Polishing the Gifts We’re Given

We’re all born with unique gifts: talents and abilities mindfully given that add to our individuality and serve as guideposts for the paths we pursue. The beautiful thing about these gifts is that they typically have a cumulative effect for good, rippling outwards to lift others up as well as yourself. Does empathy come naturally to you? Or a thirst for knowledge–perhaps a touch of wisdom in the way you communicate? Some have uncommonly refined artistic talents, while others are gifted at being peacemakers, connecting with animals, or analyzing situations and data. The list is inexhaustible, every variation lovely and complementary, spanning out like a spread of all the colors in creation. Some gifts are inherent, while others we can seek to obtain, and yet more arrive unexpectedly at certain points in life when we need them to progress. What I’ve learned about these gifts is that they come from above, typically in raw form, requiring our effort to give them final shape and polish.

My sister has always had a supportive heart. She writes letters, makes phone calls, and saves up to cross the country with her family for special visits to loved ones. She enjoys baking and regularly makes huge batches of goodies for neighbors, local schools, or someone struggling with a challenge. On her recent trip here, she made time to drive a couple hours away to bring cheer and a special present to our aunt who lives in an assisted living home. I think her presence as a genuinely caring individual is so consistent that we are tempted to take it for granted, but I’ve thought a lot lately about the joy she brings to others with her investment of time and thoughtfulness.

A close friend and neighbor is an organist for a renowned organization. I’ve worked with him on many occasions as a musician, and his technique and improvising ability is stellar from years of dedicated practice and study. But the gift I’ve noticed in him that lifts my spirit the most is his interpretation of sacred hymns as a volunteer in our local congregation. He’s put thought into and matched the essence of every verse with an appropriate timbre. Because he is truly communicating the message of the music instead of just playing notes, each phrase is infused with meaning, reflecting quiet reverence, grand glory, and everything in between. When he lets out all the stops at the most majestic moments, tears interfere with my singing, and I am transported to the very throne of God. I am so grateful for the way he has polished his gift.

Which gifts have been given to you, and why? Have they shaped the trajectory of your life? Developing my talent on the French horn that became apparent in grade school eventually determined where I went to college, who I met and mingled with, and the city I’ve settled in. Can you discern how your gifts bring about good and promote growth? Sometimes it’s hard to see them in yourself, but those close to you, I’m sure, would be happy to point them out if asked. I find it extraordinarily fascinating to consider the organized mind of God, who, I believe, coordinates what gifts we need, individually and collectively, in a complicated dispensing pattern that has an overarching genius for design. A topic to further explore another time. But doesn’t it engender gratitude, to ponder how well-thought out and complementary these gifts are? We aren’t all given the same ones, and thank heavens for that! I love variety. Because they require such effort on our part to bring to full fruition, though, over time we may become inclined to forget their origin. It may be one of the tests of life to be able to say thank you for, and report on how you polished your endowments of natural ability. Maybe then we’ll discover how much they truly affected others around us.

I’ve noticed in the last few years that one of my gifts is to occasionally catch a glimpse of future events in my path. A subtle, still snapshot of a moment or idea comes into my mind for a brief moment. It’s almost as if I’m being sent a postcard from heaven as to where I should head next, and I’ve learned it’s less of a novelty and more of an invitation to get to work to bring what I see to pass. For example, years ago I had a sudden mental picture of my extended family on my mom’s side gathered at a national park. My grandparents were both gone at that point, and not many efforts had been made to gather the whole (huge) family, living all across America, in one place. Though I am just a grandchild of that family and was pregnant with my second child, I felt I needed to organize a family reunion at Grand Teton National Park. It turned out to be a lovely affair which created memories we still talk about, and strengthened our bonds as relatives. I’ve often wondered if it was my Grandpa Silver who sent the postcard. 🙂

As I’ve slowed down my life this year to live more simply, and am creating space for deeper thought, my mental postcards have increased to include writing ideas. They’re coming at a much faster pace now, because I’ve exhibited that I’m willing to act on them rather than let them fade into dust in some forgotten receptacle (as I used to). I’m so happy to find such beautiful gifts in the mailbox of my mind! But like the illuminating invitations of future events, they’re only landscape views of ideas, a broad picture or concept that is given without explanation. I have to make a real effort to climb into that picture and figure out the details.

Once I’m sitting in the postcard of an concept, it’s time to explore–hard but rewarding work. I turn over every rock, sit at different points along the stream of an idea, discern answers in the wind as I traverse the hillsides. Slowly, searching under fallen trees and in caves, or sifting through sand, I collect hidden gems until I have enough to make a picture of my own. Once I’m satisfied with the content of my explorations, I sit on a mossy hill with an overlook, putting those pieces together in a work of art. I have to move things around and edit mercilessly until the final product is one of beauty. That’s my writing process–a ticket to adventure! I hope it lifts you, just for a moment.

Consider this an invitation to ponder in the next couple of days which unique gifts you or those around you have been given, and why. Feel free to share in the comments–I’d love to hear about them. Rather than being boastful, I see it as highlighting the creativity and love of the Giver. What type of diligent efforts are required to make them come to life? As you drop those refined gems in the sea of humanity, do they ripple out to gently lift those within reach? And are you buoyed by another’s striving endeavor to find and polish their stones of beauty?

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