Nov

24

Giftedness

i’m gonna warn you…this is a doozy of a post.  its long-er…but it might just speak to your heart in a way that you didn’t even know you needed speaking.  so stick in here with me, will ya?  maybe i’ll give you a cookie when you are done (just kidding, but if i could, i would.  or at least a handful of leftover Halloween Candy!)

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this subject has been stirring around in me over the last few years.  i think ever since I was preggo and sick, and felt kinda useless, and now that i’ve had Berkeley, and am back in the feeding, napping, and pooping world of babies, which means i’m often inside my house, with a one year old, for a large portion of each day….without as much freedom to do the things i used to be able to do…i’ve often wondered what my life is supposed to look like now.  in the past, i had more opportunities to do ministry, be with people, go on mission trips, be “used” by God.  but the idea of being used by God seems like a hard concept right now.

i keep hearing things about this word giftedness…using our gifts, stepping into our gifts…and its left me wondering what giftedness means for me now….what does being used by God look like for me, a SAHM, or even just a busy women, with full full days?

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for so long, i didn’t really feel like i was anything all that special.  i certainly didn’t feel like i had anything special about me that God could use that was unique or purposeful.  i just kinda felt like a run of the mill person.  does that make sense?  i wonder if anyone else feels like that too.  just kinda normal, living my normal life.  perhaps even slightly boring.

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isn’t it so easy for us to see giftedness in other people, yet so hard for us to believe its true of us too?  i think that there is something within us that struggles to believe that we might actually have something within us, some giftedness, that could be used for a big purpose!

I learned something recently about My Little Ponies. Bella taught me this. (with the absence of cable, my kids are resorted to only watching Netflix, so that pretty much means The Brady Bunch and My Little Pony.  so we know everything there is to know about “the story of a man named Brady” and unicorns, alicorns, and pegasuses!!)  anyway, she told me that each My Little Pony has a little mark on their backsides called a “cutie mark.”  each cutie mark symbolizes that Pony’s special and unique talent or ability….their gift!  Below, you will see a Baker, an Apple Bucker (as opposed to an “apple picker.”  her family owns an apple orchard, and her special skill is to buck the apple tree with her hind legs to get the apples down), a couple Party Planners (ponies after my own heart), and a professional Roller Skater.

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So these MLPs get to trot around their little land of Equestria, with their cutie mark plastered to their bottom, for everyone to see.  and they just get to go through life, just doing their thing…cause they know exactly what they are good at and what they were meant to do, and all the other ponies know too cause they can see it on each other’s backsides.  doesn’t that kinda sound dreamy?  (i mean, besides having a tattoo on my backside for everyone to look at all-the-live-long-day, but the other part about knowing for sure my gifts and what i’m meant to do…yeah…that part sounds good!)

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Unfortunately, we don’t live in Equestria. And we don’t get cutie marks on our little backsides that tell us and everyone around us what our gifts are. Its not that easy for us.  but why is it hard to know the things God has created us to do, and why does it so often feel overwhelming to think about?

here’s a definition of giftedness, cause i think it can be a tricky word: “A person’s inborn ability to do something well.  Giftedness is the unique way in which you function. Your giftedness is not just what you can do, but what you were born to do, enjoy doing, and do well.
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the more i think about and read about giftedness, i also think that our giftedness is the means God uses for us to be apart of His Bigger Story.

i mean…doesn’t that kinda sound exciting?  that there is something that we were created for and born to do??  and don’t we all kinda want to be apart of a bigger story?  i want my life to count for something, don’t you?  i don’t want to just live this boring, day in day out routine!  i want to be apart of a Bigger Story!!  Don’t we all on some level want to be doing the very things we were born to do…and for God to use them in extra-ordinary ways?

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But as exciting as that makes it sound…it just doesn’t come easily. We aren’t My Little Ponies with cutie marks, prancing around knowing how and where to use our gifts. We live in a world that makes this tricky.  but God knew that…

look what He says in 2 Timothy 1:6:

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…”

i love this.  God is basically saying that we’ve been given a gift…from Him!!

i doubt this all the time.  i so often wonder if there’s anything special and unique within me that God wants to use.  But God is saying here that yes…we’ve all been given something.  so the question then is, what is it, and why is it so hard sometimes for us to figure out how to use it?

But there’s something else here too….

God is reminding us to fan into flame our gift. this does not sound to me like its merely a suggestion. There is something about this that speaks of intentionality.  i think God is calling us to intentionally fan into flame our gift.  does that make you feel nervous?  if you are like me, the thought of that sounds a little overwhelming.  like one more thing to add to the to-do list.  but picture this verse for a second….What happens when a flame isn’t fanned?  it kinda fades out, doesn’t it?  i don’t know about you…but if its true that i’ve got a flame, i’d love for it to become a big fire as opposed to just a flickering little spark…

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do y’all watch Survivor?  have i told you before that Jake and I have watched every single episode of every single season?  its one of of our faves.  i think it started right around the time we got married, and it became our show.  and we’ve been hooked ever since.  and Jeff Probst…yeah…i pretty much {heart} him big time.  i mean, i always thought he was an amazing host, but then he came out with a series of kids’ books that my kiddos LOVE, and he just rachet-ed up my favorites list pretty fast!

