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Bonnie Gray Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Gray

The Faith Barista

I stood there.

The door had slammed in front of me.

It didn't matter what I said or what I did.

What mattered was that she was mad.

I would have to plead and beg.

Please, Mommy. I'm sorry. I didn't know what to do.

I didn't know how long I'd have to keep standing in the hallway. How long I'd have to keep knocking on the door. To no reply.

After a while, I'd walk back to my room. And cry.

I'd pull out my journal. And start to write. I'd read a book. Or do my homework.

I still remember how the air felt like a live wire. How at any time, her bedroom door would fly open. And the rain of words would start to storm again, like winter rain cascading sideways from the storm clouds, pelting your body, so that even if you wore thick jeans, they'd start to sag under the weight of water soaking through.

I could not rest.

Be Yourself?

Sometimes, I just stood there in the hallway for the longest time, breathing only oh so quietly. Or I'd sit there on the hardwood floor, in front of the gray heater. I can still see the soft indigo blue hue -- the flame of the pilot light -- flickering, hovering softly between the metal grate of the gas furnace. I'd press my toes against it. It felt so warm.

I stayed there, in limbo, rather than run the risk of appearing unrepentant. Other times, I'd start to clean up around the house. Start to prepare dinner. Do something that would be pleasing.

Be helpful. Be good.

Don't be selfish.

Don't be stupid.

And definitely. Don't think everything is okay.

Be yourself?

I don't think that thought ever crossed my mind. Until now -- now that I can't ignore my anxiety.

A Sure Sign

My body is keeping me honest -- mysteriously leading me on a new journey -- my heart's homecoming.

I've finally come to a point in my life where my body is expressing what my heart has always wanted to say.

Listen to yourself.

Listen to your heart.

Speak from your heart.

Be yourself.

I have to learn, like a little child, what this means.

What do I want? What do I like -- and what don't I like?

What makes me feel uncomfortable? What brings me comfort?

What feels restful to me?

These might seem very simple questions to someone else. But, these are big questions for me. And I end up thinking too much about the answers. Because that is what I've always had to do.

I over-analyze. And I end up drawing a blank. Or if I get some ideas, it triggers a steady stream of shoulds, feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

Then, I get too tired to think about my answers anymore.

So, I stop being myself.

It's a sure sign for me now. Whenever I find myself thinking too much, it is a very good indication to me:

I am drawing close to something important to my heart.

Now, I recognize --

over-thinking,

indecision,

numbing my desires or negative feelings,

are actually my defense mechanisms.

To avoid being myself.

Four Movements

I realize I have grown comfortable and accustomed to staying in limbo -- rather than venturing out and risking being myself.

How do I change this ingrained stress response?

When I see myself spiraling into over-analyzing, here are the four movements I'm making to break my heart out of "limbo":

1.  I stop apologizing for --

wanting to be happy,

feeling sad or tired,

for putting my heart first.

2.  I give myself permission to --

tell my story and share my heart (even if feeling numb is what I'm sharing),

explore what I like or don't like,

feel awkward, make mistakes and change my mind while doing it.

3.  I nurture and honor my body's messages, rather than resenting it for its honesty.

My body holds so many automatic responses to stress that involve isolation and over-thinking. Or doing the opposite. Producing and pleasing rather than being, going on auto-pilot with soul-draining busyness.

My body is now very sensitive to sounds, scents, and stress. I used to think this was terrible. But, I'm discovering my body is helping me stop, recognize my needs, and then actually do something about it.

It is time to say no to "should", so I can say yes to letting God love me -- through nurturing me.

4.  I feed my soul with self-care, rather than rejecting myself as selfish.

These are all new discoveries for me. Maybe not in my head, but to actually live it out in everyday life is scary, because it makes desires real.

When the apostle Paul urges us  --

"In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice..."

I am reminded the life we offer is alive -- organic, growing, real.

Be At Rest

Loving myself.

Feeding my soul.

Nurturing the quiet me.

Refreshing the artistic me.

Cultivating a smaller number of deeper, more authentic friendships.

I'm on a new journey that feels peaceful -- even if it triggers anxiety. I understand why.

I'm breaking free. And the little girl who never could break free is afraid of this new way.

The closer we get to what really touches our hearts, we will feel anxious. I'm learning that is okay.

It means we are leaving the hallways of our lives.

God's quiet, loving voice whispering something new and different --

You are safe.

You don't have to be in limbo.

