We Can’t Give from an Empty Place {Finding Fullness Again}

{image: oly5 / 123RF Stock Photo}

{image: oly5 / 123RF Stock Photo}

Ever feel so tired you’re pretty sure a 4-year nap wouldn’t cure the weariness?

With a book launch this month and all the usual responsibilities to keep, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to steer clear of that kind of weariness. The other morning, while loading up my crock pot (the only way my family eats dinners that don’t consist of cereal and milk) it suddenly hit me: we get weary when we live like a sieve, not a cup.

Nowhere in the list of ingredients for my stew were instructions to add 1 sieve of chicken broth, or a 1/2 sieve of cumin. Not a single one. Because sieves don’t hold onto the goodness we want to put into foods.

When we live like a sieve, we aren’t adding to the goodness we want to put into our lives either. It’s so easy to wake up, hit the ground running, work hard, love people, and not even realize how depleted we are until the tension in our neck knocks us on the couch for a forced time-out after dinner.

We might

  • read a devotional and, while the words hang fresh in our minds, jump on Facebook to encourage others with it.
  • listen to inspirational music and, instead of letting ourselves linger in worship, send a link for the song to our spouse to encourage them.
  • listen to a sermon and take notes about the part we want to share with our teen because it totally applies to what she’s facing with a friend!

In Psalm 23:5, that most famous chapter for the weary, battered seasons in life, David says, “You [God] prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (italics mine).

Did we catch that? The part where God fills David to the point where he overflows. . . even in seasons where enemies abound and weariness encroaches? This liquid life from God fills David first, and is so abundant it overflows into the lives of others.

Where, in all our own sieve-like living does the filling of us happen? How did we come to a place as believers where not only is it more blessed to give than to receive, it’s only blessed when we give?

Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet (which I’m soaking up like a sponge) admits her own moment of realization that she’d become a sieve-believer:

“God was big enough for me to pattern my time into telling others about Him, but not real enough for me to find any delight in Him.” – Sara Hagerty

When we live like a sieve, we find ourselves right in that same place.

How much good do we think we’re sharing with the world when all we have to give is the trace of life clinging to the mesh of who we’ve become?

Almost a year ago I began to realize I’d become a sieve. Maybe that’s why my One Word for 2014 needed to be, simply, “loved.” Loved is a cup-like word. A word that gives permission to be valued and adored and worth something without immediately doing anything about it. I found myself uncomfortable just receiving. I wanted to jump on Twitter and tell everyone about each verse that piqued my interest and admiration for God.

But there was this stern inner voice that I couldn’t ignore. It whispered, “This one is just for you.” (Which is a very very hard thing for an extrovert whose #1 strength is the desire to make a difference in the world! And who loves to write!).

I had no idea how to be a cup. But day by a day, as I read scripture or listened to inspirational songs—receiving words that maybe someday I’ll use to love others, but right then were meant for me alone—the fuller I felt. And the more energized, too. In fact, there started to be enough energy to do what so often feels exhausting as a woman, wife, friend and mom.

More than enough. . . an overflow.

There’s plenty more to go around when it comes to the God who fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, friend.

Will you trust that? Lean into it? Believe God wants fullness for you today?


P.S. If part of the emptying in your life comes through parenting a special needs child, we’re giving away 15 copies of my new book, Get Your Joy Back, at Goodreads. Enter to win a copy here before January 27th!

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  1. susie says

    Laurie, thanks so much for the generous tweet! This pos speaks so directly to me and my habit of using every good thought, song, passage as a way to reach out to others via FB, twitter etc. I am going to try be more mindful of fully “wallowing” in the good news before sending it out. Susie Klein

  2. Choirgirl says

    Oh, this speaks to me. But the practical part of the matter is, what I don’t do doesn’t get done. So for any small break I make to fill my cup, I spend the rest of my day stuffing what wasn’t done then in with what else has to get done. Even today, scheduled time off from work was taken up with buying pet food (because no one else does) and logging back into work e-mail because no one else can cover my cleints’ questions. I’m beginning to believe the old saw that rest is for when you die.

