Sharing Gifts

As I scrolled through a preview of the photos in this post, I thought to myself, “Wow! All seven kids are in this post! That doesn’t usually happen.” Then I remembered that actually, there are eight of them. The weather seems like it has warmed up for good, and everyone is spending lots of time outdoors. The goats’ fence was completed, and a gate hung. Jonny is almost finished with his small chicken coop and we got it set up to house our chicks. Next up, he’ll work on our large portable coop. I’ve been working on spring playsilks, perfect for lining Easter baskets! I’ve also dyed a bit of yarn and I’ll be updating my shop on Friday, March 31st at 11 a.m. ESTΒ  11:30 a.m. EST with the yarn, playsilks, and goat milk soap!

Keats and Gabe were both confirmed over the weekend. Jonny and I led their confirmation team through all the required service projects over the past year and a half, and we are pleased and somewhat relieved that the boys passed this milestone!

All three of our older boys attended a youth group over the weekend for the first time. To say that they didn’t like it would be an understatement. Afterwards, Seth shared with me all the reasons he’d rather not go back, convinced that it isn’t going to benefit him or his brothers. Today, in discussion with me and my friend Eve about it, she turned things around by asking Seth if he had thought about how he might benefit others by being there. “Have you thought about what you might have to offer them?” It totally stumped him. No, he hadn’t thought about that. Β He didn’t argue, knowing she had made a valid point. Another friend and I exchanged glances, “Whoa–that was good.” Β It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about how we can get our kids involved in this or that, with only their benefit in mind. As parents we are constantly asking ourselves if we are making the right choices for the good of our children. Sometimes we might make the right choices, but for the wrong reasons. I need to step outside that mindset and work harder to remind each of my kidsΒ that they have gifts to offer. “It’s not just about you!” Yeah, youth group may not be their favorite thing, maybe they didn’t connect with anyone their first time. Maybe they don’t even want to right now. But what if there’s a kid there that could benefit from what one of my boys has to say? Tonight we got into another discussion about this and my boys all claimed that they don’t have any gifts to share. So I started naming their gifts. The little girls overheard, and of course they wanted me to tell them what I think their gifts are as well. I was a little surprised by how much they needed to hear these things. Sometimes we all need a reminder. Every single one of us has gifts we can share with others. Right now, I need to focus my gifts on helping my children uncover theirs and learn how to use them for the greater good. I’m definitely going to work on that.

Comments

  1. Yes, sharing our gifts- that’s so important. One of your gifts is writing, Ginny, and your space here is a blessing to so many. Love to you!

  2. Oh please please let your son use his obvious gift of discernment! He may well be a watchman on the wall crying out a warning to your other sons.

    Rare is the youth group that is not full of foolishness.

    If you have taught him good principles, trust him to live them out before God. If he saw a foul influence that you and your friend missed, it could be very unwise to urge him to ignore it.

    • Oh, no. That is not the case here. This wasn’t a case of good vs. bad principles or a child warning of danger, more a matter of taste and annoyance over having to do something he didn’t enjoy. Our youth group is actually a very good one and in our close knit, conservative parish. There is a speaker each week talking about something related to the Catechism and our faith (he found that boring, already “knew it all”), then the teens are split up into small gender segregated groups to discuss (he found this plain annoying), but the clincher was when they turned on contemporary Christian music during prayer time. Seth prefers classical, currently Haydn piano sonatas and Bach fugues. πŸ™‚ At any rate, my intention here wasn’t to make a case for forcing youth group on anyone. Every situation is different and as parents we must each discern what is best for our own children, hopefully encouraging them along the way to focus beyond what they can get out of life, but instead what they can bring to the table themselves. πŸ™‚

  3. Eleanor Cavin says:

    Lovely!

