A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘talents

After a long absence, I’m returning to the workforce. Those who have been there and done that know what a daunting prospect it is: preparing a résumé, lining up references, creating profiles on job search websites, chasing job leads, and trying to land that elusive interview to get a foot in the door.

Recently, I’ve made a few visits to the Y Employment Access Centre in my area. I’ve discovered a lot of helpful resources there. But besides the handouts on CVs and cover letters, job boards, and workshops, I found something more valuable: encouragement.

When we’re feeling discouraged—about our weight-loss efforts, job search, and so on—hearing people say they believe in us can give us that boost of confidence we need to start believing in ourselves.

I found that positive “You can do it” attitude in everyone from the receptionists to the career counsellor to the job developer. And in my husband and son, my mother and mother-in-law, my piano teacher…

How often do we have the opportunity to offer someone else that little bit of encouragement but fail to seize it? How beautiful to help others see they have it in them to pursue a dream or goal that makes good use of the gifts and talents God has blessed them with!

Society respects people with confidence but is quick to condemn those who seem to think too much of their abilities. No wonder we can struggle to believe we have what it takes to make our plans a reality!

Whether we’re young or not so young, we can all use a word or a note or an e-mail of encouragement to help us take that next step. I pray that, the next time we have the opportunity to encourage others, we take it.

I believe in you

I can’t even count the ways that

I believe in you

And all I want to do is help you to

Believe in you

~ “Believe in You” by Amanda Marshall

On Wednesday, I found myself waiting for a haircut and feeling pretty nervous. I’ve been growing out my crazy, curly hair, and the previous haircut had left me with layers that I’d grown out again.

Yesterday, the stylist listened to me, gave me a wonderful cut, and left me with lots of curls. And the barista at the coffee shop served my mocha with a smile. And the friendly bookstore staff helped me find a book my son wanted and store my purchases at the front desk until I finished browsing.

Which might sound like nothing special. But as those who’ve waited for a bad haircut to grow out or been treated by restaurant or store staff as though serving them was a headache know, good service isn’t a guarantee; it’s a gift.

But do we treat it like one?

We might assume people owe us good service because that’s part of their job. I don’t know about most people, but I don’t always do my tasks with the best of grace. Mustering enthusiasm for dusting and laundry challenges me on a good day.

We should consider instead that those who provide excellent customer service may be choosing to bless others with a smile despite dealing with chronic pain, with the best of their skills when they’re worried about loved ones, with efficient and courteous help even though they’re tired after staying up late to look after sick children.

We can choose to treat good service as though it’s our due—or we can bless others by thanking them for their help, giving a good tip or a positive survey review, recommending businesses to others through social media, and continuing to shop and eat where we receive great service. And we can carry this further by blessing others with the best of our skills and expertise, taking a cue from 1 Peter 4:10-11*:

As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

May we be thankful for good service and likewise bless others by serving them with a giving spirit, not a grudging one.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

~ Hebrews 13:16

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Like many people, I don’t enjoy pulling weeds out of the lawn. Possibly because they seem to spring up again as quickly as the stubble returns to Homer Simpson’s face. Needless to say, my backyard has more dandelions than I’d like.

Which turned out to be a blessing for one brave bunny.

I happened to look outside yesterday morning and spotted a rabbit happily munching on dandelion leaves and then biting off stems, nibbling them almost to the seed head. Something I thought was an eyesore—a nuisance, even—was useful for that creature.

wild rabbit

A wild rabbit selecting dandelion stems in my backyard 

And that made me think of how we might view ourselves. Do we ever see ourselves the way I saw those dandelions—something out of place and not useful? Do we ever think that we’re too weak, too young or too old to serve God? That we lack the strength or talents or skills to accomplish good works for him?

We should never feel that God can’t use us. He has plans to use us. He created us for a purpose:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~ Ephesians 2:10*

True, not everyone has the strength of Samson or the wisdom of King Solomon or the preaching ability of the apostle Paul. Instead, each of us has a unique set of gifts and talents, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11:

To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

We all have gifts that can be used to worship God, to build up the body of Christ, and to share God’s love with others. But if we aren’t sure just what those gifts are, we can ask our family or friends about the things they’ve noticed we’re good at; look into exploring our gifts through volunteer work, classes and workshops; talk to our parish priest about ways we could serve in our parish; and notice the times we think to ourselves that we’d like to serve in a certain way. For example, since joining the Church, I’d often thought that I’d like to serve as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Last fall, at our parish’s ministry fair, I finally found the courage to sign up for this role and received training as an EME.

