E M P T Y
Happy New Year Friends! Welcome to 2020!
Every year for the past 5-6 years, I’ve picked a word of the year as I’ve worked through my Powersheets. In 2019, my word of the year was BOLD which you can read about here. Years prior, my words were build, intentional, grace, and wonder. Some years I do a better job using it as a focus for my year than others.
I start to think about what my word of the year may be for the following year around Thanksgiving. I know that the word takes time to be found, to develop, and to grow in me so I try to give it the space and time to do that. Last year, my word came on New Year’s Eve while I was at a hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This year was a little different. I started my list of words on the Notes app on my phone so I could jot them down as they came to me. (I use the notes on my phone A LOT. I have over 1,000 notes on my phone.) Below is the list I had brainstormed over a few weeks. I continued to pray that my word would become clear to me and I’d allow it to take root and grow so I could understand it’s meaning.
I had purchased a weekly Advent study from All Good Things Collective and planned to use that this year to guide my Advent reading as we approached Christmas. I started it one night on my couch all cozied up with my fleece blanket and lapdesk. I was sitting beside the tree with the no lights except for my tree and stringed lights and began to dig in. Part of the study encouraged you to “Count the Fruit” which is a practice I had begin at the beginning of the year. Anytime something joyful happened, you write it down. It’s a way to keep track of all the ways God’s moved in your and others’ lives. I had been keeping a list of “fruit” that had grown throughout the year and I was excited that the Advent study had this as a part of it.
On the next few pages, there was a community essay and as I was reading, this line hit me: “He is teaching them, and us, to trust. He wants the disciples to be uncluttered and even a little insecure, so they will rely more on God’s providence than on the contents of their backpacks. We never really learn how much God cares for us until we let go of the many securities that sustain us in our lives.” It was one of those wow, yeah. As much as I try to push into discomfort, how uncomfortable am I really? How many securities have I shed?
It then goes on to say “That’s the thing. Christ calls us to emptiness as the first step toward fullness in HIM. We must vulnerably peel ourselves open, choose and even desire to be emptied, to receive Christ’s fullness.” I was hit. That word empty felt like it pierced me. I connected to it immediately. I had never wanted to be “empty” before, but now, well now that’s what I felt like was calling me. Emptiness.
I kept reading. “If we really pray this, we should be a little uncomfortable. Asking God to see right through us, bare it ALL to him, empty the contents of our hearts. We do this because we know he will take us to a place that is eternal, and we can’t carry all our baggage with us to this everlasting place. What a wonderful time of year for us to leave it all behind… ..What if the best way we prepared our hearts for this newborn was to empty them?”
I had to stop reading. I literally couldn’t read any more until I just sat still and thought. I shed a tear. A few actually. I RARELY shed a tear. Like maybe once every 8 months. And it’s only ever 1 tear. No sobbing or crying or anything. Just one lonely tear. So having 1+ tears come from my eyes was a BIG DEAL. So I sat. Still. Quiet. Open. I held out my hands with my palms up and prayed to receive whatever was giving me and to listen to whatever he was telling me. I sat for a while. In perfect silence with my Christmas tree and lights glowing. On the couch, quiet and still.
Then I kept reading.
The line on the next page got me again. “She opened her empty hands to receive this child into the world. I don’t know about you, but I want to be so empty that the most holy thing can grow right here, in me.”
Y’all, I never had the urge to sit with my hands open before while reading scripture. Maybe I should have but I don’t. So for me to do that, and then read that in the next page was jaw dropping. But comforting. To me, God was showing me he was there with me in that moment.
I had to sit again in silence for a while. What must that be like. To literally empty yourself of everything so you have more space for God. To literally create a space where he can be and remain and where you can abide. That he’s so connected to you that he’s filled any void you have. If I’m full, I don’t have those voids for Him. I don’t have the space for him. The margin. Mentally, physically, emotionally, financially. I needed space. I needed void. And I needed to be empty.
I continued to pray that if this was my word, to make it clear. To make it so clear I had no choice but to humbly accept it and the future it brings.
I read the scripture it mentioned at the bottom of the page starting with Psalm 139.
Psalm 139:4 – “Even before a word is on my tongue, Oh Lord, you know it completely.”
What. WHAT. W H A T. The first thing I read is basically like – hey girl this is your word. Try to avoid it but you can’t. You asked and I’ve provided. Here you go. Clear as day. Take it.
“You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high I cannot attain it.”
The Message translation shares it this way:
“I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can’t take it all in!”
You’re right. I can’t take it all in. It’s too much, too wonderful. But also a little too shocking. I read the rest of the verses listed and am still mind blown like that little emoji with the head popping off.
Isn’t it funny how looking back, it was quite clear for me that that was my word but I still decided to ponder on it for a day. So the next day, I was reading a book on my Kindle I hadn’t picked up in a bit, and read the next chapter. The book was “The Ministry of Ordinary Places” . I was reading Chapter 10 entitled “Nachos by the Hour” and the following quotes were those that I highlighted as I navigated through the chapter. The author, Shannan, is sharing how those in her community show her a humility and God’s goodness in the smallest of moments, in the most ordinary of places. Follow along as they are the summary of the story I want to share.
