Dandelions and Spiritual Gifts

dandelionhand1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

When my children were little they’d run into the house, their knees scuffed, their cheeks smudged with dirt, and their hands stuffed full of dandelions. A gift for me. They’d smile when I’d pull a vase from the cupboard and treat those weeds with the same care as I would a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.

One day, one of the neighbor girls came in with my daughter and handed me a fistful of flowers. After hugging my daughter and adding yet another vase full of yellow blooms to my collection, I tried to encourage the neighbor child to take her bouquet home to her mommy. She pouted, shook her head, then proceeded to stuff her fist toward me again. “My mommy just throws them in the trash.” Stunned and not knowing what else to do, I took the flowers from her and gave them the same special treatment I’d given the bouquets from my daughter.

It made me wonder how many times, like her mother, we have refused the gifts God has given us. How many times have we missed the blessing God wants to bestow on us? When we’re asked to be a substitute for a Sunday school class, do we turn away? Do we shrink back from an evangelistic effort because we’re afraid? Do we refuse to sing in the choir because we question our ability?

How often have we thought of someone, even felt led to call them, encourage them, and perhaps utter some of God’s truth in their ear? But we never do. Aren’t we missing the blessing–the gift that comes back to each one of us when we do God’s will?

Do we miss out on what God has in store for us by doubting our faith? Do we ever wonder if God is in control? Do we doubt His ability to meet our needs? Do we question His ability to perform miracles (through us and for us)? Faith is a gift.

How many times, like my neighbor, have we thrown God’s gifts into the trash and never looked back? Because of our disregard for the gifts He wants to give us, we’ve never witnessed the joy on God’s face—the same joy I saw on that little girl’s face when I took her flowers and set them in a place of honor at my kitchen table.

From that day forward, until the little girl’s family moved away, she brought me dandelions. If God sees He can trust us with one gift, He will provide another, and another. He will multiply our blessings because of our faithfulness and willingness to step out in faith. Sometimes this means having to face our fears, but remember, if God has ordained it, He will help you achieve it.

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Linking Arms

Talk about lousy timing! After accepting the position of president for my local writer’s group, HIS Writers, I was shocked when the Lord asked me to stop pursuing book publication. “Why are you asking me to work for writers if you won’t let me write?” I whined.

His answer was tender, “This is for you–a gift.”

And so it was. As chaos swirled in my life friends in HIS Writers linked arms with me and kept me sane. Though multiple family crises didn’t allow much writing time, staying involved kept me learning, growing, and networking as a writer. As the difficult season drew to a close, HIS Writers cheered as I received my first book contract.

There are many practical reasons to get involved in a writing group. Below are some reasons to connect–and also things to look for as you choose where to belong.

Networking

HIS Writers in 2010

There’s great value in finding support among your peers, but there’s also the business aspect of networking. Because of networking in HIS Writers, I received my first free-lance editing job. I’ve also been in the position to sub-contract part of my free-lance writing, and I looked to the people in my group when it came time to hire. It was a joy to offer a first publishing opportunity to some gifted writers. My first fiction book contract came about through a friend in the group. Never underestimate the power of peer relationships.

In many vibrant writing groups, you don’t only network with peers. Through HIS Writers I’ve met people from across the publishing world–authors, editors, even a publisher! Two agents from WordServe Literary spoke to our group. I also networked with the store manager where we meet. He’s promised me a prime spot during the next holiday season for a book signing!

Education

Good writing groups offer you a chance to develop professionally. Advanced writers and speakers teach craft. Critique groups help members develop. Strong groups also educate  about the business of writing.

HIS Writers board with the speaker of our first Novel Crafters Seminar of the Rockies. Left to right: Donna Schlachter, Susan May Warren, Paula Moldenhauer, Linda Abels, and Jill Hups

Cheerleaders

We’ve all watched eyes glaze over when non-writer family and friends are no longer tracking with us. As excited as our loved ones get as they watch us succeed, they often don’t understand the journey. We need cheerleaders who’ve felt the sting of rejection and know how to get up and try again. We need wise counsel from people who’ve been there.

A Chance to Give Back

As Christian writers we’re on the same team, working toward eternal impact. There are many ways to serve in a writing group. While getting involved with a local leadership team is rewarding, giving back can be as simple as cheering on the person seated next to you.

I recently accepted the position of Colorado Coordinator for the American Christian Fiction Writers. My passion is to see others benefit as I have from strong local chapters. How about you? Have writing groups helped you? How have you given back? What do you wish your local group had to offer?