Years ago, I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance last week about purpose, contentment and living fully.
We asked each other, “What do you love most about your life?”
For both of us, our answers were evident in our actions – where, with whom, and how we spend our time.
What about you?
If you can answer with one or more truths, you’re blessed. No one’s journey is perfect; yet, in both mountaintop and valley seasons, there’s something to be grateful for. So our answers should match our energy and be evident in how we’re flowing.
The joy comes in finding the grace to accept yourself, and others, as-is while nudging yourself to do and be your best.
I say… go for it! “Let your true self reign – you might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you will be many people’s glass of champagne.” ~ Aine Belton
When I was child back in the day, you could drive up to a gas station and someone would pump your gas for you.
You would just pull up to the pump and an attendant would come out to your car. All you had to do was roll down your window (and I do mean roll) and say, “fill’er up.”
By the time I learned how to drive, the new thing was “self service,” which meant you had to get out and pump your own gas.
I don’t like to pump gas. I’ve tried to convince my husband that this should be his job, but to no avail. I have even figured out how long I can drive around on fumes once the “almost empty” fuel sensor light comes on.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that driving until your tank is empty can mess up your car. It leaves room for “junk” to build up in your tank, and it can cause your fuel pump to overheat and wear out more quickly.
I think you know where I’m going with this…
Sometime last year, just before our world became engulfed in a global health pandemic, I read a book titled Leading On Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion. It was penned by Wayne Cordeiro to help pastoral leaders who are suffering from burnout, but you could easily re-title this book Parenting On Empty or Working On Empty or Praying On Empty or Loving On Empty.
I think if we called it Living on Empty it would speak to all of our situations. For those of us who spend a significant portion of our time serving others (whether it’s your profession, vocation or just who you be), living on empty could be an adequate description of what we feel like on the regular.
Many a day we operate solely on fumes, just trying to get through the day, through bedtime or through the next crisis.
It’s so easy to put our own needs on the back burner. We have good intentions to go back and take care of them later. But somehow later never happens.
Living on empty happens when we are blessed with children who need our care. (They are demanding little creatures just by their very nature and before you know it, they have consumed our entire lives.) Or perhaps it happens when we are serving as a caregiver for a loved one who is ill. We want to be there and our efforts become all-focused on their wellbeing.
We don’t have the energy or the will to do something for ourselves.
Living on empty happens when our vocation is to serve people in our community, and as our nation has endured an economic crisis that has led to job loss and personal devastation, the amount of people needing to be served has increased significantly.
There is not enough time in our day to do all that needs to be done. The needs of others leaks into our private time and we don’t know how to shut them off or hold them back.
Maybe we’re afraid if we turn our engine off, fearing that it won’t start back up. However, if we never turn it off for maintenance, it eventually will die out anyway.
We know these things. We understand that this is what self care is – turning off our engine (resting) and then making sure we pour back in to ourselves, to replenish the well from which we have been giving.
The thing we are not quite sure about most of the time is how did we get here in the first place? Why do we allow ourselves to run until we burnout?
These are questions we have to be willing to ask and seek to honestly the answer. Discovering your answers, and leaning into them, will change your life – and fill your tank – for the better.
As a wife, mother and grandmother, Valerie Henderson enjoys spending endless amounts of time with her family. As a minister, she loves assisting others as they journey through their faith walk. As a creative soul, she finds her greatest solace when she can retreat, craft and write.
Change can be scary, and at times even stressful; however…
If we never changed shoe sizes, we’d never be able to comfortably walk forward, toward our next exciting phase;
If we never took a leap of faith, we’d never surprise ourselves with our own strength, smarts and courage;
If we never took time to try new things and collaborate with people younger than us or from different walks of life, perhaps we’d be like Blockbuster, Toys R Us and the like – favorite pieces of nostalgia no longer relevant in this fast-paced modern world.
If we never grew older, we’d miss out on a whole lotta life!
So yes, with time and seasons come change.
But what if we view these shifts as opportunities to grow, to experience new kinds of joy, to better understand ourselves and others, and experience more of life’s “glass” as half full?
Sunmertime is all about laidback fun and relaxation, and I’m here for it!
But purpose can’t be put on pause.
At all times we must ask ourselves where we’ll stand and what we’ll do when life calls us to rise to a challenge.
Will you be a flame that leads the way and gives others hope or stand among the silent who feel helpless and resigned?
Last year around this time, many of us were asking this question as protests for racial and social justice roiled our cities and filled our TV screens; as the cries of the weary, wounded and heartbroken refused to be silenced.
We’ve now settled into a year of pandemic-style living, and with vaccines readily available, the world has opened up and hope is flowing.
Yet this return to a “new normal” is not a pass to forget about what has been or what should be.
You must remember – and be excited to acknowledge – that you’re on this earth for a reason. Yes, you, whatever your age, life stage, current circumstances or rearview choices.
Value yourself enough to discover, rediscover or reclaim your purpose, then summon the courage, and the excitement, to walk in it.
Doing so can yield an irreplaceable joy and a profound energy to persist – which inevitably will make your downtime and playtime all the more meaningful.