Christmas often brings thoughts of what we might like to give to loved ones. When picking out gifts, we hope our gifts will be well-received. I always hope that my friends and family will cherish the gifts from me and find them meaningful and useful and that these gifts will not collect dust on a shelf somewhere.
Our Heavenly Father also gives us gifts. He richly gifts us with salvation and hope through Jesus Christ. He also gifts us in other ways, which may include good health, provision of work and resources, and beloved family and friends. But He also gifts us with unique abilities and talents along with the desire to pursue them. Similar to our gift-giving, I feel certain God wants us to appreciate the gifts He gives, remember Him as we use them, and then put them to good use.
Some gifts I feel God has given me include photography and writing. I thought I would pursue these interests aggressively once I stopped working outside of the home. However, I have found that even though I enjoy both arts a lot, in some ways I struggle with each.
For years, I have served as my family’s historian, taking pictures and trying to scrapbook them and share them with family and friends. I longed in my heart to master photography in a professional-looking way, but I am not naturally gifted at it. Photography has required classes, study, and working intentionally to take pictures that would have broad appeal, as opposed to naturally gifted photographers who just seem to have the eye for the art and the knack for capturing great images.
Starting a photography business sounded like fun, but since I moved to Annapolis, MD two years ago, it has never really taken off. Taking and editing photographs is very time-consuming, and it is hard to feel like continuing it if it is not useful to anyone else.
I have also held a lifelong love of writing, but unlike photography, I have felt that writing was a natural gift for me. Writing began when I was a first grader whose love of reading turned to writing and illustrating, “Susie Bakes a Pie,” among other thrilling stories in the series, where Susie also baked a cake and cookies. These rudimentary stories were cut with safety scissors into little books with stapled edges and then carried to school in sandwich baggies to share with my classmates.
Even though I have left Susie and her baking adventures behind to quietly work on more noteworthy children’s books, I still yearn to write in meaningful ways for my contemporaries, particularly as it could serve as a ministry.
My husband, who is an excellent sounding board and source of godly counsel, has recently and repeatedly listened to me lament my struggles in these areas and contemplate my next moves. More often, I have thought about just giving up, believing no one cared what I photographed or wrote and that none of it really mattered in the broader picture. With years of low self-esteem behind me but still occasionally rearing its ugly head, I related it back to the idea that I do not really matter; therefore, my photographs and words do not matter. Please understand, deep down inside, I know better than that. Jesus values me enough to die for me, and my value to Him is something that bewilders me, but I treasure it. I do actually matter, and my work is not actually meaningless.
After church on Sunday, November 13, 2022, my family watched a Doyle Dykes Sunday String Along on YouTube. If you are not familiar, Doyle is a musician who provides a weekly video update with music and an encouraging discussion that includes scripture. The String Alongs are relevant and heartwarming. During this particular String Along, Doyle posed a question about how each of us are going to use our God-given gifts to serve and bless others. His words gave me pause, and I prayed about how I can take anything God has given me and use it to serve and bless others.
To give some additional context, from the beginning of 2022, I had taken some of my photographs and added Bible verses to them to help my family and I memorize our weekly Bible verses on which we were focused. The week before Doyle’s message, I had taken 12 of those photographs and made a calendar that we can gift to our families for Christmas.
After listening to Doyle’s message and praying about my talents, I had this idea that maybe I should offer these calendars for sale through my business page. Part of me said, “Don’t get your hopes up. No one is going to want to pay for that; in fact, they might think you have a lot of arrogance even offering them.” But another part of me thought that I should, and I asked my husband what he thought. As always, he encouraged me and then advised I pursue it.
I could not believe it when I sold four calendars within 20 minutes of posting an advertisement about them on Facebook. As people messaged me about the calendars and payment, they told me, in words I could scarcely believe, how much they liked my photographs and how meaningful the calendars with God’s Word would be, both to them and the people they gift them to at Christmas. I was in a state of shock, but I told Travis that maybe I was not supposed to give up on photography after all.
Two days after my calendar orders took off, my friend Kimberly contacted me about writing for The Connection. Again, I could scarcely believe that she sought my writing. I should not have been surprised. I had prayed, and this was answered prayer. We are to pray with an expectation of God answering, be it “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” And He had answered, so it really was not hard to believe.
Three things stand out to me in all of this. First of all, we matter, and what we do matters. We matter to God, and we matter to our loved ones. They value us and what we do. Secondly, God has gifted each of us in different ways. Since He has gifted us, we need to take what He has given, develop it, and use it for Him. Thirdly, if we are unsure how to serve Him with our gifts, we need to spend time on our knees asking Him how He can use us.
In 1 Peter 4:10, we are told, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God.”
God has gifted you too. How will you use it for Him?
Jeanne-Marie, Daughter of the King, is a wife and a mother to a teenage son. She wants to encourage women to have meaningful relationships by first having a meaningful relationship with Jesus. Jeanne-Marie understands the transformative work of Christ when we repent and submit to Him so that He can work in our lives. She would like to share what she's learned to help other women find hope and healing in Christ, and she prays that her written words glorify God. When not busy homeschooling, spending time with family and friends, or writing; Jeanne-Marie enjoys photography and many crafts and hobbies.