Fill Up to Pour Out: You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have

Contributed by:  Ashley McDonald, momma of Alaira, Audra, Amos & Acelynn

Ever have those hours, days, weeks, maybe even months where you just need reminded that what you do matters? Yeah, me too.

My long-awaited dream of being a stay-at-home mom came true nearly seven years ago when Alaira joined our world. Twelve short months later her sister Audra was born. Just three years after that, our only son Amos made his grand entry. And to top things off, Acelynn completed the McDonald crew just six months ago. To put it simply, life.is.crazy. Fun? Yes. Crazy? Indeed. I would be lying to say I love every minute of it. We have real struggles. But for those times that seem as though they may never end, there are SO many more times that pass way too quickly filled with laughter, joy, silliness, contentment, adventure and so much more.

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So how does a mom endure those seasons I mentioned earlier and remain in a “good” place mentally, emotionally, physically and most importantly spiritually? I believe finding healthy ways to be “filled up” so that we can “pour out” is the key. It is in those times of being filled where the simple reminders that what we do does matter.

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So what is being “filled up” all about? And what does it mean to “pour out” for our children? I believe being filled up has to do with being in a good place personally where you feel at peace mentally and emotionally to be able to exert yourself physically. Pouring out has everything to do with answering your kids’ every beck and call. You know the times where they say, “Mom, I’m hungry. Please make me a waffle. Mommy, I spilled the syrup. Can I have a paper towel? I’m thirsty mom. Will you get me water? And turn on my show? Hey mom, sissy won’t share the iPad. Mom, watch me do this! Mom, mom, mom can we do…can I have…can we go…” You get the picture. Moms of little ones, it is never-ending. We spend so much of our time caring giving, that it can become easy to overlook refilling ourselves in order to maintain the ability to serve as Jesus did, to maintain that servant-like attitude in all we do while being taxi, chef, nurse, play date coordinator, teacher, disciplinarian, encourager and the list goes on…

I have come up with some simple ways to “fill up,” but all of these can be tailored to your personal interests.

Time with Jesus.

This is singlehandedly the most important piece to staying filled up in order to pour yourself out for your kiddos. I find on days where I happen to skip my alone time with Him, that my nerves are on end, my patience is next to nonexistent and I crave for nap time to come and the day to end. That’s no way to enjoy life! I am probably not alone in this boat when it comes to needing my sweet time with the Lord. Want to know what is difficult? Making it happen! I have learned that sometimes if the shows are playing in the background and everyone is eating at the table, that even then I can spend time in His Word or find a scripture to meditate on. The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and  received and heard and seen  in me—practice these things, and  the God of peace will be with you.” We can find these things to meditate on in his Word alone. I love the promise at the end of that verse that talks about His peace being with us when we take the time to be with Him. Worship is also vital for me. That is all I play when music is on, and remaining in a constant state of prayer has helped to shift my focus. I can look at my mess of a kid who just pooped in his underwear for the second time in one day and now needs bathed again and thank the Lord for the silly boy he has blessed us with rather than being irritated with the mess I have to currently clean up. My focus seems to stay on what I can be thankful for rather than what I can complain about. Having a servant-like attitude as Jesus did does not always come easily, but when our focus is on him, it tends to be easier.

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Exercise.

Now this might not be a favorite for some ladies, but all I know is what I have personally experienced. It is in the times when I am physically active that I have a better approach to the day. There is just something really good that happens when I get those endorphins running through my body. I think more clearly; I feel better about myself; I choose to eat healthier (most times!); and I have that time alone to gather my thoughts. From a personal standpoint, I like to run…a lot. But any form of physical activity will get your blood pumping! If you are anything like me, mornings are not so nice to me. Don’t get me wrong, a long morning jog does this momma good in terms of setting the tone for the day, but I almost never awaken in time for that to happen before my hubby starts work for the day. So, my alternative is a night run. I love gathering my thoughts after a long day and allowing the Holy Spirit to use examples from that day to speak to me. Either way, a morning or evening workout will help to fill you up in a great way!

