up, woven as one into what we DO.

Have you ever had a time in your life when what you DO is stripped away from you?  You’re suddenly left floundering, asking, “Wait, now who am I?”

Yeah, been there.

There was that time I left everything I ever knew as a barely 18 year-old for the mountains of Ecuador.  No longer the student leader.

Or the time I had to let go of teaching and that master’s degree.  Gah, the classroom was my place!

And then all the days of sending my husband off to do the big important things, the things we used to do together, as I stay home to scrape dried jelly off the counter.

Yep, there have been tears for all of these.

But go back and change it?

No, no I wouldn’t.

It’s been this stripping down and away that’s brought me to my knees, helped me find myself in Him.

You know, we all may wrestle with the purpose, the plan, the calling of our lives, but deep, deep down, I think we know.  We know.  We feel the whispers in our soul.

Be with Me…  Walk with Me…  Live in love with Me…

For I am Immanuel, the God who died to be with you.

If I sink myself down and in to this, then I remember:

More than God wants to use me, more than He wants to work through me, He wants to BE WITH me, make His home in me. 

Do we know that?  Really, truly?

Do we live like He is more concerned with our attachment to the Vine than with the fruit we produce?

Do we fully grasp that without that attached intimacy, it’s all fruitless striving? 

When what I DO is who I AM, then I’m forever doing more, because I’m never enough.  I strive to prove, to please, to impress with what I do, because if I don’t, then what am I?

But if who I am is defined by the Vine and not the fruit, then, then

I am complete, today and forever enough.

I live freely and lightly in the unforced rhythms of grace.

What I do flows out of who I already am.  Perfectly loved.  Secure.  Whole.

Perfectly loved3

God says, “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.” (John 15:8 MSG)

When we’re intimate with Him, we’ll “live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” (1 John 2:6 MSG)

But here’s the thing … We can talk circles around intimacy.  We can all nod and murmur and raise our hands with closed eyes.  But how often do we actually open up and talk about our personal relationship, our day-to-day interaction with our Jesus?  It’s presumed too private a matter, too sacred to pry into, too pious if you share, or too cliched to sound genuine.

But I wonder if it’s something else. I wonder if we are actually hiding from each other the fact that we don’t really know how to be intimate with Him.  And what if in building these walls of privacy we actually end up robbing one another of the very thing we need, the gift of modeling?  To see and hear loved lived out is the only way to learn it.

We can hide behind our propped up identities as women serving overseas, or we can step out bare and brave and say, “My purpose is to be with Jesus, and here’s how that’s going.”

So let’s do it here today.  Yes, really.  Let’s actually do it.  Let’s ask the question: “How is your intimacy with Jesus?”  And let’s see what unfolds…

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  1. Jana February 20, 2014

    This is my first Linkup on Velvet Ashes. I’m not sure if I linked up correctly, but I am excited to read all of the post on the word prompt: Purpose. Danielle, thank you for sharing your words–they are beautiful and thought provoking.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 21, 2014

      Yep, you did it right, Jana!  Ladies, be sure to click above on “An InLinkz Link-up” at the bottom of my post to view the linked up posts.   Give a warm welcome to Jana!

  2. Amy Alexander February 20, 2014

    A few months ago I sat on the bench with Susan after being with her for the delivery of her daughter. Her baby girl was born without a skull, her brain exposed and unprotected. The doctors expected her to only live for minutes or hours. But Susan knew her daughter was the answer to her prayers and God was big enough to keep her alive. Sitting on the bench Susan told me she was naming her daughter Purpose, because she wanted the purposes of God to be lived out in her daughter’s life. For 23 days Purpose lived, defying all odds, displaying God’s power and purpose each day in the NICU. Each day as I changed the dressing around Purpose’s brain my idea and definition of a purposeful life was challenged. Purpose was valuable just because of who she was, nothing that she did. She deserved to be valued and loved even though the culture around her said she was a curse. I fought to see her fed each day, to see antibiotics given to her, to give her a chance at life. Purpose impacted lives all over the world, and challenged the lives of those of us who had the gift of holding her. She lived out God’s purpose wholly and completely in those 23 days just by breathing and living secure in the love of her Heavenly Father. I have been forever changed by a baby named Purpose. 

