Our oldest daughter Heather loves photography and over the last year, she has been pursuing that passion by buying a good Nikon camera, lenses, and camera bag, practicing her skills on family and friends, starting a website and blog, and going to photography shoots with professionals. I am thrilled to see Heather using her talents for God, and gleaning all she can from others who are a success.
We all have gifts, talents, and skills that God has richly deposited inside of us for His glory. We don’t need to hide our talents like the lazy servant in Matthew 25: 14-30, but draw them out of our hearts and minds, and bless others with them. God has great plans for our lives, if we will just believe and obey Him (Jeremiah 29: 11). The acronym WATERS describes how women can discover and then use their gifts to further God’s kingdom on earth.
W. Whet your appetite for God. I just can’t get enough of God’s presence; He is so awesome. Develop a hunger for God and His presence. He is the one who gives us our gifts!
God wants to use you, but do you want to be used? If so, how? Do you want an enriched, exciting life, living it to your fullest potential, or a mediocre, boring existence?
Psalm 37: 4 says, “Delight (take great pleasure in, enjoy) the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” What are your desires? Take them to Him, and then as you follow Christ, He will bring those things to pass!
A. Ask God, yourself, and others what your spiritual gifts, talents, and skills are. What are you really good at? I’ve had at least three people tell me that I would be a great wedding coordinator. I love weddings ~ planning them, shopping for them, decorating, organizing, serving in them. One of my favorite movies is “The Wedding Planner” with Jennifer Lopez. So I am toying with the idea for the future.
Are you naturally good with computers and an excellent artist? Then you would probably be good as a graphic artist. When you speak at retreats, do you receive positive, encouraging feedback? Then you are skilled in communication. Your words have weight and authority, so use that gift to bless others!
Do you love to have friends over for dinner and spend time with them? Then you may have a gift of hospitality. Do you feel deeply or cry when people are hurting, and try to comfort them? You probably have gifts of mercy and compassion.
The spiritual gifts can be found in Ephesians 4: 11-12 (five-fold ministry gifts), 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 (manifestation gifts), and 1 Corinthians 12: 28. Some churches or online sites have tests you can take to find out your spiritual gifts. Find out what yours are, and begin to walk in that authority and anointing!
T. Tap into your creativity. Vicki Caruana says in her book, Giving Your Child the Excellence Edge (Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton IL, p. 49), “Much creative thought requires remaining detached enough from any one idea to allow others to be considered. This may not come naturally to us, especially if we are used to censoring our ideas, as most of us are.”
In other words, thinking outside the box. Allowing your mind to go wild. Telling the inner critic to shut up, and daring to write that story about what happened in your bedroom one night when you were 5 years old, or that you had an abortion when you were 21. Driving past the “nice and safe” zone in writing and speaking, being real, going for the jugular in yours and your audience’s emotions.
How can you best use your creative skills? If you’ve been cutting someone’s hair since you were 12, enroll in cosmetology school and get paid for something you love. If you enjoy baking or cooking, start a catering business. Do you think about horses the first and last thing of every day? Take riding lessons from a good trainer, and begin showing in English horse shows. Sometimes our best creative thoughts come when we’re just having a lot of fun!
Creativity also means giving yourself permission to try new things and feel new sensations, like going on a hot air balloon ride in New Mexico, or skiing in Colorado. Color outside the lines; use the big box of crayons with colors like Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown. Buy the new outfit for your wardrobe that you admire, but have never dared to try before.
To get the wheels moving, turn off the dvd player and go for a walk in your neighborhood, really seeing it for the first time. Look, listen, smell, touch, taste. Too often we zone out and don’t even notice our surroundings. Do you know what kind of car your neighbor drives? For that matter, do you even know what your neighbor looks like or speak to her? Have you ever noticed that around your block is a home with Spanish style architecture and an enchanting, almost-hidden, outdoor garden like a miniature of The Secret Garden?
Go to a large zoo, and just watch the animals and people. Do home-made science projects. Read about weird things in space, like the roar scientists are saying is coming rapidly toward our galaxy. Start a flower or vegetable garden and play in the dirt. Reading good literature and listening to classical or some type of relaxing music each day feeds our brain with creative, new ideas.
E. Exercise your gifts diligently. Muscles atrophy when they are not used regularly: “Use it or lose it.” Do we really want to bury our talents for 40 years, and wake up one morning, realizing we’re old, it’s too late, and we are not what we ever really wanted to be ~ an artist, a singer, a soldier, a missionary in south Africa, a writer, a dolphin trainer? As we find out what our gifts, talents, and skills are, and begin cultivating them, they will flourish. They will also create inner happiness, and bring joy to God and others.