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anyway…you know how Jeff P is always reminding the players that fire is one of the most important things in the game of Survivor, and that they need to get on that fire right away?  so what’s the very first thing the teams on Survivor do?  (well…if they are smart, anyway.)  they get to work starting a fire.  well, now that we are what…like 29 seasons into Survivor…somehow they’ve all become woosies and are given flint after the first reward ceremony.  (come on, people.  its Survivor….surviving is the whole point!  but i digress…)  see, back in the beginning seasons of Survivor, they weren’t given diddly-crud…so they had to spend hours and days rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.  well…what would happen as soon as a spark came?  the WHOLE team would be all up on that thing, fanning it, and blowing on it, and adding twigs all up in there…so that the spark would turn into a big ol’ fire.  cause they knew that it was gonna take some sort of effort to get a real fire going….

i think that’s the word picture we are getting here.

(now before you go all Gospel Police on me…like…”you mean you’re telling me i got to DO something?”  just keep reading, will  ya?)

In order for our gifts to erupt into a fire…there has to be some intentionality…some fanning.  and that fanning…well, it takes some effort.  But here’s the good news…God isn’t Jeff Probst (even though i think Jeff Probst is WAY cool, and i wish he had an Instagram account, cause i would love to follow along!!)  see, God doesn’t just throw flint at us and tell us to go start a fire.  He does one better…He gives us the actual flame.

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You know what else Bella told me about My Little Ponies?  They have to earn their cutie marks. They aren’t born with them. they have to do something that warrants them getting the mark, and then they get to go and use their gift.  Y’all…we don’t have to earn our gifts. They have been freely been given to us. God is simply reminding us to use them!!

so you know what God is saying in that verse 6?  pretty much this:  “I’ve given you a gift. so now go use it!”

pretty simple.  so…the question is…why don’t we? What stops us from fanning into flame, simply using, our gifts?

I thought about this a long time. I thought about what personally for me stops me from intentionally fanning into flame my gifts. i made a list.  and you know what every single thing on that list boiled down to?

Fear.  (big surprise there, huh?)

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And then you know what I realized? That this is the very next thing that God says in 2 Timothy after saying that we have a gift and to go use it….

v 7:  ”for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

did you catch that?  see…God KNEW that fear would be our downfall when it came to our gifts!  but i’ll come back to that.

First…

Let me tell you some of the thoughts that run through my mind…some of my fears…as I think about my giftedness, and I would bet they are the same fears you have too:

Am I really even that gifted at anything?
what are my gifts anyway?
Are you gonna think my gift is important or needed?
I’m afraid its not as good as someone else.
Is it Spiritual enough?
Are you gonna think that I think that i’m awesome if I step into this gift I think I have? I’m afraid of seeming full of myself, arrogant.
I’m afraid that once I put it out there, I might not really be as gifted as I thought…what will people think?
I’m afraid I might fail.

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That list could go on and on and on…couldn’t it?

you know what really stuck out to me about my fears when it comes to my giftedness?   (heck…my fears when it comes to lots of things….)

pretty much all of them have to do with the same thing…

its those dreaded word{s} for women….dun dun duuuuunnnnn….

Comparison and Competition:

y’all…my heart so quickly becomes crippled by comparison and competition when it comes to my gifts.  man oh man…comparison is DEATH i tell you, for a blogger.  and its about killed me and my blog hundreds of times.

since I myself am a blogger, I enjoy and value other people’s blogs. So one Sunday afternoon, i decided to just escape and go lay in bed, still in my PJ’s, cause our church service isn’t until Sunday evenings…so while Berkeley was napping and the older kids were i’m sure playing on some kind of electronic device…I start going through my blog list, and i began to check out a blog that I sometimes read…

and the woman is a well-known song writer and a worship artist…and she just happens to blog on the side. well, she had posted a video about how she was celebrating Sunday with her family. This video was of her playing the guitar and singing a worship song with her kids that she had written. It was like watching angels sing….little cherubs staring up into their mother’s face, full of love and sweetness. Her voice was incredible. The words she had written were beautiful…she could play the guitar!! Her giftedness was SO evident!!!

well…as i’m celebrating the Sabbath with my family by laying in bed by myself in my PJ’s, i recall that over on my blog, I had just posted a video of my daughter making a bowl guacamole.

