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What Are Your Gifts?

with Shaunti Feldhahn | March 4, 2011

What gift has God given you? Gifted author Shaunti Feldhahn encourages women to engage their passions by pursuing the gifts God has given them. Shaunti explains how she went from Wall Street analyst to budding author by following God’s nudges to try something new.

What gift has God given you? Gifted author Shaunti Feldhahn encourages women to engage their passions by pursuing the gifts God has given them. Shaunti explains how she went from Wall Street analyst to budding author by following God’s nudges to try something new.

What Are Your Gifts?

With Shaunti Feldhahn
|
March 04, 2011
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  Let’s be honest for a moment.  Have you ever looked at the competing demands of your life and thought, “I just can’t do all of this . . . and I don’t know who can”?

Well, Shaunti Feldhahn knows how you feel.

Shaunti:  It doesn’t matter if you are a young woman right out of college trying to figure out what to do with your life, or if you’re the single mom, or you’re the career executive, or you’re the empty-nester, or whatever.  We as women are balancing and juggling so much and it’s like, “How do I balance my life?” 

Well, you know what?  God has given us this prescription, the Bible.  Here’s how you do it!

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 4th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  We’re going to talk today about women, about lives, about balance – with our guest Shaunti Feldhahn. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us. 

Are you feeling more in touch with your feminine side as a result of all this conversation?

Dennis:  Are you talking about being in touch with Barbara?

Bob:  No. 

(Laughter)

Bob:  Well, I guess that is your feminine side, isn’t it?

Dennis:  Yes, that is my feminine side!

(Laughter)

And the answer is, “Yes.”  I am feeling much more equipped to encourage her in life.  I’ve got an assignment there, you know?  I’m to be a good steward of my wife’s life.  It doesn’t mean that I own her.  It’s not that she’s my possession.  But as her husband, God’s given me the responsibility to make sure she is not wasted.

Bob:  That’s what nurture and cherish is supposed to look like, right?

Dennis:  It is, and we’ve been helped all this week by a wise woman.  Shaunti Feldhahn joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Shaunti, welcome back.

Shaunti:  Good to be with you, as always.

Dennis:  Shaunti is the featured speaker on a brand new 8-session video series called “LifeReady Woman.”  It’s also the name of a book, LifeReady Woman, as well, and you’re all about equipping women in small group Bible studies with this video series around their major calling in life.  The major assignments God has for her.

Shaunti:  Yes.  It’s basically a biblical prescription for life balance, and a big part of that is how are you, personally, as a woman, designed? 

Dennis:  And part of that design is that a woman step out in faith and make sure she is using her gifts and abilities wisely.  Interestingly, you’ve created this Bible study for women to be led by women.  You’re talking about tapping into some women who have the ability to organize and form small groups and use this video and host it in their church or their community.

Shaunti:  Yes.  There’s basically a grid that we’ve been talking about all week, of sort of, “What is the biblical design and calling that we can live our life by, and make these choices as we’re juggling all these things in life?”

You know, one of them we talked about was being designed to leave and cleave, and be fruitful and multiply – the job description that God gave Adam and Eve.  But the third one is this idea of subdue and rule.  Subdue the earth and rule over it.

It basically means:  Advance God’s Kingdom.  Do it in ways that are specific to your gifting.  And do it beyond the home.  This is not in the home. It is beyond the home, and into the world. 

For some women, it may mean that one of the things that is their gifting is they love organizing.  These are the women who end up facilitating the Bible studies in the churches when they do this stuff, because that’s an example of what lights them up.

That’s the kind of stuff that makes them go, “Oh, wow.  I never thought of that.”  But that is a “subdue and rule” calling.

Bob:  Does a woman subdue and rule differently than a man does?  Or is this one of those areas where it’s just basically, “What’s your gift?,” and you do it according to your gifting?