Be real. Be yourself. Be at rest.

~~~~~~

For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

Schedule

It was our second playdate.

Technically, it was my four-year-old son CJ's playdate.  I was there visiting with his mom at the breakfast table, sipping water. I had just met my mommy friend the year I was writing my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. She was asking how writing was going. I tell her it's not easy, not like handing in homework. Not even like writing at work either.

"It's hard to write on a blank page," I confess. "There's so many ways of telling a story. How do I know which way is right?"

"It's like being an artist," my friend adds.

"How about you?" I ask. "What do you like to do that's artistic? Do you like to write?"

"I like to write," she pauses. "But, if I ever had the time -- which I don't -- I'd want to paint."

My friend doesn't know I've been on an anxiety-ridden journey to uncover the shadow artist in me. I'm suspicious now there is one in her.

"Oh, you like to paint," I echo. "What do you like to paint? Can I see?"

She tells me she used to paint in college. But, she hasn't painted since. Really? ...Not even once? I prod. It turns out she did. When she returned from her honeymoon years ago, she painted a beach and sky. Can I see it. I smiled. Please?

She leads me into her bedroom. And it's beautiful. A canvas of brushstrokes of color. A memory.

My friend tells me she loves how it feels when she paints. But, then she sighs. Life's so busy, keeping up with everyone's schedules.

"Do you ever feel selfish -- like it'd be a waste of time if you painted?" I ask. "I do. That's how I feel about writing."

My friend said what do you mean? So, I told her about the spelling bee.

Not So Shiny

I was in second grade. I didn't even know what a spelling bee was, until I stood at the district level spell-offs one evening. I don't remember much, but I ended up being one of the last two girls left standing.

I was so excited, because we had been told the top three contestants would get a trophy. And I would at least be number two.

I'm gonna get a trophy!

But, then I got really nervous. Because it dawned on me.

I. could. be. the. champion.

I could actually win this thing.

The moderator took time out to ask everyone to clap for us, explained the rules once again, and reminded the audience to please be quiet. I looked over at the spectacled girl standing next to me from Cumberland Elementary. She had won the year before. She sure looked smart. Only one of us would advance to the next level. Could it be me?

As the moderator announced my next word, I thought I had it in the bag.

"Lunch. L-U-C-H. Lunch."

I'm sorry. That is incorrect.

I knew how to spell lunch. I don't know, for the life of me, how I left out the n. But, I did. The whole room sighed with a unanimous, "Ohh..."  I felt the panic and looked over at my mom. She shook her head in disappointment.

Afterward, I walked over to tell her I still won a trophy. But she said, "I'm not surprised you didn't win. The other girl was much more confident. She looked like the winner."

At the awards ceremony, I stepped up on stage to claim my second place trophy. But, it didn't seem that shiny anymore. In the car ride back, my mom sighed, "What a waste of time."

I never did enter another spelling bee after that year. It wasn't the last time she'd tell me something about me would be a waste of time.

Wasting Time

After I finished telling my mommy friend my story, I told her that is what I have to fight every time I try to make time for me. I have to fight against voices that tell me I'm wasting time, especially mine.

It doesn't just happen when I write. Whenever I want to do something purely for enjoyment, with no other added "value" or "purpose," I think it's a waste of time. I think of a gazillion more "important" things I should do. I tell my friend maybe her experience wasn't exactly like mine. But, I asked her --

What was life growing up for you as a little girl?

Were you encouraged to explore and enjoy doing what you liked? Or was there a focus on getting things done, not wasting time?

I wasn't planning to stay long that day for my son's playdate. But, it turned out to be a special summer afternoon, listening to the heart of a new friend and her stories.

"Maybe we can drive out to the museum in the city one morning, when the kids go back to school?" She offered with a smile.

"Yeah. Maybe," I smiled back.

I told her hopefully, I'll finish my book by then.

What is Better

It's very easy to be distracted by what appears to be more important.

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made when she opened her home to Jesus.

She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary.

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:40-42

What's harder is taking the faith to spend time with Jesus, by doing something we enjoy. It may not look or feel right, just like it may not have seemed right for Mary to sit, while so much needed to be done around her.

When God gave instructions to build the tabernacle where He would dwell, He gave people the gift of artistic design "in all kinds of crafts" -- "to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship" to adorn, decorate and make everything. (Ex.31:11)

Now that Jesus is here, you and I have become the tabernacle where God dwells.

We are the living temples, where Jesus lives. (2 Cor. 6:16)

Each of us is created with beauty in mind, to reflect God's artistic imprint.

There is no sunset, flower or rainbow that does not reflect the time God spent making it come alive with color and feeling.

You and I are no less.

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? ...You crowned him with glory and honor." Psalm 8:3-6

