Monday, September 30, 2013

Talents, Gifts, and Such

Assigned topics are always good for me because they make me dig for new material.

Yesterday I spoke at the Harrisburg Christian Church's fall gathering.  The assigned topic was "Harvesting Your Blessings," about using your gifts to bless others.

But before I spoke I got to just absorb the lovely "county fair" theme, with jars of canned goods and quilts--some a hundred years old--and mums and other pretty stuff.  And it was just a fun group of warm, welcoming women.

In the last year I've probably read a hundred mommy-blogger posts about how we should stop comparing ourselves to others and God made us just how we are for a reason and perfection is overrated and we each have our gifts and just CELEBRATE WHO YOU ARE.

No, probably two hundred.

Well.  Guess what.  I find something in every single one of those blogs to at best admire with a touch of awe and envy, and at worst to read with so much consuming jealousy that I "X" out of them in disgust.

[Yes, you, Ann Voskamp.]

The decorations.  The houses.  The photography: astonishing light, lovely children, composition and creativity to die for.

And words.  Oh my word, the WORDS.  The descriptions that just nail it, the quirky turns of phrase, the humor, the insights, the DEPTH.

Like this gem from Shari Zook: "I think the perfect match is a myth, a hybrid legend born out of Disney and a poor understanding of predestination."

I don't know why that makes me laugh so hard.

Here are my options:
1. Stop reading because I sometimes get envious.
2. Keep reading but go deeply soul-searching about the roots of my jealousy.
3. Enjoy the posts and pictures and laugh at my dumb little follies and stop taking myself so seriously.

Each of those women has something to say and I am glad they're saying it.

Oh wait, I just realized that I veered off-topic here, from our giftings to jealousy of bloggers.  Ya, vell.

It's funny, this thing of what we are given and what we give out to others.  It would seem like a straight line from A to B.  If God has blessed you with THIS gift, then you can glorify God and bless others by going out and using that gift in this specific, intentional way.


As I told the HCC ladies, if you grew up hearing the Parable of the Talents, you probably got the idea that God had given you specific things you were good at and you'd better be out there using them because if you didn't you were burying them and then you were really going to be in trouble.

As a young person, I thought of myself as definitely a one-talent woman.  All I had was that I did well in school and learned easily, and I "blessed" others by shooting up my hand in class and answering all the questions.

Lots of eye-rolling went on behind me, I'm guessing.

Now, I think those "talents" that the master handed out were packages containing all the blessings of life.  Parents, a home, skills, health, opportunities, friends, support.

All of them become something that you have to offer.  And God expects you to offer it to those around you, not so much as a career or specific life-work, but just meeting the needs that show up in front of you.

Organizing the fundraiser, making the meal, giving the money, hugging the child, whatever.

And writing the words and posting the pictures.

I think we need to be intentional.  But we also need to just flow with the Holy Spirit, because I am convinced that most of the good that we do is unintentional and invisible.

Years ago when we were on the mission field I got pregnant which meant that I was really sick.  A bunch of ladies took turns bringing meals in for a few weeks.

One woman, whom I will call Karen, was the kind we all admired.  You'd use words like "dynamic" and "amazing" for her.  She was an organizer, a counselor, a leader.  Disciplined and smart.  She had a great sense of humor.  She got a lot done for the Kingdom.

Another woman I'll call Lena.  Lena was more slow and plodding.  Her work was cooking and cleaning.  She had a very German accent and people sometimes made fun of her behind her back.  We would have said that yeah, Lena was faithful, but she wasn't really shaking things up for the Kingdom.

Karen the dynamic successful woman brought supper in.  Lasagna.  And, I think garlic bread.  The lasagna would have been good under normal circumstances but it was very spicy and I couldn't eat it.  It was so disappointing.  I was so hungry and sick and discouraged, and there was hot food, but no way could I keep it down.  The same with the garlic bread.  At least Paul had something to eat.

A few days later Lena brought supper.  Mashed potatoes, meatloaf, corn.  I can see her now, laying it all on the counter.  "I made it really bland," she said.  "I didn't add any spices, not even pepper.  And I didn't put any onions in the meatloaf."

25 years later I still remember my gratitude at that meal and her thoughtfulness.  I could actually eat it.  I didn't throw it up.  And I wonder: how did she know?  She was single and had never been pregnant.  But she met my desperate physical and emotional needs precisely.

Talk about turning my perceptions upside down.

