more than my share

Earlier this week I wrote about the woman I wanted to slap for being jealous of my sucky, supposedly purpose-filled life. Three years later, I get it. Today I want to highlight some of the things in my life that feel full of purpose.

But I need you to promise me something. No, three somethings:

1.) Promise me you won’t compare your life to mine. (and I promise the same)

2.) Promise me you won’t forget what we’ve gone through to get to where we are. (and the things we’ve had to give up–we’re not martyrs, but we’ve made some hard choices)

3.) Promise me you’ll brainstorm your own list, no matter what zip code or continent you call home. (Either things you’re already doing or things you dream of doing.)

My heart hurts for people who feel like they have no purpose, and I sometimes feel guilty for having more purpose than I know what to do with. But I also believe that, if you’re in hard season, it can make you stronger if you let it. And, if you make the hard, risky choice to pursue a meaningful life, you will have one.

We can all have one.

I’m excited to cheer you on as you intentionally pursue a life of purpose.

Things That Fill My Life with Purpose:

I have the opportunity to learn a foreign language (a lifelong dream of mine). And it’s not just any language. It’s a language that isn’t good for much of anything except communicating with the people who live in one very small country in the world. By taking the time, sweat, and tears (and these are literal sweat & tears), I am saying to the Cambodian people, “You are important to me. So important that I want to learn your native tongue so we can be honest-to-goodness friends and do life together.”

Instead of driving my own car wherever I want to go, I hire a tuk-tuk driver. Each time I go somewhere (school, the market, post office, church, a friend’s house), he earns money to support himself. And lucky us. Our favorite driver (who we call 100% of the time and only use someone else if he’s busy) has become our friend.

When I buy fruits & vegetables at the market, I am supporting local people who work long, hard days to support their families. The money goes directly to them, not to a supermarket, then to a truck driver, then to a big farm company, then trickles down to the workers.

I get to take pictures on my phone every single day of my new home and the people I’ve grown to love and share them with people I love back in the States. I have the privilege of helping my American friends open their eyes to a new world and ways God might be calling them to share his love with others in need.

When I want to bless friends back in the U.S. with little gifts from Cambodia, I can go to my friend’s market stall and get beautiful bracelets and cards. My friend was burned very badly many years ago, but she has worked hard to overcome, and she is a very successful (and humble and sweet) business woman. I love to trade her money for her beautiful things.

Any time I eat out at a restaurant, I am supporting local businesses. There are a few chains here, but we mostly avoid them. My money goes to hard-working Khmer, and I get to practice speaking their language and share laughs and enjoy a meal in the great (sweltering hot) outdoors with my family.

I get to shake my head in awe every single day at the man my husband has become after three years of being stripped down to nothing. He is everything he was before his heart attack but way, way more. He is friendly and outgoing and adventurous and curious and brave and never stops learning or exploring or creating or helping. I am BLOWN AWAY.

I get to edit other people’s stories and help earn a living for my family. And, as time permits, I get to work on my own stuff. Writing is my favorite thing to do in all the world (well, tied with reading), and I get to do it here. And it’s purposeful. And I can’t get over it.

I get to trust God with our finances and our future, and I get to believe that he will provide for our needs when we’ve only raised 33% of the monthly support we need (+ school). I get to trust him that, when it’s time to visit the States, he will provide a way for us to purchase 5 round-trip plane tickets. I get to trust him to take care of us while we give to others. I’m sooooooo much better at this than I used to be.

I get to watch my unschooled daughters learn more in 5 months than I learned in 12+ years of school. People here are flabbergasted by this unschooling notion, so I don’t really try to explain it, but I have never, ever, ever been more sure that the “important” stuff you learn in school isn’t nearly as important as we imagine it to be.

I get to support a beautiful young woman pursuing her dreams in exchange for her help, freeing me up to do what I need to do.

I get to observe Gabe hanging out with a group of young men every Tuesday afternoon, teaching them photography & photoshop skills as an alternative to the occupation they once (or sometimes currently) held. (Click this link. It’s such a beautiful thing.) I love to see Gabe living this out: Daily, we see the sparks of hope being lit in the eyes of these who are the most despised and unwanted by their own culture. We believe in them. And they know it.