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 21, 2014

      Oh my.  This is story…  It steals the breath.

      “She lived out God’s purpose wholly and completely…just by breathing and living secure in the love of her Heavenly Father.”

      Now that is glorious hope, beautiful truth.  Thank you so much for sharing.  Can I ask where this happened?

      1. Amy Alexander February 21, 2014

        This was in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2013 where I was a volunteer midwife at a government hospital.

        1. Danielle Wheeler February 21, 2014

          Wow, so glad you got to be there for the gift of Purpose, and that she had the gift of you!

    2. Colleen February 21, 2014

      Thank you for sharing this. Now I will wipe my snotty face up and think on purpose anew.

    3. Kristi February 23, 2014

      Thank you for sharing this.  Where there is life there is purpose.

  3. Kimberly Todd February 20, 2014

    Danielle, you have a knack for getting into the crevices. The paragraph about talking in circles around intimacy rings. Crazy that thriving can be as silencing as needing help for fear of coming across as not authentic or condescending. But then that fire inside starts burning pretty hot. Isolation stinks in plenty and in want.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 21, 2014

      Yes, so crazy that thriving can be silencing!   I love the way you’ve been sharing slices of spiritual richness around here.  Here’s to tearing down the isolation barriers for both those in plenty and in want!!

    2. Amy Young February 21, 2014

      Ah Kim, this is something I’ve wanted to write about :). I KNOW that depression is real and awful and an authentic part of some people’s story. But my story has been that I’ve been the “happy” one on a team and felt I had to hide my happiness so as not to rub it in others faces. Hide, or tone down.

      1. laura February 24, 2014

        Oh….  Last year I thought a lot about “rejoicing with those who rejoice” as well as “mourning with those who mourn.”  Rejoicing- when things are going well with others.  This year has held many challenges  for me and I’ve encountered (confusion? resistance?) as I’ve attempted to invite others to rejoice with me in the things that I am  finding to rejoice in.  (I realise this doesn’t tie directly into purpose but the conversation struck a chord with me.)

        1. Kimberly Todd February 24, 2014

          So glad you chimed in. To me this is perfectly on point. And helps me untwist some tangled thoughts about confusing encounters I’ve had.

    3. Kristi February 23, 2014

      I tend to be the “glass is half empty” kinda girl most of the time, but lately the Father has taken me by the hand and shown me beauty in places where previously I would have only seen pain.  It’s been wonderful!  But difficult for me to express.  Partly because I lack the vocabulary of a the “glass is half full” kinda girl, but partly because I don’t want to be insensitive to those around me who are struggling.  I shared with a friend that perhaps I need to take my eyes off myself and maybe even the other person and point us both to the cross.  Fixing our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He’s the Man of Sorrows and our rejoicing Bridegroom!

      I hope that I don’t make the “happy” people around me feel like they need to hide.  I enjoy being around people who enjoy life. 🙂

      1. Shelly February 23, 2014

        I’m glad that you are seeing beauty in places you had not seen before.  I am glad that I get to hear about  it. 🙂  And I affirm you in learning a new vocabulary.

  4. Laura February 21, 2014

    Danielle, I’m a list person as well, so your words about being with God were challenging and encouraging. Thank you!

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 21, 2014

      Thanks, fellow list-maker!  I’d be lost without my lists, but sometimes I am lost in them, you know? So this one was straight to me.  Glad it resonated for you.

