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Bonnie Gray Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Gray

The Faith Barista

"When you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." Victor Hugo

I Stress, Therefore I Am

One challenge nobody warned me about when I became starry eyed pregnant was how laundry would soon become a stumbling block. Literally. I walk by the hallway where our laundry baskets are lined up, and it looks like raccoons got into them. Two to be exact. One who just turned five and the other still in diapers acts like he already is. Some days I just give up. I’m never caught up anyways. The weekend comes and my pile has exploded into a mountain slide of socks, jeans and regret. I only wish I could go outside and play. Instead, I end up folding bibs, listening to the washer and dryer turn the house into a laundromat. Stress feels the same. I wake up and stress greets me, just like that pile of laundry. Sometimes, I walk right by and refuse to acknowledge it’s existence. It can’t touch me. Eventually, on a random moment, I’ll find myself trapped and surrounded by one anxious thought after another.

A Different Kind Of Stress

Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen. Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments and a To Do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality. Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life? There was a season in my life I got fed up with the speed of everything. I reduced everything to a minimum. I did do less. But pairing down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.

Introvert or extrovert, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community and renewed by a sense of adventure.

Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress. Soul stress. I did make a re-entry into the stream of new endeavors. It’s felt like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under. Are we left to choose only between inactivity or over-activity?

As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.

We pursue the opposite.

We pursue rest.

Rest As Ambition

Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions God explicitly calls out in the Bible. Turns out Hesuchazo — the Greek word used for “quiet” and “rest” – is as important as preaching the Gospel and pleasing God.

“…excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life…” ~ Thessalonians 4:11

Ten Ways

I was so intrigued by the ambition to rest, I looked up Scriptures using Hescuchazo and categorized them into three buckets: creativity, adventure, community and soul care. 10 Ways To De-Stress & Enjoy Rest

{ Creativity }

1. Creative Exploration.  Take time out for God's art in you.   Engage in activity where you are free to be, without having to be functional or to judge how you are doing.

“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” Hebrews 4:10

2.  A Creative Whitespace Getaway. Stop from your daily routine to feed your soul. Enjoy a change of everyday scenery. Take the time to enjoy soulful places with Jesus.

“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) ~ Jesus, Mark 6:31

{ Adventure }

3. Moving Things. Enjoy God in your new endeavors. That’s what Moses insisted. Time to leave and journey into a new chapter with God.

“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” ~ God Ex. 33:14

4. The Wild Things. Enjoy the outdoors, soaking up nature. It brings our bodies and senses to rest.

“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet ; They break forth into shouts of joy.” Isaiah 14:7

5.  Choose Joy. Investigate a new direction for joy, inspired by God’s goodness, even if you’re afraid.

“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.” ~ God, Jer. 6:16

{ Community }

6.  The Real You. Seek out people where you can be your real self and laugh.

“Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord ; refresh (rest) my heart in Christ.” ~ Paul, Philemon 1:20

7.  In-the-Skin 1-on-1. Get together with a friend 1-on-1 and share the deep things happening in your life. Choose to risk open-heart vulnerability over safety.

“I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed (rest) through you.” ~ Paul, Philemon 1:7

{ Soul Care }

8. Body Rest. Signal your body to physically rest knowing Jesus will carry you through. Sleep is a soul journey, not a turn-key solution. 

“He enters into peace;  They rest in their beds, Each one who walked in his upright way. (Isa. 57:2)

9.  Quiet Rest. Enjoy intimately connecting with Jesus. Let go of the weight of guilt or the stress of what’s-next.

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. ” Isaiah 30:15

10.  Heart Rest. Spend time with Jesus. Rest is a gift we receive by bringing all parts of ourselves to Jesus Then, turn around and offer that rest to others as your gift.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus Matt.11:28

One final rest inducing tip. Call a friend to come over and fold laundry together (or just gab on the phone). Brew a cup of coffee or tea. Drink slowly. Enjoy.

~~~~~~

Which of the Ten Ways to De-Stress would you enjoy the most right now?

Who can you share today's encouragement with?

~~~~~~

{Encourage a friend to nurture her heart with soul rest} Gift a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace & I’ll sign a bookmark to her. Details at bit.ly/whitespacemom

Bonnie Gray is the soulful writer behind FaithBarista.com serving up shots of faith for the daily grind.  She is a contributor at DaySpring (in)courage, her work spotighted by Christianity Today and nationally syndicated through McClatchy-Tribune News Services. After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

{photo credit: thanks to Sabrina who shared her beautiful #spiritualwhitespace moments on Instagram}

April2015_Flowers_SpiritualWhitespaceShots

"Come and discover a love you don't have to work for.” E'yen A. Gardner, Love Letters

{feel free to share & download April's Shots of Spiritual Whitespace Prompts [printable below].}

It's daunting.  Starting over.