I get to hear all about Gabe’s Thursday afternoons as well, when he hangs out with a younger group of boys, doing similar things. Last week he took them to the 22nd floor of a building, to the restaurant on the roof, and they took pictures of their city from the sky (none of them had ever been up so high!). I’m so proud of Gabe for being such a loving role model to these boys who have mostly experienced male foreigners as predators.

I get to pray for people all around me and live out the gospel while I wait for the words to be able to tell them about Jesus in Khmer.

I get to learn & grow (and mess up) alongside some really special people God has put in my little family. It’s an honor to be his wife & their mom.

(Apparently, I think I’m writing an e-book here. Let’s call it a day.)

(One last reminder that I only shared the good stuff in this post. I left out the family squabbles & meltdowns & tears over missing family beach vacations happening without us & diarrhea & triple-digit heat & constant sweating & mosquitos & ants & cockroaches & no Chipotle & girls disrespecting their parents & learning a hard language & making ends meet & things/people we miss & the hormones of 2 teenage girls + 1 who acts like one & the strain of being together so much & often feeling misunderstood & everything feeling too hard some days & so on, so on, so on. So, take heart. You can be a mess AND live a life of purpose simultaneously. Yay!)

YOUR TURN: What are some things that fill your life with purpose? And/or what are some DREAMS you have for a purpose-filled life?

(And, if you’re struggling to find your purpose, let’s pray about it together.)

10 thoughts on “more than my share

  1. Sarah Farish

    I couldn’t help but wonder…I have been planted in my community for this season just as you’ve been planted in Cambodia. I am not moving anywhere anytime soon ( that I know of;) So, what if I just did some of these things in my community? You’re investing in community and people – perhaps I need to be more intentional about investing in some of the same ways? It’s not the same…but it’s similar I think 🙂 Hmmm….lots of food for thought here;) Thank you, friend!

  2. Elizabeth

    Great post, Marla.
    Loving others is what fills me with purpose. Right now that includes my dear husband (who is soon to be leaving his job of 25 years for our move around the world and facing the challenges that will bring), my three wonderful children, my Dad (who I’ve only been getting to know for real in the last 19 months), a young girl of 20 who is still living at home in an environment that is not emotionally safe for her, a friend who is raising her children in a fundamentalist type church which reminds me of my own dysfunctional upbringing, and other friends old and more recent who I get to encourage as we do life together. Basically, the biggest buzz I get – a feeling of divine energy – is when I get to comfort others with the comfort which I have received from God. When I feel that I know I’m right where I’m meant to be, doing what I was made to do. Amazing.
    I’m learning and growing as I ask questions of God, like “Who are you, really?” and “Who am I?” My mind is being blown by new understanding!
    Practically I’ve got lots of details to sort through for our international move. Moving into a furnished rental next week while we apply for my husband’s visa. Love administrative tasks though!
    I’ve got a book on my heart to write…and I keep getting affirmation that I’m to write it. I know I’m going to soon! Especially with your inspiring example before me every day!
    So much purpose, which has become clearer as I’ve learned to press into the hard times and to learn the lessons that they bring. You are so right…we can all pursue a meaningful life.
    Love following your story. Blessings to you all.

  3. Dee Sutton

    I know that my purpose is in the things you talk about….when we are in Cambodia, but at the moment we are in a new season. Not 100% sure what its all about, but I know that it is right, right now.
    I find purpose in working with an indigenous group here, locally. More purpose than I thought possible, but thats because God has given me a heart for these people.

    I find purpose in living live daily, standing up for people that can’t stand up for themselves.

    I find purpose in sharing love, so that others may find the one who created them for a purpose too.

    I find purpose in my Marriage, and love is renewed.

    I find purpose in being a mum, both in the good times and the bad. With some of the struggles that we are in right now, I know that there must be purpose, so we keep plodding along.

    I find purpose in my studies. I no longer believe the lies of my natural father, that I would amount to nothing…..or ever get a degree ( I have 6 months to go).

    I find purpose in the gifting of photography that I have been given, to be a blessing to others.