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the comparison game immediately started in my heart, and i quickly realized…there was really no comparison. A guacamole recipe compared to a personally written and sung worship song…while playing the guiar…with your kids joining in??  If I even suggested to my children that we get out the guitar and sing some worship songs together…well…let’s just say, that just wouldn’t go over well with a certain 10 year old whom shall go unnamed. I immediately began to make my list in my head of all the ways she was so much better than i was. Was her gift for worship and singing and mothering absolutely beautiful? YES! But the comparison crippled me. I immediately questioned my own giftedness, wondered how in the world God wanted to use my gifts for His glory. I mean…if I could just sing, or write a worship song, or even play the guitar….or mother in a way that my kids actually might like singing worship songs with me….Now that’s giftedness!!  but taking a picture of a bowl of guacamole? Not so much…

and i’m willing to bet that comparison can stifle you and your gifts to death if you let it…

Let me show you how this might happen:

Last Christmas, Bella desperately wanted an American Girl Doll horse for Christmas….like…it was the only thing on her list.

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so of course, i wanted to get her that horse!!  so i get on the website, and it takes me about 30 seconds to realize that Chestnut is just not gonna happen….it was way outside our Christmas budget.  slightly disappointed…scratch that…pretty ticked, which just turned into very determined…i begin some research.  and i find that Pottery Barn Kids sells a line of dolls that are very similar to AG dolls…the same size, the same look….so all of the clothes and accessories and animals are interchangeable with AG Dolls…and they are LESS EXPENSIVE than AG!!  and like everything Pottery Barn, somehow they just make everything look better, and beautiful, and classy….and they trick your brain into thinking you just MUST HAVE EVERYTHING THEY SELL!!! (brilliant, PB, brilliant!  you’ve done it again.  you deserve a round of applause!)  well PBK just happened to have a horse, and as soon as I laid my eyes on that thing, i just knew it would be perfect for Bella.

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i mean…i know my girl better than anyone…i’m her mom…and i just knew…this horse was perfect for her.  it was also on sale (score), and momma had herself a PB gift card (massive score!!)  so i bought that horse, along with a whole set of horse jumps, and a saddle, and stirrups…basically the whole shebang…and i didn’t have to spend a dime.  take that, AG with your overpriced horse.  i’m a momma with a strong will, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

so anyway….Christmas morning rolls around, and i cannot wait for her to open this gift.  i set it at the back of the pile, so she’s gotta wait…  (muah ha ha!!)

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and all morning, the hope is mounting.  with every gift opened, Bella gets more and more hopeful…”mom…do you think he brought it?  do you think Santa brought the horse??”  this is going exactly as i envisioned….

well….she finally gets to the last box, and I whip out the video camera to capture the reaction, because i just KNOW she’s gonna love it…it is, after all, perfect for her.  so…she opens it…

drumroll please….

and immediately bursts into tears. like sobbing, bawling, uncontrollable crying.

not the reaction i was hoping for.

through her tears, she says this,  ”Mom…Santa got it all wrong!!! this is not the right gift! This isn’t like Emily’s!!”

see…she knew…because she had played with the real AG horse at her friend Emily’s house…and the horse in her box wasn’t the horse that Emily had.

so i control my burning angry, and hold back the thoughts that were going like this in my brain….”girl…you had darn well better like that horse, cause momma used her PB gift card and i could’ve had myself some new pillows!!!”  i thankfully said that in my head only and not out loud ..and instead suggested that she at least take the thing out of the box and check it out.

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and so she does, reluctantly, and still very unsure that this gift is any kind of good at all.

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and she gets her doll, and sets it on top.  and she plays for a minute.  and then she comes over to me, wiping her tears, and she whispers this, “mommy…this horse…is actually WAY better than Chestnut!! Its softer, prettier, my doll fits on it better.  its really perfect for me.  i’m gonna name it Cimmanim.”  (aka:  Cinnamon)

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thank you.  thank you.  i feel like i should take a bow.  i nailed it.  err…i mean Santa nailed it.

but that’s not the point :)

here’s the point…The ONLY reason she didn’t enjoy that gift initially or even want to take it out of the box…even though it was perfect for her…was because she was comparing it to her friend’s gift…

Sound familiar? We may not be a 7 year old on Christmas morning crying over a horse…but do we not sometimes act the same exact way when it comes to our gifts???

I think we do that. We initially discredit our gifts…and sometimes don’t even take them out of the box…because they seem to be not as great as someone else’s, even though they are perfect for us.

here’s the reality…God has given us unique, and special, and perfect for us gifts….and when we compare, and when we wish we had someone else’s, we fail to see the beauty in what has been given specifically to us, personally. And i think one of the main reasons we don’t use our gifts is because we think they are not good enough…and we think they aren’t good enough because they might happen to be different than what someone else has.

comparison and competition are deadly.

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you know another thing that stops me, and that i think as fellow believers we sometimes (maybe unintentionally) make each other believe and that i think as Christians we just need to GET THE HECK OVER???!!!

Is my gift spiritual enough? gag me with a spoon, already.

for so long i felt like my gifts were just kinda silly and certainly weren’t spiritual.

before i had kids, i was on staff at a church. using my gifts for God…i didn’t really think much about it, cause it was kinda my job.  but now…now i’m a mom.  and the ministry opportunities that in the past had been obvious and more easy to do, are not really doable for me anymore, with the ages of my kids.

