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.

Winning at Life

Recent examples abound of how one can speak the truth with love, 

choose to be a priority rather than an option,

and operate in integrity even when the consequences are steep.

Google Tabitha Brown, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Shacarri Richardson.

They’ve handled public dissing, downplaying of value, and rules-based punishment with integrity, and I’m sure you can think of others who’ve done the same.

Regardless of your view their personal choices, what seems to matter most is how they value authenticity and love on themselves; 

and when we all learn to hold our heads high while giving others grace, acknowledge our humanity and our worth, and own our missteps with plans to course correct, 

we’ll know that we’re capable of rising, and we’ll realize that whatever the fallout, we’ve already won.

The Gift of Words & Writing

I’ve connected with quite a few writer friends this week and it has fueled my creativity in ways that I didn’t realize I missed so much during the pandemic.

Two of the catchups were one-on-one reunions over a meal, and both of those friends/mentors reminded me that writing is important work – to be leaned into, wrestled with, granted free reign, yet relented to with finesse, because words hold power and stories help us understand each other; and when we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, sometimes we even surprise ourselves at the important truths, wounds, dreams, hopes, fears, strength and more that lie just beneath the surface.

Whether we’re writing fiction or nonfiction, that power – and responsibility – are the same.

My other gathering with writers was filled with amazing talent and wisdom too, and left me with an inner glow.

I share all of this to note that as I’ve spent time at my keyboard after hours and in the wee hours of morning this week, editing others work and also nurturing my own work-in-progress, I’ve felt more grateful than ever for the gift of words and writing, and for the opportunity to speak to the world in a manner that can endure.

What part of your purpose or your journey are you most grateful for this week? Acknowledge it and celebrate it in some way.

Author & Essayist Stacy Hawkins Adams

6 Reasons to Keep Going

I’m sharing this “public service announcement” to persevere for whoever needs it (and just know, that sometimes it’s me). 

If it’s not you today, pass it on!

  1. Keep breathing – your deep-in-the-valley season is just a pitstop.
  2. Keep dancing – the swirling storm will find it harder to touch you.
  3. Keep believing – beauty can indeed be birthed from ashes.
  4. Keep trusting yourself – you’re a prize worth cherishing, at home, at work and everywhere in between. 
  5. Keep paying attention – to your heart, to your gut, to what people show you rather than what they say, and to what you know to be true. Trusting yourself will never lead you wrong. 
  6. Keep laughing – it’s medicine for your soul, and everything doesn’t have to be so serious. 

Most importantly? Just keep on keeping on. 

I promise you, your best days are ahead, no matter your age, stage or circumstances. 

Your job is to persist in excellence, love with an open heart, set appropriate boundaries, welcome peace and treasure your joys. 

I’m living proof (and there are so many tangible examples around) that it’s all doable. Join me on this Life Untapped journey in your own way and in your own time. Just promise me, and yourself, that you’ll keep going.  

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Naomi’s Reminder

Welcome to June. We’re halfway through another historic year!

In light of young tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dramatic (and courageous) decision a few days ago to put her dreams on hold and practice self-care, I share the sentiments in this post as a reminder to all of us that what matters most is not material gain nor worldly success.

It is what flows into and from the heart that can make you or break you.

Let us live and lead with more empathy, truth and love, because everyone, at every level, needs it.

You never know what someone else is going through behind that smile, that frown, that fear, that anger, those actions or that attitude. So give everyone grace, because they don’t know your full story either.

Judge little; love liberally – rinse and repeat!

Earn It, Expect It, Return It

Respect yourself and what you bring to the table, while respecting others and their gifts, too. 

Value who you are and treat others with value. 

Hold onto the truth that no matter what, you are a ripple that helps create waves.  Make sure your waves are the best kind – waves of difference making, positivity, kindness, resilience, impact and hope. 

Appreciate your singular opportunities to serve, share and be your best.  

This process requires intention and persistence, and results in the kind of contentment that leads to joy.

Decide To Thrive

Every day that we’re granted is a new opportunity

to listen, learn, grow and love –

More to and for ourselves,

so that we can better hear, see and understand others.

No people pleasing or forcing your way is necessary. 

Just be; accept, and even embrace what is, so you can thrive in the garden in which you’re planted.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Start Where You Can

Live with an open heart.

Explore. Take a risk. Fall down.

Get up. Grow wiser.

Rise. Fly.

Stumble. Grieve. Learn more.

Love more. Laugh.

Rest. Discover. Press through.

Rise higher. Gain more wisdom. Care more deeply. Stand taller.

Trust yourself.

Appreciate something about each day.

Soar. And then, because life is a cycle and a journey and a process, rinse and repeat, gaining more clarity, more strength and more joy as you go. 

Stay the course and be patient.

Along the way, your calling and purpose will rise to meet you. 

Life’s Calling – Pay Attention

Today, pay attention to the little things – words spoken or unspoken; gestures rendered or withheld; opportunities offered or missed; your struggle between fear and confidence, or maybe a focus on all that’s wrong instead of dwelling in the beauty of all that’s right.

Watch yourself and others, and consider the consequences of words and actions;  listen with your heart as well as with your ears; assess whether being glass half-full or glass half-empty serves you best. 

Change whatever you must to grow and be content; and give others the space and the grace to do the same.

Stretching and growing isn’t always easy, but having the courage to embrace the process (while being thoughtful and respectful of others) can guide you to greater places, both within and without. 

Love Deeper

Love is a word that’s often misused or misunderstood. But it’s also a reflection of giving, serving, leading, and leaning into doing your best to be part of others’ peace, fulfillment, joy and growth.

Love is hard, especially when it’s being executed by imperfect beings. Yet, given that it’s the foundation of all humanity, it’s also worth it – even when it means persisting at it, or letting go, or being more vulnerable, or standing tough.

Work hard at loving yourself more deeply so that it becomes effortless to give the best TO yourself, and in the process, pour out a more authentic, loyal and lasting love to others. Hate won’t end until we push harder to help love win.