Can I just share with you? Do you mind if I open up my heart and share some vulnerable realities this heart of mine holds?
I have been feeling empty.
And maybe a little chipped and broken.
Empty like this pie shell, and cracked like my favorite mixing bowl shown here in this photo from my Thanksgiving preparations.
The kind of empty like I have nothing to give, I’ve poured it all out, there’s an echo in this room.
It’s not a jump-off-a-cliff kind of empty. I’d know. Because unfortunately, I was once there at a season of my life, but rather the emptiness I’m experiencing today is more of the-gas-has-all-run-out. An empty-tank kind of feeling.
As part of my online family, allow me to share with you. Or if time is of the essence, just skip on down past the bulleted paragraphs. The focus points God has poured into my heart from this empty state provides relevant application for any of us experiencing such a season.
In bullet form the life situations look like this:
· My body.
It’s been a year-and-a-half of pins-and-needles tingling in my right leg and radiating burning pain across my buttocks.
Remember how doctor’s feared I might never walk again? (if not, please see our story here at this link.) I used to drag my right leg when I first learned to walk again. After some more surgeries I got to where I could adequately lift my right foot to walk. However, I learned to walk carrying more of my weight on my left side. Thirty years of that body mechanic has contributed to some scoliosis in my spine, three degenerative discs, a bulging disc, and then I guess from my big fall running outside in September of ’16 it appears I tore the disc.
This not-the-end-of-the-world-but-still-bleh circumstance, coupled with the restriction of scar tissue causing tightness in my right hip and a sciatic nerve that is unable to float, has about driven me mad! It’s that constant aggravation. Not pain. Just annoyance. And what’s emotionally challenging is we don’t really know if it’s something we can treat. If it’s fixable, so-to-speak. I mean really, I had a full-on embarrassing cry asking the doctor if this is my new normal, because if it is, I just needed to know, so I can start figuring out how to adjust my mindset.
While this physical experience is NOT a big deal, it’s still a deal. One that makes me feel a bit empty. Like so many things in life, it doesn’t have to be big. A lot of times it’s the little things clumped together that really get to us.
o But there in that frustrating emptiness—God fills me.
He fills the empty shell with reminders that I’m so blessed to have my right leg. It’s a gift to be able to use it and walk!!! Even though it’s got issues and there’s weakness, the Lord reminds me that His power works in weakness. I trust He’s making me into something more through this physical encounter.
II Corinthians 12:9a NLT Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
· My book.
I’m not sure what I was thinking when I said, “Yes, Lord, I will write this story.”
I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but I didn’t anticipate the emotional pain I would revisit. Not like this anyway. I knew it would be emotionally challenging. I just did not expect I’d remember so much. So very, very much. I’m 36 years old, but when I’m writing the story, I am back in that 7 year-old body, like it was yesterday.
I have interviewed the brother of the driver Jon and I hit, and the state trooper who worked the scene of the accident. Those were difficult. But I’ve also interviewed our family friend who lived just down the road back then, and I’ve interviewed my mom, Aunt Donna, and my brother Barry. I’ve watched their lips quiver, tears run down their face and listened to their voices cry out as they relive the tragedy God has challenged me to write. I keep thinking, how can I do this to my family?
Sitting at this laptop, looking at my white screen, my fingertips punching each of the keys, I become overwhelmed with the pain of those memories, the pain of this story I’m writing. I don’t know how many times I’ve uttered, “I can’t do this.” I just feel so empty.
o But there in that painful emptiness—God fills me.
My heart hears, “Heather, this story is not about you. It’s the story God wrote in you about His miraculous work in the midst of the darkest moments.” And then my Heavenly Father so lovingly reminds me of the plans and purposes He has for this story in someone’s life, He wraps me in the prayers of every prayer prayed for me to complete this, and I keep going knowing I will know Him more through writing it. An emptiness leading to more.
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
· My husband.
Those posts were composed from walking through the steps to discover what’s going on with Brandon. He can’t tolerate sleeping on his left side, and when he tries to lie on his left side he produces a bizarre, puzzling sound we can only describe as a wheeze/whistle noise. What’s even more curious is that it’s consistent with his heartbeat.
Of course, he has dismissed this, because let’s admit, sometimes we just rather not know. That whole ignorance is bliss thing.
So after visiting a cardiologist, who had every intention of sending us on to a pulmonologist after ruling out anything cardiac related from an echocardiogram, we received results that were surprising. Brandon’s entire left ventricle is quite thick.