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I want to be used by God.  and so i’ve been thinking about this idea of giftedness and what God wants to use me for, and i start to think about what kinds of things I feel like I was made to do. What makes me feel alive when I do it? Well…those things that i came up with…they aren’t really all that spiritual:

taking pictures, baking and trying new recipes, sewing crib bumpers and Halloween costumes and cheap skirts out of old bedsheets, decorating my home, planning my kids birthday parties, writing and story-telling, garage sale-ing… I mean…how does God want to use those things?

I wonder if that’s the place we often find ourselves? We want something more…we are longing to be apart of God’s bigger story…but we don’t know how to get there. And all too often we think its got to be in the form of some ministry or spiritual position to do it. And so we discredit the gifts we do have.

i’m currently caught between two worlds right now.  first off, i’m in the older, school-aged kid world.  so yeah, they are at school for a large chunk of the day, but as soon as they step into my car in car line, its non-stop…chatting, fighting, talking over each other, driving to all their activities and sports, doing homework, projects…

like turning this:

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into this:DSC_0508

(btw:   if anyone has to make a model or diorama of a waterfall…like, ever in life…then you just let me know, cause i got you covered, my friend!  jake suggested we put the thing up on the blog when all is said and done and try to sell it to one of you mommas out there who, like me, might get to the point where you’d maybe give your right arm to have it already done for you.  (i realize that would be cheating, as my kids adamantly told me as they were overhearing our convo.)  but truth be told.  i’d pay one of you precious peeps to take it, if it would prevent the fighting and crying and all out stress that the thing caused us…err…i mean me.)

but besides all that, the emotional and mental energy that is required to parent my older kids…its more than i bargained for a lot of days.  its sweet at times, don’t get me wrong.  but i’m in uncharted territory here, y’all…the constant attitudes and discipline, bad moods, and flat out disobedience, trying to remain consistent with disciple and consequences but losing track and giving in and just plain not caring anymore sometimes….the conversations about hurt feelings, and bullies (dang you, bullies.  we are dealing with one right now, and i can barely stand it.  i’m afraid it might just do me in completely.  my heart is way too sensitive, and grows about a billion times more sensitive when you are messing with my sweet child who you are only picking on because he is just too darn kind to bully back.  if i didn’t have a husband who reigns me in, Momma Bear would’ve already handled said bully..and i’m guessing it wouldn’t have been pretty), and divorce, and crushes, and growing up, and everything that accompanies that…oh my word…i have NO clue what i’m doing.

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but then i’m also in the Baby/Toddler world (which in and of itself is enough, i tell you, to make me want to stick my head in a pot of coffee and not come out until bedtime…and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like coffee!)  the physical energy that a toddler (and her messes require)…y’all…i’m just plain ol’, flat out, tired!! and then the armpit of the day comes…you know what i’m talking about…the cooking of the dinner, the bathtimes, and the bedtimes…

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some days, I barely have enough energy to pour cereal into bowls for dinner…the thought of doing anything more is completely overwhelming and impossible.  so this using my gifts stuff???!!  tell me again how i’m supposed to do that??  when my gifts don’t even seem all that important!

are you in that place with me?  where you really do want to be used by God…but the thought of doing anything MORE is completely overwhelming?

please hear the FREEDOM in what i think God would say to us:

i LOVE this verse:

1 Corinthians 7:20,
“Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them”

other translations say this, “remain at your station.” you know what i’m realizing, and what has freed my heart more than just about anything lately?  that using our gifts….doesn’t always mean that we leave the situation we are already in. maybe we need to start thinking about this as finding ways to utilize our gifts right where God currently has placed us!!

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This is what I mean by that…i’m not saying that using our gifts won’t take creativity, or effort, or be sacrificial. And that we should just forget about it when it gets hard.  i actually think the very nature of using our gifts is sacrificial.

but this…this next thing is what my heart BEATS for….
there are times when we are so busy pursuing the “more” that we neglect the God-given opportunities right in front of us to use our gifts.

The Hubs often says this phrase: “The ideal destroys the reality.”

We have to be cautious that our pursuit of the “more”…our pursuit of our gifts…our pursuit of being “used” by God…does not distract us from what our reality is…and the ways God wants us to use our gifts right where we are.

i think there is a current movement in the Christian world…to go do BIG and crazy things for God. Go live a Radical life for God. hear this…i don’t disagree with that AT ALL!!  my family knows and loves and supports people who are currently living crazy, radical lives for God.  for years there has been a slight longing in my heart for God to move my family to Haiti…now that would be big and radical and crazy!!!  but, oh man….i think that sometimes, maybe all too often…our pursuit of the BIG, CRAZY, RADICAL life for God blocks us from seeing the BIG RADICAL life right in front of us, where we are right now.

i could write a whole blog post on just that.  i kinda did a while back (although my life looks different now).  but some people were not happy with me about what i wrote, because i think for lots of us, we so easily slide into our identity being found in what we are DOING for God.  for some reason, this idea of living a radical, big life for God strikes a cord with people.  maybe it makes us feel like we are worthy of His love, if we are willing to be so radical and crazy for Him.  when i think about this struggle that i see in myself and other Christians, my heart beats all fast, and i get all passionate and expressive.  i don’t know why it stirs so much within me.  i think i just sooo long for myself and for other people like me to feel freedom…that this Radical Christian life might just be the one we are already living…

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so when thinking about my giftedness, and this fear that my gifts are silly, or not good enough or not “spiritual” enough…

Maybe we need to stop creating so many divisions between the what is secular and what is sacred. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize that quite possibly EVERYTHING is sacred and spiritual.

