What I Wished I Knew About Emptiness

I’m so over myself. Some days it seems like the harder I try, the more frustrated I become. As my happiness slips away, helplessness creeps in and I feel like there’s nothing good in me to give. Do you ever feel like you should come with a warning label?

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“Sorry! This machine is out of order and the contents are bone dry.”

I know you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now? Lacking, drained, numb, empty.

It’s all the feelings of inadequacy we try to avoid, so we fill ourselves with “to do” lists and busy schedules, preoccupying our minds with everything but what’s troubling us so much…vacancy. Sometimes we give more than we have, more than we’ve been given. We can carry the heart of a contributor with the reality of a consumer.

Remember the woman at the well? The one who brought her empty jug to the well in hopes of filling it with water. Her jug had to be empty if she wanted it to be filled.

Seasons of emptiness are created for filling purposes.

What can emptiness teach us? A lot actually…

When I come to the end of myself, I’m at the starting line to embrace Christ IN me. Some of the most powerful words I’ve ever said are, “I just can’t win.” Muttered with feelings of utter defeat, yet positioned by God with clear direction, I came to the realization that doing it myself wasn’t working. Independent women hate that feeling! Here’s the thing: He really can’t shine through me until I get myself out of the way. All those impurities of the heart can either be illuminated or eliminated. The draining of our heart gives opportunity for the strengthening of our souls. The only me that’s powerful and effective is the Christ IN me.

This idea of peace is a package deal. Peace happens when I allow God to be in control of my thoughts, emotions, decisions and choices. It means I must TRUST. I’ve learned that it’s an easy thing to say I trust God but a hard thing to actually do it. I’m hesitant to give him the most precious parts of me, not knowing what He might do with them. His ways are not our ways. He doesn’t think like us. He doesn’t act like we do and I’m the type of girl that prefers the predictable. You too?

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”Isaiah 65:3 He asks us to abandon our “need to know” and embrace the “need to focus” (on Him). There you have it: the more we empty our own thoughts, the more He’ll fill us with His.

When I let my guard down, God can come in. It’s about being vulnerable in the presence of God. Most people don’t like that word- vulnerable. It feels so unsafe and weak. It most definitely requires us to check our pride at the door and that’s a hard thing. It’s saying, “I’m not enough,” “I don’t have it all together,” “I make mistakes.” Vulnerability requires me to stand in the middle of my fears, failures, rejection and pain and fiercely proclaim: God is bigger than this. He’s wiser, stronger and still see’s me as beautiful. I’m ok with me, even when others aren’t. Do you know what I think? It’s more than ok to not be enough. It’s a requirement.

Jesus,
Jesus,

I must own my feelings and allow Him to own the results. Just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean I am a certain way. I often feel defeated, but it doesn’t mean I am. It’s possible that the times I feel the most alone are the times I am most encompassed by His presence. The only way to know is to bring it to Him. I must be willing to give Him my lonely if I want to receive His lovely. I understand love the most when I have nothing to offer. I appreciate the victory when I know what it’s like to lose. When it’s gifted by grace, it humbles me to desire His fullness. Even if that requires my emptiness. Call it what you will: refining, remaining, renewing; it’s removing what doesn’t belong to make space for what does.

Emptiness forces one of two things: evaluation or exasperation. We can scream at our circumstances, “I just can’t win!” Or we can walk around them, observe them from every angle and see that we already have.

When we’re empty, we’re ready.

Please Keep Going

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Just in case you were wondering, you've still got it! You are not benched. You are not disqualified. You have not been eliminated. You are very much still in the game!

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Here Paul is telling the church of Philippi that God was still at work in them, even if they didn't feel like He was. I can only imagine that they must have felt a little defeated. Maybe they felt like they had strayed too far from God's will and feared they might not find their way back. Are you familiar with the temptation to give up? Sometimes the thought of throwing in the towel and walking away seems like a practical solution. It's easier than persevering through the pain and sticking with it when it's difficult. But, what comes easy usually doesn't last and what lasts usually doesn't come easy. The men and women of the Bible prove this though scripture. All the "greats" faced a great temptation to give up.

When we don't feel like what we have to offer is enough, it can be very disheartening. Isn't it funny how we can convince ourselves that the things God has placed in us won't sustain us? We forget He's cultivating and developing. That's not always a fun process, but what emerges is irreplaceable. I don't know about you, but I often want the talent without the responsibility of the tenacity it takes to steward it. Talent can be measured, but tenacity must be developed.The Lord is gracious to test us, to make us endure with a listening ear. Will we stay when we'd rather go? Will we listen to God when our ears are trained to the voices in our head? Will we allow Him to develop character when we feel like we're losing? You see, winning isn't the opposite of failure. Winning is failing and not allowing it to define us. And we can't win if we drop out of the race.

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We are a work of progress, not perfection. We can't undo God's plan for our life and we can't erase His purpose. We can, however, resist it. Complaining, pity parties and doubt are all allowed (though not recommended) in the God-sized dreams we chase, but they won't help us stay on point. They make us forget why we started in the first place.

