However, the last couple of years have not been easy. She became a widow after the loss of her husband. She decided to give up city politics, opting to not run for a third term, and she sold her house so she could move closer to my sister. For the first time in a long time, she has found herself in an unfamiliar city with a very small community of people who know her. She has been working at a high-end outlet to pass the time and earn some spending money, and she has learned how long days can be when one is standing behind the cash register ringing up clothing sales.
But something has happened recently. Customers have started to come in and ask for her by name. People have repeatedly told her how helpful she is. More clothing is being sold when she is on the sales floor. Her gifts are being identified, and a manager has started to take note. The more people ask for her, the more the district manager has come to see that she does not belong behind a cash register but instead could be doing so much more for the company. She has a series of interviews this week in order to discern what might be possible in the future.
At the same time, Mom sounds happier than she has sounded in a long time. She seems to be discovering her place in the world again - a place where she is noticed and where her gifts are utilized. She's excited about what tomorrow might hold and considering opportunities that she would have never considered before - all because people took time to identify her gifts and then make space for these gifts.
The same thing happens in the church regularly. I listened to a story last week of a colleague who is near 40 telling of what happened when he was growing up in a large church. An older woman in the congregation took him aside and said repeatedly, "Boy, you have gifts that God can use in the church. God is going to do great things with you." My colleague has not forgot the first time his gifts were noticed and named by this woman. Her voice continues to echo in his ears as he takes his next faithful step in church leadership.
There are gifted people all around us. Our churches are filled with remarkable people at all ages and stages of life. Many churches are filled with what one colleague would call, "an embarrassment of riches." At the same time, the church is in great need of committed, passionate, and creative leaders - lay and ordained. There are many around us with the capacity to awaken what some consider to be a sleeping giant.
How much time are we spending seeking to notice the gifts in people around us? How are we naming the wondrous talents and commitment of people in our pews? What are we doing to help people hear and respond to the call or claim God has placed on their life?
It takes only one voice to awaken the possibilities and potential found deep within the well of one's soul. It takes only one comment to ignite a lifetime of dreaming.
I see you, and I think you are remarkable. God's hand is upon your life. God has great things in store for you.