The Reservoir

There was a mess all over my kitchen counter. My coffeepot had decided to overflow and brown, murky water was everywhere. Something was definitely wrong with my coffeepot, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. After further inspection, I realized that the water I had placed into the coffeepot was never fully leaving the reservoir. As a result, I had filled the pot to overflowing without realizing that there was still water in the pot from the last time I had made coffee. But what was interesting to note was there was little to no coffee in my stainless steel mug. It seemed that even though there was an abundance of water and coffee, none of it was usable.
The process of making a perfect cup of coffee had been interrupted. The pattern of normal activity had been broken.
A few nights later, I tossed and turned in a hotel room bed, unable to sleep for the thoughts tumbling through my mind. I was so frustrated. I had an 8:30 a.m. presentation on the horizon, and I was afraid that if I didn’t get enough sleep, my presentation would be a train-wreck. I tried to drown out my roommate’s snoring and my whirling thoughts by repeating the lyrics of my original worship song: “May our praise spill over like a river flowing free…” We had just worshipped to the song earlier that morning, and it was fresh in my mind and heart. I tried to pray, but even utilizing the song lyrics in this attempt didn’t accomplish anything. I was over-tired, distracted, and frustrated.
My normal sleep pattern was broken.
I went into my presentation the next morning, feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. Somehow I managed to be coherent and surprisingly perky, but I felt as if I was pretending. My stress load had risen to a ridiculous height over the past few weeks, and my lack of sleep only added to this reality. My thoughts were overwhelmed with everything at once: the friends I constantly prayed for, my financial situation that had yet to be resolved, my springtime allergies that had suddenly made an inconvenient appearance, and the busy Easter season on the horizon… I was very much running on empty and I needed to be filled.
I needed a shift in the pattern— out of the overwhelm and into overabundance.
I returned home after the long day of presenting, eager to just relax. But a friend had invited me to our ladies’ Bible Study, and even though I was exhausted, I agreed to attend. It was the best decision I could have made! True, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, but our discussion was meaningful and rejuvenating. We talked about how to relate to others even when we are stressed, overworked, and overtired— even though our instinct might be to lash out or say something that might not necessarily reflect Christ in our lives. And by the end of the evening, I was still physically tired, but I felt a bit of renewal taking place in my heart.
In the coming days, I continued to witness the oh-so-welcome pattern shift. I went into the local coffeehouse to get a much-needed boost of caffeine. (By the way, a friend did manage to get my coffeemaker working again. There was just gunk caught in some of the grooves deep down inside). But that day, I needed real coffee, so I ordered up one of my favorites: the flavor of the day, Carmel Kiss. While I waited for my drink to be delivered to the counter, I struck up a conversation with the coffee shop owner and another customer. I don’t know how our discussion managed to work its way to faith and perspective in the presence of stress and grief, but it did. I was able to share my heart in that moment, and hopefully, I was able to reflect Christ into what could have been a rather heavy interaction.
I was feeling quite a bit lighter as I went to the office that afternoon with my coffee in hand, but nothing could have prepared me for the conversation I would have that evening. I spoke with my sister on the phone hours later as I headed home after hours of working and interacting in another Bible Study. Our conversation started like any other. We hadn’t talked recently, so we interacted with a bit of small talk before we got down to the nitty-gritty of our lives. It seemed we were both dealing with overwhelming stress in our individual lives, but instead of feeding into the temptation to complain to each other, we instead went deeper. We talked about everything from our work-related stressors to concerns with friends and family, to deeper spiritual concepts. Before I knew it, nearly two hours of spirit-stirring conversation had taken place. One might think I would feel heavier after such an intense conversation, but instead, I felt lighter than air.
The pattern shift had finally come. The stress and unrest were still there, but I had new perspective. I wasn’t carrying my struggles alone. My sleep cycle had returned to normal and the coffeemaker was brewing perfect caffeinated gifts each morning. But it was my heart that had experienced the greatest change. I think the conversation with my sister had allowed me to gain the greatest perspective. It reconfirmed to me that my stress level was high due to one specific reason: I loved and loved hard. The people and circumstances that I endured were never far from my mind and heart, and I carried those burdens until they were resolved or I was practically forced to lay them aside. I was on my way to finding a balance between being overwhelmed by my burdens and allowing God to come in and overwhelm me with His love and provision.
As my crazy-busy week drew to a close, I was still contemplating my conversation with my sister. I was feeling reflective and contemplative as I did laundry and cleaned the house. The newest Chris Tomlin album played in the background, and even though the music was great, I didn’t pay any attention to the lyrics until the song “Boundary Lines” began to play. I was struck with the lyrics: “I cannot contain this love… If my heart is a cup Your love is an ocean… You fill me up like rivers overflowing.”
Everything seemed to come full circle in that moment. I might be stressed and overwhelmed, but God knew my heart and what I needed to hear that day. He had already prepared the way with the interactions at Bible Study, at the coffeehouse, and with my sister. It was then that God entered in and reminded me that in Him, my cup could be filled to overflowing. The lyrics to my own worship song came to me in that moment as well, and I trembled to think of the connection. In that moment, I knew I needed to praise Him for His faithfulness and the incredible timing as He acted out His amazing love for me. I stood right there in my laundry room that day and lifted up a heartfelt prayer of gratitude.