  4. This discovery you all have made/are making, is such a good one. In our work here in France (but I think it’d be the same in many other places), we have often run into a person’s reluctance to get involved with or attend a group, a meeting, you name it, and usually because they don’t see what they’ll get from it. And I’ve often said to my husband (and need to start saying more clearly and oftener to others), yes, but the group won’t be the same without x or y! And, apparently, C.S. Lewis said something along these lines when mourning the loss of one of the Inklings. He said that not only had they lost the deceased individual, but they lost what he alone brought out of each person in their group. So, when one of us is absent, in fact a kind of world disappears–the loss is exponential. And just think, the gain, when we add ourselves to the group, is also exponential! We really do need each other. Members of one body. It is more blessed to give than to receive… May we take what you’ve shared in this post to heart.

  5. Each of us is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value, which education alone can reveal to the betterment of mankind. πŸ™‚ It is an important thing for kids to learn/know that they have something of value to give/share with others. πŸ™‚

  6. Such a great reminder. It’s easy to approach things from the perspective of our own benefit (even as adults), but, of course, it isn’t always about us. And it is always a beautiful blessing to take a moment to remember the gifts that have been given to us. I think I’ll take a moment today to remind my loved ones of their own. Thanks, Ginny. <3

  7. Something I think we all forget: we like validation for our existence. We hardly ever tell others why we appreciate them, what we think they bring to the table, but at the same time, we long for someone to tell us those very things. I’m not surprised that the girls wanted to hear that after listening to their bigger brothers being told.

  8. wise words for your teens and I believe for each of us. I frequently fall into the trap of what I get out of something and don’t think of what I have to give. Wonderful lesson for lent. Loved seeing all the kids!!

  9. Yes, something to remember for us and our kids. Turn the question on its head and instead of asking what am I getting from this, ask how can I help or benefit others? Sometimes it seems my children’s gifts are so obvious, that I think they already know what they are, but like you said, they always enjoy hearing what their gifts are, and they often seem more surprised than I think should be. I guess what is obvious to us, isn’t always obvious to them.

  10. I counted 8 kids in the pictures πŸ™‚

  11. What a great perspective and challenge for your boys. And, yes, we all need reminded of our gifts and what we have to offer. Too often we get swept up in what we do or don’t get out of something. What a wonderful reminder.

  12. One of my husband’s cousins became a Presbyterian minister after a long career in business. She definitely had the calling! Years ago, I confided in her that we had been “church-shopping” and just couldn’t find the church home for us. She said to take the JFK approach – ask what we could do for a church rather than what could the church do for us. Brilliant! We went on to find a wonderful Episcopal church where, unbeknownst to us, we actually knew the rector. I ended up being extremely involved (before my children were born), perhaps too involved or too many things at once, but I took the lesson to heart and discovered that it truly is about giving the gifts of your time and talent. We all have something to offer and get so much in return. Love this post and seeing all of your beautiful family. Peace and Blessings!

  13. jeannette says:

    i know your boys are musical. i belong to a church i like very much, but the [soft christian rock which sounds musically and lyrically like ad jingles] is so off putting i sometimes take out my hearing aids. (i am not a teenager.) seriously, if your boys are advanced and independent, they will need sophisticated religious instruction. i can recommend no better catholic teacher than richard rohr; many of the men in my [protestant] church are devotees of fr. richard, who among other things has this [perhaps unintended] men’s ministry. maybe your boys need advanced catholic teaching. i suspect they do.
    having been exposed to woefully undereducated sunday school teachers as a teenager, i have to tell you it kept me away from church for 40 years.
    here’s the contact for richard rohr. i signed up for his daily meditations. they’re terrific.
    https://cac.org/richard-rohr/richard-rohr-ofm/

  14. Thanks for the reminder to look at things from another angle. Appreciate it!

  15. Ah yes, gifts. I don’t name them to my children or tell them of those gifts often enough. Thanks for the reminder!

  16. Elizabeth says:

    I love this!! I tell my daughter all the time her gifts. BUT I don’t take the time I should with my students!! I know it’s meaningful to them when I do. Thank you!!!

  17. Quite coincidental, that I had this conversation with one of the teen leaders of our YG this week – Yes; I can see where the discussions are not be “deep enough” for you – but you are there as leaven in the loaf. BTW, I have three of the leaders who are homeschooled. They are vastly more spiritually attuned than the majority of the teens….