We need to prune those things that hinder us from maximizing our potential. Why are we wasting time working at the hardware store, when what we really want to do is go to law school and be an attorney? If solving crimes fascinate you, and you’ve always wanted to be a detective, then why are you coaching basketball for middle schoolers? If you feel stuck in your job or role, get unstuck. Take action. Pay attention to what is in your heart.
The Lord gives us certain desires, for a good reason. Interestingly, these desires are often related to our spiritual gifts, talents, and skills, and ultimately to our calling. I have several friends who love working with children, and are gifted at teaching. So they work in a Christian school, and are totally happy and fulfilled doing this.
If you are just getting started in your craft, take steps of faith. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Give yourself growing room. Set high goals, and discipline yourself to pursue more education, write that article, speak at the small church, or work on your website to improve it.
It’s like getting into great physical shape. If you’re 40 pounds overweight, you will not lose it overnight. Several years ago, I began making healthier choices to lose weight – eating more salads and less fast or processed foods, drinking more water, taking vitamin supplements, using hand weights. Aerobic exercise is the main area I need much more discipline in, to drop to my ideal weight. But I’ve got to do something, instead of nothing. Start where you are to use those talents. And see how God will make His glory garden grow!
R. Reach for your dreams. Be determined to live a full, beautiful life, and not waste a second. Life is just pregnant with possibilities and adventure! One of our family’s favorite movies is “Secondhand Lions.” A young boy whose mother abandoned him to live her own, fun life dropped him off at a strange house to live with his two old, grumpy uncles, who did not want him there. But eventually their relationship grew close, and he learned a lot from these larger-than-life men. One of the lines we love from the movie is after the uncles had died and left the nephew with all their inheritance (which was substantial). Telling another man about his two uncles, with great admiration, he said, “They really lived.”
Are you really living ~ or just existing? Is this the life you really want? If it’s not, when are you going to start?
Take the ceiling off your thinking, the limits you have conditioned yourself to, that comes from others’ perceptions and from negative self-talk. Listen to what you tell yourself. Our thoughts have a great influence on our lives. Learn to train your mind to think positive thoughts of success, instead of poisonous, defeating thoughts. Latch onto a scripture such as, “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me!”
Our daughter Leah has a little sign in her room that has a bright yellow star on it: “Wish upon a star.” What are your three biggest wishes? My first would be to have more wishes.
What do you want to do? What do you love to do? Your passion is the key to understanding your gifts and abilities!
Marnie Swedberg summed it up for me in her recent Writer’s Radio Show with author/speaker Cindy Rushton, when she said that she never feels more alive, than when she is speaking in front of a large group of people. I really related to that! It used to scare me to death to stand in front of people and speak. I literally used to physically shake and stammer, and felt like I was going to faint. To be honest, I still get a little nervous just before speaking, but as soon as I step up to the platform, it melts as the anointing of God kicks in – thank God for His grace and that precious anointing ~ I never want to do it without Him! And I LOVE it! I feel alive when writing and speaking! It’s the way God created me!
What is that God is calling you to do that is much bigger than you are? Nothing is impossible with God. And He wants to do the impossible through you and for you!
S. “Study to show thyself approved.” (2 Timothy 2: 15) This means learn everything you can, to bring honor to God and to obey Him. Stay in God’s word daily. Proverbs 4: 7-8 says, “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you.”
Find daily quiet time with God, and let Him speak to you and guide you. His Holy Spirit will teach you all things. (1 John 2: 27)
Pursue more education, classes, training, seminars. Find a mentor to disciple you. Be like a sponge and soak up everything you can from people who are successful in your field of interest. How did they get started using their gifts or talents? What were the practical steps they did? Extract the precious from the worthless. God has a unique blueprint for your life that He wants to accomplish. He is the master mentor.
Be humble and receive help from people, even family and friends. Relationships are invaluable, not only for the intimacy and pleasure they bring, but also for networking. Not burning any bridges is always a good idea, unless it’s absolutely necessary for your safety, sanity, or sweetness. It’s a very small world, and I have been amazed at how certain people have come back into my life years later (some whom I wish wouldn’t have, but maybe they feel the same way!). Sometimes, though, these are divine connections. A good rule of thumb is this: be as nice as you can to people. Don’t you appreciate nice people?
Rudeness is not a sterling trait. And it may come back to haunt you later, especially when they find out you’re now a Christian speaker and writer. Most of all, God is love and we as believers want to be like Him and show others that wonderful love. Our gifts are for God’s glory and to further His kingdom. We want to model Jesus, to be His hands, feet, and heart to a lost and dying world.