"You're Kimberly, right?" he asked.
"My daughter, right?" He nodded in a half statement, half question.
"Right." I smiled.
He patted my knee and looked at me. "You know I was married before."
"I know." A little chuckle rippling through my response, "to my mother." (My parents divorced and my dad remarried over 30 years ago.)
We sat in silence side by side on the sofa like strangers on a park bench. I longed to find the question that would connect us back together again. I silently search my mind for one memory we could share.
Talking to my dad is like a waltz these days as wisps of memory dance in and out of our conversations. Timing is everything. Mornings are better than evenings. In person is better than phone calls. Sharing his childhood memories are better than mine. A question answer cadence is repeated over and over-1-2-3, 1-2-3.
God is teaching me many things through my dad's journey with dementia.
My dad can no longer join me in the world in which I live. The present day is missing for him. He often struggles with knowing if it is morning or evening, or even if he is married or not. When I go visit him, I can't expect to have a conversation with him as I have had in the past. He doesn't really know who I am. To him, I have become "that nice young person who came to visit."
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As each of you has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. I Peter 4:10
Can I tell you a secret?
I really don’t like to cook.
When I see on Facebook or get a text that someone has started a meal train for a friend in need, I start to sweat. Simultaneously feelings of guilt and shame begin to bead-up on my forehead. In my world of church ministry, not cooking for others brings a form of judgment. I often feel less than because cooking meals for others simply isn't me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my friends and care deeply about them; I just don’t like to cook. I feed my family, I make great game-day appetizers and snack food, but I am not a meat and casserole, Pinterest meal-maker.
It’s not my gift, nor my passion.
I Peter 4:10-11 tells us that we have all received a gift. A gift grounded in God’s grace. A gift given to provide grace-filled service to others. A God glory glowing gift.
Our gifts are unique. Our gifts are varied. Our gifts are precious. Our gifts are to be valued.
When the meal-train text comes around, I can begin to feel “less than” because I don’t want to ride that train. But, God wants me to realize I wasn’t gifted to ride the meal train. I was gifted in a different way. I was meant to ride a different train.
Need prayer? Ask me. I’m good at talking with God. Prayer doesn’t make me sweat; it makes my heart soar. Need encouragement? A strong hug? A good book recommendation? I’m your girl. My gifts use words to encourage hearts and souls, not meals.
I may never make you a meal, but I might meet you for coffee or bring you Chick-Fil-A for dinner. I’ll sit with you, talk with you, weep with you, or maybe even make you laugh. These are my gifts. These are the physical manifestations of God’s grace I can offer you.
In the same way, God has uniquely gifted you. He has placed within you passions, talents and desires that are uniquely yours. The gifts you have been given are meant to be used in service to Him. Your gifts matter. You matter. You can touch others in ways that I cannot. I am grateful for my friends who think about meals, but I am also grateful for my friends who send me random texts of encouragement. Each one is using her gift to serve her God to meet a need in my life.
I’m learning to embrace my gifts. I’m learning to lean into God’s spirit to notice the moments He’s nudging me to use my gifts to offer grace to those around me. How about you? What gift do you need to embrace today? Ask God to show you how He wants to use your gifts today to offer grace to someone who needs it. It could mean making a casserole for the next meal train, but it might not.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.