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.
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.
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.
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!
Keep breathing – your deep-in-the-valley season is just a pitstop.
Keep dancing – the swirling storm will find it harder to touch you.
Keep believing – beauty can indeed be birthed from ashes.
Keep trusting yourself – you’re a prize worth cherishing, at home, at work and everywhere in between.
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.
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.
This is an era where waiting, watching and listening are among the best things we can do, so why not do them well?
Don’t just wait at others’ whim; grow your own patience. Don’t just watch what’s on the TV or your device; also watch your words, your actions and their impact.
Don’t just listen to what others say, pay attention to your own inner compass, soul needs, and heart.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, for sure; but it’s for sure worth the effort and intention. Make the best of this time, because either way, the time will pass. Get to know yourself and love yourself. Your efforts will pay dividends that last.
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.