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Lessons from My Tea Kettle

I love hot drinks--coffee, tea, even hot water--doesn't matter...I drink something hot nearly every day of the year (and multiple cups in the fall and winter months)! Though I use my microwave to reheat drinks if necessary, I'm not a fan of how microwaved hot drinks taste. There's just something about water boiled in a kettle that makes all the difference. Which means my tea kettle is one of the hardest working appliances in my kitchen!

It's not the first tea kettle I've had; I'm hard on tea kettles. I burned up several stovetop versions before my husband resorted to buying me my first electric kettle (because it had an automatic turn-off feature). But over the years I've managed to wear out or destroy several electric ones as well. One was cheap and only lasted two or three years. One didn't have the auto-off feature...I burned that one up too. One I stuck in the microwave in a moment of brainlessness (don't even ask). And one lasted forever, it's paint slowly chipping off until it looked weary. (When my daughter moved out, I gave it to her and bought myself a pretty new one--we were both happy!) But I like the one I've got now.

My current kettle is fancy. It's got several heat settings, so I can brew a perfect cup of tea! And it's got this handy little window, so I can see how much water is inside. This window has minimum and maximum fill lines to ensure I don't fill it too full or let it get too empty. (Hopefully, this will help me keep it functioning properly for a good long time!) It was those fill lines that gave me an epiphany the other morning as I was running fresh water into my kettle.

You see, my life is a lot like my tea kettle...but let me explain my kettle first then I'll get to me. If I fill my kettle too full, it doesn't function properly. It spits and sputters and, if left to struggle, eventually spurts hot water all over the place, making a huge mess. But if I let that water level drop below the minimum fill line, it struggles there too. As the water boils away, it gets dry and too hot, endangering the heating element. Thankfully, this one's got an automatic shut-off feature, but I've already told you what happens to kettles that don't. Now, about me...

I have the tendency to fill my life too full--appointments, obligations, tasks, even activities I enjoy. But too full is too full, even when it's enjoyable. When I've got too much on my calendar and on my mind, I don't function properly. Everything gets my effort but not my undivided attention and care, which means nothing gets done to my best level. It all suffers. And if that weren't enough, when life is too full and things get hot, I spit and splutter and spew just like my tea kettle, usually burning those I love. Maybe you can identify.

The Bible tells us to "number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:12). Number our days...because they are limited; our hours are limited. We aren't eternal like God. (We're not even demigods!) We're just ordinary people with one limited life to live--a dash of days from start to finish, a finite number of hours. We can't do it all. Let me say that again: we can't do it all. Which means we've got to make choices. I've got to make them, and you should too. Making choices means those tasks we do undertake and those people we do engage with get our full, undivided attention--they get our best not our lukewarm. And our loved ones don't feel the burn of a life too full and spewing out. Maximum fill line.

I've also got the tendency to go, go, go and do, do, do. It's often a drag-myself-out-of-bed to drop-into-bed-exhausted kind of life (and sometimes I burn the midnight oil as well). I can pour out and pour out and pour out, just like my kettle, without taking the time to fill up. Funny thing is, just like my kettle, eventually there's nothing left to give. I can't pour out what's not there. And unlike my fancy tea kettle, I don't have an auto-off feature. I can burn myself up...and I have. Maybe you have too.

Some people advocate an annual refresh (or monthly), some weekly; many say a daily refresh is necessary. It may not be the same for everybody, and it may vary from year to year, week to week, even day to day, depending upon the demands. But the fact is, we all need some refresh! I shoot for something restorative every day--Bible and prayer, yoga, or a brisk walk outside in the sunshine (and often a combination of all three). It doesn't always happen, but it's a target and better than if I didn't try for it at all. I actually schedule these on my planner, making them part of my daily checklist (because I know myself--if I didn't, I would never get around to it). And I try to take some downtime on the weekends to spend with family and friends. Annually, our family takes a vacation--usually a road trip to a national park or two. I'm sure I could use more downtime to refresh and reset. It's something I struggle with making a priority. I don't rest well. But at least I recognize my need and my tendency to run myself dry. I need the reminder from Psalms 46:10, " Be still and know that I am God...." Minimum fill line.

So how about you? Are you keeping an eye on your minimum and maximum fill lines? It's as crucial for your optimal functioning as it is for my shiny, red tea kettle! Take a look at your life today. Is it too full? Is there something you need to cut out so you can focus well and care fully and not hurt those you love? Or is your reservoir about empty? Have you given and given without taking the time to fill yourself back up? What little habit can you institute in your routine so you don't drop below that critical minimum line? Take a cue from my tea kettle and stay inside the lines!

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