  5. Ashley Felder February 21, 2014

    My intimacy with Jesus is pretty much a constant roller coaster. I actually groan (silently) when people from home make me out to some super hero just because we made a move across the world. Don’t they know that it just makes our spiritual lives that much harder to dive into? I’m not a super Christian…more like super good at making excuses because “my life is harder…things take longer here..” yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Thankfully, right now, for the first time in a LONG time (being real: months) I’m having a daily time with Jesus. Today, I had to turn on a show for the kids to watch..and then another..because I wasn’t done and I didn’t need interruptions (besides the 2 potty breaks my still-learning 2yo had). It’s not what I dream of having again from the college days..having enough energy to wake up at the crack of dawn, when everything is still and quiet, and journaling, reading his Word, and maybe a chapter of something else. Wow, those were the days. I know it has to look different in every season, but I’m tired of making so many excuses just because this season is busy. Won’t every season be busy with excuses?

    1. Amy Young February 21, 2014

      “Won’t every season be busy with excuses?” 🙂 … I think it will. Even the college girl you were had them, yet she found a way that worked for her in that season! I if it’s videos that work now, I say, GO FOR IT. My sister has trained her kids not to talk to her before 7:00 so she can get her Bible Study done. So, what works, do it. And may there be freedom to experiment and try different things. If they don’t work, don’t berate yourself, just pick up and move on :). Try something else. Sorry, i don’t mean for this to sound like a mini-lecture. I just think the enemy will use all kinds of means to get us off task by filling out heads with lies about how long, or how often, or under what conditions we “should” spend time with God.

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

      I’m right there with you shamelessly popping videos so mama can have some Jesus time.   And I’m also good at making lists of excuses.  Bravo for chucking your excuses.

      I once heard a story about a guy with grown children who said that he would pay $10,000 dollars to be able to go back and have just one more weekend at home when his children were young.  I tell myself this story on those days when I’m ready to pull my hair out and put ear plugs in, that one day these will be the good ol’ days.   🙂

  6. Christy J February 21, 2014

    Wow, Danielle, this resonates so much with me right now. The thought of what my purpose is underneath and behind all the things that I do is always a big question in my life as I have made so many transitions in my life in the last decade or more.

    But the part that went right to my heart was when you started talking about how we don’t share about our intimacy with Jesus. This is huge for me right now because I am struggling and I’ve felt so disconnected, both from Jesus and from other people, and when you are going through rough times you just want someone to understand. My intimacy with Jesus has changed so much this year as I have been bombarded with health issues and have struggled to fight to get decent health care in a developing country. I have this cynical part of my brain that can’t believe that Jesus really knows what it is like to find a lump in your breast (after all, he was a man!). So I shout my doubts at the heavens and wait for an answer. All seems to be okay when the news reveals there is no cancer, but then a simple tennis game turns into weeks of pain and frustration over a broken toe, which ought to be treated easily enough, but isn’t in this country. I can’t stop asking Jesus “Why?!?” My times with him are filled with an endless stream of questions and complaints and wondering whether he hears me at all. I have a brief reprieve, a time of worship when I feel his loving arms wrapped around me, and then…three days later I am wiped out on my bed with typhoid. It feels as if someone were playing a cruel joke on me, using my body as their personal punching bag. I wonder what is going on behind the heavenly curtain. Is there a wager going on over my faith? If so, I fear that I am not making God proud as Job did, for I have certainly not remained blameless in my words and attitudes through it all. But doesn’t intimacy with Jesus require authenticity on my part? Can I be truly close to him if I hold back and don’t face the truth of my emotions? And what if the only response I hear from God is silence?

