What Every Person Needs to Know When Searching for Purpose

by | Jul 14, 2014 | Encouragement, Identity


Three days. I didn’t expect it to take that long.

H and Harrison flew to London on Thursday. I made goals for myself to avoid over-thinking in their absence. I would drive myself to the beach and walk daily, write toward the book deadline in the morning and pack boxes at night.

The first evening, I smiled in deep satisfaction standing beside several full garbage bags and taped boxes with UK imprinted in bold black letters. Two rooms nearly finished. And then I moved into my office. I’ve been stuck there ever since.

Oh, I can hear you in my head. “So, what is the big deal? Sometimes these things take time.”

My office is the spare bedroom with the closet converted into my writing space. The only items I have to make decisions about reside in two small-ish file boxes. It’s the contents in those boxes that have become an obstacle to finishing with swiftness.

Excavating pages of notes in my handwriting from twenty-five+ years ago, I’m revisiting a season when idealism fueled hope toward the future. I wasn’t prepared to read my younger self hanging on to every thread of spiritual conviction like a rip cord, ready to jump into whatever God had for me while at the same time afraid of falling into the unknowns without a parachute.

And then realize things haven’t changed that much.

When you find a historical archive revealing the ways in which God has shaped you, how do you decide what is worth keeping? What if I throw away a piece of truth that is the revelation I’m seeking? That one hint toward ultimate purpose may now be mingling with a melon rind rotting next to an egg carton soaked with coffee grounds at the dump.

I’m depleted; attempting to piece my life together in a way that makes sense when puzzle pieces I haven’t lived yet are still missing.

And this is the dissonance between faith that is static and faith that is moving. We sort through the clutter of our lives, keep priceless trinkets from significant seasons and trust God with the mystery of the not yet.

In the end, all those notes I wrote to myself were love letters to God asking the same question. Do you love me?

And every single time he answered. Yes, I love you.

He is near even when we are immersed in the minutiae.

The common theme in our humanity is the longing to see the complete picture of our purpose in high definition – before we live it. But it is only in brave surrender that we can look in the rear view mirror and comprehend the words of Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (MSG)

Most of those notes are in the trash bin. I don’t need them because they’re already written in the Book of Life.

It took me three days to figure that out.

Three days for resurrection.

Three days to hear Jesus say, Yes, I love you.


As we sort, pack, consign, discard and entertain potential buyers for our cars and house, I’ll be posting less frequently here this month. Did I mention a writing deadline for my book? However, I will continue communicating through my weekly epistle to the Sabbath Societycommunity, which has turned into a beautiful conversation, a co-mingling of faith, life and resting in His goodness. Sign up here if you are interested, you are always welcome.


Linking with Laura, Jennifer, Kelli, Holley and Emily.


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Angie Ryg

    This journey to go through the motions only to find the answer right there the whole time! Yes. The answer of His unfailing love! This is one of your most beautiful words of wisdom to me, my beautiful friend! Miss you!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m so glad this resonated with you Angie. So glad we found each other at Allume last Fall so we can be friends. You are a gift.

  2. Natalie

    Love this, love what words from the past reveal and how they can fuel my prayers. Thanks for sharing your discovery with us.

    • Shelly Miller

      It seems God uses our past to inform the future. Perhaps to show us how he’s been with us all along and isn’t surprised in the least about our questions. Hugs.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I really get this Shelly. God
    seems to keep linking our hearts and lives. I’m not flying to London, but it’s
    high time I sorted out life even if I’m not going anywhere. I keep digging in
    from time to time, only to move on to the next project, or sweep up the piles
    to be stashed away again because company is coming, and then I never finish.
    But this time, I’m steadily moving forward, a stalwart plodder. My master-bedroom
    and walk-in closet is now well organized, and I had long since weeded out
    clothes. So this was fairly easy (until I got to photographs and gift books). I
    slowed there. And now all my music (art songs, solos, classical collections,
    sacred albums, hymnals, Christmas albums, Bach cantatas, etc.) are all sorted
    and appropriately alphabetized. You could ask me to sing anything, and I could
    locate it in seconds. But I have been stuck on the dining room table for over a
    week. It’s here where I have begun rifling through at least five bankers boxes
    ( I need to count!) filled to overflowing with correspondence–greeting cards,
    post cards, and letters. I feel so loved–truly.Still, I discarded those where
    someone only penned a signature or wrote just a line or tow, blessing them as
    they went into (dare I say it?) a trash bag. Others, I’ve read and wept over,
    like the one from my dear friend with end-stage Alzheimer’s before her brain
    scrambled beyond recognition. Other letters are so long, that poring over them
    will provide a marvelous rainy-day activity in the future. But I’ve not gotten
    to my personal notations or journals. I suspect I will discover much what you
    have–how God has loved me well in all my trials and in times when I couldn’t
    love myself. I’m so glad He was spoken to you so profoundly, and He will
    continue to do so as you live into the future that He has planned. I’m glad for
    the freedom you have felt. Perhaps we differ a bit in that I will not be
    throwing out personal notes and journals (I will be throwing out old writing
    and things I composed during my non-profit profession that I should have
    discarded years ago when down deep I knew I’d never go back). But where I have
    written about my angst or growth or joy, I intend to keep that history in tact.
    I always encourage my journal students to do that, because it’s an
    irretrievable part of their history, as it is mine, and it does help me to
    comprehend how all the pieces of life fit together in retrospect. I’ve learned
    so much by harvesting.

