Everyone has a mission to fulfill.
Do you believe that? Is it true? Anyone can go to the library to the "self-motivation" section and find more books than possible to read on discovering one's mission in life, which must mean it's true. :-) Type in "mission in life" on Google and you'll get 264,000,000 hits, which must mean it's true. If it is true, does that mean I need to go adopt all of the children in Africa, start a world famous organization, or become the next gold medalist in curling? Well, yes, if any of those really were my personal mission, but I don't believe they are.
I do believe everyone has a mission. But I don't really like the word "mission" in this context. I feel more that we all have a purpose and like how Sheri L. Dew calls it our "personal ministry." I used to stress about these questions, "What is my mission in life?" and "Am I really fulfilling my mission?" When I was young, newly married with a few small children, I was confident that I was living my dream! All I ever wanted to be was a mother. :-) However, after a few seemingly trivial challenges, I hit a road block. My doubts, fears and weaknesses became more important than my end goal. I lost myself for a short time. It was in those few short years that I discovered some principles of how to truly fulfill my mission in life. I now believe that each of us have the opportunity to live our "mission" or fulfill our purpose every day of our lives. We are not all going to invent a new device and strike it rich. We are not all going to be "famous" or even well-known. We are not all going to start nationwide organizations (or even local!). It is through the small, seemingly insignificant ways that we will most likely fulfill our missions.
Embrace Where You Are Today
Stephen R. Covey talks about this as your "personal sphere of influence." Every young mother has questioned if changing poopy diapers, wiping snotty noses and throwing fishsticks in the oven is really all she is meant to do. For a time, I believe it is! But we weren't meant to do those mundane tasks the way the Israelites travelled through the wilderness, one head turned back to Egypt and complaining about their hardships. We are to be "joyful mother of children" (Psa. 113:9). This does not apply to mothers alone. We have all made choices that have led us to where we are today. Embrace your life and live it!
Another part of embracing is discovering who you really are! Leo Buscaglia, an amazing teacher and author, once wrote, "Isn't it amazing that you have to wait for someone to tell you it's okay to be you!" I'm telling you right now that it is okay to be you! You were meant to be who you are! Strengths, weaknesses, talents, looks, all of it. Come to know yourself, embrace it and use it. Your life's mission is never more than who you are! Don't try to be someone else. Don't try to be someone you've been told you're supposed to be. You can only be your very best you!
Take Back Time
How many times have you said or heard, "I don't have time." I think this is a half truth. Our children grow up quickly and we look back and say, "Where did the time go?" Time is a "use it or lose it" commodity; it is too valuable to waste. I believe the Lord gave us just enough time to accomplish the things we need to in this life. He created the earth in seven periods (Gen. 1-2) and has given us seven days so we can learn the art of time management. In order to take advantage of this gift of seven days we must learn the principle of "all things done in wisdom and in order." We must remember, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccl. 3:1).
On speaking of time, Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, said, "Time is all you have. And you may find one day that you have less than you think you do." Pausch was a professor of a distinguished university who learned he had a serious illness and would die within several months. He had experienced firsthand the feelings of losing precious time. He gave three pointers on how we can better value our time.
1. Time must be explicitly managed, like money. I remember one vivid grocery shopping trip. I do one major shopping trip once a month, and so my cart was overflowing. I get through the check stand and I run the debit card . . . it was denied. I had to make the embarrassing phone call for my husband to transfer some funds over so I could purchase the food! Balancing our time the way we balance our checkbooks, once a month even, will help us to value the minutes that we have.
2. You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. I love this! Planning ahead on a regular basis helps us to value the time we have. How will you use the 1 hour between appointments or the 10 minutes before school starts? I once read of an author who wrote a book by spending ten minutes each day writing while he ate his breakfast each morning.
3. Are you spending your time on the right things? How do we know if we're choosing the right things? A friend of mine has a quote in her home, "Don't Water the Weeds." Good trees produce good fruit. Likewise, we need to be planting good seeds, nourishing the things we want to grow and weeding out those vines that will steal away our precious time.
A final thought on time from one of my favorite books, "Let us go . . . and do something, rather than waste time that may be so precious. Thinking has, many a time, made me sad . . . but doing never did in all my life . . . My precept is 'Do something. . . do good if you can; but at any rate, do something'" (North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell).
Be in the Right Place
The third principle to discovering your mission is to be in the right place. I believe the Lord has placed us where we need to be. He has surrounded you with those you needed to teach and learn from. Again, I can't expect to be President of the United States if I'm not mingling with those who will get me there. We simply need to ask ourselves, "Why do I know who I know?" and seek to learn from and teach them. The Founding Fathers are a great example of those who were in the right place at the right time. It was no coincidence, and they pulled one another along to create this great nation!
Madeline L'Engle once wrote, "I believe in a pattern for the universe, a pattern that affirms meaning, and perhaps especially when things seem meaningless. Everything we do has a part in the weaving of the pattern, even our wrong decisions. But I believe that the beauty of the pattern will not be irrevocably distorted. That is a hope we learn to live with . . . "
In order to be in the right place, we must first be fulfilling our duties. If you are a mother, you must be a mother first. If you have a church or civic responsibility, you must fulfill those responsibilities. If you are a homemaker, you must take care of that sacred duty first off. We can only fulfill our missions if we are fulfilling our responsibilities, the Lord will guide us through these channels.
Choose a Mentor
The final principle in discovering your mission is to choose a mentor. As a child, who did you look up to? Maybe it was your mother or father, a church leader or a teacher. As adults we still need those people in our lives who inspire us in our own mission. If your mission is to work with Special Olympics, you need to find those who work in that organization, and they will be in your path at some point in time. If your mission is to teach your children to love literature, follow the patterns of those who have done so before you. Ask questions! Never be afraid to ask questions!
Of course, our number one mentor must be the Savior, who himself had chosen a mentor. "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things" (John 8:28). He has thus asked us to, "come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).
How do you Know if you're Fulfilling your Mission?
Confidence. I love that word. One of my mentors recently stated, "If you are doing your best, you will have some disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself." In Hebrews we read, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward." When we are doing what is right, we will feel it is right. Not that fleeting moment of happiness, but the enduring joy. "Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:22).
In conclusion, our family loves the Kentucky Derby. It's a major competition in our home! This year we decided to watch the movie Seabiscuit after the race to commemorate the event. Speaking of Seabiscuit, his trainer said, "They got him so messed up running in circles, he just forgot what he was really born to do." Have you forgotten what it is you were born to do? "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7).