    1. Jennifer February 21, 2014


      Thank you for being so open and honest… In response to your last questions, I think that what you have done here is actually both very authentic and does equal facing the truth of your emotions. You are admitting the reality of how you feel. You might know that you haven’t put all of it into words or can’t put all of it into words, but to me that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. To me it is the heart more than the words which matters the most. I can see much of your heart in your words and sense a deep desire for that intimacy. The great thing is that God wants that intimacy with us too … and is himself not waiting until we are in the “right” place or until we are “perfect” but is himself reaching out to us. It does not depend upon how we feel or what we do but on him and what he has done. I have walked through challenging times too, and very much wanted answers, wanted to understand, definitely was overwhelmed, though I have not yet reached the point of telling much of that story. I am learning one very small step at a time, that God may not give me the answers and the understanding that I really want right now, but I can trust him anyway. I have done that very imperfectly, but I am learning that I can tell him exactly how I feel, and he simply accepts me and loves me, and then challenges me to take the next step. I am learning that it is true that I cannot do it alone, that it is overwhelming, that I am not smart enough or good enough to do it… but I also do not have to. One small step at a time, with Him, is all I need to take and when I do not feel I can take even one more step, what I need to do is simply to stop and wait and allow Him to give me what I need to take that next step with him. Sometimes the next step is simply to wait.

      1. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

        Here’s to trusting without answers, Jennifer.  And great journeys hold a vast number of very small steps, right?

        1. Jennifer February 23, 2014


          Yes, thank you. Each very small step, adds up to sometimes unexpected moves on the journey. The last week and a half has been like that, a series of unexpected steps one after the other, to me small unexpected miracles, which began with a request to a couple of friends, to pray because I simply could see no way I could make a step I really needed to make, do something I really needed to do. The two of them prayed, one here in China in another city and one in the US, and a lot of unexpected things have happened, beginning with the “impossible” step. I have not been able to tell them the story of that yet.  Your encouragement of me has been a precious gift.

      2. Christy J February 24, 2014

        Thank you for your encouraging words. I am in that place of just trying to take the next small step forward. And it is a good reminder that no matter how small the steps are, they are moving me closer to Jesus.

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

      There’s nothing that sucks the soul quite like health problems, is there?  So sorry for the bombardment you’ve faced.

      I think God does want us to express the truth of our emotion to him.  Look at David, the “man after God’s own heart.”  He had some pretty raw words for God.  Michael Card does an amazing job of teaching on the lost art of lament, and it forever changed the way I look at lamenting to God.  He says that we are to mourn and be sad and even angry.  But in lament, you always in the end come back to “hesed”  the loving kindness  of God saying, “yet will I trust you,” “yet will I praise you.”  Anyway, that’s my summary.  He does a much better job of explaining and teaching it.  Here are links to videos and his book:

      Thinking of you tonight, praying for healing and for a comforting sense of the unconditional love and pride of your Father to fill you up.

    3. Amy Young February 23, 2014

      Christy, these season in life are — it’s hard to find a word that honors the agony and how it looks like the end isn’t in sight (and I wish I could promise it will end, and I HOPE it will, but can’t for sure say it will) — isolating is probably the most true word I can come up with. Thanks for reaching out and fighting the isolation.

      1. Christy J February 24, 2014


        Thank you for sharing these links to Michael Card’s teaching! It is exactly what I have been learning lately. I think God wants to keep hitting me over the head with it, too, because it is showing up everywhere. I’ve been teaching Job, Ecclesiastes, and Psalms in two of my classes over the past month, but I think I’ve been learning more than my students have. 🙂 I especially love the part about God’s presence–that God showing up is the answer, because His deepest desire is intimacy with us. How beautiful that is! And how challenging to the way I almost always pray…I need God to change my heart’s deepest desire to match His.

  7. Sarah Moulding February 21, 2014

    Ashley, I can certainly relate to what you say about making time to dedicate to God alone when there are so many other demands going on. I too spent a long time not being able to make that time which I think contributed to some of the issues I had in finding what my real purpose was as I’ve talked about below.  Its only recently that I have been able to create that time again, which in reality is only about 15 minutes before I even get out of bed. Not time for any great in depth time by any means but it is a start in reconnecting with Jesus.