    • says

      I hear you. Oh! How I hear you, girl. I’m mom of four with part time ministry/career and a hubby with Aspergers (which means I’m go-to for anything that needs doing right now… he needs to plan and prepare and so much of our life with four kids and a handful of disabilities doesn’t give that option). It’s really hard, and tiring, and I HEAR YOU. And … it’s still possible. Check this out: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 — We can do this, friend. You can do it. It may not look like that NY Times article, or like what I do. It will look like you, with more energy. And it will definitely start small. Teeny-tiny steps to let fullness in.

  3. says

    The saying goes “God never gives you more than you can handle.”

    I just wish that He didn’t trust me to handle so much. Special things happen to special people. Our kids were brought into our lives for a reason. My children taught me humility and unconditional love. My youngest son taught me that sometimes, you can choose your family. I am adopted, and childhood for me was all about survival. I vowed that it wouldn’t be that way for my kids. Above all else, my kids know that I love them. They know that it is Ok to seek dad out for counsel or a hug.

    We can laugh together, we cry together, we share our fears with each other, and we love one another.

    I remember a time, when I was first getting sick, I lost almost 100 pounds in 3 months and no one could figure out why. The last day at our community hospital, they brought my wife in and told me “We are going to bring your kids in, so that you can say good bye.”

    They were shipping me via air/ambulance to Mayo Clinic. My youngest was less than 6 months old. We had four kids under the age of 7. We had just purchased a house. This couldn’t be happening to me. to my family.

    That was almost 16 years ago. I am still here. I like to say that I God found me during that experience. But it was really the other way around. During the flight I had a tiny sliver of window to look out at a clear blue sky. I could move not at all.

    From the window in my hospital room, I could see a monastery on a hill overlooking the community.

    6 days later, I was released from the hospital. a lifetime of medication to keep my body from killing me. And a new found love for two things. My family, and God.

    2 years later we welcomed our youngest son into our home. He was in foster care and my wife did day care from our home. 2 years after that, he became our son through adoption. Our life has never been the same.

    I am here through His Grace. I don’t know why, and truly don’t think it is for me to know. When He is ready, I am sure I will be told. Until then, I will wrap those I love in all of the hugs I can give them.

    There was a period up until 2 and a half years ago before our son’s second facility placement, where I lost my way. A dear friend helped me come to accept and Welcome Jesus back into my life. He died shortly after that.

    Sorry for the long comment, but for a period I was a sieve. I have to keep bringing myself back from punching holes in the cup that I have been lifted up to.

    Ever notice that life is better when the cup overflows, than it is when it just leaks all over because you try to handle everything by yourself?

    Why do I feel so compelled to share so much of my life with others?

    In real life, you know me as Carl Young.

    Thank you for helping me get my Joy Back.

  4. says

    Well, it feels like you are “reading my mail.” Again. It also explains why it’s only the third week of the new year and already I feel exhausted. Sigh.

    I read that book and don’t remember either one of those quotes. Thanks for sharing them. They are potent.
    What a great illustration you used to drive your point home. I can picture it in my mind. I think I see it in my life. Oh how to not try so hard??!!
    You asked “How did we come to a place as believers where not only is it more blessed to give than to receive, it’s only blessed when we give?” I don’t have the answer to that question but it is a whopper.
    I needed this post.
    Thank you, friend.

  5. Jennifer Hallmark says

    I have to fight hard not to only be giving out. I’ve started adding more “me” time and worship time in my schedule. I feel better when I do. 🙂

  6. Allison says

    Laurie! I love this sentiment and am working hard to let my cup just fill. As another who wants to write and encourage others through our own story, I often forget that sometimes God may give me something of my own, something for me to ponder and not share; at least, until the right time. Friend, though brief, it was such a pleasure to meet you at Allume- all the ladies kindred spirits in the hotel room. Love it!

    • says

      I agree about that time at Allume, Allison. Such precious soul time! With stories woven with grief, I think we need a little extra filling… a little more than we feel like we can give ourselves permission for, with all that’s going on. Trusting God will continue to show us what that looks like!