    I’d love to know WHY your boys didn’t like YG.

  18. My husband brings up the idea that your friend did, “what if it’s what WE bring to them?” I always want to shout back, “Don’t come at me with your logic and reasoning!” But he’s right and so is your friend. We have teenage twin boys who are now in a public high school. They attended Catholic elementary & middle school. Of course they have friends who come from divorced families. When I tire of having this boy or that boy over for an evening (or sleep over) I remind myself that it’s not about me. It’s about the kids teaching other kids about living a life that is all about goodness and light. Kids are often able to teach that to their friends, classmates, acquaintances, etc. better than any parent ever could. Especially when they’re at the age that they’re looking more to fit in with their peers than they fit in at home (or wanting parent’s approval).
    Thanks for the thoughtful post and the reminder that we all have gifts!

  19. Silvia Alvarez says:

    I am a follower from Argentina, I always find your comments wonderful, and serve me enrich my daily life and inspire others. My affections go Silvia Alvarez

  20. Thank you for sharing. It is a balance. I don’t my kids to turn away from the world, but I am sometimes worried about the influence that the world has on them. With that said, we all do have gifts, and it is nice for others, even our mothers, to notice. I need to share with my kids more what I think their gifts are than what their weaknesses may be. Take care.

  21. My dad is a very traditional Catholic and I grew up altar serving and taking church VERY seriously. Having never attended Sunday school (Dad always said the best education was actually going to Mass!), youth group was a huge shock to my system and I had a hard time adjusting to it.

    My parish went through many changes while I was a teen; different priests with different outlooks, several youth ministers (including one who quit because she couldn’t handle teenagers!), and drama from some of the youth over all these issues. Ultimately I got involved in the youth group leadership team, and ended up making firm friendships with many of my peers. It was a good thing for me, but I never grew to like contemporary worship music! And that’s fine with me. πŸ™‚

    I really like that you’re giving your boys time to try it out. They seem a lot more self-aware than I was at their age, so I’m sure they’ll make the right decisions for themselves.

  22. That is something I don’t think about much either, that I have something to give. I am a Christian and I have hope. Many people around me don’t have what I have. I may not enjoy something, but if I can be a blessing to someone else, that is a good thing. We can be so self-focused.

  23. Our kids weren’t involved with youth groups at our former parish. We had heard bad reports about how banal and trite it was and how ill-prepared the leaders were. A new pastor slightly improved things, but one of my friends’ kids said that while it wasn’t heretical and they made it fun, she really didn’t learn anything and consider it a waste of a good Sunday afternoon. Most of the kids I knew went because it was required to be confirmed. We did not want our children to associate religion with boredom or adults trying to “relate” to teenagers. Also, all these programs lump kids into one group and think of of them as homogeneous. Excuse me, but my kids actually do like (and sing) traditional music, not sentimental evangelical songs. They don’t listen to Taylor Swift or are into the latest fad or movie (which puts them at a “disadvantage” for some youth group activities). One of reasons I homeschool is because I don’t think it’s natural to segregate young people into rigid groups by age. I don’t appreciate the local parish mimicking the local public school nonsense (but with religion tacked on).

    I think a parent has to be careful about pushing a kid to join in an activity he doesn’t like because he might bring good to others. That kind of attitude assumes that our child will be the influential one and not vice versa. Usually those kind of influential children have strong personalities and are leaders. Some sensitive kids might wither under those conditions or give in just to get along. Our first obligation as parents forming the delicate souls of children is to consider how something will help or harm our children, not the formation of other people’s children. I’ve heard the “warrior” view from some parents who send their kids to public school. “My kid is great and he can be a missionary!” That works sometimes (and sometimes produces arrogance), but most often it backfires and it is the Christian kid who becomes “missionized” by the world. Children are adults in formation; they shouldn’t be asked to do the adult combat yet.

