Friday, August 2, 2013

Naming and claiming gifts

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon facilitating a retreat on naming gifts at Wilmington Yearly Meeting, the umbrella group for my home faith community of Cincinnati Friends. They meet annually for business and a have added a retreat segment. I was honored to have been asked, but more honored to have been a part of such a rich experience.

Days before, I wasn't certain if I could even make it thanks to something I'd eaten. I'd awakened the night before and asked God to get me through and to the retreat. She did, beautifully.

My youngest, Lily, tagged along as my assistant. She's my right hand at Artst Fartsy, so I knew she'd be good company for this session. Besides, I like exposing her to the wider Quaker world. She felt right at home as soon as we walked in the door: the director of the Quaker camp Lily'd spent two weeks at in June and her daughter warmly greeted us.

Choosing materials for "Heart Play"
Lily had helped me pack baskets of stones, gems, driftwood, beads, blocks and buttons into the car, unload them and turn the multi-purpose room into a playful, more inviting space. Creating that kind of environment is one of my gifts, I've recently recognized.

Through no plan of my own, I'd happened to be the subject of a clearness committee at the beginning of the week. Quakers own a wonderful process that allows those struggling or seeking to answer a question with a group-discernment process that helps the focus person tap their inner teacher and truth. Mine began to uncover my blocks to fully following where God calls me, including my fear of being in the limelight and expecting to be paid for use of my gifts outside of the secular realm. We haven't finished and are scheduling a second meeting.

Lily and I had arrived a couple of hours ahead of my part of the retreat and set up rather quickly. It gave me time to get to know a few folks better, including the woman who'd invited me. She's pretty darn wise and when she said she's really learned to live in the present, I asked her how. "I plan like mad, then I relax on the day of the event, so I can be very present." She echoed what I was beginning to learn and practice.

So I was relaxed and even willing to share something very dear to me: a story in the form of a waking dream I received about myself and my work, but also so universal and about God's transforming love. I used it at the beginning of the retreat. About a third of the way through, people asked if I would use a microphone. I've been told I have a good reading voice and I also know I have trouble projecting. I am afraid of totally being out there.

Instead of being fearful of the mic, it actually empowered me. As we were switching to an exercise, one of the beloved women from my meeting (church), gave me a piece of advise she'd received from her father as she began a teaching career. "Speak to the person farthest away and then you'll have no trouble. Otherwise you talk to yourself." Of course, the teacher voice I use for Artsy Fartsy and with my own kids.

As we all began to feel more comfortable with one another and discussed the difficulty in naming and claiming our own gifts, I disclosed my challenge to embrace being in the spotlight. I feel more like a guide than someone barking what should be done.

Interestingly, an older gentleman shared how all it takes is knowing God deeply within to see our gifts. His brazenness scared me, yet he said knowing God in that way leaves no room for doubt and feeling wounded is, well, ridiculous.

Of course he's right, yet I also think he doesn't see that some of us are wired differently. Others responded that fear is an obstacle, that we are varied people with varied gifts and, so very tenderly, in worship, my minister revealed how a member of our faith community who recently took her life could not see her gifts. On some level, we all concluded that it is paramount that we share our gifts in community and encourage each other to name and claim those gifts.

Funny thing, this retreat, in which I was "facilitator" helped me to claim my own. Imagine that.

• What are my gifts?
• How can other help me name and claim them?
• How can I do that for others?
• How do I pray to know my gifts?
• How do I use those gifts in community?

riding in on the
wave of a warm day

into a group
of mostly strangers

the tide swiftly
changes as we
worship our way in

listening, deeply,
for God, within ourselves
and to each other

as always,
Spirit responds
lovingly and
with Truth

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