Here's a declaration to help us remember our why. May it help us to keep going and remind us we have no other choice.

As children of God, we are unbound by the need to be perfect and have all the answers because in our weakness, He is strong. (2 Corinth. 12:10)

In Christ, we are chosen, holy and blameless, adopted, blessed, forgiven, redeemed and guaranteed and inheritance, born out of love. (Ephesians 1)

We are content in every situation, full of grace, hope and humility. (Phil. 4:11)

We are not set aside, we are set apart (Jeremiah 1:5). And He will make us beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We will not be afraid. We will not be silent. We will keep on speaking of His goodness, for our God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13). He is steadfast, dependable and constant (Psalm 136). He is our strength and our shield and in Him our hearts trust, (Psalm 28:7) for the Lord will fulfill His purpose for us (Psalm 138:8)....if we do not give up.

Why Friends Matter...

There was a time in my life when I thought I needed to be friends with anyone who was interested. It didn’t matter if they were like-minded, a person of character or even nice. If they were in my world, it was my job to befriend them, bring value to the relationship, share my heart and hope they did the same. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. There were many times I found myself in a one-way relationship, putting a significant amount of effort into friendships that I never hand picked in the first place.

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I recently began to notice a pattern in the Bible: Friendships are very strategic. They aren’t built out of obligation, they are built out of authentication. They aren’t forced, they aren’t easy and sometimes, they aren’t meant to be. In fact, I clearly see how not every relationship is ordained by God.

But for those that are, how do we build them? Nourish them? And enjoy them?

Sometimes God gives us assignments that will force us to lean on friends. In Exodus 17, God sends Moses to the top of the hill to watch Joshua and some of his men fight a battle. When Moses held his hands up in the air, they were winning. When his hands went down, the battle took a turn for the worse.

"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset."(Exodus 17:11-12)

These fine fellas didn’t have to fight this battle with Moses, they chose to. When we read these scriptures, it seems like such a beautiful moment, but I’m sure there were moments of frustration. Chances are, they experienced fear together, may have disagreed and it’s even possible that (working that close in proximity) they may have ticked each other off. Hypothetical, but likely. It’s human nature.

There are two kinds of people: those that come alongside you to hold your arms up and those who come alongside you with arms crossed. Those that help carry out God’s direction and those who want to give their direction.

Aaron and Hur aren’t focused on what they can gain from this act of love for Moses, nor are they fault finding. They simply stepped in, saw what needed to be done and did it. They did not point out when he was losing the battle, but worked diligently to help him win. Ultimately, they were more focused on what they could contribute to the relationship than what they could gain or they wouldn’t have won the battle. Even more than that, they went to great lengths to help Moses be obedient to God.

I want to be the type of friend that will focus on the fight for my friends and not the faults of my friends; the kind of friend that supports Gods call to the battlefield of life.

Not all battles are won. Not all battles are fun. Not all battles are worth fighting. There will be ups and downs, twists and turns. We all need the kind of friends that will hop on with us, throw their hands in the air and enjoy the ride.

Friends can make or break us, so choose them and choose them well!

Characteristics of Healthy Friendships:

Honesty Trust Affirmation Authenticity (freedom to be yourself) Vulnerability Transparency Unthreatened by other friendships Intentionality

When God Plays Hide & Seek

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Jeremiah 29:13 There’s a word we should wrap our heads around: wholeheartedly. Why is it so tremendously scary to bring your whole heart to the table?

What if it’s rejected?What if it’s made fun of?What if it’s misinterpreted?What if they don’t like what they see?

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So we approach cautiously, with pieces of our heart in hand, with no real intension of allowing all of it to be seen at any given time. And we hide. From others. From ourselves. From God.

Its no wonder King David wrote “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

I love how the New Living Translation says it: "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer."

Here’s what I’ve figured out: a heart that is hidden is a heart full of doubt.

I have come to recognize that every season we find ourselves in is not always Gods decision for our life. Sometimes we are in difficult seasons because of our own choices and the condition of our hearts. If we want to fulfill our purpose, we must allow the Lord to search our hearts. So I prayed the Psalm 139 prayer. Let me rephrase that: I'm praying the Psalm 139 prayer...like daily.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting.

You know what He whispered back? “I’ll search your heart if you’ll search mine.”

Can I leave you with a few thoughts to ponder? Those thoughts we are most anxious about are very telling. Our greatest fears are also our greatest areas of mistrust. Oh believe me, I have plenty! So don’t feel bad. What makes you anxious or afraid? losing something precious? losing something that gives you value? not being seen or recognized? failing? Yeah, me too.

Give God permission to examine your heart: the good, the bad and the ugly. Kick out the fears, drain all the doubt, come face to face with sin and shame and own it. Then, send it out to sea and move on as a changed person.

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In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she says “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable.It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”

If there’s one thing I know about Jesus, it’s that HE’S SAFE.

So dare to ask yourself: What do others tell me? What excuses have I made for a really long time? Where am I most defensive? Allow God to see that beautiful heart of yours! Don’t just be edified by God, be changed by Him.