No More Living on Empty

By Guest Blogger Valerie Henderson

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…

What happens when we continually live on empty, refusing to refuel at appropriate times or even when the warning light comes on?

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. 

Where do we go to be refueled? When do we find time to fill up our tank?

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.

Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams

Through her fiction and nonfiction, author, journalist and writing coach Stacy Hawkins Adams inspires readers (and budding writers) to find meaning in their own stories, grow from life's lessons and thrive. Like this post? Please leave a comment, then share it with others. Also visit Stacy at StacyHawkinsAdams.com to sign up for her newsletter, and friend/follow her on Instagram @StacyInspires, Twitter @StacyInspires and Facebook @StacyInspires. Learn more about her coaching services at AuthorInYou.com.

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