When Annesley was three years old, she loved puzzles. But rather than fitting the edge pieces together or tackling certain sections of the picture, she would methodically work from left to right, trying each of the two or three hundred tiny pieces in sequence like some sort of towheaded computer.
Later, when she learned to write, Annesley became a list maker. At night, she would pick out clothes to wear to school the next day, and then make a list of the clothes and how they were to be worn (“Pull socks up to knees”), just in case she forgot. When she babysat for her younger siblings, we always came home to a written report (“Virginia fell on my homework and pulled my pants down”). And one New Year’s Eve I found Annesley working away on her top ten resolutions, recorded in capital letters for added significance:
EXERCISE EVERY SATURDAY.
GO TO BED AT 8:30.
TALK TO GOD EVERY MORNING. (A noble goal, to be sure, but clearly less important than Annesley’s desire to HAVE A GOOD BIRTHDAY).
In addition to making lists, Annesley liked to clean out her drawers, label sections of her closet according to season, and keep track of things like assignments, appointments, and family vacations on the calendar she got from the dentist. None of my other kids were so compulsive, and I didn’t know any other seven-year-olds who begged to make chore charts for the family. To be honest, I didn’t really know how to take Annesley. I thought she was quirky. In a good sort of way.
It was not until years later – as I watched my girl make hard jobs look easy, pay attention to small details, and visualize goals and the steps needed to get there – that I realized she was not quirky. Annesley has a God-given gift of organization.
My friend Susan Alexander Yates, who wrote a book called Character Matters: Raising Kids with Values that Last, advises parents to pay attention to the gifts that God gives their children, and clue them in on the fact that God has given them these talents or abilities for a purpose. “A sense of destiny,” Susan says, “will encourage our children. Learning to recognize their gifts will enable them to discern more quickly the ways in which God might use them.”
By the same token, learning to recognize our gifts can help us (or our children) avoid misusing them. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.” That’s true. But perfect gifts in the hands of imperfect people can sometimes be tricky.
Organizers, for instance, may be really good delegators, but they can also be bossy. They can become easily frustrated when others are slow to grasp their vision. And they can put projects ahead of people, neglecting the Colossians 3:14 command to cover all of our virtues with love.
How do I know these things? Because I am an organizer. And as Annesley grew, I prayed that in sharing my gifts, she would be spared my tendencies to misuse them.
Today, Annesley works at an architecture firm, designing buildings and managing construction projects for big universities where inches and dollars both matter. (She actually likes to keep track of that stuff.) And God continues to use her organizational abilities and her Be Prepared personality to bless our family; she’s the one we can always count on to have Advil, a notepad, and money.
(And Annes, if you are reading this, thank you.)
But here’s the thing. Maybe your child’s not an organizer. Maybe she is an accomplished musician, or a technological whiz. Maybe his heart beats with compassion, and you already see him caring for people who hurt. Maybe your child is a leader. Or maybe he or she delights in encouraging others who lead.
If you want to discover (and celebrate) the way that God created your children, I’ve got some good news.
First, this post was excerpted from Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, which Amazon is offering right now in the Kindle version for just $2.99. Click here to get a copy (or, if you already have the book, consider passing this news along to a friend).
And, even better, the fact that God gives our kids gifts – and that he equips them to use them – is actually an invitation to pray. There are so many good verses that speak to this topic (check out Exodus 31:1-5, Romans 12:6-8, or Proverbs 22:29 for just some of the gifts God provides), but here’s an all-purpose prayer we can use. Because it doesn’t matter how old our kids are, how organized (or not) they might be, or even how totally committed they are to getting exercise EVERY SATURDAY: God loves them just the way they are, and he has a wonderful plan for their lives!
Equip ______ to use whatever gift they have received to serve others, faithfully administering your grace in all its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)