I’ve been lamenting my daughters’ solemn resting faces lately. They’re happy girls but sometimes – like when I try to take their pictures! – they just won’t smile. I blame Mark’s family. They’re notorious for not smiling in photos (like, say, our wedding photos. Hypothetically speaking, of course.).
And then I found this picture in a bin of old photos. Of me. Looking adorable, sure. But not smiling. At all.
Smiles (or lack of) aside, looking at old pictures is always fun. They bring back memories like nothing else can, reminding me of where I used to live, what I used to do, and maybe even who I used to be. Pulling my senior picture – the one where I’m standing next to a shiny grand piano – feels a little bittersweet, reminding me of a time when “musician” was a large part of who I was. On the other hand, looking at my sixth-grade self holding a stack of spelling bee trophies reminds me that some things never change.
And then there’s my seventh-grade school picture. Oh, seventh grade, you were so rough. Girls were mean, except when they weren’t. Boys were short, and already sorting some of us into the friend zone. Everything felt So. Very. Important! – even when it really wasn’t. And, based on that school photo, I hadn’t grown into my mouth and I was still trying to make bangs happen.
But more than any drama or rejection, what I remember most clearly from that middle year of middle school is the day a little kid asked me to tie his shoe.
All the buses congregated at my small-town middle school, allowing students to get off the bus that picked them up and get on the bus that took them either home or to school. Looking back, it seems overly complicated, but it’s just what we did. And one morning, as I walked toward the front door, a little boy on his way to the bus that would take him to the elementary school stopped me.
He walked up to me and said, “Can you tie my shoe?”
So I bent down, tied his shoe, and went on with my day. I truly didn’t give it another thought until my civics teacher brought it up that afternoon. Apparently he’d seen the exchange and thought it was interesting. Or, I guess “interesting” is the right word. At the time, it felt like he was making fun of me. But, again, I was in seventh grade and all kinds of awkward and insecure.
I couldn’t understand why he made such a big deal about it, but he went on and on wondering why the little boy asked me instead of any other “big kid” walking around and being impressed that I so readily helped him. I’m still not sure why my teacher was so surprised by the whole incident (it’s not like I went to school with a bunch of jerks who wouldn’t have helped just like I did), but that experience actually helped shape who I am.
My twenties were a difficult decade, and I spent what sometimes seemed like every waking hour pondering the big questions: “What am I supposed to DO?” “What was I made for?” “What is my calling?” “What is my purpose?” “What was I born to do?” Hindsight reveals the melodrama in a lot of those ponderings, but the questions are valid ones most of us face.
What WAS I born to do?
When I think back to the moments that have carried the most weight in my memory – like the shoe-tying incident – or that made me feel the most alive, I believe I get a glimpse into the reasons I’m here.
I think about tying a little boy’s shoe — and I know I was born to help people.
I think about jumping across an auditorium filled with college students, getting them amped up to sing worship songs — and I know I was born to get people excited about things that matter.
I think about writing scripts and timelines and budgets, directing volunteers and colleagues to finish tasks, walking to the front of a ballroom to speak at the podium — and I know I was born to run the show.
I think about the hundreds of times I’ve laughed and cried with my husband and my girls — and I know I was born to be a wife and a mom.
I think about the way I feel when someone tells me that I said something that moved her — and I know I was born to write and speak truth that changes lives.
I think about how exciting it was to be part of a church plant and a church staff and how devastating it was when each of those seasons ended — and I know I was born to serve God and His people in ministry.
When I was younger I thought I needed very precise, detailed answers about who I was and what I was supposed to do. But the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I realize the truth is found in the broad strokes of my purpose. I realize that helping people or running the show or serving God can — and will — take many forms. And that’s the exciting thing about what each of us is born to do. It’s big and it’s fluid and, as long as we’re here, it’s never finished.
The March of Dimes knows that every baby is born to do something special and unique. But they can’t do it alone. #imbornto is a celebration of their parents, the moms and dads who keep them healthy and safe, before and after birth. This is a thank you to them. The March of Dimes and its partners celebrate mothers and fathers on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – and every day, all year long.
Obviously we just had Mother’s Day, but let’s not forget our dads. The March of Dimes has some interesting facts about giving and these holidays:
Like I told you a few weeks ago, #imbornto connects millions of consumers to the March of Dimes and imbornto partners by shopping, dining or donating around the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day holidays. The campaign will benefit the March of Dimes’ mission by driving consumer purchases of partner products fit for mom and dad.
You can support the March of Dimes simply by shopping for the dads in your life with the #imbornto partners -– Martha Stewart Living, Bon Ton, Mudpie, A&E Jewelers, eBay Giving Works, Blue Rhino, Kmart, ALEX AND ANI, and more. They each have great deals and offers especially for moms and dads, and you can find out more at www.imbornto.com.
What were YOU born to do?
Well, I don’t know…I think I was born to be my kids’ mom for SURE! And since I like to make and edit fine internet goods, I think I was born to spread encouragement with those words that I write/curate/edit. And who knows what else? Hopefully I will have lots more years to keep “doing”.
Who knows what else? – I love that!
I think you were gorgeous in 7th grade! Trust me … from a girl whose overbite was “the worst the dentist had ever seen.” Plus I could wear my MOTHER’s clothes because I was so chunky.
Anyway. MIDDLE SCHOOL. I like to think I was born to write. I always have, and I can’t seem to not do it. It comes pretty naturally to me. I also think I am an encourager when it comes to faith, and I hope I combine the two.
Yeah…MIDDLE SCHOOL. The worst! I would definitely say you’re born to write!!
“That’s the exciting thing about what each of us is born to do. It’s big and it’s fluid and, as long as we’re here, it’s never finished.” – YES, I love this! And I love the March of Dimes. They do such good work.
I LOVE THIS POST!
I just asked a question similar to this; but I was speaking in terms of what makes you come alive vs. the things that defeat you.
I recognize that this is a sponsored post and it’s one of the best reasons for one I’ve ever seen. You’ve served this campaign well, Mary. <3 And I love all your picchas!
Great post! I feel like I was born to help coach others and help them pinpoint their strengths, taking them from good to great. I’m a maximizer! :-)
I love that, Tiffany!