God says in Luke 19 that Even the rocks will cry out to the glory of God. If God can use a rock to proclaim His glory, i’m pretty sure he can use my unique gifts that may not fit into a spiritual box.

listen to what God says in 1 Corinthians 10:31…

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

now did you really just read that, or did you let your eyes just kinda skip right over that cause you’ve heard it before?  (no shame….i do that too…i’m with you, sista!) see…this is one of those verses that some of us have probably heard hundreds of times, so it might become all blah blah blah to us.

but look…really look…at what this is saying.  ”whatever you do….”  the original language that this verse was written in is greek, and the greek word for “whatever” actually is this:

“Pas”…which means…”some of all types.”

did you see that??  What that verse is basically saying is that “some of all types” bring glory to God. Y’all…we are whatevers! We are the “some of all types.” think about it for a minute…think about your circle of friends or your family or your church…the different gifts and talents and abilities represented within a group of people…its some of all types, isn’t it?!!   see, we are meant to be different, to be some of all types. we are not supposed to fit into some spiritual box. the world needs us to be “whatevers”.

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but even more than that…We are “some of all types” working for the exact same purpose = to bring glory to God.

You know what else the reality of us being “whatevers” makes me realize? That we are free to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders!!  cause if you are “some of all types”, and I am “some of all types”, and we are supposed to be unique and each called to the same mission but with a different way of getting there…then that just frees me to cheer you on! Forget me no longer being good enough….you are no longer my competition…you are my partner!!  we are on the same team! we are whatevers together…working for the Glory of God!

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What this verse is NOT saying is this: that you can only bring glory to God if you do this specific thing in this specific way…like this specific person. no…it says the opposite….all types can bring glory to God.

Our fear of comparison and also of our gifts not being good enough or spiritual enough? They just get to fade away in light of this verse.

okay…honestly…I’ve massively struggled with this over the years.  in fact, its been debilitating at times. As I look back on my life…I’ve tended to be a copy-cat in life.  ugh…i hate admitting that, but its true.  I’ve seen ways that God is using other people and i’ve thought…i need to be like that! and so i position myself to try to be used like that.  (that never really works, btw).  but do you know something amazing?  every time that feeling creeps in…do you know what i hear in my heart?  i hear God literally saying to my heart, this simple phrase, over and over and over again…“LeAna…I’ve called different people to different things.”

can we just pause for a second and let that sink in?  is that not THE most freeing and amazing thing ever??  what if we believed that about every part of life…as mommies, as wives, as home-owners, as job-holders, as ________ (fill in the blank.)  how stinkin’ freeing could it be if we quit holding ourselves and other people to some standard of how we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to be doing…and instead believed that we are all meant to be different, and created to do things differently???

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see…we are not supposed to be the same. There are so many different ways to do things.  so many different ways to bring God glory!! and instead of frustrating each other with the pressure of having to do it the “right” way, or the “Christian” way, we instead get to celebrate the different ways and the different gifts!  we were not made to be copy-cats. We were made to be unique and different and to celebrate the fact that we are “some of all types.”

so that list of fears from earlier…the things that hold me back from seeing and using my gifts…they just get to fade away in light of that freedom.

so you know how it mentioned earlier that fear holds us back…and so God went ahead and spoke about that in the very next verse?

Look again at what He tells us:

v 7: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”

God has to remind us that we have been given the Spirit, because otherwise, our fears will take over.

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and you know what’s cool about the Spirit?  He’s marked by boldness.  so basically, we have Supernatural Boldness within us.  Tim Keller (LOVE him.  can’t wait to hang with him in Heaven one day)…he calls it Humble Boldness. I LOVE the thought, especially as it relates to giftedness. What if we were a people who are marked by humble boldness when it comes to our gifts!!

this is what Tim Keller says: “the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count.”

this truth….that we are loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count…how might that change our insecurities regarding our giftedness? What freedom that could bring!

we’ve been to a couple weddings recently as a family, and my sweet Bella…that kid breaks it down on the dance floor!!  like…completely busts a move!  (as you can see below, so does her brother, but if he knew anyone was watching him, he would want to crawl into a hole.  he hates attention…my girl thrives off it.  funny how that happens.)  anyway…if you’ve ever seen 7 year olds dance…they aren’t really polished dancers, they don’t really know exactly what they are doing…so her skills…are far from perfect. but she just gets out there and does her thing. But if you’ve ever been to a wedding where kids are dancing, than you know that its hard to not find great joy in watching them.  they are just fun to watch!  well…Bella knew people were watching her and enjoying her.  so after one of these weddings, she came up to me, and DEAD SERIOUS, says to me, “mom…i had NO IDEA that i was THAT good of a dancer!!” she had no insecurities, because all she knew was that pleasure was being poured out over her as she was dancing. that is what made her bold, and what made all of her insecurities fade away!