    I could go on, but I do know that the purpose we have, also helps our identity, and who we are.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      A couple years ago, when I was crying for Cambodia, God led me to a community of the most beautiful people–refugees from East Africa, Nepal, Mexico. We moved into the apartment complex where they lived, it was the most magical (and, okay, hard) year of our lives. I almost couldn’t bear to leave them to come here. God is good.

      And that breaks my heart about your father. I’m so proud of you!!

      1. Dee Sutton

        Marla, I feel like thats whats going on for us now. Its so hard to put into words the cool love we get to give out on this Indigenous community……..and the heart we have for them…..its like our own Cambodia, in our community, and I know its for a season, however long that season is.

        As for my dad, I stopped worrying about the lies he said over me a long long time ago. I will never allow another human to have such a stranglehold on my freedom ever again.

  4. Dusty

    I sure wish I had, possessed or felt all of your fabulous Purpose! 99% percent of the time I find myself relating to all of your chaos and strife! One of my favorite things about all of your posts is that in all of the perfection that we create in our minds,(reading about your life) your day to day realities are much like everyone else’s! We all have our own gifts, perhaps I feel purpose somewhere deep down inside and just haven’t found it or been able to put it into words like your gift ….. I have so many thoughts spiraling around in my head, but none of them seem to be that purposeful?

  5. Melissa

    It’s hard to know my purpose sometimes. Sometimes I feel like my purpose isn’t big enough? Does that even make sense? Like I feel very purposeful raising these two little guys and it’s hard (oh boy, is it ever) but is that enough purpose just to raise these two little guys? Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough but it fills my heart with joy (and sometimes sorrow and frustration and confusion and am I ever going to do this parenting thing right??). I also recently got involved in a ministry that works with college students – doing their social media work, which is something I can do from home – and I’ve been super surprised at the sense of purpose that that has brought to me, too. I wasn’t even sure I was missing it, but when a friend asked me and I thought and prayed about it, I was like “Yeah, I’m in.” But to be honest, my passion is pregnancy and birth and parenting and stuff like that – especially from the education side of things – but I’m still trying to figure out how to work that into my life, especially since the issue of someone to watch my kids in the places I can’t always take them comes up, but I really feel strongly about this area. I was there a few months ago when one of my friends was in early labor and being able to help her through that, it felt like that was where I was supposed to be. So I’d like to do something towards that area, but I don’t know what yet. Anyways, I know this was all over the place and SUPER rambly, so it may not make sense to anyone else but me, but I’ve been trying to figure it all out. Sometimes these things feel like they are not enough – can you still have purpose even when it feels like it’s a small purpose? I don’t even know sometimes.

    1. Marla Taviano Post author

      You can absolutely have purpose when it’s a small purpose (or, in your case, a big purpose that feels small). When your littles are little, it’s not always (or ever) the easiest thing to pursue everything God has put on your heart. I don’t want to sound cliche, but the time will come when they’re bigger and more independent. You can sow seeds now by modeling so many things for them: 1.) loving/helping/serving others. 2.) a strong mama who pursues dreams while caring for her family. 3.) a love for learning.

      Aren’t you thankful for the internet?? You can still pursue so much of what you love without even leaving your guys. Do what you can, don’t wear yourself out, give yourself grace, tomorrow’s always a new day. (etc etc etc) Hugs to you, friend!

      1. Melissa

        Oh don’t worry, it doesn’t sound cliche to me at all! I have to remind myself daily (hourly? haha) that they won’t always be this small. That I should soak in the good and the challenge of this moment because someday it will be gone. I do try and start with little things with Dominic to show him how we can serve/love/bless other people and hopefully I will be able to raise them to value these things.

        And yes, the internet is great!! I feel like I can still have some part of myself even if I can’t always leave the house. And sometimes, feeling like my purpose is enough is just what I need. I don’t feel like I lack purpose so much as I sometimes just feel like looking at what everyone else is doing, my purpose is not enough. But that is not true in the least bit!! When we live our life intentionally for the Lord, nothing is too small of a purpose, but it is so, so, so easy to get caught in the comparison trap. It is a really big struggle of mine.

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