The situation wasn’t perfect. The pattern had shifted, but resolution had not fully come yet. I was ready to step out in faith with a heart of praise even in the midst of stress-filled imperfection. God knew what I needed, and He would fill my cup to overflowing no matter how dysfunctional my reservoir.


It seems that everywhere I turn these days, I am reminded of the walls that hem me in. I know that is a startling and pointed way to begin a post right off, but it’s the truth. I always knew that I had a guard up in place as I interacted with others, but I never considered the reality in terms of asking why. Why do I have a guard up in my relationships? What could have possibly caused me to feel so tentative in developing deep connections?
As I was preparing for a presentation at a grade school recently, I spoke my material out loud to get a feel for how my words would flow together. It was then that I recounted an experience I had as a fifth grader; just reciting the details out loud caused me to stop in my tracks and bite back the tears. Walls! They were there even then, but they were literal walls that kept me from my classmates and friends.
You see, I had just learned to use my CCTV. The closed circuit television helped me read comfortably by looking at written text on a television screen. Since it was an electronic device, the CCTV needed to be plugged into an outlet. The only logical place for the CCTV to be positioned was near the back of my fifth grade classroom on a large table so there was plenty of room for me to do my homework and study. But there were huge challenges to being in the back of the classroom.
First of all, I wasn’t in a row of desks with my classmates. That meant when papers were handed out or students were dismissed by row to go to lunch or recess, I was never included. Sometimes, I would just affiliate myself with the closest row to my table and try to fit in with that group, but it never seemed quite right. And sometimes when a classmate brought in a treat to celebrate their birthday, I was forgotten in the back corner. I wasn’t sitting in a row, so it was easy to forget I was there.
As if that didn’t hurt enough in itself, there were other challenges, especially with test-taking. Even though I was in the back of the room with my CCTV facing away from most of the class, some of my classmates still managed to see the answers I wrote on my test papers. As a result, the teacher constructed a shell of sorts to go around my table. It was tall and made out of cardboard, and it literally boxed me into my corner. No one could see me, and I couldn’t see anyone.
At the time, there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it. My parents and I had talked to the teacher, and although she seemed to understand that I was feeling as if I was not included, she didn’t seem eager to help resolve the situation. I don’t think she was a terrible teacher; I just think she had never really been educated in disability concerns. After all, she was a long-term substitute that semester while my teacher was on maternity leave. I tried to stuff down the realization that I was misunderstood, and I did my best to ignore that I was truly hurt.
But even as I entered middle school and later high school— all the while using my CCTV, sometimes even in the open for all to see in a packed classroom— I still felt it. In some ways, I would never fully be understood. My disability would always be a factor in my life and there was nothing I could do to change it. I could explain my situation until I was out of breath; no one, unless they lived life through my eyes, would be able to fully comprehend the way I lived my life.
Some people have come close to unlocking the door and stepping through. Some have even sent my proverbial walls crashing to the ground for the briefest of moments. Those encounters are truly amazing when they happen, but they can also be humbling and overwhelming. It isn’t often that someone can get so close to understanding me as a person that they can talk to me as if they know… or truly empathize with my situation. It’s not that I’m looking for pity or even sympathy; I’m just looking to be understood. I may not say it outwardly: “please understand me,” but the walls I have erected around myself say something like: “don’t get too close… you’re not meant to understand.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love meeting new people and building connections, but it’s getting close that’s the hardest for me. I have been in the middle of relationships that have simply ended with little or no explanation and I have been left reeling. I have wondered why things had to come to an end. Was it me? Was my disability a factor? Did I assume too much from the other person or ask too many favors? Or was it simply the time for our connection to lapse? I realize that relationships don’t last forever; people come and go from our lives and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. But when it happens again and again, I over-think and over-analyze, wishing I could somehow change things.
Just last week, I was walking to work when a truck passed me on the road. Now there are a lot of vehicles that I encounter each day, but this one stood out to me. I couldn’t read the license plate or make and model, but it reminded me of someone. As the truck passed me, I knew the color of the truck was not the same shade of this person’s vehicle, but the similarities to this friend’s truck were enough to send my thoughts whirling. I wondered about my friend’s well-being and for seemingly the millionth time, I asked myself if I was somehow to blame for our lapse in communication. Where had we gone wrong? And just like that, the relationship wall became fortified around me.
It was then that I knew what I had been doing all along. In every new connection, I was always searching for the long-term possibility. It was as if I was asking: “will this person be around in the long-term? Can I count on him or her to be a confidant, or will they leave me hanging months later with little or no explanation? How could I get close to someone if they were only going to leave me later?
Walls— whether in a classroom to block out prying eyes or in my everyday life to block out the hurt… It seemed like some demolition might be in order, and it wasn’t long before several opportunities opened up for me. Over the course of a few weeks, I had a few soul-stirring conversations with people who are very dear to me. To these incredible friends of mine— thank you for being willing to listen as I conveyed some of my innermost feelings. It was in these conversations that I began to understand some of my deepest insecurities and unspoken hopes and dreams.