Shaunti:  Oh, gosh, I think probably both.  I think that we in the Christian community sometimes don’t really encourage women to use their gifts in this way.  We kind of, as women (and I don’t think people necessarily say it overtly), think, “Wait a minute.  Aren’t I supposed to, while my kids are small, just be a stay-at-home mom and not do any of this other stuff?” 

The reality is that God has told us that these are the three things we are designed for.  If we don’t do them, life won’t work.

Dennis:  As you’ve been talking, I’ve been smiling because I couldn’t help but think about, over the past 34 years, how many of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways have been hosted by couples who brought our conference to their community.  I say “couples,” but actually if you looked at who really does the work. . .

(Laughter)

Shaunti:  Let me take a guess!

Dennis:  Yes, it’s the women who have gotten the brochures to the bookstores and to the churches.  They’ve made the phone calls and networked with other people.  There are some real heroes across the country:  couples who cared about the marriages and families in their community.  But the real driving force – I mean the one who carried the mail, literally - was the woman, who was making those calls and really putting in hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of hours on behalf of marriages and families.

Shaunti:  And that is such a great example, Dennis, because I can guarantee you that a lot of those women would call themselves “stay-at-home moms.”  The reality is that for any woman, regardless of whether they work or don’t work, God has given you some individual skills, individual abilities, for a purpose. 

There is this great passage that applies to men and women.  It’s in Ephesians -  Ephesians 2:10 (and I love this comment).  He says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do.”

You have this picture of a Creator sitting down and sort of piecing you together just perfectly, because He had in mind all this stuff He wants you to do with this specific set of giftings.  If you, as a woman, don’t do those things, then you’re going to feel incomplete.  You’re going to feel like you’re not functioning in the way you were designed.

So don’t ever let anybody tell you “You’re not allowed to do that stuff.”  Because that’s what God has gifted you for.

Bob:  If a wife says to you, “You know, in this season of life where I’ve got young kids and I’m a mom, I am perfectly contented to make those two priorities my sole responsibilities.  I’ll save that engagement outside for a later season, but right now I’m happy to just focus on these two areas”. . .

Shaunti:   Like husband and kids?

Bob:  Yes.  Do you say, “OK, that’s fine”?  Or do you say, “No, you need to have something going on out in the kingdom”?

Shaunti:  Well, here’s the way that it looks like God has designed us (from the Scriptures).  First of all, there are seasons of life, OK?  You are going to fulfill what we call the three “core callings”:  the “leave and cleave,” “be fruitful and multiply,” and “subdue and rule.”  You’re going to fulfill them differently depending on your season of life. 

I have two small children.  There are just things that I can’t do.  But, you know what?  The thing for us as women to realize is that it’s all about this biblical prescription.  What will make us thrive?  What will give us peace? 

You know what?  Sometimes, there are things that God has called us to do that would light us up and that would actually, if we did them to advance the Kingdom, make us more relaxed rather than more stressed.

Yes, if something’s going to make you more stressed, there’s a problem.  Don’t do that.  But there are some things that you may be doing more in some ways, but it doesn’t feel like it, because it’s how you’re designed.

Let me give you an example.  When we were doing the test Bible study for the LifeReady Woman group, it was at a church in suburban Atlanta and we did the, you know, evening version of the study.  There was a woman who came in each time – and we didn’t ask her to do this – but she just showed up each time to supplement the coffee that the church provided.  She kept showing up with a pan of shortbread, or brownies one day, and cookies the next time.  Nobody asked her.  She just did it!  She loved it, and she got all these great comments.  She just smiled.  It kind of lit her up!

She was this very, very busy stay-at-home mom.  She had all these kids.  But this was something that relaxed her.  It was something that she loved to do.  We realized that it was an example of a gift of hospitality that God has given her.  There are some people who would say, “Ohhh, it’s my night for the brownies.”  And that’s an example of something that is not your gift. 

Dennis:  Right.

Shaunti:  But she was functioning in her gift.  It naturally came out of her.  It didn’t feel like a burden.  It was a way for her to bless all of these other women in this group.  To her, it seemed so little, and she was shocked when she realized, “Oh my gosh, that’s an example of a gifting I can use.  Not just to bring brownies to a Bible study group, but to invite somebody over after church on Sunday when they’re new.  I could have a little newcomers’ thing.”

