One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the gifts. As a child, of course, I loved presents (especially the anticipation). As a grown-up I find I like giving gifts better. I love the satisfaction of matching the perfect gift with the perfect person, of seeing my kid’s face light up with surprise and delight.
But for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of different kinds of gifts—not the tangible things I can wrap in shiny paper (sans bow, because I’m not that on top of things). I suppose broadly I could call them spiritual gifts, but they extend past the list in 1 Corinthians 12.
I’ve been thinking of the abundant gifts others have brought into my life:
*parents who taught me to love books
*a mother who reminds me that creativity comes in multiple forms
*friends whose depths of compassion remind me what love should look like
*friends who patiently read what I write and help me become a better craftswoman
*friends who council me about my children
*a sister who listens—without judgment—and then talks me off the ledge
*friends who make me laugh
*friends who make me weep, in the best possible ways
*young women who remind me what courage looks like, and integrity
The list could go on and on—but I wonder how many of these people who have so touched my life know what their gifts look like, particularly the women? It seems to me that sometimes we live in a culture where, as women, owning our gifts is a crime of arrogance—our confidence has to be tempered by skepticism, or worse, apology.
It’s hard for me to consciously acknowledge my own gifts, even though I know (in my head, not my heart) that it’s possible to be humble *and* confident—true humility doesn’t shy away from its God-given power, it simply recognizes the source.
Christ gave to the world from his abundance, with confidence in his own gifts of compassion and understanding. I want to be more like that. I want to give gifts that matter—not because they make me important, but because they make others feel valued.
If we can’t name our own gifts, it becomes harder to consciously use them. So here are some of mine (thought it feels like heresy to name them in a public forum): a gift (sometimes) of words. Seeing ideas connect. Listening. Staying focused.
A few months back I read an interview with the Mormon Women Project founder, Neylan McBaine. In it, she said something that has stayed with me all these months later: “there is one prayer I have repeated as a mantra ever since I was growing up in New York: Father, use me.”
This is my prayer, too.
And this is the prayer and hope I have for everyone reading this—that we will let ourselves be used in the best possible ways in the year to come. That we will recognize and own our gifts—and become an extension of God’s grace as we give from our abundance.
What gifts have you received? And what gifts do you have to give?