Empty Places

18519930_1375503069197376_5749210635434995505_n-e1502742680730.jpgThis is a very different first day of school.

That’s because there are a couple empty places in my heart. Big empty places.

For the first time in 18 years, I woke up without my second-born daughter under my roof. Of course she has spent the night away from home before. But for the first time, this is not a sleepover. We said our goodbyes yesterday as she began her college career. What a bittersweet time. There is sadness of knowing there will be an empty place at the table, but an even greater joy at knowing that she has a foundation in Christ and that she is working toward her dreams.

And then there’s another empty place.

For the first time in eight years, I’m not decorating a classroom, planning first-week-of-school activities, outlining classroom expectations, working and reworking seating charts and floor plans, and preparing for open house. For the first time in four years, I’m not in charge of the school I founded. I’m not coordinating opening programs and answering last minute emails.

These are wide-open empty places. Give-me-a-home-where-the-buffalo-roam kind of empty places.

Places where God is preparing to write new stories, to draw new pictures, to create new masterpieces, to compose new melodies. But right now, those places seem a little stark, a little bare, a little bland, a little … well … a little empty.

In the next few weeks, I’ll begin the homeschool journey with my boys, and I’ll get baby Emma into a routine (hopefully), and I’ll find my place God’s place for me, and those empty places will become beautiful, abundant, joyful places in His time and in His way. You see, empty places aren’t void of life and goodness, and if you look hard enough, you’ll see that they aren’t actually empty. They’re full of possibilities and grace, just waiting to blossom, if we’re still enough to wait.

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Finding Freedom from a Frazzled Fate

By Heather Walton

Author’s Note: I wrote this originally in June, just before resigning from a ministry I founded. Since then, I have continued a quest to learn how to live authentically and passionately to fulfill God’s purposes, and His alone.

20170804_163841God does not call us to live frazzled lives. He calls us to peace, to quietness, to prayerfulness. It has often been said that if the devil can’t make us bad, he’ll make us busy. Why? When we’re too busy, we can’t even hear God guiding us, and we make decisions, big and small, in our own strength and intelligence, rather than in the wisdom and foreknowledge of God.

We think we are making decisions in God’s will, because they seem to be Godly decisions. And even if they’re not, we can justify those decisions as Godly because we do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Matthew 22:29). When we are spiritually anemic, it’s pretty easy to think we are doing God’s will when we are not.

I have been in full-time Christian ministry for four years. During that time, I have gone from running a ministry in the power of the Spirit to the ministry running me, draining me of power I don’t even possess. The result—there is some fruit because God’s Word will not come back void; however, the main result is that I am burned out, I have no joy from this ministry anymore, and this ministry isn’t as effective as it once was or as it could be. Not only that, but I regularly neglect my family. So, can I really call it ministry?

Why are so many Christians and churches virtually ineffective? Because there is little to no time for relationships. We go to church like it’s a club—we get to see some of the same people week after week, but do we KNOW those people? For the most part, no we do not. People don’t let us into their lives because our relationships are inauthentic. We don’t have TIME for real relationships. We are too busy!

It’s time to change the tide. I can’t do it all and do any of it well, much less all of it well. I’m exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And I’m teaching my children to imitate me. That may be the biggest reason to slow down the pace: I am to live in such a way that I can say to my children, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But I can’t possibly say that. I don’t want my kids to live the way I do. I don’t want them frazzled and ineffective. I want them to have time for daily Bible study and prayer time. I want them to have some down time. When they have families of their own, I want them to spend both quality and quantity time with their spouses and children. I want them to be able to sleep at night. I want them to be able to be “all there” for their relationships.

One of my life verses is Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Some translations replace “Be still,” with “Cease striving,” or “Relax.” For much of my life, the past two years included, I have felt the need to go at a frenetic pace. I have worked so hard to do a good job for God. But that’s not what God requires. He wants us to be still, to cease striving, to relax—not to slack off—but to rely on Him to do the work through us. Yes, He wants us to work with all of our hearts, but certainly He doesn’t expect us to make bricks with no straw.

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus said. (Matthew 11:30). These days my yoke feels cumbersome and my burden feels like a ton of bricks. The Lord calls us to work with all of our hearts, as working for the Lord, not for men. Part of my problem is that, in many ways, I have been working for men. I have been trying to keep people happy, and in doing so, I have lost the time and energy to seek the face of God regarding the ministry with which He has entrusted me.

I’m ready for an easy yoke, a light burden, a passion for ministry, a renewed enthusiasm for my relationship with the Lord, and more time and energy for my family. I’m exhausted. It’s time to rest. I’m suffocating. It’s time to breathe. I’m parched. It’s time to drink from the well of living water, the well that never runs dry.

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I find myself thinking, “He was with me all along and I didn’t recognize Him!”

 

 

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