The Dixie Cup

Holly Culhane discusses how there are times when all we have and can do is trust God in the roughest of times!

By Holly Culhane


Black Mountain, North Carolina, is always a sweet place, but even more so when 25 women in ministry leadership roles gather from around the country each November. These sisters in Christ take time to check-in, unwind, and tune-in to the Holy Spirit and each other. We dig into God’s Word together, discuss it deeply, challenge each other spiritually, and love each other right where God has us at that point in our lives. This year was no different.


We gathered for dinner on Friday night and in cohorts of five on Saturday, including for a scheduled time of intercession in the Prayer Garden. That’s where it happened.


The Dixie cup moment.


I poured out my heart to these ladies about my recent interaction with God.


Just 20 days before, one day before this most recent trip that had ultimately led to Black Mountain, I had literally been stuck upside down in a wardrobe box when my fears and frustration came pouring out. “ARE YOU SERIOUS?? REALLY, GOD!!” is how I started. All caps intentional.


I was determined to reach an article of clothing at the bottom of the box, and Doug couldn’t help. Still with restrictions from surgery, he could not lift more than 8 pounds or do anything that required pushing or pulling.


Boxes were three rows deep, and what I needed was in the box the furthest from me, against the wall, at the bottom. I had climbed over the first two rows and announced, “I’m going in!”. When my rant began, I was upside-down — yep, head-first — in a large wardrobe packing box and unable to right myself. (The analogy to a sheep being unable to right themselves when they fall and land on their backs isn’t lost to me, but I’m going to move right past that for now.)


The rant continued, and I sounded agitated. “I’ve tried my best to do everything You’ve asked. I’m in this garage with a husband who can’t help. I’m a nearly 65-year-old woman climbing over packed boxes to get to this one article of clothing I need before this trip. All I want is this stupid navy-blue vest! But You’ve made it so hard!” There were sobs. I continued, “This house has been on the market for 10 months and has sold twice. We’ve packed and we’ve unpacked. We’ve re-packed and unpacked, and we’re still here! What do you want from me anyway?  Grrrrr!!!”


My voice quivered as I relayed the story to these competent, capable, godly women. And then all was silent. Until the youngest of our group spoke up.  “You know, someone once told me about cleaning a fish tank.”


More silence.


“When you have fish, you keep them in a fish tank, right? Well, when they’re in the tank, they have a clear view of everything around them, they can see out all sides of where they live. But occasionally, you need to clean the tank and, when you do, you take the fish out and put them in a Dixie cup.”




“When they’re in the Dixie cup, they’re in a much more confined space and can only see the sides of the cup. It’s unpleasant because their view is totally blocked, but the experience is necessary for their well-being.”




“Right now, God has you in a Dixie cup. For purposes that only He knows. And when the time is right, He’ll put you back in the tank and the view will be clearer.”


And the mic hit the floor.


So true.


There are times when my Good Shepherd moves me from the tank where the view is clear to a Dixie cup and I can only see what is right in front of me.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5


Fellow shepherd leader, are you in a Dixie cup right now? Is the Father cleaning your tank? Are you confused about what in the world He is up to?


Me, too.


Let’s trust Him together. Let’s get our eyes off of the sides of the cup and UP on Him. Then, and only then, will we be able to shepherd well the sheep He’s entrusted to our care.


Picture of Presence Point

Presence Point

Presence Point equips leaders to intentionally live into their calling as shepherds in the lives of those they lead, and partners with multipliers to do the same within their sphere of influence.

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