Man alive, 2016 has been a THING. I mean seriously 2016, I am out of shock and awe. All I have left is Jesus and coffee. On a national level 2016 has been ugly (understatement). On a professional level, for both Jeff and I (I consider myself Chief Operating Officer of Mochal Inc.), 2016 has been a doozy. On a personal level 2016 has been marked by sadness and loss.
The last 10 days have been a microcosm of this year - small peaks followed by tremendous valleys. In that time, I went to a women's conference where I felt like I finally figured out my purpose - hooray, joy ensues. Then we had an election, it didn't turn out the way the world thought it would. The ugliness and vitriol that we all thought would be closing up shop on November 9 actually got worse. Cue sadness and retail therapy. (I wish I could say that as I watched people get uglier and uglier I prayed and thanked God for his sovereignty in this hot mess of a world, but in reality I ordered a pair of leopard print chairs. Listen, the Cubs won the World Series, this apocalypse thing may be coming sooner than later and if Jesus comes back in the next few months I want to have coffee with Him in my leopard chairs. Don't judge, I am just being real) Then we had a lovely weekend with our neighbors who have become true friends. Yea us! Then, last night our whole household succumbed to the torture that is second grade spelling. Divulge about did us in. We all went to bed in a funk - seriously, from spelling.
This morning as I was reflecting on the crap storm that was last night I thought man, something around here has got to change. We can't let spelling rock our world like that. Then I got to thinking, perhaps spelling is not the TRUE culprit. (I know, duh!) Perhaps there is some overarching issue that is causing feelings to be hurt and tempers to flair and the word "porridge" to undermine an otherwise really good life. Jeff remarked last night that he feels like there is so much negativity in the house. You see, that frustrates me because I have been praying for a spirit of peace in our home. I literally walk from room to room and pray. I have been praying for my kids to experience grace and compassion for each other and all they encounter. Like every darn day. What is up with that God? I mean, I know that God is not Amazon Prime. He doesn't deliver whatever we ask for in a two day window but I have been at this prayer thing for awhile now. I know things around here have to change if we are going to come out with beauty from the ashes of the things that have hurt our hearts this year.
Then this morning God hit me over the head with a message that made all the other stuff make sense. Isn't that how it always is? A series of disparate, seemingly random events happen and then God drops a little wisdom in your lap that ties it all together. You know what the common denominator is in all of this? Me. Yep, I am the chain that links all of this together. I have been praying for things to change and for people to change and for circumstances to change but I have not once asked God to change me. I never asked Him to help me have the words to comfort my girl as she continues to grieve the loss of her friend. I didn't ask Him to show me a creative way to help Sam learn his spelling words. I have not been seeking ideas from him about ways to show love in this hurting world. Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner - God change me! Change my perspective, show me how to be a light to my world. Not THE world, that is too overwhelming for me right now, just my world. Because I really do think it is like ripples in a lake.
As I thought about how I could change my perspective in 2016 I was inspired to dig a little deeper in to my role in our house and our little world. What is my purpose? I thought back to the aforementioned women's conference, where I spent a solid half a day feeling sorry for myself because I felt like I didn't have a purpose. I mean, am not Jen Hatmaker, writing books and adopting orphans. I am just a mom getting up each day and praying the kids like the hot lunch option so I don't have to make another peanut butter sandwich. How can I effect change? Then I realized my purpose is not making lunch. That is a job. Just like being a nurse or a lawyer or a barista is a job. My purpose is what God put me on earth to do that will cause others to see goodness in each other, Jesus, and themselves.
So here is what I came up with, my purpose is to LIVE REAL AND LOVE HARD. I know it sort of sounds like a bad Ed Hardy t-shirt, but give me a minute...
You see, as I have gotten older authenticity has become a very important part of my life. I want to be myself - my messy, unholy, mood swinging self because that is who Jesus loves. He did not come for perfect Erika, he came for real life Erika and real life you. That doesn't mean I am supposed to stay stuck in my muck, but I am also not to be persecuted for it either. I think I am supposed to live real, the good and the bad, so others can too. Then we can commiserate with each other and lift each other up. We can sit down over a cup of coffee and say, man I was not very kind to my kids today or my husband and I are struggling or I have really mean thoughts about myself, because we feel safe. Then I can take all of your real self and love you. Like a lot. I am not a love you with a wave as I walk the dogs kind of gal. I am a love you with a hug and a gift and a casserole sort of girl. I want to love you with a deep conversation about what makes your heart happy, what makes your hear hurt. I want to pray with you and for you and tell you how much I love you so you don't feel judged. Because you know what, the opposite of loved is? Judged. You can not offer both love and judgement. We can not be in competitive perfection mode and love our neighbor the way we love ourselves. But then, this is where things get sticky for me. I realize I can be a bit much for people. I get it. I am like a cup of cinnamon tea. Some people find it to be totally comforting and others think it is like drinking a stick of Big Red - whoa Nelly! This is where I have to circle back to the living real part because fear of judgment causes me to stop loving hard. I start trying to be someone I am not, to please people and be "normal". Then I am miserable. I suspect the experts would say I am miserable because I am living outside my purpose.
So, I think that is it, my purpose is to live real and love hard, everything else is a job. For some people the two things are intertwined. There are some people who get to fulfill their purpose through their job. I am sort of in that category but I get confused sometimes because what I do is not who I am, nor is it my purpose on earth - at least not at a micro level. I made beef stew this morning, I enjoyed it, but my purpose is not to be a chef. My purpose is to love my family by preparing some of their favorite foods (full disclosure - sometimes that love is expressed by driving to the local Mexican restaurant.). I volunteer in my son's classroom, I love it, but my purpose is not to be a teacher. My purpose is to love those kids and tell them they are doing a good job and listen to them tell the same story five times because they light up every time they do.
Ok, so if this is my purpose, how does living in it turn the tide in my home? I don't know what this looks like for anyone else, but I can tell you that when I am doing what I was made to do I feel GOOD. I feel like I ran five miles without dying kind of good. And we all know when mama is happy everyone else is too. When I am doing what I am supposed to do, then the possibility of Sam getting a 5 out of 15 on his spelling test is just not that big a deal. I will start practicing with him sooner next week. When I am being who I was designed to be, I can just hold my girl while she cries with out being consumed with "fixing it." When I am living how I am supposed to live, others are free to live how they are supposed to live. We are not designed to live in misery. Living in the spin cycle of social media and the 24 hour news cycle is not healthy. It is like my good friend Allison said, do something nice for someone it restores everyone's faith in humanity. Living like that takes you out of the big picture and puts you in to someone's actual picture. If we can be who we were meant to be and offer our authentic self to each other in grace and compassion, our little worlds would be better which I think means our greater world would be better. See, God asked us to be people of gratitude. But here is the kicker, we are not supposed to be grateful FOR the crazy, we are supposed to be grateful IN the crazy.
I will end it with this, because an analogy always helps things sink in for me. We have a lovely home here in SC, plug for visitors, and that includes a beautiful screened in porch. On Saturday morning Jeff and I have taken to going out there for a cup of coffee. I always sit in one of the chairs that faces our neighbor's house. Each week since September came I complain about the fact that the trees here just are not as pretty as the trees back in Batavia. It is too hot I say. I don't think they will ever turn pretty I say. (Just use this as a metaphor for the move.) This was my view from the chair, yep dead tree and all.
Then this past weekend I sat on the couch which faces the unfinished house on the other side of us. This was my view.