May we remember that, just as we pray for gifts such as knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so we can pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal our gifts to us and show us how God would have us use them.

(*Scripture references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Some of my great-grandparents were tall, and so I could dream, right?

I’ve always wished I were a little more graceful. I also used to wish I were six feet tall (not impossible, since I have some tall people in my family) and had brown hair and brown eyes (impossible, with my genes). I remember telling a brown-eyed brunette classmate that, and she admitted she wanted red hair like mine.

Sometimes we’re not satisfied with what we have. But as Sheryl Crow sang in “Soak Up the Sun,” “It’s not having what you want / It’s wanting what you’ve got.”

Our culture encourages us not only to want more, but also to want to be someone we’re not.

How often do we wish we were taller, athletic, artistic or musical? Sure, we can take lessons to try to develop or build on our skills, but some things will only ever be for our own enjoyment and not a career. For example, I take piano lessons because I enjoy playing, but it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me—and I get nervous playing just for my teacher!

Which brings me to another question: how often do we thank God for the gifts we do have—for our talents and personality traits, and those of our family and friends?

I have a knack for organizing the house, although my family may not always see it as a blessing. (In fact, I’m fairly certain they consider me a neat freak.) My son is naturally athletic and strong, and my husband is known for being kind and generous. One friend of mine has a beautiful singing voice, another always has words of comfort and advice, and another has a gift for praying for any concern.

Do we dismiss our talents and traits because we see others’ abilities and qualities as better or more valuable somehow?

I pray that, as Jennifer Rothschild encouraged us to do in Self Talk, Soul Talk, we would remind ourselves of this truth: “I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).” And I pray that we would see our talents and traits as blessings from God and ask him how he would have us use them.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

~ Ephesians 2:10*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

~Matthew 22:21*

At yesterday’s Mass, the Gospel reading dealt with the question about paying taxes that the Pharisees posed to Jesus—after they tried to trick him with flattery by saying that they knew he was impartial and taught God’s way truthfully (see Matthew 22:15-17).

As our parish priest pointed out, more than money is at issue. We need to contribute to the society we live in by paying taxes, but we also need to build up the Church through our offering. Not only by placing money in the collection plate, but also by offering our time and talents.

When we take part in the Mass, we spend time in worship, praise and prayer. We give of our time to God.

As the priest also pointed out, many people are involved as the service unfolds, from the priest and deacon to the sacristan, altar servers, worship music team, lector, gift bearers, people who take up the offering, and so on. When they serve during the Mass, they give of their time and talents to God.

We could step forward and share our talents (and maybe discover new ones) by signing up at our parish’s ministry fair or by contacting the leaders of ministries listed in the bulletin or on the parish website. Volunteers in children’s and youth ministry, social justice groups, pastoral care and more are vital—and, it seems, often in short supply.

And for parishes with Confirmation candidates, including a service component and encouraging candidates to find opportunities to fulfill it within the parish, as some parishes do, would be a wonderful way to teach them about giving to God.

I pray that we would consider ways to use our time and talents to give to God what is his and encourage our families, newcomers, and those whose gifts we’ve noticed to do the same.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.

~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

(*Scripture quotes and reference taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1*

While the weather in Ottawa shows few signs of warming up and spring seems far off, my household is bracing not only for the bitter cold but also for change.

Not only is my son getting involved with our parish’s new youth group and preparing for confirmation, but he’s also trying to choose which one of several local high schools to attend in the fall.

It’s a difficult decision since our school visits so far have shown us well-maintained buildings, staff committed to seeing students thrive and succeed, and students who like their school and participate in activities and clubs. We’ve even ironed out the bus transportation issues. And so it’s coming down to opportunities for co-op programs and hands-on courses.

For those of us with children heading to high school or university who may not know what kind of career would suit their interests and abilities, it can be tempting to steer them toward what we think would be a good career and influence them to take courses to reach that goal. But to do so would be to ignore this direction from Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

I’ve heard this verse spoken of as referring to our children’s spiritual education. Yet I think it also refers to guiding our children in the path God wants them to follow, using the talents and spiritual gifts he has blessed them with.

We may dream that our children will pursue a career in medicine, for example, because we see this sector as providing stable or well-paying jobs; our children may in fact be called to a career in sales, the trades, the arts or the non-profit sector. We may wish that our children could know early and with certainty the career they’d like to pursue, but some may take longer to find their niche.

And so I pray that those of us with children preparing to begin high school or post-secondary education or training would pray for and with them that God would guide them in discovering their vocation and his plan for them (see Jeremiah 29:11).

(Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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