December 6, 2019

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Please God by using your gifts and strengths to serve him

Patti LambI’d forgotten how difficult it is to be a middle school girl until recently.

My daughter is 12, and she’s reminded me that navigating the uncharted waters of adolescence isn’t easy.

Margaret shares stories about the girl drama du jour, and provides updates that are meaningful in her world. I’ll change the names as I provide an example of a daily rundown.

“Annie was invited to sit at the popular girls’ table today at lunch,” Margaret explains, as she walks in the door, her phone pinging with text notifications.

“Oh, and Kate got the newest phone before it was even released to stores,” she notes, “but I don’t think she and Erin are best friends anymore because they didn’t talk to each other in choir class,” she adds.

I don’t remember too much from middle school. I think I’ve mentally blocked out the majority of those days since they contained neither my proudest moments, nor my best fashion choices.

Adolescence is a time of growing into yourself and bridging the gap between being a kid and being a “grown up.”

This year, Margaret presented me with her Christmas wish list in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, complete with slides of fashion models wearing the items she’s requesting. This is quite a switch from wish lists of the past that contained baseball cards, football jerseys and basketball shoes.

Each slide carefully specified name brands at expensive price points.

“Am I to pick one item from this entire presentation since that’s more in line with our budget?” I asked.

“Mom!” she exclaimed. “Cecilia has, like, three pairs of those shoes, all in different colors,” she informed me.

I suppose it’s worse these days with the Internet and cell phones, but marketers are colluding and there is definitely a “cool kid” wish list circulating out there. Tweens and teens are desperate to secure these items so they can all show up to school in January dressed entirely alike.

I know I used to be in Margaret’s shoes, and to some extent, I still am. But it’s morphed from overconcern with trendy clothes to other areas of life. Now I spend too much time foolishly comparing my job title and my graying hair with my 40-something peers.

I think we all play the “comparison” game at some point.

I stumbled upon a quote I like by a musician named Dave Grohl, and I shared it with Margaret.

“No one is you and that is your power.”

She looked at me like I had three heads and my hair was blazing on each of them.

I explained to my daughter that God intricately fashioned each one of us uniquely, and that we are called to serve him in our own way, in our own place, in our own time.

And that cannot happen if we’re all trying to live the same life and keep up with others and their business.

I’d like to thank you, Margaret, for the reminder that we are called to be our own best selves—not imitations of someone else.

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; Wonderful are your works” (Ps 139:13-14).

My daughter has encouraged me to embrace this truth, and recognize that we please God by using our unique gifts and strengths to serve him. Glorifying God might look different and far less impressive than we originally thought. But when we seek to please him with a sincere heart, wonderful things happen.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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