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y’all…that’s like us. When we know and believe that God’s pleasure is poured out over us, all the time, which means also when we are using our gifts…that’s what makes us bold!!

but…Here’s a caution…our gifts…they cannot become our purpose. The second our purpose and identity is defined by our giftedness…is the second we’ve missed the whole point.

Okay…so what’s the point then? If our giftedness is not for our own identity…and if the point is not to just bring purpose to our lives…

v 9-10 of that 2 Timothy passage…i’ll summarize….because they tell us the purpose of our gifts:
“God saved us, called us, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel!!!”

why do we have gifts? Because we have something GRAND to give away!! we have the best news ever….that we’ve been saved!

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We have a Rescuer!!! God has brought us from death to life. we have a God who came and traded places with us on the cross…gave us His perfect life in exchange for our imperfect life. So that now when God looks at us, He looks at us as if we had never sinned!  see…we are no longer defined by our sin, because God only sees Jesus’ perfection and righteousness covering over our imperfection and unrighteousness. There is no better news to share with the world. That is why we fan into flame our gifts. When that truth moves our hearts, the desire to bring God glory through our gifts is simply a byproduct. Its the why behind all this!! OUR GIFTS ARE THE MEANS GOD USES TO GIVE AWAY HIS GOOD NEWS!!

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Okay…so now what? Maybe you are buying into this idea that you have a gift…and that God wants you to use it, and maybe you are even seeing some of your fears and insecurities fade away. But I bet you are wondering what this might look like for you.

Honestly…I don’t know what that looks like for you individually. But I do know this beyond a shadow of a doubt…God knows. in fact, He’s mapped it out for you before the beginning of time. He knows the gifts He’s given us and how He wants us to use them for His glory. So if you want to know…go ask Him. He will always answer His children!!!

the other thing I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt, because Scripture says it but also because i’ve personally experienced him doing….i do know that He can do more with your gifts for His Glory than you could possibly imagine or conjure up yourself.

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 back when Jake was a youth pastor, we used to have parent volunteers fulfill certain roles within our ministry.  sometimes we would train them up to lead our discipleship groups, some would speak at our Sunday morning services, some would be chaperones on trips.  well one day, a mom who’s kids had all come through our ministry, came to Jake and said that she wanted to help out and volunteer, but that the roles that we had were not good fits for her.  so Jake asked her, “well, what do you like to do?  what are good at?”

she responded, totally joking, and said, “Well..i like to shop and i’m pretty good at it!”

you know what was crazy?  Her gift, that she didn’t even realize was a gift, was exactly what we needed.

see, we held a big event every week called That Thing.  it started at 7:37 pm on Wednesday nights, and masses of high school kids would come, and would bring their friends.  one of the main things that drew them to come were these CRAZY games we would play.

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here’s an example of just one game, and i wish i had a picture to show you of it, cause it would make you gag for real:  we would go to McDonalds, buy a few Happy Meals, and throw every part of it in a blender together…cheeseburger, fries, and orange soda or a milkshake.  then we’d blend the whole thing up all together, and the first kid to drink the whole thing without puking would win.

i don’t know what was so attractive about that game…

but kids loved it.  and they threw up every time, hence the reason we don’t have a picture, because i always had to leave the room when playing that game, cause momma has herself one very weak stomach and one very sensitive gag reflex!!  (fun fact…i cannot clean up puke.  Jake is the Puke Cleaner-Upper.  cause if momma tries to do it, then we’ve got ourselves double puke.  so he just takes the job right off the bat to spare us all of a double header.)

so anyway…that’s just one example of a game we would play, but we would play a whole bunch of crazy games every week, and then there would be a short but relevant Gospel message.  but i’m telling you….the kids came for the games.

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and because of the nature of the games, we needed the most random of supplies in order to hold this event.  well, for years, jake and i would drive all over town for days beforehand, gathering up all these supplies.  so when that momma came to jake and said she wanted to help…AND that she was good at shopping…guess what she became?  yep…our official shopper.  and do you know…she did that for YEARS!!  every week, Jake would give her a list.  then she would drive all over town, to multiple stores, to gather our entire list of supplies, and she would find the best deals…and then deliver them all to the church so we could hold this event for all these kids.  she did this week after week…year after year.