    It took some time to discover my purpose once overseas. From an early age I knew that God was calling me to work with people from a different culture. Once I got married and my husband was drawn to service overseas I got excited about fulfilling that purpose – but the reality turned out somewhat different. Arriving overseas with a 13 month old, the picture of service didn’t turn out quite as I had imagined. With my husband going off and doing the ‘work’ and me stuck at home with my little girl. As much as I loved my little girl, I very quickly got frustrated just ‘keeping house’ and began to feel a building resentment against both my daughter and my husband.  

    The sense of purpose I had etched in my own mind of serving the people of Bolivia was quite different from that which God had for me.  It took a number of years of soul searching and many buckets of tears before I began to understand what my God given purpose was.  It was only after number 2 arrived on the scene, followed very closely by number 3 that I finally realised that my purpose was in fact to be a stay at home (and now homeschooling) mum.  Now that I am contended to fulfil this purpose which God has given me, other avenues of service have opened up and have become a tremendous blessing as they fit within the purpose that God has set out for me for this particular season of life.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

      Ah, the dream of life on the field versus the reality of life on the field!  I think a book could be written on that alone!  Love your visual.  So thrilled that you’re finding contentment in fulfilling your purpose as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.  It’s a journey, isn’t it?  And so cool to hear that other opportunities for service are opening up and fitting into this season of life.

  8. JulieB February 21, 2014

    Purposes for different seasons of life.  Interesting thoughts.  We just moved overseas 8 months ago – I guess you would call us “Finishers”.  After very fruitful life and ministry in the States, we are finally back overseas.  (We really aren’t that old….really!)  I can relate to Christy in all of your health issues.  It has been one thing after another since we arrived with the common denominator of pain through it all.  The most recent thing being a back injury after a fall which has now but me on the “conservative treatment” regimen which means “House arrest in the reclining position for a month”.   Wow!  Talk about having my purpose for being here stripped away!  Perhaps as has been so well stated by Danielle……I need to use this time to develop my purpose of knowing in a more intimate way the Jesus I love and serve.  Thank you for challenging my heart!  I needed that today!


    1. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

      So sorry it has been such a tough go for you, Julie.  Reclining for a month?!  Wow.  I had a back injury  once and it leaves me with a HUGE amount of compassion for people with back pain.

      If you’re interested, there is a woman named Tanya Marlow that writes beautifully about her situation.  She’s housebound as well (and mostly bed-bound).  You can find her here:

      Glad you found something you needed in the words here today.  Thanks for sharing with us.

  9. Jennifer February 22, 2014

    Thank you for this posting which as your postings tend to do cuts right to the heart, both to challenge us to look honestly at ourselves and to draw closer to God. It relates to much of what I have been walking through the last few years. I can relate very much to the Identity in doing being stripped away and the long and slow journey towards recognizing what truly is most important, and one very small step at a time putting things into their right place. I think you summed it up so well when you said: More than God wants to use me, more than He wants to work through me, He wants to BE WITH me, make His home in me”. When we truly do grab hold of what this means, and begin to look at things through these eyes, we will look at many things in a very different way and what we do can begin to flow out of who we are in him, rather than what we do defining who we are.  I am beginning to walk this road one small step at a time. I rejoice at the fact that many people here are walking that road with me one step at a time.


    1. Danielle Wheeler February 22, 2014

      Jennifer, I love hearing the hints of hope and healing that are coming from you.  Rejoicing with you!

  10. Kristi February 23, 2014

    Danielle, thank you for these words:  “But if who I am is defined by the Vine and not the fruit, then, then… I am complete, today and forever enough.”

    They’re still in the process of being processed.  I think they will feed my thoughts for quite some time. 🙂

    Here are a few thoughts I had concerning purpose over the course of the week.

