Holding to Empty Spaces

I plundered ahead in my chores. We were digging out from under mounds of dirty laundry, undone dishes, and still carrying an intense craving for sleep. Summer had been diagnosed with the flu the week before. We saw temperatures rise to 106, and had poured hours of time into seeking remedies online, and consulting doctors and nurses. We are so grateful we are all now healthy.

In an effort to maximize my time in the wake of this plague, I allowed Siri to read me the book of Ephesians while my robot vacuum cleaned my carpets and I folded clothes. Meanwhile, Baylor entertained Summer in the dog bed.

In an instant, I realized how little life I was absorbing. I was sitting in a powerful moment, yet life was passing me by. Yes, multitasking felt unbelievably good. But, in the haze of sleeplessness and an unreasonable desire to pair all of the socks, I realized I simply had my hands in too much.

I reflected on a recent conversation with my mother. I joined her for breakfast and asked if I could interview her for a blog series. She wrapped her cold hands around her coffee and responded to my first question with a statement that deeply struck my heart:

“Don’t miss it,” she said. “Your generation does a lot. And often, you try and do too much all at once. In your multitasking, you walk past powerful works of God without being changed and coming alive in the gifts He has for you in that very moment or season. Don’t get to the end of this life journey and realize you’ve missed it. Just say no to over commitment.”

She was right. How often do we allow one activity to happen at a time? How often do I isolate one subject and allow it to fully resonate with my 5 senses?

At this very moment I’m writing, listening to music, sipping a glass of wine, looking sporadically over Scripture, and eavesdropping on a conversation happening behind me. It’s rare that I do one of these activities at a time. And I know I’m not the only one.

We all walk around overwhelmingly distracted. We are numb to these distractions because this pace of living is now normal and expected. Expected by our kids, our culture, our schools, our families, our employers, our friends and our teachers. The concept of holding onto empty space feels like a wasted opportunity.

Empty spaces such as vacant rooms, blank canvases, a blank TV screen, silence, and blank squares on a calendar are quickly filled lest we feel discomfort, fear of failing, or fear of missing out.

And, ironically, we are missing out.

In that moment, I paused Siri, halted the sock pairing, and turned off the vacuum. In the silence I felt God whisper, “Create more empty spaces.”

When I considered this experience later, I remembered a particular class I had when studying to become a mental health clinician. It was a class with one of my favorite professors, an older man with gray hair and the sweetest smile. He leaned against the table, looked at our small class, and folded his hands. He said,

“Silence will be one of your greatest assets in a therapy session. Don’t fill it. Silence can be your co-pilot and your mentor. You will quickly learn: silence is powerful. And no information is, indeed, information.”

I left this class with a new approach to helping others.

I began harnessing silence, which existed in many of my awkward moments of internships.

At the time, I was interning at a hospital. I was often the first person, other than the physician, who would sit with patients after they received devastating news: they had cancer, AIDS or ALS, their spouse had passed, their parent was diagnosed with a terminal illness, CPS was being called, or they awoke after a failed suicide attempt. You know, easy moments (This statement is dripping with sarcasm).

I’ll never forget meeting with a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Her medical intervention was causing hallucinations and mental distress. I went in her room to conduct the typical assessment. Then, I sat next to her bed and allowed awkward silence, per the advice of my professor.

I did not try and answer questions for her or tell her that the hallucinations did not exist, I just sat. And enjoyed her. She was discharged and, as is typical with such hospital work, I did not expect to see her again.

Six weeks later she was readmitted. She called and requested me, by name, to her room. She was claiming that her IV stand was a man trying to attack her. Upon arriving to her room, I sat next to her bedside and allowed silence to fill the space. She looked beautiful. And tired. And so, very confused.

She looked at me for a while and after sitting for 3 excruciatingly awkward minutes of silence, she pulled a Bible out from under her hospital blankets. “Can you please read me this?” The Book was opened to Ephesians 6 and she pointed to the passage. I read it, and a dialogue opened up that still brings me to tears. Silence bred life and love that day.

In this season, I feel God asking me to intentionally invite this silence back into my life. Not just to help others, but to help me. And not just silence, but empty spaces in general. Empty blocks on my calendar. Empty pages. Empty rooms in my house. Empty places at my table. No background noise. Simplicity. Guiltless, beautiful, simplicity.

I want this emptiness to act as my co-pilot and mentor, just as it has in my professional life.

This means I am starting to say no to play dates and coffee dates and grocery shopping. I have stopped doing some chores and my laundry is typically left unfolded in the dryer. I don’t always do the dishes nor do I have my typical Scripture reading with beautiful Bethel worship music filling the silent background. Nope. I sit in silence and Jesus shows up.

I realize this is a season, and life will not always carry on in this manner. But I’m enjoying what God has for me in the now. I’m enjoying the process of embracing empty spaces as my personal mentor and co-pilot.

I approach my time from a different angle these days.

In the mornings, I now sit my toddler by me in a big, comfy chair. I sip my coffee and she holds her plastic coffee mug. I do not play music in the background. I try to place my phone across the room. I put all my books and my computer out of reach. I just look at her. I drink in her beauty and the precious moments that I’m getting with her. And, in this silence, she talks my ear off. She has started saying some words. She now sings. She laughs a laugh that would shatter the hardest heart.

These moments are bringing me to tears as God ushers my heart through a process of coming alive and healing from the darkest year of my life.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share more about my journey over the last year. I hope to get to a place where I can utter words that feel so hard right now. I pray my fingers can dance across this keyboard and wrap words around the realities involving our journey through postpartum depression, when I visited the darkest corners of life I have ever known.

Today, to be with my family – in the noise and the silence – is a gift I almost missed. And so I can now, more than ever, appreciate soaking in the empty spaces alongside them.

In an effort to embrace empty spaces, I’ll be stepping away from blogging, snapchat, and Facebook for the month of April. I’m taking a healing vacation with my family.

We are going to an empty island off the coast of NC where we will purposefully look to Jesus and celebrate what He has carried us through. We will celebrate our marriage and the strength we have today because of the battles this season held. We will celebrate our new-found understanding of Jesus’ resurrection power. And we will rejoice in our precious bond with our daughter, Summer. We will miss our furborn, Baylor, but he will be in good hands with his Uncle Nay.

May happens to be Postpartum Awareness month. Perhaps the Lord will help me process a bit of my journey so that I can help raise awareness and extend a hand of hope to other women suffering with PPD in the month of May,

For now, I pray you all have a wonderful Easter and that you, too, may relish in the resurrection power Jesus offers and enjoy the empty spaces  life hands you.


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