Again, some people would say, “Oh, that sounds awful,” because it’s not their gift.  But for her, it lit her up.  It was something that felt like she was flowing in that.  That’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Dennis:  As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking it’s not only a matter of gifts.  That’s certainly an important part of it, but it’s also a matter of the hard-wired passion that God has put in the heart of a woman.  For instance, Barbara, since we became empty-nesters a few years ago, has dusted off her art easel and has begun painting again. 

Initially, it started with watercolors and now she’s off into oils.  A couple of weeks ago, I gave her the gift of getting away with a famous artist for five days along with a group of other people.  They all painted landscapes, they painted a church house, they painted a stream.  I’m going to tell you that when she came back, she was energized.  She was refreshed.  She had gone off and done something that, (A) she was gifted to do but also (B) something she was passionate about. 

Barbara is passionate about beauty.  In fact, I’ve made the statement about her, “Wherever she goes, she makes things beautiful.”  She not only has personal beauty, but she’s constantly bringing order - which means I can’t leave the shoes in the living room. . .

(Laughter)  

Shaunti:  Sorry.

Dennis:  . . . after I’ve read the paper.

But the point is that, as a woman, I think it’s important to take a step back and do an inventory of what your gifts are; but also take a step back and ask, “What are you really passionate about?”

Shaunti:  Yes, that’s a great way of putting it.

Bob:  And then to ask the question, once I know gifts and passions, “How can I use those to advance the Kingdom?”  Because ultimately, that’s where you’re trying to point women – to Kingdom activity and to Kingdom involvement, not just, “Gee, I like this, so I’ll do it.” But, “I want to put this to work so that I’m investing in what God’s called me to.”

Shaunti:  Yes, and right there is why we created this study.  It wasn’t just an academic exercise.  It was because we as women are balancing and juggling so much.  It’s like, “How do I balance my life?” 

Well, you know what?  God has given us this prescription, the Bible.  Here’s how you do it!  It’s going to look different for every woman.  It’s going to look different at different seasons of life.  It’s going to just look different.  But it’s going to apply to everybody. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a young woman right out of college trying to figure out what to do with your life, or if you’re the single mom or you’re the career executive, or you’re the empty-nester, or whatever.  It’s going to look different.  The reality is that every woman is juggling, and this gives them a way to juggle.  A way to make the choices that just fit with your life.

Dennis:  Alright, speak to Bob.  Mary Ann’s about to become an empty-nester.  And he’s about to realize that he’s really going to have to re-steward Mary Ann in some fresh ways.  Now I know you’re not an expert in it. . .

Bob:  She’s talking to women!  Will you leave me out of this one?

(Laughter)

Shaunti:  There are men who listen every day.

Dennis:  There are a lot of men who are listening. 

Talk to a man about how he can better help his wife and be that steward, Shaunti.

Shaunti:  Well, you know, one of the things that’s really, really important is that every woman feels in a way, no matter how liberated and strong she is, like she needs her husband’s permission and blessing to do the stuff that she really wants to do and feels called to do.  It’s one of the reasons why, in the study, we focus a lot on the idea of melding with your husband and leaving and cleaving and what that looks like.

Because if a woman isn’t supported in that way, nothing else is going to work.  I will tell you, as a woman, when you’re at odds with your husband over something, it’s like nothing is right with the world until that is resolved.

So, you may not realize it, but you guys have an immense amount of power to really encourage and make your women feel like they can fly, or make them feel like, “Is this OK?”.

Like I said, it may not seem like the liberated modern thing, but it’s in the heart of every woman.

Bob:  I’m just wondering.  It appears obvious that writing and speaking would be right in the center of your passion/gift mix, right?

Shaunti:  Yes, you could probably say that.

Bob:  That’s what energizes you?

Shaunti:  Yes, that’s what energizes me.