~~~~~

How may God be inviting you to enjoy something that feeds your soul, that may feel like a waste of time? What was life growing up for you as a little girl -- were you encouraged to explore and enjoy?

~~~~~~

For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

We all long to experience joy. Do we opt for safe joy when Jesus offers full joy?

When I was a little girl, I didn't wear that many dresses. On the occasions I did, it was a big deal to me. I loved twirling, seeing the room spin while my dress opened up into a swirl of colors. Made me laugh. I'd grab my Radio Shack AM radio, turn the dial to find a static free station, and I'd work the room like I was auditioning for Flashdance.

One night when my aunts and uncles were all together, I was allowed to stay up late. I wanted to show off a new, long nightgown I'd gotten for Christmas. So, I bounced into the middle of the room and spontaneously busted out some swan lake moves. I was expecting some oohs and aahs. Instead, the room exploded into roars of laughter. One uncle rolled onto the floor hoopin' and hollering, while another aunt sprayed her drink in the air; they were laughing so hard.

As I stood there confused, someone finally let me in on what was so funny. They said I was a funny ballerina because underneath my beautiful nightgown, I forgot I was still wearing my old flannel PJs.

My mom thought it was important for me to stay warm. So, she had me pair my nightgowns with PJ pants. I turned around and ran into the bedroom, shut the door and just bawled my eyes out. I was so embarrassed.

Safe Joy

I carry the same type of suspicion about joy.

I'm afraid to trust joy fully, because I don't want to be wrong about joy.

Don't be misled. I am a joyful person. But I'm learning that my joy is "safe."

*  I am a celebrate-junkie. If a day is going beige, I can figure out a random reason to make a special dinner, desert, or invite a friend over.

*  I love encouraging others. I can't imagine a better way to spend time with people in everyday life than hearing them share stories of faith.

*  I have tasted God's joy in hard times. I have trusted God through extended periods of trial and I've tasted the joy of His peace and presence, even when life hurt.

When it comes to being joyful for myself or personal pursuits, I am very hesitant to abandon myself to joy.

You see, my misconceptions about joy don't stem from God. They point to new areas He's asking me to trust Him in.

I thought faith was mainly used to get us through difficulties.

God has been showing me faith is equally needed to accept the grace and gift of joy.

Full Joy

I've been asking God to help me experience what Jesus calls "joy made full".

"...These things I speak in the world so that they (disciples) may have My joy made full in themselves." ~ Jesus' final prayer before He faced the cross John 17:13

Full is translated in the Greek as "pleroo."

Pleroo.

- Filled to the brim

- Full Joy

In response, I've been asking myself -- what is keeping me from full joy?

Top 3 Misconceptions

Here are the Top 3 Misconceptions I've been holding and the Full Joy Truths I'm discovering:

Misconception#1: Full Joy feels irresponsible. I have so many problems that are unresolved. Full joy seems dismissive of these important issues. You can't just be happy!

Full Joy Truth#1: Jesus has paid the price for my shortcomings, so that I'm free to enjoy His grace. To the best of my creativity, I can find moments and pursuits that bring me joy. And I'm free to enjoy it guilt-free!

"How much more will the blood of Christ who... offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ~Hebrews 9:14

Misconception #2: Full Joy feels reckless. You will open yourself to temptation once you feel so much pleasure. Stop!

Full Joy Truth #2: The fruit of the Spirit is joy. As long as I value the nearness of God, joy is good. Nothing can separate me from God's love.

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good: I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." ~Psalm 73:28

"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing ... thinkable or unthinkable.., can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." ~Romans 8:38-39

Misconception #3: Joy feels self-deceptive. Look at your negative attitudes, the habits you fail to change. You don't deserve joy.

Full Joy Truth #3: I deserve joy because of who God has destined me to become, not because of who I am now. Because of God's perfecting work in my life, I can enjoy joy without embarrassment for my past or the present faults.

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." ~1 John 3:2

"But in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer." ~Romans 8:37

Joy may feel risky. It takes faith to step into the middle of life, twirl and spin with joy.

But, we can know Jesus is sitting front row and center, clapping for us.

Some may say this joy sounds self-centered? I don't think so.

Joy is God-centered. Jesus loves me. This I know.

~~~~~~

How are you experiencing joy in the current chapter of your life?

~~~~~~

For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. There is a special e-book kindle pricing on sale for $1.99 until 8/8/15.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

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