(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
An old, wooden door with a torn screen and chipped paint once graced our front porch. A birch basket of pinecones sat on a red chair in front of the door, and a “Welcome” sign hung from the top corner. The screen door that once slapped happily against the frame of a tired, old farmhouse had been repurposed into porch art. It received a few comments through the years, not all of them complimentary. One friend went so far as to offer to repair the screen door. (It seems that some people don’t appreciate good art when they see it.)
What if you once knew what your purpose was? And what if you loved your meaningful life?
I was that girl.
And then I wasn’t that girl.
My children grew into young adulthood. Cancer invaded our home and took over the spotlight. Our finances were depleted, which required me to give up rewarding work at a non-profit to find a job that carried benefits. And then cancer whisked my husband offstage, leaving me alone to figure out how to fend for myself with strained finances.
It was enough to make a grown girl cry.
Time slipped by as only time can do. My sorrow was eventually diminished by choosing to step back into life. By noticing others with heavy loads. By helping carry the weight in whatever small way I could. Before I knew it, new meaning started unfolding for me. It wasn’t a second-best purpose, but a different calling that I grew to love.
I sat with a young friend as she was dying of cancer. I trained to provide volunteer respite care for families with a loved one in hospice. A friend’s husband had early onset Alzheimer’s, and I took him for walks and country drives so my friend could run errands, purchase groceries, or simply sit and read.
What if a life change unsettled you and caused you to question your value, caused you to question if there was anything purposeful left of you, or left for you?
It’s Okay to Not Understand—But Trust God
The key to finding new meaning, I think, comes from leaning in close to God and whispering, “Father, I don’t understand. This makes absolutely no sense. But I trust you.” New purpose unfolds when we embrace and make the most of the heart-breaking losses and the unwanted changes, when we look outward to see how we can give of ourselves, using our skills and interests and passions.
Back when my husband died of cancer, I considered moving from Oregon to Pennsylvania to live closer to my daughter and her family. They were in the process of adopting three brothers from Uganda. They had three biological children, and it would be beneficial to have a grandma nearby.
Friends of mine wanted to see New England during leaf season and offered to haul my belongings east. The only catch was, I needed to fit everything into their 10-foot cargo trailer. And of course, the old screen door made the cut.
Sometimes, Life Changes Bring New Opportunities
Turns out, I didn’t relocate to Pennsylvania. A couple years later, while interviewing a man who was the co-designer and builder of a shower truck that serves the homeless population in my hometown, we discovered we had cancer caregiving and grief in common.
Dan and I built a friendship along hiking and snowshoeing trails in the nearby mountains that winter. By the time spring blossomed, we discovered that love had grown between us. We were married last summer.
In the process of refurbishing his house, the old screen door that once served as porch art was now being repurposed into yet another role. Dan and I glued, and clamped, and sanded. We installed new hardware and swished on a fresh coat of powdery blue paint. It now graces our kitchen as a pantry door with its little wooden curlicues in the corners of the new screen. It still generates the occasional comment, but all complimentary.
I love this thought from an author unknown about finding cool stuff in junk yards and second-hand shops: “The joy of junking comes not only from a great find, but also from that moment when you figure out how to breathe new life into an old piece.”
We, Too, Can Be Repurposed
God is in the business of breathing new life into our broken pieces. The Master Artist loves to scoop up our shattered fragments and arrange them into a beautiful mosaic. In my wildest imagination, I couldn’t have foreseen the masterpiece God fashioned from the thousand pieces scattered across the floor: A new husband, a ministry partner whose heart is going in the same direction as mine, a lovely home, more family and friends to care for and love.
What if you could find new meaning in a season of unexpected change or loss? What if you could use your God-given abilities and interests to enrich the lives of others, even from your hard place? And as a new role unfolds, what if you could come to love that purpose as much as the old purpose you didn’t want to lose?
Speaking from experience, you can. Grit and grace required, but you absolutely can.
You can stay strong in your purpose, even if you don’t recognize the world around you. Here’s how: How to Find Peace and Purpose in an Out of Control World with Dr. Zoe – 164