    Sometimes You Call

    Sometimes You call me to

    Jump in

    And swim against the prevailing current

    Of this world

    Muscles get sore

    Eyes grow tired

    But You draw me onward


    Sometimes You call me to

    Tread water

    Struggling to keep my head above the waves

    Of confusion

    My mind swirls

    My heart grows weak

    But You uphold me


    Sometimes You call me to

    Stand firm

    Upon the Rock as a beacon

    To those around me

    The waves crash

    Goosebumps form

    Yet through me You make Your Light known


    At all times You call me to

    Trust You

    And breathe in the Life of the Spirit

    Given by the Father through the Son

    Joy awakens

    Hope spurs onward

    For You are my Purpose

    1. Jennifer February 23, 2014


      Thank you! I think you have managed to put my heart into words too. Such a precious gift.

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 23, 2014

      Ah, the muscles do get sore from swimming against the current, don’t they?  (Where’s my house and  picket fence??)  And I’ve definitely been through treading water seasons, head barely staying above.  But at all times called to trust and breathe in the Life of the Spirit.  At. all. times.

      Beauty and truth, once again.  Thank you, friend.

  11. Shelly February 24, 2014

    This semester I worked hard to maintain a weekly Sabbath. I told some friends a few months ago that it was more discipline than delight. I can accept that because I am learning a new way of being. I am learning to live out my dependency on Him and my trust in Him. When deadlines loom, I am still prone to consider working on my sabbath to just be done with the task, and rest the next day.  But Jesus says, “Trust me.” In that simple phrase I am reminded that I am not God; He is.  I am weak and need rest; He is strong and gives me what I need.  And lately the word he is whispering as a gentle reminder is “Peace.” In the midst of the tasks to do and the issues I am facing, He invites me to receive His peace, and to share His peace with others.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 24, 2014

      Oh, the challenge of Sabbath!  I’ve been working hard to be disciplined in that area this year too.  And I’m finding that when I carve out that day, that it settles my soul, no matter how many to-do’s are clamoring.  Without Sabbath rest, I’m forever thirsty for peace and never seeming to find it.  Thanks for reminding us of this vital element of intimacy.

  12. laura February 24, 2014

    “Have you ever had a time in your life when what you DO is stripped away from you?  You’re suddenly left floundering, asking, “Wait, now who am I?””

    Oh, friend, this is my time.  THIS. IS. MY. TIME.   And, it’s not just the what I do that’s being stripped.  It’s been my heath, my energy, the place I call home.  It’s not been easy but there has been MUCH joy.  Joy in celebrating others finding their purpose.  Joy in coming to cling to grace in a new way.   Clinging, friend, clinging.  Hanging on tight and choosing to stay in the room of grace.

    My word of the year is HESED (I’m a bit behind on communicating here but I know it’s grace that I’m living under).  What I didn’t know as I chose it was the fact that I would be entering a season marked with daily situations of deep lament.  So, my intimacy?  It’s marked by lament.  It’s marked by heading into creation with my journal and his words. It’s marked by acknowledging the pit in my stomach.  It’s marked by taking the smallest ever steps toward intimacy.  It’s marked by taking those smallest steps ever over and over. AGAIN.  It’s marked by saying to you, friend, I need grace.  I need it like I need to breathe.  It’s marked by saying I need mercy.  I need it new every morning.  It’s marked by me feeling like I have a choice (In The Greatest Gift Ann Voskamp quoted Elijah asking, “How much longer will you waiver, hobbling between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him!”) and that, as challenging as it is, I choose to follow Him.  It’s marked by acknowledging the ways  in which I’ve allowed myself to be named things that don’t line up with the names that He has given me.  It’s marked by allowing myself to try on those good names and wear them, even in public.

  13. Sarah February 24, 2014

    It seems that God is fulfilling his purpose with velvet ashes this week, with connecting people across the miles, many who have never met each other and yet who share a kindred spirit, the depth of understanding of what life is really like to be serving overseas away from family, and familiar cultures. The Raw hard realities of life as well as the blessings. It is such an encouragement to knows there are people who really do understand what it is like, who have been there, are there, and going through the same thing right now. Thank you velvet ashes team for following Gods calling and connecting us in such a unique and valuable way.

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