Bob:  That’s the stewarding of your gifts.  Did you recognize that from the start?  When you graduated from Harvard, did you say, “I know exactly where I’m supposed to be deploying my giftedness?”

Shaunti:  You know it’s so funny.  I was an analyst on Wall Street.  And where it started was nurturing this gifting of analysis first.  And then God gave me the opportunity to step out into writing.  Suddenly, it was that, “Oh, wow” feeling.  I was now analyzing relationships and people.  It was a new “Aha!” 

That process led me into this space that I feel like I’m built for.

Shaunti:  About ten years ago, God gave me this miraculous entrée into the publishing world.  I really felt like I had a gift for writing and speaking.  It was a field I could work around my children and still bring in income to pay off student loans, which was really necessary.  After “9-11,” Jeff’s company had gone out of business owing us ten months of salary.  We were going through a terrible time financially.  I felt so strongly that God was asking me to write a particular novel, on a particular subject.  I was convinced that God would make this novel a best-seller, and ‘Ta-da!  We’d be saved!’

I poured myself into this novel for a year and it hit the shelves and sold very few copies.  After a year of work, it actually lost us money.  I couldn’t understand it.  Jeff and I were hitting the pavement looking for work.  We didn’t know how we were going to pay our mortgage.  We had two toddlers, and I was so upset. 

‘God, why did you have me spend that whole year writing that novel?  I did so much research and no one will ever see it.  It did no good!’

A few months later, I was at the Christian book convention in Orlando, paying my own way to get there, still trying to convince someone - anyone - to do a radio interview or a mention in the newspaper.  Anything to promote the book!  And there was no interest.

It looked like all that work, all that research, all that use of my gifts that I thought God had told me to do, was wasted.  But I was looking at it as if today’s circumstances are all that matters.  And God has so much of the bigger picture!

You see, in that novel, one of my main characters was a man.  I had spent a year interviewing men to learn what thoughts to put into my character’s head.  I was so surprised by what I was learning.  As I walked down to the convention center on my last day in Orlando, suddenly, a title came into my head:  For Women Only:  What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men.  I literally stopped dead in the middle of the hallway, as into my head sprang this entire idea for how to take what I had learned and do even more research and create a non-fiction book out of it to help women understand men.

I thought, ‘Wow!  Lord, that’s a really good idea!’  And that book, For Women Only, came out a year later and it exploded.  It has sold over one million copies in fifteen different languages.  Literally hundreds of thousands of marriages have been improved, healed, or saved because of this new understanding of men. 

And none of it ever would have happened if I hadn’t written the novel that lost us money and caused me so much discouragement.”

Bob:  Did you walk away from that first book saying, “This is where I belong?”

Shaunti:  I kind of did.  It felt like it fit suddenly.  I felt like this was where I was supposed to use my gifts.  And my husband was huge in being able to say, “Yes!  This is the direction you need to go.”  For me to sort of feel like I had the permission to really pour into that.

Dennis:  Every man knows what that feels like.

Shaunti:  Oh, yeah.

Dennis:  He needs his wife’s blessing and permission as he goes to work and goes out to. . .

Shaunti:  Yes, to pursue his dreams.

Dennis:  . . . to slay dragons and to conquer the world.  He ought to be able to figure that out and say, “You know what?  I need to come alongside my wife and begin to help her assess what her gifts and abilities are.”

For a mom who’s in the romper room, with a bunch of rug rats running around – a bunch of kids who are toddlers – she needs all the help she can get at figuring out what she’s good at.  She’s just in “survival” mode for much of the day.

Shaunti:  For much of the day!  The incredible power that a husband has in that situation to release her into the thing that will light her up in these other areas of her life and be that Kingdom purpose beyond the home and into the world.  Even, for example, if it’s just saying, “You know I just really want to do this women’s group.  It’s a way I can pour into the lives of these other women.” 

And she comes back, like coming back from her art sessions, refreshed and energized and ready to take on the world.  But if her husband says, “Oh, I don’t know,” then she’ll probably in some ways back off from that.  That would be a loss, because that’s the way God has designed her.