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Reading.

Now just because I state this does not mean I am good at it. However, reading is one way I do fill up on a normal basis. I have already touched on how vital it is to be in Scripture, but what about an occasional read that will help to better you as a person or even give you some alone time to enjoy the quiet? I struggle with finishing books, and I love to read, but finding the time outside of personal devotions is difficult for me. However, when I do, I always find myself a little more relaxed. I am currently reading “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. What about you?

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Date nights.

These come far too infrequently, but oh how I love every second! Amanda recently touched on being creative and having dates at home. What a cool twist on much-needed time with your spouse. Ever feel the guilt of not including your children on these special times and occasions with your hubby? I do. And then I am quickly reminded that before they existed, it was just him and me. Our friendship runs deep, and it needs constant attention and care in order to maintain the dual efforts of caring for our four kids. We have a blast just laughing at ourselves and we can share tears (unseen by little ones who will ask many questions) if we need to have a good cry. I crave my time away from home with Zac, and I always return a better Ashley for having taken it. This leads me to my next point.

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Intimacy with your spouse.

Remembering who you are to your spouse is so fulfilling if you take the time to be intimate. When kids are running around with sticky fingers, begging for you to get a toy down from the shelf, tattling on the other for not sharing, digging their fingers into the dinner you are preparing, wiping their smoothie on the furniture, the last thing most of us think about is taking a moment to wrap our arms around our husband and just rest in his arms. But when we do think about it and act on the thought, it gives a very simple connection that can set the tone for a deeper physical connection later on. It becomes more than having sex because that is necessary, it becomes making love because that is wanted and desired. I don’t know about you, but after a long day of being “needed” from our children, a lot of times I want to lay my head down and crash for the night. There is something special and filling that takes place when a little extra time is taken to be one with your hubby. He needs it. You need it. And it is a sure way to be “filled up.” Make it fun!

Relaxation.

Finding one hour every once in a while to take a nice, long, hot bubble bath or soak in alone time getting a pedicure or taking a refreshing nap is easily one of the ways I find to be filled. There is something about pampering yourself that gives you a feel-good sense. I mean, who wouldn’t love a chance to turn your mind off and do something mindless for an hour?!

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One on one time with individual children.

This may seem like a contradiction, but I actually find this to be helpful. You may be thinking why would I spend time with a kid if I am trying to be filled up so I can pour back in to that very kid and the other kids? I guess my approach on this comes from having multiple children. There are times I feel as though I fail my older two in terms of giving them my time and attention because my younger two are naturally more needy at their ages. When Alaira recently said to me through tears, “Mom, I need more time where you just take me places without any sisters or my brother,” it struck me. Since then, I have been purposeful to take both Audra and Alaira out on individual “dates” or errands. And you know what? I return feeling as though my time with them made me a better mommy, and I am ready to give my full attention to the other three who I left behind. Try it. It works!

Girl time.

Oh this is ladies’ night, oh what a night! I don’t do this often, but when I do, I always return having had a great time and feeling fulfilled in my friendships. You know, you are more than a wife and mom…you are a friend, too! Take a night, maybe once a month, to spend time with some ladies and cut loose!

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Passions and Hobbies.

People are my hobby. I LOVE spending time with others. Ecclesiastes 9 tells us that whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might. Pursue your passions, your desires and your dreams unto the Lord and you will be filled to overflowing! For me, pouring into others and spending time with them is so filling. What is your passion and hobby?

So how do you do all of these things and still give all you can to your kids?! One word: balance. That is one of the most difficult things to do, but when you can find a healthy balance in all areas, there is a peace and satisfaction that comes with it. For me, I have to prioritize what is most needed. If I were given the opportunity to have a date night or a girls’ night and could only have one for the month, I would choose date night. Everyone has to weigh their own priorities. Scripture tells us in Matthew to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we are sure to keep searching for the Lord in our every day, he will order everything else to be in place behind him. That is reassuring. Be sure to keep “filling” momma, so you can keep “pouring.” You can’t give what you don’t have…

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