In this week of celebrating love with chocolates, flowers and fancy dinners, we wanted to tell you a different story of love. Not one of a guy and girl who met at a coffee shop or in an airport. Not a story of a whirlwind romance complete with the crazy ex. Not a story of a girl, who is really a run-away princess who meets and falls in love with a no-name local from a different country.
This story is not that kind of story at all, but it does involve gifts and great endings!
This story is about the one who designed and created you and the combination of unique gifts He handpicked for only you.
These aren’t the kind of gifts you find on Amazon, and everyone doesn’t get one-click access to what you have.
God’s gifts to you are yours.
He meant for you to discover them and use them.
It’s a process—a wonderful but sometimes messy process. Serious work can be involved—the kind of work requiring risk, relationship and responsibility. But just like mining for gold, when you dig in to what you’ve been given, your gifts will make you rich in the most important ways.
FAULT-FINDING IS NOT A GIFT.
John 3:16 (TPT) is the fullest and most incredible expression of God’s love (or any love for that matter!).
For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.
In His love for us, God GAVE. And He gave us the greatest gift for free. He gave us Jesus.
Best. Gift. Ever. End of story, right?
God gave us even more gifts—personal, individual skills and attributes that we need to be creative, compassionate, courageous, problem solvers and more.
Some gifts are meant to equip us to help people grow in their faith, stretch their imagination or ease their worry.
Some gifts are just for ourselves.They express things that bring us personal joy, like kind words of instruction or guidance from a prayerful friend or meaningful verse that “pops” when we read it because of what’s happening right now in our life.
Some gifts are meant to be shared and engaged with everyone. These gifts are easy to see and very practical, useful and in demand. We’re good at them, and when we do them, work gets done and we have fun!
All of these gifts are good… but it takes awareness to acknowledge and honor these gifts as they work in and through us.
Many years ago, before the The Smart Carpenter was even an idea, we took all kinds of assessments to help us understand our gifts and how to work well in them (from DISC to Strengths, MBTI and more). Our aim was to be good at what we do in our place of employment. Yet, naming our gifts still wasn’t easy. We were most comfortable talking about our professional skill set and experience. It’s not a stretch to say we equated giftedness with training.
Then came the idea for The Smart Carpenter.
As we moved from friends to business partners, our skills weren’t helping. They actually seemed to get in the way of our synergy.
We did our best to work through things because we knew this idea was more important than our differences. We had a lot of laughter and comin’-to-Jesus moments to help deal with our frustrations, misunderstandings and disappointments with each other. This is how we built trust. And trust is what keeps things together.
But trust depends on authenticity and vulnerability.
*ugh* (Did we just say that out loud?!)
We thought we did this well until we didn’t. Though our professional and personal pursuits were very different, both of us had learned to limit our authenticity in the same way—to hide the “real me” in order to succeed.
We were experts at focusing on our faults in order to keep them hidden, but we didn’t know how to embrace our gifts. Heck, we didn't really even notice them.
It surprised us just how much our fault-finding way of seeing ourselves impacted our work together.
Our faults led to doubts.
Doubts led to complaints.
Complaints led to frustration.
Frustration limited appreciation.
We were stuck in our own limits. We couldn’t see our gifts at work, making it nearly impossible to see and honor the gifts in each other.
It was time for a different approach—one that wasn’t based on lack, deception or hiding. We needed to stop talking about what we couldn’t do and start engaging what we were good at doing.
This was an important pivot.
Trust-building begins here: in unapologetically owning the gifts in yourself.
Only after you embrace what’s good in you can you really see and appreciate what’s good in others.
The first time we owned our giftings (remember, it’s not just a one-click experience; we’re still learning how to do this every day!), the relief was INSTANT. One moment of honesty changed our moods and our working relationship. The striving was gone and so were our feelings of frustration. Trust and mutual respect were birthed at a whole new level.
It’s comical to think back on it now, but we weren't laughing then. We were too busy trying to be crafty-creatives for web and IG design in order to save some money. If you’re that kind of creative soul, we love you… and we are so. not. you. We can identify what we like, but neither of us can draw or digitally produce it. But we sure did try! And we drove ourselves and each other crazy.
Admitting our limits forced us to own and lean into our gifts.
Talk about a new attitude! This created much-needed space for us to work well together. It was a game-changing decision for our business partnership and for us as friends.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR GIFTS.
To really own your gifts, it helps to know these gifts in you are deposits of God’s unconditional love to you. We like to call His gifts “Love Gifts” because they come from Love, Himself—God.
He gave them to you as a sign of His love, trust and confidence in you. And He believes the best about what you can do with what He gave you.
You know His gifts because they’re what make you come alive inside. When you work in them, what takes hours feels like minutes. You’re energized. Focused. All-in and loving it! Life is just better, happier, more joyful and exciting. Your heart is full.
The great thing about Love Gifts is they’re yours to keep and use, even if you choose to use them for things that don’t honor God. Paul writes about them this way, “God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded” (Romans 11:29 MSG). They’re irrevocable, and can’t be withdrawn. Ever.
So when you think about your gifts, what comes to mind?
Is it your ability to offer words that encourage or your natural grace for hosting people in your home? Maybe you can stage or design a room that would get Joanna Gaines’ seal of approval. You might be an incredible teacher or good at engineering, art, business or understanding the human body.
If you can’t put your finger on what makes you come alive, try thinking through these questions:
What do other people say about you?
Why do other people thank and celebrate you?
When people say, “I need your help,” what is it they want from you?
When do you find yourself most likely to be “in a zone” while doing something?
It’s okay if you need a little time to sort out your answers. Take the time. You won’t be disappointed.
Your gifts are already in you, ready to be rediscovered or activated in a whole new way.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU (RE)CONNECT WITH YOUR GIFTS.
In his book Higher Is Waiting, Tyler Perry reflects on the potential of the gifts in each of us. He says,
“...we all have gifts within, but they’re too often hidden. We have gifts we have never used, even though they are within reach… These gifts are special. They might even change our lives and help make the world a better place. We all have gifts given to us by God.”
When you look for your gifts and use them well, you tap into what’s special about you. It’s also the way you display God's workmanship, love and goodness in everyday life. Using your gifts is an intentional step towards living a more fulfilled life and one that makes the world a better place.
So as we celebrate love this month, we’d like to invite you to rediscover your Love Gifts—to intentionally reflect on the giftings in you so you can live them out more fully.
When you reconnect with your gifts, you can expect some pretty great things to happen:
Don’t worry if you run into your limitations or into frustration. That’s part of the process. You may have to unlearn some things to be good at walking in your gifts. Believe us when we say, it will be a welcomed change.
Keep at it, and enjoy this step in learning to build life well.
Happy Valentine’s Day!