Bob:  If she doesn’t know what her gifts and passions are, or looks at them and says, “OK, I heard you talking about making brownies, but come on! We’ve got Shaunti Feldhahn writing books and me making brownies.  It just doesn’t seem like we’re talking about the same thing.”

Shaunti:  Oh, but it does!  I mean, there is a way you can use that.  Remember, what we’re talking about is not just the “baking brownies,” but about how does that speak to something that lights you up, that you would love to do, and that is a Kingdom purpose of that gift.  That is one of the main things we’re talking about in this book and in this Bible study.

Dennis:  You know, I want to go back to the verse that you quoted earlier.  Ephesians 2:10 – it’s one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  And in my Bible, Shaunti, you can see. . .

Shaunti:  Oh my!  Lots of underlining.

Dennis:  I’ve got a line drawn from the word “workmanship,” and it has underneath it an explanation:  “We are God’s work of art.” 

A woman is God’s work of art.  He has a divine design for her life.  Yes, He wants to use her in relationships if she’s a single woman, with those she comes to know and have a friendship with.  He wants to use her with her husband if she’s married, and with her children, but He also wants to use her beyond the home to the neighborhood, the community, the world. 

Therein lies the challenge:  for a woman to begin to figure out, “What’s my assignment?”

Shaunti:  Yes.

Dennis:  Around what Jesus called the Great Commission – to go to the world (Matthew 28) and share the gospel and make disciples.  Frankly, I think what you’re giving women here in LifeReady Woman is an 8-session video series that’s going to put a tool in the hands of a bunch of women who are God’s workmanship to do just this. 

They delight in women’s groups; they love to put them together and to host them.  They’re going to make it fun, they’re going to make it pretty and exciting and warm and inviting.  They may even be able to use this to reach out to people who aren’t in church, who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years, maybe.

In the process of discovering what it means to be a woman, they may discover that Jesus Christ is their Savior and Lord.

Shaunti:  Yes.

Dennis:  So I think this is an exciting opportunity that we’re giving women today.  Shaunti, I just want to thank you for being a woman who is running the race well . . .

Shaunti:  Trying!

Dennis: . . . and being a woman who is created in Christ Jesus for good works.  I am proud of you and proud of your work here with LifeReady Woman.  I pray God’s favor upon it. 

Thanks for joining us!

Shaunti:  Thanks.

Bob:  And there is more information available online at FamilyLifeToday.com about the LifeReady Woman video series.  You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and watch a video clip or order the DVDs.  Or if it’s easier, call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY.  1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” 

Again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.  Log on today and find out more about the LifeReady Woman video series.

Let me also encourage you to get in touch with us this week and consider making a donation to support FamilyLife Today.  We are listener supported, so those donations are what help keep us on the air and help us continue broadcasting in this community and in cities all across the country and around the world.  We appreciate your financial support.

The reason I want you to consider making a donation this week is that when you do you can request a copy of Shaunti Feldhahn’s book LifeReady Woman.  The book we’ve been talking about this week.  It’s our way of saying “thank you” to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week with a donation. 

So go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click where it says, “Make a donation.”  You’ll see a key code box.  Type the word “READY” into the key code box and then make your donation.  We’ll be sure to send a copy of the LifeReady Woman book out to you.

Or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make the donation over the phone, just ask for the LifeReady Woman book when do and we’ll get it to you as well.  Again, we do appreciate your support and your partnership with us here in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for being as generous as you can be.

We hope you have a great weekend!  Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday.  We’re going to go from talking about women to talking about men.  We’re going to talk about “stepping up to authentic, courageous manhood.”  We’ll get a glimpse of what that looks like as we talk about it next week.  Hope you can be here!

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next week for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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Fun, engaging conversations about what it takes to build stronger, healthier marriage and family relationships. Join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson with FamilyLife Today® veteran cohost Bob Lepine for new episodes every weekday.

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