Gifts, strengths, self-worth

As I write this column, I’m sitting in a classroom with a group of eighth-grade students at the school my children attend. I’m teaching a journalism class one morning a week, and today we’re working on interviewing classmates. The students are learning about note-taking and question-asking and listening to what someone is saying, really paying attention.

The class has been fun to teach because it’s a wonderful group and because I enjoy writing. I was a newspaper reporter (once upon a time) and still do a lot of freelance writing. I love writing and love talking about it.

It’s always fun to use the gifts God has given us. The world is filled with all kinds of people who are good at so many different things and doing what we’re good at makes the world a brighter place. It’s not that I want to be the “best” at what I’m doing, but it’s a good feeling to do something that comes naturally.

That’s not always reality. There are times when we’re asked to do something that doesn’t come easy, when we are tasked with doing something and we know we aren’t the best. That can be frustrating and (even worse!) humbling. We’re confident when we know we have a lot to offer; it’s scary when we’re unsure.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to provide food for our neighborhood All Saints party. The senior class sells dinner at the event and two of us moms provided caramel apples. That afternoon, I gathered the ingredients and carefully got to work, melting and dipping. When the apples were ready, I meticulously wrapped each one in plastic and by the time we dropped them off, they were a hodgepodge of stickiness.

My friend, the other mom who brought apples, went a different route. She used popsicle sticks instead of skewers, didn’t wrap the apples and in fact dipped them in a variety of candies. They were gorgeous, and perfect, and sold out quickly. My apples, I’m sad to report, went mostly untouched. They sat on the tray, watching in embarrassment as their more attractive cousins got asked to dance. Over and over again.

I had tried my best, and the end result wasn’t the best. And that’s...okay. It’s not always fun or easy, but it’s life and it’s good. We will always have these opportunities to be not the best. To try hard, to do your best and still not be the best.

It’s not a bad thing, because it reminds me that my self-worth should never be wrapped up in what I do, but in who I am. My worth comes from something very simple: myself. I am a child of God, the apple of the eye of the King of the Universe. What a beautiful, miraculous thing!

I never want to be moving through life too confident in my own abilities. I want to do good; I want to use the gifts God has given me. But I also want to be challenged, to be in over my head (just a little), to be where my feet can’t touch, where I’m floating in grace, relying on God for the wisdom I need, in parenting, in writing, in practical life skills that don’t always come easy.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.”

We sing this song and ask Jesus to answer that prayer. Lord, help me never be so wrapped up in what I want, in what I know I can do on my own power, that I miss the chance to be who you would have me be. Let me be your hands and feet, and surprise me Lord, with what you call me to do. Let my strength and worth come from you alone, for that is where I will find true peace and happiness.

Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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