    • Kate, I totally agree! It really does depend on the child and the situation, and we each have to use our discretion. My intent here was to share my goal of helping my children discover their unique gifts beyond a purely selfish mentality–not to make a case for youth group! In our case, we have two sons with strong leadership skills. We also are very blessed to have an amazing high school youth program at our church, otherwise, I’d not be encouraging them to attend. We’re also just asking for a four week trial, to give it a fair try before totally dismissing it. And you know what the number one complaint was? The music! πŸ™‚

  24. My 4 kids go to school so their perspective is somewhat different from your kids’. They’re used to being in groups. They connect with some of the kids, don’t connect with the others. That’s all okay. They can choose their own friends (both inside and out of school) and are generally very sociable.

    However, when some sctrutured group thing is up and they don’t feel like going/attending, we always tell them: This is not about you. You are just one part of the whole. Your handball team needs your skills; your syncro swimming team needs you for the choreography; your school group needs you to do your part of the project, so that the whole project turns out ok. You will attend that birthday party because your friend was really nice to invite you and will miss you if you don’t go (for the 4 yo, who’d rather stay home).

    I guess in our quest to honour and respect our children’s needs and individuality we tend to forget the world does not revolve around them and that we are, by nature, social=caring beings. We need to engage them with the whole of society, and not the other way round. We have to teach them to say Yes!, rather than, No, I don’t feel like…

    I’ve been following your blog for some years now. You are gentle and caring. Your children will turn out just fine!

  25. I passionately hated youth group as a teenager. As a 35 year old volunteer, I now love it! What a great perspective, “what do YOU bring to the table” – I’m going to use that with my reluctant participants πŸ™‚

  26. You are so right, Ginny, as parents we tend to focus mainly on what benefit a particular thing will grant to our own child, not how they might help someone else. Definitely something I will have to work on. If that is your new portable coop behind the other coop, it is huge! I would show it to my husband but he would just laugh at me! My son is only 9 but quite interested in woodwork and building; maybe someday I can convince him to build things like this! πŸ™‚

  27. Jennifer says:

    I love the perspective you shared – with children it is a balance of enhancing and sharing their gifts while also reminding them that the world does not revolve around them. Good reminder–if they are 2 or 22!
    I enjoy your blog very much.

  28. Love this perspective! We all need to be reminded that we have gifts to offer and are important to others. So much value in that. It’s hard to remember that!

  29. I also hated youth group as a teen (as well as Sunday morning Teen Sunday School before church). We moved to a new church where the teens had known each other since babyhood, all went to the same schools, and had no interest in befriending a shy and awkward new kid. I’d grown up in a warm and connected church and homeschool community where I never felt like an outsider. I’ll admit I never learned to love that church but I did grow through the experience. My Mom gave me very similar advice. She reminded me that the Bible commands us to practice hospitality, and that can occur anywhere. Rather than focusing on my own disinterest and feeling awkward because the main groups weren’t including me she challenged me to look around, see who else was new or alone or outcast for being “weird”, and extend hospitality and friendship to them. It worked. I almost always had someone to sit with, and the other kids felt included. I find it still works today. I’m an introvert who dreads large parties with strangers. Instead of joining in with a busily talking group I follow my mom’s advice and look for whoever is standing alone or to the side. We both have more fun, and I’ve even made a few friends that way.

  30. I love that line of thinking- may have to use it on my students! It is a good reminder for all of us, that it’s not just about us and how we benefit.
    Your family is so beautiful and it’s such an encouragement to see them all

  31. Fabienne Maitre says:

    wow such aremider. thank you so much! i’ll tell to my husband for our kids!

  32. Shelley Knoll-Miller says:

    Wow. such a useful insight. My 12 year old is really struggling with church at the moment. Not mass but a very kid-focused baptist church. He doesn’t connect with the kids his own age who go there. Seeing as when he goes he does seem to connect with a younger child I’ll use this idea to try and help him think differently about it. i.e. “I think Noah will miss chatting with you about Lego and Terraria if you don’t go. It prob. makes his day to have a cooler older kid to talk to”. etc etc. Thanks.
    I know giving to others brings happiness for myself but I forget sometimes to teach my kids this simple rule of life.

  33. Lovely.! God bless!

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