It’s been a process, and there’s more to the story of course, but a CT scan later, followed by a Cardiac MRI, the doctor confirmed Brandon to have a genetic cardiac disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
Genetic cardiac disease!
There have been medications discussed, pace maker possibilities and the potential at some point for a septectomy with a specialist at the Mayo. That’s open-heart surgery!
Right now he’s wearing a heart monitor for 30 days, because it seems that patients with HCM are at risk for sudden cardiac death from arrhythmias. And then he’s got himself signed up for a sleep study soon.
To put the icing on this freak-us-out cake, we learned that the kids have a 50% chance of inheriting the gene. Currently, we are awaiting the results of Brandon’s genetic test to have genetic testing on the kids, to see if they inherited his HCM gene.
I’m being transparent here, so please forgive me if this lacks tact, but when we think about the well-being of our loved ones, we’re thinking about ourselves. At least I have been. Should anything happen to the people I love, I have a confident assurance they will be walking the streets of glory with their Creator, a place with no sorrow, no pain, and no tears. How could that possibly be a negative for those who walk with God?
It’s not! It’s a negative for those who have to continue living. And let me say, in my most honest emotion, I’ve asked the Lord about it. It’s not fair. Yes, really. It’s just how I’ve felt. I lost my brother tragically at seven-years old, I lost my Dad when I was twenty-four due to a massive heart attack, and now my husband has a cardiac disease! Seriously!!! Again, it’s just how I’ve felt. It’s been my hope, and I guess my assumption, that I would pass before my husband. I just didn’t even consider me possibly ever having to say goodbye to him. Surely the Lord thinks I’ve had enough heartache.
o But there in that scary emptiness—God fills me.
He challenges me to evaluate the authenticity of my walk with Him. I ask myself, “Is He all I need?” I mean, I sing the song, “You’re all I want. You’re all I need. Help me know you are near.” But do I really mean the words of that song? Is my relationship with God all I need? If all was gone, if I faced life as Job had to, would the Lord truly be all I need? I’m praying no matter what life holds, I can continually trust God and receive His peace being in a place where yes, He is all I need.
He reminds me He is providing in this need. No one is guaranteed days. The fact is, this diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean Brandon and I will have to say goodbye to one another.
We often jump to worst-case scenario when we get scared, but this does not mean the worst-case scenario is going to be the scenario.
The Lord led us to discover this issue in Brandon that has been hidden. That information is certainly a gift! While ignorance is bliss, having the information, and the ability to monitor and treat along the way, could be the one key to preventing the worst-case scenario, that before, we didn’t even know could happen.
God showed us what we needed to know and has positioned people in our path to provide the best chances for a long healthy life!
Isaiah 25:1 ESV O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
No one celebrates difficulty knocking on the door. No one seeks out a trying time. But gracious! Good things can certainly come from it. I know I certainly grow more out of the challenges than the celebrations.
Why being empty can be a good thing--
1. An empty shell is full of possibilities!
When we look at an empty pie shell, that shell has the potential to be many different things. It could be a pumpkin pie, a pecan pie, a chocolate pie, a coconut cream pie; the list keeps going! And that’s what our empty shell is to God. When we are empty it allows Him to create something good with us.
Romans 15:13 ESV May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
2. An empty shell keeps things fresh.
It means something new is going to take place. We should be in a constant process of being filled and poured out. If we never feel empty that could mean what’s been placed inside of us is getting stagnant, old, moldy and mildewy. (Yes, that last word is one of my own made-up words. It’s Heather vernacular here today. These are the kind of words that exist in my heart.)
I’m grateful for God’s hand at work in my heart, mind, body and spirit. But God didn’t just do a work long ago. He is doing a new work daily! Sometimes that work can be hard. Sometimes it can be painful. But rest assured—He is doing something new!!! I want a fresh filling of Him, always something new to share about His daily love and faithfulness.
Isaiah 43:19 ESV Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
I pray you see your empty-shell moments differently.
I pray you feel encouraged.
Rather than avoiding the empty state, ignoring it, dismissing it or minimalizing it, I pray you hear this….
It’s okay to feel empty. It’s okay to not be okay.
When you look at your empty shell, and maybe even your favorite mixing bowl that is so imperfect you wouldn’t want to pull it out for your company or post it for your blog picture, remember that good things comes from what has been chipped, maybe a little cracked, broken and empty.
I know because God allowed His one and only Son to be broken for us. He sends us the message that He’s capable of filling empty shells with goodness!