Right after I got married, I couldn’t find a job. I went straight to grad school from undergrad, graduated with my master’s degree in English, and then spent the next couple of months finishing up wedding planning. I figured I’d search for a job after our honeymoon.
But six months passed with barely an interview, and I was getting pretty bored sitting at home all day watching “The Price is Right” and reruns of “Quantum Leap” while my husband was at work. I decided I needed to do something—anything—while I still hunted for a writing job that might actually make use of some of my six years of college learning.
I saw an ad in the local paper for a part-time job as cookie decorator at a local cookie shop, and while I knew nothing whatsoever about decorating cookies, I am creative and crafty and a fairly quick learner, so I decided to apply. I interviewed and was hired on the spot. I loved the creativity of the job and gained a fun new skill; however, I was only at the job for six weeks before I was hired as a writer/editor at a local community college. I left the cookie decorating job behind, but I never lost the skills. I continued to make cookies for co-workers’ birthdays, family gatherings, and friends’ baby showers because I enjoyed it so much.
Approximately three years later, I found myself at home again, this time as a stay-at-home mom. My daughter was a few months old, and I had left my writing job right after she was born so I could stay home with her. My best friend had had her first baby about eight months before I did, and he was about to turn one. She called me up and asked if I’d make his first birthday cake. I’m pretty sure my exact words in response to her were, “I have never made a cake in my life; what would possess you to think I could do it now?” She replied, “You do cookies. How much different could a cake be?”
I decided that (a) she was nuts to trust me to do this, but (b) I might as well give it a go—what did I have to lose? So, with no training other than what I’d learned at the cookie shop, I went for it. It was a chocolate cake cut out in the shape of a Tonka truck and decorated with bright red, yellow, and black icing. I was extremely proud of that cake, and everyone at the party loved it. If I look back at a picture of it now, though, I laugh because it was a pretty sad sight in light of the skills I eventually gained, but back then, it was a masterpiece.
A few months later, a dear relative of my husband’s asked me to make a cake for a baby shower she was hosting. I looked around, wondering if I was being Punk’d, but after deciding that she was, in fact, serious, I agreed to do it. I still didn’t know what I was doing, but to this day, she continues to rave about that cake, so I must’ve done a decent job.
That year, I went on to make two more cakes—both for my daughter’s first birthday. The next year, word somehow spread, and I made six cakes. The following year, 12; the next year, 20; and the year after that—well, I lost count.
In both instances, with both my friend and my husband’s relative, my thoughts turned to, “What is it about me that these people think I’m capable of making and decorating cakes?!” I had no experience, but somehow, these two dear people in my life saw something in me that I didn’t. And because I trusted their faith in me, I went on to build a pretty good following of customers and had my own little cake and cookie business out of my home that lasted for more than 11 years.
A couple months ago, I went through a similar experience with my 13-year-old. She played golf for her junior high team, and, although she is a pretty decent golfer, she lacks confidence in herself and gets frustrated very easily. (Then again, it’s golf, so who doesn’t?) Her team was set to play in the district championship tournament one Saturday, but they could only take the top five players. She was ranked sixth. Late that Friday night, the coach texted her and said that the number five player was injured and asked if she would play in her teammate’s place.
My husband and I were thrilled for her to have this opportunity, but she cried and yelled, saying she didn’t want to play and that the pressure would be too much—as her team was the defending champ—and she was afraid she would let everyone down. We couldn’t let her pass up the opportunity, so we made her play. She was mad, but I told her, “Look, I know that you are nervous and scared of not doing well, but we wouldn’t ask you to do this if we didn’t see your potential. You’re a good golfer. We see it; now, you just have to realize it.”
She drug her feet a bit, but she played. And, she ended up playing the best golf she’d played all season. Out of the five players for each team, the lowest four scores counted. And her score was one of the four that helped her team win the district championship for the second year in a row! The smile on that girl’s face for the rest of the day and the confidence I saw in her were worth far more than any plaque or trophy that she could’ve won. Later, she went up to her dad and said, “I’m sorry I was so mad last night and didn’t want to play. That was actually fun. Thanks for encouraging me.”
Like me with the cakes, she just couldn’t look past her limitations to see her own potential. It often takes someone else pushing us—even if we don’t want to or think we can’t do something—to make us realize that we can. I’m reminded of a scene in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, where the Guardians ask Mantis to put Ego to sleep so they can defeat him. She says that she can’t do it because he’s too powerful. Drax tells her, “You don’t have to believe in yourself because I believe in you.” (Never mind that he later says, “I never thought she’d be able to do it with as skinny and weak as she appears to be.”) The point is that often, the very thing that gets in the way of our being able to accomplish what we are capable of…is US. It’s so much easier to see potential in others rather than in ourselves.
But God sees it. After all, He’s the one who created us. Me. You. Psalm 139 tells us, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…. You created my inmost being…. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (v.1, 13, 16. NIV). We need to trust that He knows what we’re capable of because, after all, He made us for that purpose.Sometimes, though, He has to use other people to get the message across. I never dreamed I’d be a cake decorator, but apparently, God had that in mind for me when He created me. And he used two special people in my life to encourage me down a path I never saw for myself. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” He designed me to be a creative being, and my creations were a small part of countless celebrations—birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and baptisms—for more than a decade. I may never know how exactly, but I believe the Lord used my cakes and cookies to minister to other people. And I’d probably never have followed that path had my friends not put their faith in me.
Just like my daughter, I haven’t always been able to see my own potential. Like her, I was often (and still can be!) my own worst critic—afraid to try because I might fail to live up to some unrealistic expectation I’ve set for myself. However, as I’ve gotten older, it’s become easier for me to see that God blessed me with certain talents and skills, and if I get out of the way and let Him use me and work through me, I am able to “accomplish infinitely more than [I] might ask or think” (Eph. 3:20, NLT).
What is God calling you to do? Pay attention to the people around you—your spouse, your kids, other family members, friends. God may very well use them to tell you. Listen, and trust that they might be able to see something in you that you can’t see yet. Sometimes, the most powerful motivator is simply hearing someone say, “I believe in you.”