“Guess what else makes [ my heart ] hurt? Watching two young girls gasp over how much food I have in my fridge. Realizing I am a hoarder in my own socially accepted way.”
“Bearing witness to lack constantly exposes my abundance in ways I find inconvenient and uncomfortable, particularly since I’m included to believe, despite all the evidence closing in around me, that I still don’t have enough.”
“God promises daily bread, but I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m tired of bread. Sometimes the bread I’m sent just isn’t the bread I want. I’d rather have peach cobbler with whipped cream. A chocolate croissant. I’d rather have loaded nachos and, by the way, daily isn’t quite enough. I’d prefer them by the hour.”
“But as a woman of great privilege, the least I can do in the face of my community’s and this world’s suffering is to make peace with my daily bread. I will remember their context as well as my own. I will not look only to those who have more as the measure of what I deserve. I will not lament humble beginnings, nor wish (insincerely, let’s be straight) for a harder, grittier life. I will not exaggerate my position on either end of the spectrum.”
“When I believe excess is a blessing, I have forgotten my Jesus, who warned the wealthy but blessed the poor. He wants our hearts, our service, our willingness to throw our trinkets and dreams on the alter of better, lesser things.”
“So, what are we to do with all our miscategorized treasure? Every breath of Jesus and every groaning of his spirit is an invitation to spill it out onto the world that waits, parched and panting. We can’t surrender what we don’t have after all. We are invited to greater generosity, to a looser grip on our money and on our things, to a more expansive belief that the earth really is the Lord’s and everything in it (Ps. 24:1). We want to live more generous lives. But it’s so easy to push against the ambiguous line of “how much do I have to give?” in order to satisfy the biblical mandate to care for the poor. These are the tricky questions only the Spirit can answer. Luke 21 tells us about the poor widow’s offering. We know the story well. But I confess, I always nodded along, secretly thanking my lucky stars I would never know what it’s like to give everything I have.”
“The offering plate came nearer while Rich, our song leader, sang his exquisite custom blend of gravel and stained glass into a single sputtering mike. When the plate reached Amber, instead of passing it directly to me, she sat it on her lap, reached in her purse, and emptied a sandwich baggie of loose coins. Metal on wood, the sound was unmistakeable. It was my heart pounding. My heart filling. It was remorse and release. It was part bargain, part surrender, part battle-torn hope. It was worship.”
Have I ever emptied my metaphorical a sandwich baggie of loose coins as an offering? What would that be like? Have I ever given up all that I had because me being empty was the best way to provide space to be filled with Him?
So here we are. Pursuing emptiness in order to be filled. I have never pursued emptiness before. I would say I’m equal parts nervous and excited but that’s a lie. I’m mostly nervous, but a little excited. But still mostly nervous. But I am confident this is the obedience God is asking of me. To become empty in order to be full.
So follow along while I share what my year of empty will look like and how I plan to give from empty.
If you haven’t picked a focus or word for 2020 yet, it is NEVER too late. January 1st means nothing. You can pick it in March, May, August. It doesn’t matter. Stay tuned over the next week and you’ll learn more about the Powersheets I use to help flesh out what my word of the year will be as well as how I go through the process of vision casting for the year and how my word plays into that vision.
G I V I N G 2 E M P T Y
As I’ve been developing my word and goals for the year, I kept coming back to an idea I had a few weeks prior. To give away for FREE things to you all that have made a positive impact in my life.
Each month in 2020, there will be a theme of the month. My Instagram, blog, and the giveaway (which I am calling GIVING2EMPTY ) will be focused around that specific word. You’ll see monthly blog posts with tools that can help you embrace that specific theme, learning that’s centered around that idea, and some free things from me that will help that word grow in you over the month.
I am so excited to do this for you and share some things from my favorite small businesses as well as my favorite authors and leaders with you! All for the price tag of FREE. I will share the theme and Give2Empty items at the beginning of the month. The details of the giveaways will be on my IG posts so you can check them out there!
So what’s in store for January?
January’s theme is F O C U S. I chose focus because that’s if we focus well and are intentional with what we want the year to bring, the chances of those things happening are much higher. Now, intentions don’t create habits. So I also want to encourage systems to go into place now in January that will help you get the results you want to see as the months progress. So I have two resources that will help you do that. They are the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and Powersheets from Cultivate What Matters.
I will be giving two people a set of Powersheets ($60) and the Atomic Habits book ($27) for free! Now, if you’re thinking “Oh, I already have the book”, or “The Powersheets are little too floral for me” then if you win, give them to a friend! A colleague! A spouse! Your mom. Who cares who, I say pass them along if you’re the winner!
Check out my Instagram @shemakesherownadventure. All the details of the giveaway will be posted there as well as how to enter!