So obviously, not everyone has left me. I do have some amazing friends who come alongside me in the most startling ways. I may feel misunderstood at times, but deep down, I know I am not alone on this journey. In some ways, the walls are still standing, but there are a few cracks here and there— just enough weakness in the structure that it won’t take long before they truly crumble. But until then, I seek to be open to the hearts of others, for instead of dooming a relationship before it truly begins, I can envision a connection that just might have the opportunity to take down the facade around me. Let the demolition commence.

Let it Go

I placed a stamp on the envelope and sealed it closed. As I set the tiny package aside, I let out a relieved sigh. I had done it. I had figuratively let go of an issue I had been carrying around on my shoulders for quite some time, and it felt amazing to set it free.
I had just attended a women’s Valentines tea, and the speaker had shared about her journey toward contentment. She spoke about various situations in her life when she had given her cares into God’s hands only to take back those same concerns as if she could find contentment on her own. She walked us through a day in her life in which she prayed desperately that God would help her find contentment in her singleness. As she prayed that day, she clutched a special rock in her hand— a heart-shaped stone that she had received as a gift from a dear friend. Even as she cried out to God, she heard His voice speaking to her heart: “Why can’t you let go and trust Me with your heart? Let Me hold Your heart in my hands…”
She recognized the truth in His words, so one day, standing on a cliff in Thailand, she took that heart-shaped stone that was so dear to her and hurled it into the sea below. Her heart was instantly saddened that she had relinquished such a dear possession, but another part of her heart responded in relief and joy. Even though it was only a figurative release of the burdens she carried, she was able to give God her concerns as they related to singleness.
At the tea, this woman asked us to take heart-shaped pieces of paper and write down that one major issue that is causing a lack of contentment in our lives. Then she encouraged us to place our hearts in the provided addressed envelope and send them to her through the mail. In turn, she promised to read the concern, pray over it, and then shred it. She expressed this as a means to figuratively let go of our struggle with contentment as she had done on that cliff in Thailand.
She made it clear that many of us might not be ready to relinquish our issue so readily. She said it didn’t matter when or if we ever mailed her the heart, but I knew right away what I needed to relinquish, and as soon as I got home, I did just that.
I wrote: “Insecurity, as it relates to physical disability, in feeling like a burden to those I love.” I recognized in that moment just how much this concern limited my ability to be content in my circumstances. It is something that keeps rising to the surface again and again without resolution. For years, I have confidently expressed that I am okay with the fact that I have a disability, but I have never been able to set aside the fact that I am needy out of necessity. There are certain things I cannot do, and that means I have to ask for help. But I hate bothering people and asking for favors, and I always wonder whether the response from my friends and family is genuine. Are these dear people simply helping me because they feel obligated, or do they help because they truly don’t mind?
It was crazy how, in the twenty-four hours leading up to the tea, I had debated about attending. I heard the weather forecast and knew it would be too cold to walk to the church on my own; therefore, I would need to ask for a ride. But I didn’t know who to ask, and to top it off, I knew the food that would be offered at the tea would not be good for my allergies. I decided maybe it would just be easier to stay home and get ready for my girls’ night at my house for the evening. But I really wanted to hear the speaker, and I think God knew that I needed to hear her words.
So I reached out and asked for a ride, even as I cleaned my house and chatted with a dear friend on the phone. As we talked, our conversation somehow moved to the very topic I would later write down and place in that envelope. But at the time, I had no knowledge of what would happen at the tea the following morning. My friend, who has also had her own journey through disability and its unique challenges, shared from her heart about the relationship between grief and contentment. She and I both agreed that certain areas of disability present unique realities: the difficulty in obtaining transportation, extensive medical needs, the emotional toil in dealing with friends and family who just don’t understand, the fact that marriage and family (if it ever happens) will look very different from the status quo… These realities come with the knowledge that disability takes away some of the normalcy of daily life, and something as typical as getting married or one day having grandbabies, may not ever come to pass. My friend expressed that we need to give ourselves permission to grieve those things as they come to mind, and then let them go… not dwelling on the loss any longer than we have to. The speaker at the tea ended up echoing this truth, which I took to heart with a genuine smile.
Why did I smile in a moment when I was contemplating grief and loss? Well, it was very simple. This unexpressed grief in my life was largely causing my insecurity. Although I had come to grips with the fact that I had a disability, I had not yet relinquished the circumstances relating to disability that had me so entrenched in discontentment. I needed to let it go, proverbially releasing it into the deep waters of God’s open hand. I needed to be reminded on this Valentine’s Day that God was the only One who truly understands the inner workings of my heart— the grief, loss, fears, insecurities— and that He could make me into a confident woman who would no longer be burdened by discontentment.
Now although I relinquished my heart, so to speak, I know that I am going to have the propensity to take it back from Him. So I need to be reminded that this journey toward contentment is a learning process. It gives me great comfort to know that even the apostle Paul had to learn what it meant to be content: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want” (Philippians 4:12). So my goal is to learn what it means to be content and continue to allow Him to hold my heart in the process. Let the journey begin.