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now i KNOW that there are kids…who came to That Thing because of the games…and who had such a blast that they came the next week and the next week and the next week…but who also had the Gospel message poured out over them week after week after week…and eventually gave their hearts to Jesus…all because of a silly game that that mom trekked all over town to buy supplies for. And now those precious youth ministry kids…they are adults…and getting married…

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(photo cred:  Daisy Mai Photography)

and having kids themselves….and are passing on a legacy of the Gospel through the generations…that started out with a silly game that required someone to shop for….

you see…that mom…she used what she was good at…what she liked to do…and she leveraged it for the glory of God. And generations are being impacted because of that….

might sound silly…shopping is a gift?  i don’t know….but that…that to me is how gifts work.

God can use the very things that we feel like are insignificant….for great significance!!!

We step into the things that make us come alive, the things that we are good at….with boldness…and we are intentional about our purpose…to bring God Glory. And we trust that Jesus is going to fill in the gaps. We can’t see the bigger picture of how are gifts work. We don’t always get to see the immediate fruit of using our gifts. But we can certainly trust that He’s got it.

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And so for this reason I remind you…to fan into flame your gift from God…who has given you a spirit not of fear, but of humble boldness…to proclaim the best news ever to the world….all for His glory!!

11 Comments

Nov

17

Leftover Halloween Candy Trifle

i don’t know about you, but this Halloween candy HAS…GOT…TO…GO!!!  we allowed the kids to each pick out 10 pieces after Halloween, and the rest was poured into a massive bowl that has been sitting up on the top of my fridge, taunting me every time Jake and i sit down to watch HIMYM on Netflix (we are on Season 7…and i’m dying to know how its all gonna end.  i’m seriously invested in the lives of Ted, Robin, Barney, Lily-Pad and Marshmallow.  i feel like they are my real-life friends….like i’m actually gonna go meet up with them tonight in our booth at MacLaren’s.  am i the only one who really feels like that?  please…somebody…be as crazy as i am when it comes to TV shows.)

anyway…i had finally had enough of the taunting coming from that big wooden bowl, so i decided to do something about it…

so for our City Group Meeting last week, i decided i was gonna share the wealth…but since all of my friends are also all sick of the taunting coming from their own Halloween candy bowls, i had to get creative….

so…i adapted an old tried and true recipe called Death by Chocolate, and came up with a great way to rid my house of all those leftover chocolate bars criminals and get my friends to eat them instead, without them really realizing my sneaky ways.  and so i present to you…

Leftover Halloween Candy Trifle

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here’s what you do.  start off my digging all those tempting chocolate bars out of your stash.  don’t hold back people.  get ‘em all.  EVERY…LAST…ONE.  the more the merrier.  don’t leave any behind.  include those m&m’s too, cause they are just as deadly…
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then gather up a few other weapons.  this ain’t no clean eating…we are pulling out the big guns for this job.  (full ingredients list on the recipe card at the bottom of the post)DSC_0205 copy

make some brownies and let them cool.  or buy some already made, but make sure you get or make the frosted ones.  cause frosting just makes everything better.  and you are trying to be sneaky here, so you want this to taste as amazing as possible, and let’s be honest…frosted brownies have some power that regular brownies just don’t possess.DSC_0260

this next step might require some accomplices to do the dirty work.  let those accomplices unwrap all those little chocolate villains…DSC_0217 copy

and just throw them all together into one big ol’ ziploc bag.  remember, they are the enemies here, so have no mercy:

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then you…..
well….you go all B6-13 on ‘em.  (Scandal reference, anyone?  anyone??)
i’ll just let the next picture do the explaining:

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at this point, the dirty work is done.  now you just have to finish the job.  so make your pudding:

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once that’s set, gather up all your ammunition:

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and start the layering, people.  brownies, pudding, cool whip, candy, brownies, pudding, candy, cool whip, candy:trifle

and your job is now complete.  you need to get rid of the evidence, so take it to the nearest gathering of friends, neighbors, heck…random people for all i care.  just GET THIS OUT OF YOUR HOUSE ASAP!!!  (but not before having just one little eensy weensy bite.  just one bite never hurt anyone.  you’ll thank me later.)DSC_0301 copy

here are the detailed instructions for your files:

halloween candy trifle
trust me.  do this immediately.  no one’s got to know the motive…and you will receive your payment in the heaps of gratitude from those with whom you choose to share this Death by Chocolate!

4 Comments

Nov

03

Easy DIY Chalkboard Art

you might remember from Berkeley’s First Birthday Party post where i told you that i would show you an easy way to create chalkboard art.  today is the day, my friends!

