You know the feeling...your bucket is empty. You are physically, emotionally, and mentally empty and dry. You given all you have and life just keeps coming, like the waves, hard and fast, and you are just surviving. Trying to keep your head above water and not drown.
But this isn't a situation that you can just walk out of. It's very different than you imagined it would be. The life you are living is your calling. It's the path God has put you feet on and asked you to walk out of love for Him. With joy. It started out that way. When you began your journey, life was beautiful and everything was green and you danced in the rain. Your eyes were lifted up and bright. You were up for adventure and new things. It was exciting. But now, it just seems like you are dragging your feet down this dry and dirty road. The green is gone and you feel like you're in a desert. The rain that you once danced in now feels cold and you curse it as it falls...
This past year has been a rough one. For me personally, not just as a family or in ministry. Moves, goodbyes, expectations, realizations, family, withdrawals, homeschooling, new ministry, hubby not doing what he loves, a 12-year-old son, emotions, hormones...just this past week, we found out that a 10 month ongoing deal for land for our new hangar feel through and we are back at square one. As I was talking to a dear friend, we were talking about what to do when your bucket is empty and how every time you are emptied, the bottom gets a little deeper and a full bucket doesn't feel as full as it used to.
When the Lord first called us to the mission field, we were on fire and full of passion and energy. We were so excited to start our new ministry in the Philippines using aircraft to help speed up the process of getting the Gospel to people who were lost without Christ. Almost 8 years later, I can tell you that it has looked nothing like what we imagined it would. We have lived a dream life some of the time, doing what we love and what we believed God called us to. But we have also done a lot of things that we did not dream of. Several years of not flying, filling in needs here and there, feeling unwanted or not needed, moving and traveling ALOT with kids, saying goodbye to coworkers that we thought would be here with us longer, and so so many unknowns and LONG periods of waiting.
Over the past few weeks, we have been convicted and challenged...one of those times where you feel and hear God speaking to you in EVERYTHING. Songs, books, friends...and to sum it up, He has asked us a question. "Will you choose joy and excitement and be passionate about doing whatever it is I ask you to do, even if it's not what you 'dreamed of?'"
Yeah...and basically we have realized that by allowing cynicism, complaining, frustration, and impatience to creep in, we have drained our on buckets.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of things beyond our control that drain us. Living in a country other than your home country will do that to you, as well as being in full time ministry. Anyone who is understands what I mean when I talk about tiredness that doesn't go away no matter how much you sleep. But the Lord is showing us things that we have CHOSEN to do that drain us. And what's even more awesome is that He has shown us some very practical ways to work on changing.
1. Complaining kills.
We have realized how often we complain, especially under the disguise of "venting." My complaining ruins the atmosphere of my home and my bad attitude becomes everyone else's bad attitude, especially my kids and my husband. One way we are fixing this is that at dinner, we are all going around the table telling our favorite thing that happened that day. Focusing on the fun and joyful things that happen instead of being so quick to voice whatever it is that is bothering us. Also singing and praying together as a family more. A friend of ours told about his 6th grade teacher who required pushups for every mean thing that was said. We are now trying something like that for complaining just to help make us aware of how often we complain. So if you notice that we are all getting buff in pictures, you'll know why.
2. When sharing something with my spouse, timing and necessity can be key.
When something happens that frustrates me, my automatic response is to immediately tell Josh how frustrated I am and tell him about how so-in-so did this and it really bothered me. Any loving spouse's response is going to be to sympathize. But for us, this leads to feeding off of each other's frustrations. It quickly turns into a back and forth narrative on how this person or this thing has offended or frustrated both of us and it grows and grows until it's out of control. So we have tried to start asking ourselves 2 things before we share something- "Does this need said right now?" and "Do I really need to say this at all?" This allows time for frustration to lessen and the Lord to deal with the sin that is probably driving the frustration.
3. Choose to think the best.
I remember first hearing this years ago in the "Love and Respect" study in reference to husband/wife relationships. But this applies to every relationship and for us especially in cross-cultural situations. Why do I always assume the person is just trying to be annoying and is out to get me? Just because you've been burned in the past doesn't mean everyone is trying to set you on fire. Choose to think the best.
4. Be adventurers.
When you're frustrated, hurt, and tired, you want to be safe. No new things. No change. But the reality is, we live a life of change and new things almost daily. I can drudge through each day just "taking what I'm given" or I can see life as a wild and exciting adventure with Jesus and accept each things He gives with joy knowing it's the best He has for me.
So many things in this life drain our buckets. Lord Jesus, help me not to drain my own bucket.