    This is a wonderful post, as
    of course, they all are. I am praying for your pondering, and packing, and
    penning of that book.



    • Shelly Miller

      Lynn, I’ve kept my journal entries and thrown away sermon notes that were fun to read but not informing my life at this point. I’ve thrown away cards that didn’t have a personal greetings, unless the sentiment of the card had meaning. I think we’re actually doing the same thing. And I do have to say how remarkable it is that our lives seem to be parallel, yet we live in different circumstances. Our friendship is one of divine providence, I’m sure of that. Love you so much!

      • Lynn D. Morrisseyw

        Oh I am so glad you are saving all your journals, Shelly. And yes, it sounds as if we are doing exactly the same thing. But *you* get to go to England. Hmmm…. I need to remedy that on my end! =] Can’t wait till you finally make your move.
        Love you so much, too, my God-given, God-ordained friend. No doubt!

  4. Elizabeth Stewart

    I remember writing letters to God as I grew up. When Daddy left us, Mama was on survival mode and not one to talk on an emotional level anyway. God was/is my best friend and to Him I both spoke and wrote my hurts and my hopes. I don’t remember throwing those letters away, but perhaps I did before leaving for college. It would be fun to read them again.
    What a blessing to read the journey God has had you on all these years and to find that throughout all of your life changes His unfailing constancy and love. God bless you as you journey on, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love that you wrote letters to God Elizabeth. I wrote them in my head, he too, became my dearest friend and trusted confidant in a time when my personal life, like yours was very insecure. He is with us through all of it and I’m so grateful to be a witness to that at this point in my life. I know you get that. Thanks for your encouragement, it is truly a gift.

  5. Mary Gemmill

    The book deadline has been uppermost in my thoughts of you these last few days- even though I didn’t actually know about the deadline////but then that’s God for you.; He’s on to it Shelly…keep me posted– believing it is a book ” for such as time as this”. Many many blessings and my prayers for you all.
    Amy and Kieran take off 7am Weds which will be your Tues.

    Love Mary.

    • Shelly Miller

      Prayed for them Mary. I’m expectant. And the book is going well so far. I should’ve known you were praying. You are such a gift to me, truly. Thank you.

  6. Sharon O

    thinking that maybe some of your writings could be scanned to a zip drive or put on a disk and saved for a ‘different time’ when you might want to re-read them, they are not gone but just different.

    • Shelly Miller

      Ya know, that is a good idea Sharon. Thanks!

  7. Mary Bonner

    Shelly, these words speak to me in ways that I cannot possibly describe. You have touched me with your writing more than you can know. And the Sabbath Society…I am slowly, but surely getting THAT! And I love it. You are teaching me so very much.
    I am praying for you as you weed through your home and prepare for the move. I’ll continue praying and add your book deadline to my list!
    Hugs and prayers coming your way.

    • Shelly Miller

      Humbled by your words Mary. Truly. Thank you for everything you’ve mentioned here.

  8. Lisa notes...

    Ooh, that’s a hard call to make, what to keep and what to throw away. But yes, even what we throw away physically is often still with us spiritually. You were wise to recognize that, knowing God is always saying, “I love you.” Beautiful and brave lesson here, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m trying to live into brave Lisa. It’s not very comfortable that’s for sure.

  9. pastordt

    I SOOOO get this. Glad you found resurrection after three days. Maybe there’s hope for me!