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this was a game-changer for me.  i am a recovering perfectionist, so when it comes to things like chalkboard art, my free-hand creates lots of unnecessary frustration and leaves A LOT to be desired!  even the smallest inconsistency would bother me, so of course it would take me multiple tries and lots of erasing to get anything even close to how i wanted it to look…and even then, i was never completely satisfied.  there are lots of things these days that i’m slowly learning that do not need to be perfect, and in fact are better because of their imperfections (hence the phrase that is currently on my chalkboard!) but when it came to chalkboard art, i really did like it to look polished and clean and…well…as close to perfect as i could get it.

when i figured out this simple technique through some trial and error, my erasing-and-starting-over days became a thing of the past.

here’s what i do.

first off, create a document that looks the way you want your chalkboard art to look.  i use photoshop but you could use a simple word document.  just make sure that you create your document to the size of your chalkboard.  so the first thing i do before anything else is change the image size to the dimensions of my chalkboard.  you should easily be able to do that in any drawing or graphic design application.  (even open office draw has that capability, and that’s a free program that you can download off the internet.  i use that program a lot, and its very easy to work with.)

there are TONS of free fonts available to get the look you’d like, (i love mixing fonts) and lots of free fonts that offer frames and ornaments and dingbats to add decor to your art.  here’s a link to some fonts from my all time favorite font designer.  she has lots of frames and decoration fonts too.  (scroll through the pages in the link to see more.)

here’s a sample of the document i did for Berkeley’s Birthday Chalkboard:

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this one is slightly more involved then most chalkboard art i would typically do, but it gives you a good idea of what i mean by using different fonts and decorations.  (and at the end of the post, i’m giving you a printable for another document i created for your own personal use.)

once i have the document finished, i then take it to my local Fed-Ex Office store.  y’all by now know of my deep love for my Fed-Ex peeps.  i use this place ALL THE TIME to do my dirty work!  basically, i email them or take in my document on a flash drive, and tell them the exact measurement of my chalkboard, and then they print that bad boy up just right!  it usually only costs a few bucks.  i just make sure to tell them to print on the cheapest paper, in black and white.

now comes the fun part.  you take that big ol piece of paper, flip it over so the printed side is down, then color in the entire backside of it with a piece of chalk.  use the long side of the chalk and rub it all over the paper to really cover every inch of it well in chalk dust:

DSC_0432 copynext, flip it over onto your chalkboard so the printed side is now up, get it all centered and positioned just right, and tape it down so it stays in place.  the chalk dusted part should now be touching your chalkboard.

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then you take a dull pencil (you don’t want to use a super sharp pencil)….

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and trace over all the printed areas…every word, decoration, etc.  this process will transfer the chalk dust to the chalkboard in the exact areas you want it.  if you have a word or decoration that will need to be filled in later, you can simply trace the outline of it for now.

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when you are finished tracing the entire document, carefully remove your template, and you will see that it is now transferred onto your chalkboard in a light outline (don’t worry about the extra chalk dust around the art.  that will fade as you complete your project, and you can always go in later and wipe it off):DSC_0440 copy

this is where using a chalk marker makes this project really easy.  if you don’t have a chalk marker, you can always use a piece of chalk, but its best to dip the tip in water as you are writing.  that gives you a crisper line, and makes it less likely to smudge.  however, if you have a few bucks to spend, its worth investing in a chalk marker.  the one on the left was only $1.00 at Target (in that brilliant dollar section that beckons me to buy everything!!!).  i stock up on them whenever i see them in there.  the one on the right is a little thicker, and i ordered it off Amazon.  here is the link:  Chalk Ink 6 mm Chalk Marker, White

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take your chalk marker, or wet chalk, and begin going back over everything, filling in whatever you need to fill in.DSC_0445 copy

once you are all finished, you will be left with a crisp and clean chalkboard.  DSC_0106 - Version 2 copy

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i use the same exact technique for my chalkboard that is painted directly on my wall.  it takes a bit more effort, because i have to stand on a chair to do it, but it yields the same effect.  this is currently what is on my chalkboard in my kitchen (although i’m getting ready to change it out for the holiday season):DSC_0121

i read that quote when reading this precious book, The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.  y’all…this book was written for me!  it is such an easy, and enjoyable, and encouraging read.  if you haven’t read it, i’m telling you, its worth your time.  that quote has been my mantra, as we’ve moved and settled into our “new” old house.  its just so good to remember in all areas of life…”A beautiful thing is never perfect.”  i’m beginning to believe that maybe the imperfections of life are what make life beautiful.  although as soon as i finished writing it up on the chalkboard, my precious and oh-so-witty and smart son came to me and told me that it wasn’t true…and then proceeded to use Heaven as an example of something that is beautiful AND perfect.  i couldn’t really argue with that one, but you get the point!

anyway, i’ve attached the document i created for that chalkboard art for your personal use, in case you are also, like me, a recovering perfectionist and need to be reminded of this too!  i think you can just save the image by right clicking, and then get it printed to the size you need.
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another great thing about creating chalkboard art this way, is that i keep all of my printed documents, so if i change out my chalkboard for the holidays, but want to put that quote back up later on, i already have the document all ready to go.  an added bonus!

i’ve also used this technique for smaller chalkboards around the house.  i painted the center of an old tray that i had with chalkboard paint, and personalized it to go above our TV in our family room.  for smaller chalkboards like this one, i can simply print the document at home:

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the possibilities are endless…now go have some fun creating some chalkboard art!

1 Comments