Now that I’m in my, ahem, (find it painful to write this) early forties, I find I have some ‘senior’ moments when I momentarily forget stuff. (Hoping it’s not just me, and at least one of you is nodding in solidarity out there in screenshire).
The other day I drove into our local town, parked the car, walked onto the high street, ambled aimlessly down the road, and suddenly stopped as the realisation dawned that I had absolutely no idea why I had gone there. What was the one thing I had specifically gone to town to do? Drew a total blank. (Thankfully I bumped into a friend who invited me for coffee and I had a lovely time and left non the wiser. I finally got home three hours later and discovered four unreturned overdue library books lurking in the bottom of my bag swamp).
Hmmm. Purpose is important. Without it we randomly react to whatever presents itself to us, and over time this can steer us way off course.
For us to thrive as a family, having a shared sense of purpose is so crucial to help us make decisions about what we want to do with our time, our money, our energy, our resources, our holidays, our gifts. This is an area we want to be more intentional about this year. With the competing demands on our time we can be so busy, tired and distracted that we are reactive to life, not proactive.
The time when I have felt totally focussed on one specific purpose was four years ago when we embarked on a family fundraising challenge, to cycle together across Scotland, along the Great Glen Way, from Fort William to Inverness.
It was all Ben’s (aka Him Outdoors) idea, and I was more than a little dubious when he suggested it. I became more than a little nervous when the idea became a reality and our boys, (then aged 4 and 6) jumped at the idea. I, (being the prophet of doom quite often in these scenarios), was concerned about the weather/the midgies/the accidents/the hills (mostly about my ability to get up the hills), and nervous about the high chance of failing to complete the challenge. Again mostly due to my serious stamina deficiencies.
But my perspective changed and my fears diminished once Ben helped me to fully grasp the purpose of the expedition.
This wasn’t about endurance cycling, or views of Scottish loughs, or getting a sore behind while attempting to get fit, or having a bonding family adventure.
This was about something more.
The purpose of the ride was to raise awareness, prayer and funds to provide refreshment and refuelling for families sacrificially serving their communities in some of the most challenging places in the world. Families who don’t do this for payment, or for their own benefit but because they have a clear sense of purpose that it’s what Jesus would do. Families like Jeony and Jessie and their kids in Honduras, who have set up a school for children and families working in a rubbish dump in Tegucigalpa. Families like Chom No and his wife and children in Cambodia who raise awareness and provide alternatives for communities vulnerable to child and sex trafficking.
Just as these families sacrifice their own comfort to journey alongside others affected by poverty and injustice, in truly awful circumstances, Ben felt it would be a great way for all of us to empathise with them, pray for them and support them if we put our own comfort on the line and challenged ourselves to a journey through difficult terrain.
The penny dropped. I got it. Once I caught the vision, I felt the passion. Once our purpose was clear, we were energised and motivated to get active and get going. We sat for hours together to plan the route, to work out how we would divide up the distances each day, where we would camp, and what we would need to bring and what we would leave behind.
The cycle ride turned out to be a lot more fun than I had anticipated, but also predictably tough in parts. Each time we hit a muddy patch where our wheels got stuck, or a massive killer hill, or pelting rain, if one of us ( usually me) was flagging, or whining, or wanting to stop – the others would remind us why we were doing this – and that made all the difference.
Regular stops to enjoy the view, pray, eat handfuls of haribo and drink a warming cup of coffee were a great boost too. These well placed signs for wild forest cafes were an absolute God send – promising crucial rest, refreshment and refuelling!
Being able to stop, reflect, rest and refuel for the next stage – was crucial to keep us going. It confirmed our sense of purpose that this is what we want to do for other families who are journeying through much more challenging life terrain than we ever will.
Many of you were our cheerleaders and reminded us of the purpose too all along the route with encouraging and timely texts, Facebook messages, prayers and by sponsoring us so generously! We felt a strong sense that we should keep on journeying with these families once our expedition ended, and out of that SOAR has finally been registered as a charity and a group of fantastic trustees have committed to help keep us on track.
The name is inspired by Isaiah 40 v 31 ‘For those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ We hope that we can be cheerleaders for these families. We want to provide opportunities for refreshment, rest and refuelling so they can keep on keeping on in their incredible service to their communities. With your generous support SOAR was able to provide a much needed family retreat and medical check ups for Chom No and his family, which gave them the chance to refuel for the next season of serving. There are many more families like Chom No who could be blessed with time out for refreshment and refuelling.
Last year’s life challenges meant that we weren’t able to focus very much on SOAR, but this year we have got a renewed sense of purpose and are excited to get active on it again. We realise that we can so easily lose focus, have our attention diverted, or let fear of failure or a sense of being overwhelmed by the needs to put us off course. The pressing demands of everyday family life have meant I already haven’t spent as much time working on SOAR as I intended to at the start of the new year. We would love your prayers (if you are the praying type) that we can get focused, hold on to our sense of purpose, and get active to fundraise for these inspiring families who are putting themselves on the line so that other families can thrive.
Left to our own devices we can easily fritter precious time, energy or gifts away on things that don’t matter. The book ‘Belonging and Becoming’ has challenged us to revisit some of the big questions and create a family purpose agreement to help us have a reliable compass for navigating the terrain of life together. Carving out time to dive into God’s word each day (even if its for a short time as our boys attention span doesn’t last very long) and praying together is so key to this.
Mark and Lisa Scandrette write inspiringly about how they have attempted this with their own children. They felt they were living in a way that didn’t truly reflect their values or connect with their purpose in life. So what did they do?
They spent time praying as a couple, and then brainstormed a two page list of values and potential goals. These were based on questions such as ‘ What matters most to us?’ and ‘What do we want to be about together in life?’ Then they distilled their brainstorm into a few essential statements
‘As a family, with God’s help, we strive to
- know and love God
- nurture healthy family relationships
- offer hospitality and care, especially to those who struggle and suffer
- use our gifts to serve
- live gratefully, creatively and sustainably’
They then made a poster of their agreement and stuck it up on the bathroom mirror, in the kitchen and on the front door. They read it aloud every night over the next few weeks at dinner time. They started to have a weekly family meeting, and used it as a navigational tool to guide their family chats and prayers. This led to a major decision about their future purpose and direction as a family.
Mark and Lisa write,’ When the kids were one two and three we launched into what would prove to be the greatest adventure of our lives.We relocated to San Francisco, bought a run down old house in a struggling neighbourhood…and started a non profit, launching programs to create community, make beauty, serve needs and live out our deepest values. Our kids have been our partners in this adventure…in a typical week 20 or 30 people might walk through our door. You might find a guest sleeping on our couch, a group of high school students learning chemistry together at our kitchen table or a group of university students doing a community art project in our backyard. We do all of this in 1100 square feet that is a school, an office, a community meeting space and home to our family of five.
Clarifying and articulating our shared purpose agreement was an important step that launched us into this adventure. It hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve often gone off course, but our family purpose agreement has been like a compass pointing us to true north.’
Have you and your family got a shared sense purpose that you can articulate and that helps guide your daily decisions? How did you come to create it and how helpful do you find it?
Do you have a weekly family meeting where you can stop, reflect on the week and chat about some bigger questions? How have you set that up and is it working well?
I tried to get the boys chatting this week – asking them what they like about our family and what they think we could do better. It was a disaster. One was trying to inch his hand towards the iPad while the other kept asking me if he could get back to playing with his Star Wars lego. Where and when do you find it best to gather as a family?
Would love to hear from you – so we can share the journey of exploring this together. Answers on a postcard please…and thanks for sticking with this ridiculously long post!