This past weekend I was at a Women's Retreat. (My first women's retreat ever.) The theme was "The Filling Station." Our guest speaker, Vanessa Bonner, spoke about the dangers of cruising the first night. Thinking back, I know what that looks like.
In High School I was running on empty. I looked for other ways to fill myself up. When I felt especially empty, I tried to harm myself. I had a dull knife and thought that physical pain would relieve my emotional emptiness. (I didn't manage to do any real harm.) Mostly, I went to guys. I LONGED for a relationship. Junior year, I got my wish. I met a guy and we started dating. I started felling like I was full. Everything was going good. I was cruising. I graduated and went to college. There I started to feel the drain again. My boyfriend, little by little, stopped talking to me, I felt like I was drowning at school, I didn't think my friends really liked me; I was feeling the drain once again. Not knowing how to fix it, I turned once again to my dull knife. This time I managed to get past the initial layers of skin and make a thin red line. I stopped at that point. I knew it was wrong.
I talked to my cousin and we conjured a plan. I would take a year off from school and come live with him and his parents in Vancouver, Washington. My parents obviously hated this plan and tried to talk me out of it. However, I was bound and determined. So, with a ticket bought by my cousin, I was Washington bound. However, it wasn't a fix all. I still felt drained and empty. I would wait and wait, constantly checking my phone for a text from my boyfriend (who didn't like my decision to move because it would put us father apart, but he would support my decision). Eventually, I would just text him. When I would call him, we would sit in silence. (There was the background noise of video games.) My cousin saw this and insisted I break it off. After much mental debate, more insisting from my cousin, I broke it off. It's the hardest thing I'd ever done.
After a few days, things were looking up. It was like a weight was lifted. I was a free woman! Everything was great! I was having a blast, I got on eharmony, I had a job and my Aunt and Uncle's Pizza restaurant, Vancouver Pizza Company, (best pizza ever, by the way); I was cruising again. I met Tanner on eharmony and we started dating. My mom offered me a job at her law office, so I moved back home. Then I went up to Ohio, where Tanner lived, to help him move down to Louisiana. When he proposed the weekend before my birthday, I felt like the happiest girl alive! Well, until our wedding day about three months later. We went on our honeymoon, I got settled in Louisiana, we found an amazing congregation where we would later place membership; life was great.
Then I got a call from my mom at 8:00 am on October 31st. My grandpa had gone into the bedroom to wake up my grandma only to find that she was gone. My world came crashing down. It was one of those times when you're holding the phone and you don't know what to do or what to say.
(I can't say that the whole time Tanner and I were dating, the engagement, and then the marriage I was completely cruising. I remember growing more than I had in a while in that time. However, I don't think I was completely filling myself with God either. I wasn't looking to Him as much as I should have.)
After the funeral and a few months had passed, I started cruising again. (I had not learned my lesson.) Tanner and I bought our first house, I got a job at Chick-fil-a to help with bills and to try and start a savings fund, and things were going pretty well. It wasn't long until I started to feel really drained, like I was running on empty. Tanner and I were working with the youth and I didn't feel like I had anything to give them because I didn't have anything at all! My general manager quit, another manager quit, things started going downhill fast. Somehow, I injured my knee and it hurt to stand. Thus, Tanner and I decided it was best for me to quit. I thought I had built up enough and we weren't relying on my paycheck. Well, Tanner had a couple months he didn't get a bonus. My "build-up" ran dry. We were having some financial trouble. I kept sitting there thinking, "God will provide. He will lead us to green pastures." He did. He gave us just enough. However, I was still on empty. I wasn't listening. I was just crying out for God to save me. I couldn't hear him over my cries.
Eventually, it got to the point where I needed to get a job. I started putting in applications, praying God would lead me to the right one, praying for God to save me. Eventually, longer than Tanner would have liked, I got a job at a school doing after care. It was good until they docked my hours, because they had the wrong information when they hired me, and then expected us to be tutors, and whole other messes started up.
Somewhere during this, I realized that I didn't need to cruising or filling myself with anything other than God. I started trying to pray every morning. I developed an "outline" for my prayers so I didn't forget to thank him for what he blessed me with or end up just asking for things I wanted or "needed".
I started looking for another job, really asking God what he wanted me to do. One Sunday the sermon was about spiritual gifts. We were all told a site where we could take a test to help you find your spiritual gift. Having always been curious about it, I took it excitedly. Come to find out, my top result was administrative (tasks). This aligned with what I thought I really wanted to do, work in an office, preferably a church. Going off of that, I applied at a place that needed a secretary. I was told they would like to hire me and that I needed to start the hiring process. In this time, I found out that my friend was going to move back to Texas. (Very bittersweet.) Ironically, she was the church "Office Manager". The position I had been praying for since Chick-fil-a was going to be open. (Not that I was praying for her to leave!! I just wanted a position like hers or to be able to work alongside her!) I applied for the job as soon as I found out how. With advice from my husband and my mom, I kept the other job open as a fall-back. God had his plan though. A week after my interview, I was hired. God works in mysterious ways.
When I was asked where I thought I was, I hesitated to say I was full. I knew that I had a drain, as we all do, but I didn't feel the drain like I was going to run on empty anytime soon. Life is good! God is great! Sunday morning, I found my answer to the question of where I was. Vanessa Bonner talked about when we keep ourselves full of God and not ourselves. When we do this we are "draining" into others, but God is constantly filling us. Not only are we "draining" into those around us, we are overflowing into them!
I knew that's where I was. The lesson for me, however, was to make sure I don't start cruising. I know the danger, and I don't want to be there again. I have to remember to stay aware, know when I need to refill and always keep God as my number one. I know Satan is out there ready to hit me with something, but if I stay aware and make sure I am constantly filling myself with God, He will sustain me and I will make it though with His help.
So, my question to you is, where are you? Are you cruising, running on empty, or filled with God and overflowing into those around you?
Keep on keeping on.