June 18

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Using your gifts

By Jessica Allen

June 18, 2018

creating, faith, France, ministry, Monet

We just returned from 9 days in northern France and it was a dream.  The trip was a gift full of laughter, music, ministry, fellowship, incredible food, moving history, amazing pictures, great weather, and the joy of creating lifetime memories.

Visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny was a true surprise. I knew they would be beautiful, but pictures – and paintings – don’t do them justice. It’s not only the display of colors and shapes. Or the little garden bugs or birds calling songs from tree to tree. Or the amazing fragrance that wafts in and out with the breeze. It’s the sweet feeling of peace that settles in when you step inside.

What I did not know is that Monet planted these gardens himself.  He set to work creating the gorgeous landscapes he wanted to paint. He started with flowers, planted meticulously in rows in front of his house. Roses trained up arbors and trellises create braided rainbows overhead, while begonias and gardenias and the most perfect poppies line the pathways. Bumblebees are busy at work inside Canterbury bells and snails stick to long green lily leaves.

Beyond the flower garden is the water garden. It is a step into another world here. It nourishes more stunning flowers and greenery, shaded peacefully by a copper tree. You can hear the running stream of the river Seine that feeds the pond as your eye catches the weeping willow cascading over the water. From the footbridge you can drink in the entire garden, and it looks different from each angle as you walk around the perimeter.

By the end of his life, the gardens had grown so intricate that Monet added rooms to his home for seven full-time gardeners – including one whose primary job was to row a boat through the water garden each morning to strain dust and pluck stray leaves and petals from the surface of the water so Monet could clearly see the reflection on the water when he woke each day.

The beauty here was breathtaking. But what struck me most about this stunning paradise was how simple its birth must have been. Soil, seeds, water, sun, two hands, dirty clothes, an aching back, and prayerful vision. Lots of hard work creating sweet green patches of growth and spots of failure too. Replanting. Redesigning. Reworking. Time spent in labor.

And then it grew. Nature took root and flourished. The wind picked up new seeds and scattered them throughout the garden, creating vibrant new life and color as each season passed.

Then Monet painted, and it changed the world. At the end of his life, amid all that beauty, he developed cataracts, had risky yet successful surgery, and ultimately came to paint “by memory.” To know your work so well, to believe so confidently in what you are creating… this is magic in action.

Using your gifts

I believe God designs this creative magic in action to become real for each of us. He knit us together for a purpose, with the potential to create something supernatural – something bigger than ourselves that will leave a lasting impact long after we’re gone. Even if the lasting impact is on only one person. Although I think when we’re truly creating as we’re supposed to, the seeds we’re sowing hold a greater power for a greater audience than we could ever imagine.

Maybe the supernatural something you’re creating using your gifts is a company, or a ministry. Or perhaps the supernatural something you’re creating is a marriage rooted in faith or a tiny human being for a life’s work you can’t even imagine yet. You might be creating jewelry, or music, or art, or a garden. There is no work too small for God to bless and use for great purpose.

I have a semi-black thumb with plants. But my green thumbs? God can do some pretty amazing work with them. Green thumbs of connection, service, and ministry are “gardens” in my life I have resisted creating in the past.  Embarrassingly, it’s simply and humbly because they all require hard work that makes me ache. The hard work of personal growth and investment in people. Time spent reading and writing and praying and learning and falling and getting up and trying again. Pain in taking the risks of vulnerability and authenticity. Leaky eyes and a cracked-through heart.

Even if and when we’re willing to endure these “labor pains,” these seeds we sow may seem fruitless in the beginning. They take time to root and thrive. But it’s only when we keep at the hard work, staying faithful in prayer and action, that God can pick up where our human hands left off and make it all come to life.  This is what using your gifts is all about.

I will admit, candidly here, that I have absolutely no idea what I am supposed to be doing with this writing. I just know in my soul that I am supposed to be creating it. Perhaps one day God will turn it into my own version of Water Lilies. Or perhaps it will amount to nothing more than a collection of stories for my children to hold one day. But I am willing to do the work, to put in the time, to follow the nudge, and to cultivate what I believe God is asking me to do.

In all these roles of value to me in my life, I will continue to serve, even when I can’t see past a pile of laundry, a hard conversation, a demanding schedule, a project I don’t want to do, or any other uncomfortable “itchy tag” in the particular hat I’m wearing that day. I never know when one of those undesirable moments might turn into something special that God will use for His good. (And at the very least, it may give me something great to write about.)

What are your green thumbs? How are you using your gifts? What hard work have you yet been unwilling to do in order that He might pick up where you left off? Which masterpiece could you start creating if only you truly surrendered yourself to what He’s calling you to do in this moment? Or who He’s calling you to be? You may not know yet, and that’s okay. I don’t really, either. His voice will call when we’re ready to listen.

So in the meantime, I will plant and faithfully tend to my little seeds. It’s His job to make them bloom.

HP,

J

Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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