Empty To Be Filled

By Stacee Helton

October 27, 2023

I had spent my entire lunch break preparing a lesson for our youth. My husband had traveled out of state to attend a funeral, and I was going to be taking the lead in class that night. I decided that I would use a lesson topic that I had recently prepared for my Sunday School class. Since we had several students out that morning, we talked about a few other things, and I tucked my lesson away for another time. When the funeral date was set for Wednesday, and my husband knew he wouldn’t be back in time for church, this faithful sidekick had an already-prepared lesson. It would be perfect! Little did I realize… there would be even more to share with them.

Since my husband was away, I didn’t sleep much at all on Tuesday night. (I never do when he is gone). I wasn’t scared; I just couldn’t sleep. So, I decided to talk to the One who was here with me; to share with Him some of my lesson plans for our youth, all about the Fruit of the Spirit. As I was speaking with God about why I felt it was an important topic for these teenagers, I added to my reasons this idea of them offering all they have, and being bold enough to use those gifts to honor Him. Then, as He often does, God chose to show me something.

A clear image of a beach came into view. I was standing in the sand, and immediately remembered an old framed print that was literally in every funeral home and some hospital rooms that I often visited with my grandparents, when I was a child. I wondered if He wanted me to remember the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. Maybe He was just reminding me in a special way that I wasn’t really alone, because He was there with me. And then, as this scene played out before me, I looked down and saw a bucket in my hand. It was full of sand, but also other pieces of trash that can sometimes be collected while scooping up sand at the beach. Items such as a twig, a broken seashell, a rock, a piece of glass, old torn bits of paper, etc. I began trying to carry this bucket, but it was so very heavy. So, I decided to drag it. I was trying desperately to reach God with my bucket, but the weight of it made it quite difficult for me. 

Finally I reached Him, standing on the shore. He said, “Go ahead… empty it”. (Now this is where I will admit… that part surprised me a little bit. After all, I had just worked so hard to get that heavy bucket all the way over to Him). Already knowing the questions swirling around in my head, He said, “I can’t fill it up with the things I want for you, if you’re still carrying all of that other stuff around. Just lay it all out, here at my feet”. 

As I poured out the contents of my heavy bucket, the relief of getting rid of that junk was overwhelming. All of those broken things that had been weighing me down were no longer mine to carry. And now, my bucket was emptied out, and ready to be filled with all of the things He had in mind for me. If I was to truly be of any kind of service to Him, I had to be ready to receive the gifts and plans He had for me… and to also be able to let go of some of those things in the bucket that I thought were glorifying Him, when all along, they weren’t what He wanted or needed from me. He just needed a willing and obedient heart. (And an empty bucket, waiting to be filled again). 

As I prepared my lesson for our youth about the Fruit of the Spirit, I would now also be able to share with them this beautiful image that God so lovingly shared with me, when He finally found me quiet and still (and awake) last night. God longs to use us for His Kingdom and for His glory, and is always working to prepare us for every task He places before us. May we strive to serve Him well, and always be ready to have our buckets overflowing with “goodness”. (Which, by the way… just happens to be a Fruit of the Spirit!).

Creaky Things

By Stacee Helton

October 15, 2023

It’s definitely mid-October. The leaves are changing, there are pumpkins on porches and front steps, along with mums and haystacks, scarecrows, fall wreaths, spiders in their webs (my husband’s absolute least favorite part of the season) and even some of those crazy blow-up things in a few front yards in our town. Yes, Halloween season is upon us.

This is typically when you see commercials and advertisements for several things: pop-up Halloween stores (usually in a local store front that has gone out of business), haunted houses, and new or recurring Halloween movies. I’ve seen many of the classics: Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and even The Exorcist (with other friends from my church youth group when I was teenager… in my home… where I couldn’t RUN AWAY. It was terrifying!). I much prefer It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over the creepy movies, while Disney Channel’s Halloweentown High has taken the top spot for my daughter, since her Kindergarten years. 

The commercials for the haunted houses are the ones that always make me chuckle. Not because people pay money to be repeatedly scared by someone (and maybe even wet themselves in the process!) but it’s the fact that the sound of a creaky, squeaky door can literally be added into any commercial or movie, and suddenly… it’s scary. Think about it: if you watch someone walk into a room and look around, and the door isn’t creaky, well… that’s not scary. It just makes you want to know what they’re looking for, right?. They could be looking around for their pet, or their child. But add in that creaky door sound, and voila! You have yourself a scary movie!

I’ve learned that creaky things aren’t always scary, though. Yes, it can make things feel a bit more ominous, but usually, that creaking sound can be explained. It can be caused by stiffness from a long period of sitting still, or maybe the opposite is true… it can be caused by years of overuse, or simply… due to age. Sound familiar? It makes me think of myself; the parts of my body that are quick to remind me that they’ve been around awhile. More specifically, I think about my squeaky, creaky knees! They’ve been popping since my younger years, so I’m not surprised that they give me the most discomfort in my “not-so-younger” years. This morning, they were practically singing  (although obviously out of tune),  with every just-out-of-bed step. I laughed as I walked towards the coffee pot. Creaky things, indeed. 

I find myself thankful that creaky things can still be useful. Old, squeaky doors might be loud and sing a creepy song while opening them, but they still open and close. They still have purpose. You and I are much the same: we may have parts of ourselves that seem harder to use than they used to be, or maybe we aren’t sure they are still of use at all. But God, as only He can, freely gives different gifts to those who love Him, and wants us to use them to bring glory to Him, even if they “sing a squeaky little tune” along the way. Do you have a gift or talent, or maybe even a lifelong dream, that has been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust because using it seems scary, or maybe even a little painful, due to years of sitting on that shelf? Maybe it’s time to dust it off, and rediscover its purpose. Afterall, it was created with one… just like you!  https://www.bible.com/bible/111/1co.12.12-27.NIV