We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Unused Gifts

"Mom, why haven't you used the cutting board I gave you for Christmas?"

Elisabeth, home from college for summer break, pulled out the locally crafted cutting board from the bottom cupboard. It looked as new as the day she gifted it to me. I had been delighted when she shared how she managed to surprise me without my having an inkling of what she'd been up to. A mutual friend had made it. A work of art. A wonderful gift. A treasure.
I felt a little guilty now as I eyed the unused gift on the counter. My daughter didn't give it to me to collect dust. She wanted me to benefit from it, to enjoy it. Why hadn't I used it? I saw it every day when I pulled out the old cutting board. And I liked it - a lot. Perhaps it was because I didn't want to mar the surface, to mess it up.

Later that day Elisabeth and I chatted about God's gifts. Like her, God gives us gifts to USE, not to neglect in a dark corner of our lives. He gifts us with time, material resources, abilities, and spiritual gifts. We looked up several verses that highlighted the fact that God wants us to USE His gifts:

1 Peter 4:10: "Each of you should USE whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms . . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ."

Romans 12:6: "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us USE them . . ." 

So why then, do we hesitate to use the gifts of God? Perhaps for the same reason I didn't use my cutting board: We don't want to mess things up. We fear we won't use them well enough. We fail to acknowledge the significance of what it will mean to the Giver and how His power complements our human offerings.

Like Elisabeth, God is disappointed and grieved when we neglect the gifts He's chosen to give us . . . gifts paired perfectly with the "good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).

We've been using my cutting board a lot this week. It already shows signs of wear . . . and yet my daughter is glad to finally see me use it. The grooves and stains represent the shared experiences of cooking, hospitality, and laughter along with savoring our few weeks together before she heads off for a summer internship.

This time, when she's away, I'll use her gift. And it'll remind me of the importance of using God's gifts to serve others . . . for His glory.

What about you? Together, let's dust off those neglected gifts and USE them!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing . . .

Cold and rainy. All day long.

Although we officially welcomed spring in March, it seems to have taken a long time to arrive here in NE PA. We've had a few nice days, but chilly rain makes us long for the warmth of the sun. Yet the grass is green, and the early blooms have come and gone, so it's coming. Only a little longer . . .

One of my spring goals was to send out a quarterly e-newsletter to those who signed up for updates about Penned Without Ink at my book signing in November or other events in the past. On April 26, I pressed the send button. Did you receive it? If you have Gmail, it shows up in your promotions inbox. My objective is to offer a few uplifting thoughts and quotes and share a couple of resources relevant to the current season.

In case you missed it, I invite you to sign up to receive future newsletters HERE

Here's part of what I shared in the spring issue:

Urgent or Important?

For a while now I’ve been eyeing a CD series I found in Barry’s office and finally popped the first disc into the player on a recent road trip to see my daughters. Steve Jones facilitated the discussion on Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities. Listening not only helped the miles pass more quickly but reminded me that focus is vital if we are to spend our lives on what is truly worthwhile.

Mr. Jones divided what we do into four categories:
1.      Urgent
2.      Important
3.      Both urgent and important
4.      Neither urgent nor important  

Under which category do we find ourselves spending the most time? Does the urgent rule our schedules? Do we waste time on that which is neither important nor urgent?  Do we find that the important gets pushed aside, time gets away from us, or we feel frustrated when we’ve frittered the day away on some urgency that, in the long run, didn’t really matter? I’ve sure been there.

The recommendation is to
DETERMINE OUR VALUES, which define what’s important to us. Then, to SET GOALS with a view toward spending most of our time in the important category, leaving enough margin for urgent matters, interruptions, and—for me—that coveted phone call from one of my girls! I’ve been challenged to prioritize with intention rather than just react to the loudest voice calling my name. To take time to PLAN at the beginning of the week and then a few minutes at the start of each day.

Although I’d heard some of these ideas before, I found the CD presentation thought-provoking . . . and freeing. For doesn’t the “important” revolve around our relationships with God and others? A good work ethic? Healthy self-care habits and . . . actually, we each determine our own values and definitions for our individual life stories. I still have some work to do in thinking through mine.
Perhaps, as the seasons change, we can focus on the “important” just a little bit more.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His Kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides."
Matthew 6:33, The Amplified Bible