Closeup of hands carrying a basket of tomatoes in a garden.
Shift Ministry Models

It Began in a Garden

Steward and grow your strengths
by Faith+Lead | November 1, 2021

By Karen Gieseke

Peas. Beets. Cucumbers. And more. Each year my farm family’s story included a variety of seeds planted in our large garden. Each tiny seed held promises inside, waiting to be discovered. The subsequent bowls of fresh produce, jars of colorful canned fruit, and countless bags of frozen vegetables were a gift gratefully received—thanks to God’s magnificent and diverse imagination. The seeds, when provided with a nurturing space to break open, grew into what God created them to be.

Fast forward to my own family story. Our homes have rested on city lots with mature trees and little sunlight. Fresh garden vegetables fill our table thanks to the care of other gardeners and farmers. So, imagine my surprise last summer when an unexpected tomato plant emerged amid my small flower garden. I was curious and decided to see what emerged. I wondered if the compost material worked into the soil had included a tomato seed waiting for the opportunity to live its full story, stewarding the DNA stored within the seedcoat, promising bright red, nutritious tomatoes.

Stewardship.

When you read or hear this phrase, pause. Sit with this word. Speak it out loud. What is your response? What stories come to mind? What emotions surface? 

A definition for stewardship from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” A gardener or farmer are practitioners of this definition.

Like a gardener entrusted to care for a garden and its seeds, we are entrusted with caring for the gifts and talents knit into us. These unique talents, when nurtured lovingly, can become strengths, and set us apart in God’s family of beloved children for doing God’s work in the world.

Talent: a Natural Way of Thinking, Feeling, or Behaving

One of my natural talents is curiosity about the connectedness of God’s creation, recognizing we are not isolated from one another or from the earth or the life on it. We are part of a larger picture and have a responsibility to all of creation. 

I must confess this sense of connectedness is what played a part when I found that unexpected tomato plant. I am not a tomato enthusiast. I eat tomatoes because they are “good for me”. My connectedness strength, not my appetite, caused me to nurture—and not weed out—the unexpected tomato plant. I was curious about what would develop if this little seed received nurturing and opportunity to do what it is created to do, grow tomatoes, not peas or beets—which I love! This was about the nature of this specific seed, growing in this garden, in this time. So, I carefully tended what was entrusted to me. 

My developer talent, described by CliftonStrengths as recognizing and cultivating the potential in others, brings me joy and I have cultivated it so it is now a strength of mine. It doesn’t feel like work when I use this to accompany others. It energizes me to seek opportunities to nurture people and their own unique talents. Through exploring, describing, and managing God-given talents they can grow into strengths, and we can steward them together. 

  • God set you apart. God needs your natural talents now, planted in this place, doing what you are created to do. A tomato seed cannot produce a cucumber or beet. A seed develops into what God created it to be, not what someone else prefers it to be. 
  • Your talented, stewarded life. God entrusted you to steward your unique, God-given talents so they become strengths. Can you name and describe your talents and strengths? Do you have the tools you need?
  • The CliftonStrengths tool offers thirty-four strength themes that explain the talents within you. We each have all 34, but some are more natural to us than others. Discovering which talents are natural enables you to Name, Claim, and Aim – to steward them to become strengths.
  • Developer~Connectedness~Ideation~Strategic~Maximizer- are my top 5 talents. I use this awareness to care for, invest in, and manage them, so they become strengths I use to live a Gospel-centered life.

Are you ready to discover, appreciate, and steward your Talents? As the poet, W. H. Auden says, “You owe it to us all to get on with what you are good at.”  Discover your own strengths and steward your talents.

Your Turn

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About the Author
Karen Gieseke, CliftonStrengths Certified Coach, IDI QA, and Luther Seminary MA,  is a Leadership Development coach/consultant/facilitator who finds joy in accompanying people in discovering how amazing they are as a Beloved Child of God! She also serves at Luther Seminary as a Deployed Associate on the Contextual Learning Team. http://karen-gieseke.com/

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