    • Shelly Miller

      There is always hope Diana. And for you, it’s a given. Love you!

  10. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, is this in Oxford? at a university?

    • Shelly Miller

      It is at Oxford. You are good Lynn.

  11. Beth Hess

    What a wonderful insight that all your writings were longings for the answer to one question. And now that you know that you know that you know Yes, he loves you, that is something you can never lose. Your writing and your heart here is pure grace. Thanks for linking with Unforced Rhythms.

    • Shelly Miller

      I find believing truth for myself is harder than knowing it. It seems as if its taking a lifetime to own it. Thank you Bess, appreciate your visits.

  12. LIsa

    Heeding these words as I face my own distillation of what is to be kept. But oh how the artifacts witness to the abundant blessings bestowed.

    • Shelly Miller

      Artifacts of faithfulness. So true. Hoping your own process is one of insight and knowing how deeply you are loved Lisa.

  13. Lyli Dunbar

    Your words here really resonated with me — I am not moving out, but I am finally unpacking the boxes in the office closet that I never unpacked when we rented this house. Now that we bought it, I am wading through the mire and finding little gems like my notes on marriage and family from a college class in 1989.

    I looked through 3 or 4 boxes, and then I had to stop. There was a lot of life in those boxes — life I’d forgotten about.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh my, yes I know this unpacking boxes after years of living somewhere. We are actually doing that with this move. After almost six years of living here we opening taped boxes. Eek. It is overwhelming isn’t it? Sometimes I have the inkling to not even open them and throw the whole box away. But I guess I’m not brave enough to actually do it.

  14. Nancy Ruegg

    Steve and I landed in our new home (900+ miles away from our old one) less than a month ago. The days of sorting, discarding, giving away, and packing are still fresh in my mind–and muscles! (You should see my forearms, after making thousands of newspaper balls!) Indeed, sorting through files is a time-consuming business. What a brilliant solution you embraced! Throw away the bulk of it and trust the Author of the Book of Life to provide what we need, when we need it. Beautiful, poignant, and honest as always, Shelly. May God smooth the way for your transition.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh wow Nancy, you are well acquainted with the transition process. And yes, every muscle I haven’t exercised recently is making me aware of how I’ve neglected them.

  15. Angela

    Oh this certainly resonates with me! I have so many old notes & journals that I look through from time to time. I love how you wrap up – the baseline of everything and what ties it all together is indeed that Jesus loves me. I need to remember that more often!

  16. JViola79

    Shelly, I have been reading from a distance so to speak. Meaning I haven’t commented much. This post just spoke deeply –> “And this is the dissonance between faith that is static and faith that
    is moving. We sort through the clutter of our lives, keep priceless
    trinkets from significant seasons and trust God with the mystery of the
    not yet.” My one word for 2014 has been Faith as my desire truly has been for more faith, a faith that is static & moving. It is hard to realize faith grows best in the soil of trust. Trusting God. How did I not know this? Seven months into my word and today He pulls back the veil & asks, “Will you trust Me?” Jeremiah 29:11 has been a verse a loved one & myself have been going back to & debating for months. Never thought to read it in the MSG. The tears just rolled by the time I finished reading this verse. There are no words to express how grateful I am that you penned this post in the midst of all that is going on with your move. May God be with you & yours & be with you all in this time of transition.

  17. Laura Boggess

    I had highlighted that very same portion that Joanne mentions below. And now I’m asking myself: Is my faith moving? Am I growing, letting faith shape me? Still? Very good, thought-provoking post, my friend. I’m glad to hear you are moving closer to the goal–in moving and writing! And I am thinking that the theme of this post most definitely resonated in much of your chapters that I read. He is enough.

    Love to you, lady.

  18. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    And I highlighted the same. Such a deep and profound question, Shelly. Thank you for putting words to that as I walk my own faith journey. My question is the same. I recognized it when I read it: God, do you love me? Yes, yes, yes is always the answer. Thank you for your heart seeking hard after him, even when it’s scary. What an amazing sign of where you are on your journey, too, that you were able to toss those papers, knowing those words are all written somewhere deeper. Grateful for you. xoxo

  19. Traci @tracesoffaith

    Three is one beautiful number, huh?! I think God definitely agrees.

  20. Christina@toshowthemjesus.com

    I struggle with wanting to see the completed picture beforehand. I agree, it’s common to our humanity. And it can become a huge stumbling block in our faith. Still learning to trust and enjoy the incomplete picture:)

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