His name was John and he was a co-dean of Baby Fold Camp. The words he spoke into my life were some of the most deeply impacting ever spoken over me. They were then and have been such an encouragement. But…. they have also been words that have haunted me.
It was my fourth and last year at a camp where us high school students helped to put on a camp for disabled children. I found a lot of who I was at that camp. I felt as though I found my center and my purpose. Those weeks I served joyfully feeling like some of the truest parts of who I was were blossoming into reality. After watching me work that camp for four years, hearing my questions and my heart, and being a quiet mentor during those special weeks, he pulled me aside one afternoon and whispered, “Val. We think you have the gifts.”
I took those words to heart and with me to college where I pursued a special education degree. I took them into my first year of teaching.
And then… My husband went to boot camp.
I got pregnant. My Mom got sick. My Mom died. I had two more kids. My husband stayed in the Navy. And, well. You know the story.
I chose to be a Navy wife, a stay at home wife, a stay at home Mom.
I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I don’t regret staying home. I don’t regret staying out of the workforce to maximize every spare moment we could have together as a family. I don’t regret being with my babies.
But sometimes I wonder–Is this where the gifts John spoke of were supposed to be served?
I know it’s not considered couth of me to say so in stay-at-home circles especially in the church. I know that a lot of people would want to rush in after these words I’m saying and say, “You’re giving your family and your kids the best gift you can. You are serving your gifts. Just in a different way right now. There, there dear. These are the best years of your life.”
Maybe that’s true. I’m sure much of it is true. But so many days I feel like I’m floundering. So many days I feel like I suck at this job. So many days I wonder if I’m cut out for this, much less anything beyond this. Some days I’m definitely NOT sure I’m using any gifts at all effectively.
Am I serving those gifts, John? Am I? If I’m not, how do I change that?
Maybe these questions are questions of despair. I know that the Lord HAS gifted me and that He has done so with a purpose. I know that these seasons are short and are to be cherished. I know that there may be seasons when some of the gifts I believe John were referring to WILL be more directly served. And I believe that somehow, some way these cherished but often barren days of wifing and mothering are going to serve as stepping-stones and gift-sharpeners.
I want to serve the gifts that are in me–the ones that John saw and called out. That might look different from what I imagined as a snot-nosed 18-year-old, dewy-eyed and ready to change the world one kid at a time. But those words felt holy. The words have carried me on dark days and I will not let them run me into hiding now.
I must somehow try to stand up into them even on the days I feel like slouching and hiding. Even on the days when the laundry is undone, and I’ve lost my patience, and the house is a wreck, and I’m fully out of sorts. Somehow they are still no less true even when their promise feels so empty and unfulfilled.
Somehow, John’s words still hold truth. He saw a spark and called it out and even now I hope it’s being fanned into flame… Smoldering even though it seems to lie dormant.
Maybe the trick is to exercise my faith muscles and trust what feels unseen right now: That those words are no less true today than they were 12 years ago (am I that old???). That God is using me and forming me to continue to be used even as I type this sentence.
Show me how to use the gifts you’ve given me God. Right now. Right here. And Grow me into a place where I feel that burning purpose served out. Dream in me and set dreams in me. Sharpen me to hear your call and answer and in so doing help me to fulfill the words that we sang in tearful nights at campfire. Help me to find you God in a million little ways.