Here are my conclusions:
1. We all need to give, offer, share out of our blessings and talents but also out of our losses and lacks, because even they can be doors and windows for God's grace.
2. God does the final calculating on his divine spreadsheet, and the value he assigns our investments will be very different from ours, I'm sure of it.
3.  I still don't "get" that story about the talents, and how the one with five gained five more, and what it meant to bury it.

But that's ok.

If I write the letter, paint the trim, pack the lunch, make the call, advise the teenager, and yes, write the blog post, God will sort it all out by his own mysterious calculations.

Quote of the Day:
After  the girls and I had a Pride and Prejudice party--
Jenny: Ooooh, I jus
t want a Mr. Darcy.
Me: You do realize this is fiction.

Jenny: Yeah but I wish it was real life.
Emily: Well if it was real life you wouldn't get him because Elizabeth would.
Emily: And remember, if it was real life and you did marry him, you'd marry someone named Fitzwilliam.
Jenny: [shudder]
Emily and me: [satisfied smiles]
Jenny: [goes off and cleans her fishbowl]

We might take a side trip into fantasy now and then, but in this house you'll get yanked back to reality pretty fast.


  1. If the test of being a good blogger is being able to make a person cry in one paragraph and laugh two paragraphs later, you're a good blogger. "Conclusions" for the former, "quote" for the latter. You "get" the talents thing better than I've ever heard it explained, and I love it.

  2. Very well said! Sometimes I wish(ed) I could be a one-talent woman. I have so many thing vying for my attention, that sometimes it feels I excel at none. Still, reading this, is a reminder to give the best that I have, to all that God has placed in my life and in my hands. Thanks for the encouragement! (And I didn't X out, but read all the way to the end!);)

  3. As someone who has been labeled "talented" I can tell you we have envied the Lenas many times. Growing up I based my self worth on what I did. I wasn't pretty and average when it came to smarts, but I was always told that I was talented. I still tend to want to do and am trying to learn to just be. Sometimes we feel we are good at many but excel at none, as Trudy said, I can so identify with that. Other times we deal with jealousy towards us, and you want to talk about a helpless feeling...I mean what do you do with someone feeling jealous towards you. Anything you do only seems to make it worse. The other thing as a busy mom I sometimes feel like any or all talents I have are mostly put on the back burner for now. I also feel like I want to be so much more than "talented" I want to be more like a Lena who see's peoples needs, real needs, and reaches out to people in love and kindness. This post was once again spot on and such a good reminder to be used in the areas God has called us, big or small. Because no task is small when God is in it, and we give it our all. And perhaps all of us need to rest in the peace that God has made us who we are for a reason. I know I need to at least. I like your interpretation of the parable of the talents. Takes a lot of the pressure off. Thanks for allowing God to use your "talents" in this way ;-)

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  5. (I deleted my original comment to correct a typing error.)

    I'm going to think about this for a while. :) I love the story about Lena. I am trying to learn that it's important to do good things even when you may not be the best ever at doing them. I am easily discouraged and have a tendency to think something isn't good enough, and all too often just don't do anything at all. Especially over the last year or so, I've worked at changing my way of thinking about this, but I still have a long way to go.

  6. For the record, I enjoy Ann, Sheri and you, for the very reason that you all have a different style, and yet so many encouraging things to say. Thanks for being a blessing!

  7. I no longer feel quite so shallow for X-ing out of A.V.'s blog because of writer envy, and "How does she do it all?" I like option 3 in your post.

  8. You have certainly been a blessing to me. I came across you blog over a year ago by happenstance. But, I love reading your adventures, insights, humorous happenings...Thank you. I usually leave with something to think about or just a lighter heart having a laugh during a hurried lunch break.

  9. Frankly, reading Ann V. is like visiting with a stranger...and reading your blog is like visiting with a dear auntie. :) I'm so glad you blog, Dorcus.

  10. Dorcas,
    I want to share a paragraph from an e-mail I received. I have long time friend and co-worker who has been at Mayo in Rochester for most of the past 6 months. Her husband sends out updates and this is from yesterday.
    "The Mennonite Singers found us in the ICU and came by to offer two songs. Everyone in the ICU stopped what they were doing in order to listen. The gentleman next door to us and his nurse were so taken in with their singing that they requested that they return soon. I assured them that they will be back this Sunday. Their ministry of song is a joy for all and this collection of young ladies from all over the country is impressive with the manner they deliver their message of God's work."
    They often come to her room to sing to her when they are in the building and it is a highlight for her.