March 24, 2014

Run Your Race

I refuse to be shamed by this: I love American Idol. Thirteen seasons in and I still dedicate DVR space to it every week. I don’t even care, you guys. My musician friends are all it harms the integrity of creative license and fabricates a fan base that makes true artisanship something something and other words come out of their mouths and I’m like ALEX PRESTON.
Fabricating a fan base MY EYE.
Week after week, okay fine, year after year I sit on my couch and grin at the TV. Then I pull up my favorite performances of the night and grin at my laptop. Then they win or lose and I cry and they hug their parents and I sob and they are amazing and I get choked up every week.

I am proud of them. Like a Mama.

I have a similar reaction when listening to an incredible Bible teacher or reading a brilliant book (Jenny points out that I never say this is a great book… I always say this is so well-written!) or watching someone pull off a spectacular dinner party or build something beautiful. I am constantly proud of people.

I am inspired by people doing what they do best.

I mean, I really am. As I read or pay attention or listen, I constantly catalog other people’s gifts, and I think: This is so their lane. I cannot explain this surge of pride I feel when someone bravely offers their gifts up or shares their talents with us or just sings her song well.

And I don’t just mean folks with very public gifts. I choked back full sobs at Remy’s Elementary Talent Show Friday; not because there were six separate performances of “Let it Go” (Jesus, give us strength), but because a group of teachers dressed up like cows and foxes and chickens and choreographed a surprise routine to “What Does the Fox Say?” and I sat there thinking They are so good at being teachers! Look at these teachers being so awesome! These are the luckiest kids on earth!

You can barely tell from this angle, but the teacher in the black shirt is fully pregnant.
She deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Gosh, we were just born to stuff, weren’t we? God truly built gifts into our lives. Everyone is just innately good at something. Some of us get to make a living with our gifts and others just bless the world with theirs. I am thinking of several women right this second who are really, really good at friendship. They are such good friends to me that it isn’t even fair. And others who I constantly admire for being such good moms. Like, they are really good at mothering. Two of my friends threw creative, fun, adorable parties for their daughters this weekend and I was in awe because I am not a Fun Party Mom; this is a gear I just do not have, but when I see it in someone else I’m all well done and thank you for inviting Remy so she can have some childhood memories of fun parties and maybe time will dull her recollection and she’ll think I threw some.

I don’t like when people minimize their gifts. Oh, I’m just or it’s only or it’s nothing… This aggravates me. There is a difference between humility and insecurity, and wrapping ourselves in self-effacement does no one any favors. We teach our watching children to doubt and excuse and diminish. Do we want our kids to reflect on the mothers who raised them and have absolutely no idea what we loved? What we were good at? What got our pulses racing and minds spinning?

Don’t we want them to see us doing what we do best?

My mom went back to college when she had four kids spread out over high school, middle school, and elementary school, and that has always been a source of pride for me. She was a teacher in her heart and needed the degree to match, so she chased the dream long before it was convenient or well-timed or easy. Yes, she fell off the oat bran wagon (kindly recall 1991) and we had to buy store-bought prom dresses, but we got to watch her fly. It never occurred to any of us to settle for less.

What are you good at? Not sure? What do people constantly say you are good at? Others can usually identify our gifts long before we are willing to concede. Maybe it is career material. I’ve long said that someone will pay you to do what you love. You might be stuck in a job you hate doing work you don’t care about while your gifts are languishing on the sidelines, awaiting your courage to put them in the game.

Do you know that I always, my entire life, loved to write but never dared imagine that could be a thing? I taught elementary school, which as I’ve made clear, is one of the noblest professions, but I wasn’t great at it and I felt trapped. I later stayed home with all the babies which I birthed every other summer, and when the youngest was about to turn 2, I told Brandon: According to our schedule, I’m due for another infant this summer, but I’m super over babies so I’m going to birth a different kind. And I wrote my first book. Obviously writing a book no one asked for with three kids five and under is an Insane Person Choice, but sometimes you throw out logic and decide to run your race.

Do you know what else? I thought humor was one of my throw-away qualities forever. Surely that had no place in any Jesus Work. Frankly, it was something of a liability I thought, like I should overcome it and get serious, for the love. What kind of a Bible teacher loves Will Ferrell? I guessed I should just do my best with the Real Stuff and try to tamp down the humor, because I am a grown woman who Works For Jesus. But guess what? God made us all as an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualitites. In fact, those might help point you in just the right direction. Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, a preference, an experience, a tragedy, a quirk. NOTHING. It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good.

Maybe your best thing won’t draw a paycheck, but it is still where you shine and glow and come to life and bless the world. May I legitimize your gifts please? Just because you don’t get a paystub doesn’t mean you should shrink back or play small or give it all up. Do your thing. Play your note. We are all watching, learning, moved. You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better. Give your gifts the same attention and space and devotion like you would if it paid. (Or paid well. Some of us do our best, most meaningful work for peanuts. Do not be shamed out of your race for a bigger paycheck. I did not make a living as a writer for YEARS. My neighbor once when I told her I was a Christian author: “Oh! Is there a market for that?” Me: “I have no idea.”)

Run your race.

Maybe you need to invest in your gifts. Take a class. Go to a conference. Sign up for a seminar. Start that small business. Put that website up. Build in some space. Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it instead with no apologies. Do you know who is going to do this for you? NO ONE. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because at the end of the day, the only thing your fear netted you was one buried talent in a shallow grave.

How many of us are trotting out that tired cliché – “I’m waiting for God to open a door” – and He is all I love you, but get going, Precious Snowflake, because most of the time chasing the dream I put in your heart looks surprisingly like hard work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move. (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way; this is on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. This is the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given: USE IT.

Let the rest of us grin at you while you run your race. Let us be proud. Let us be inspired and grateful that God made you to do this thing and you are doing it LIKE A BOSS. The timing is never right. Forget that. It won’t just fall into your lap. That’s fake. You are probably not guaranteed success. Sorry. This might be a crapshoot. It will be hard and require sacrifices not just from you but maybe from your people and you might step out on shaky, shaky legs. But off you go because we were not created to stand still, even though that is safe and familiar and you are practically guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary.

We were made to run.


I’m grinning at you. We all are.

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