Like many of the people throughout Scripture, I all too often settle for much less than what God intended. It’s no wonder the apostle Paul knelt down to pray desperately for the Christians in Ephesus to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

We all want to be filled and we all have a cup.

Growing up, I used to run and splash love on everyone with my cup of love. I’ve always loved loving people.

The only problem with my cup was that after I loved someone, I would hold out my (now) empty cup in their direction to be filled up by their opinions of me. And when people liked me, I felt filled up. I was filling my cup with their splashes of good opinions, and I thought that would fill me. If they liked me, appreciated me, noticed me, or pursued me, then I felt filled up. And it worked, for a bit … just enough to keep me coming back for more.

But what happens when they don’t? What happens when you go unnoticed? Unappreciated? What happens when you discover you’re holding out your empty cup in the direction of people who are holding out their empty cups in your direction?

For me, holding my cup outward didn’t end with childhood. It crept into my marriage and eventually I found myself holding out my cup to be filled by my son. As you might guess (or might know), all that running around only made me feel more empty.

As I reflect back on my first year of motherhood, I understand Theodore Roosevelt’s words more deeply: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Not only did I compare my parenting skills to other mothers, I regretfully began to compare my boy with others. How many months would it take him to roll over? Whose kid was crawling, and by when?

The comparisons became conscious the day I saw a boy the same age as my son take his first steps at nine months. I knew I should be excited for him and I didn’t want to compare, but because I was holding out my cup in my son’s direction, I felt disappointed.

Cue my competitive side.

I persistently stood my son up; he would smile and then plop right back down.

His first birthday came and went and he still wasn’t walking.

I recognize that some of you reading this may find me overdramatic, but I’m not writing for you. I’m writing for the moms who relate to the crazy that pops into our minds when it comes to our kids. I was experiencing an emptiness and decline in my joy as I was searching for it away from its Source.

Who knew (but God, of course), I needed to take a step first.

During one quiet time spent alone with Jesus in my soul-searching-quiet-time chair, I was challenged with my empty cup and the direction it was pointing.

God graciously reminded me that I was designed to love like my Maker, not out of a need to fill an emptiness, but in a way to share fullness. This was only possible by holding my cup upward instead of out.

The beauty of being filled by the true Source is that His love is abounding. Imagine Niagara Falls. But now, think bigger. Imagine a cup standing upright, as it was created to stand, with God’s infinite love rushing over it. Then, we’d effortlessly overflow into the lives of others; not from ourselves, but from the Source, so that He can be their Source, too. And isn’t this what we want for our kids?

God can fill your cup in a way that frees you from the exhaustion that running maintains. It’s only when we stop running for the love and respect from others that we’re able to fully and honestly receive the gracious love God gives, and begin spilling over into the lives of our kids. We’re then moved to love, respect, and overflow into our kids—not out of a need to be loved by them, but to share out of the abundance of being loved by Him.