That's what I'm doing. I'm on the other side of my journey to heal. I don't have panic attacks anymore like I once did. And even the depression that I've experienced for the past couple years is lifting. But, I'm not the person I once was.  And it doesn't mean life will resume as it once did.

Maybe you're feeling this way too? Is God pointing you ahead to a new journey -- and even though it might seem easier, you can't go back to doing life as you have?

Now that my heart is awake to the truth of my story, my wounding and my dreams, I can never unsee the things I've discovered about myself, God, others and life.

God's calling me to live a new way -- as His beloved. It's both exhilarating and also overwhelming.

It's scary to take on an identity that you never felt could ever be yours.

The Beloved?

April2015_Flowers_SpiritualWhitespaceShots

The Second Follow

That's what happens when you uncover your heart.  You're given a second chance to follow Jesus -- in a completely new way -- apart from the story you might have been born into -- or even the story you chose for yourself -- once upon a time.

Jesus says to us, "Come follow me."  This is not the first "Come follow me" Jesus made to the disciples when he first met them washing their nets fishing.

This is the second "Come follow me". That is maybe harder.

This second "Come follow me" happened after the resurrection.  After Jesus rose from the dead. After the disciples tasted and experienced loss, pain, fear and their own failures.

The first "Come follow me" was with the physical Jesus.  But, this second one was going to be guided by faith -- a Presence inside them.  The Voice of the Holy Spirit.

This Second Follow could only be experienced by listening to a quiet Voice inside them -- to step out on a new journey with Jesus.

This Second Follow would take them -- beyond what they could see -- to experience a new identity.

This new self included a cross and a whole identity -- where their stories weren't perfect -- but they were perfectly loved by God.

And as strange as it sounds, this new identity kind of scares me. 

Can I really just suddenly leave my old identity -- and choose to be God's beloved?

April2015_Full_SpiritualWhitespaceShots

{click here to download April's Shots of Spiritual Whitspace}

Life 2.0

What would be the consequences of living with such a radical identity?

What would be the blessings of such a radical identity?

What would be my story?

My Life 1.0: Longing for Soul Rest.  I used to exercise my faith by being strong for God. Hiding. People-pleasing. Fearful of my voice.  

Now that I am living a life of Spiritual Whitespaceno longer debilitated by panic attacks, God's been calling me to live Life 2.0.

Life 2.0:  Becoming God's beloved. God's calling me to experience my faith by being God's beloved. Being fully present.  Soul-nurtured. Speaking in my whole voice.

Since January, I started intentionally making changes -- small and big decisions -- to only say yes to things that point me in the direction of being God's beloved. And saying no to what doesn't.

april spiritual whitespace prompts_b&w
{click to download April's Shots of Spiritual Whitspace}

I'm giving myself permission to be loved. And that means making choices that feel scary. 

But, I'm learning sometimes, fear is found at the doorway where we leave who we once were -- in order to become who we were meant to be: God's beloved.

"My presence will go with you and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14

A Curious Ending

Fear is what the first women who brought spices to the tomb where Jesus laid -- Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome -- found on one morning -- along with a stone rolled away. An angel told them Jesus wasn't dead.

"He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you." Mark 16:7

Then, the strangest, most curious end to a story happened:

"Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." Mark 16:8

The women were afraid -- even though they were staring at a miracle: life after death.

What Will We Do?

Sometimes, when God rolls away a stone from a tomb in our lives, we can react the same way.  Paralyzed by doubt, disbelief.

We know what to do with dead ends.

But, an empty tomb?  This is not what we expect.

And yet, this is how Mark, the author of the fourth Gospel in the Bible, chose to end the story of Jesus. [The earliest manuscripts do not have verses 9–20 in the text.]

I was shocked and comforted to find this ending post-Easter. 

God knows how we feel, confronted with a stone rolled away.

We read in the other Gospels that the women eventually did go back to tell the disciples what they saw and heard.

What will we do?

Don't Bend

Have you received some words from God? Maybe you are unexpectedly standing before an empty tomb. Or a stone rolled away.

Are you keeping quiet, afraid of where Jesus is leading you?  Is Jesus is asking you to follow Him -- in a new way?

Jesus is going before you.  

But, you will have to make choices to experience this new journey ahead.

This month post-Easter, I want to encourage you to step out.

Don't bend. Don't water yourself down. Be the you God made.

 

Begin your version of Life 2.0. Be the Beloved.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion..."
Frank Kafka

~~~~~

Pull up a chair. Share a comment.  

What is your version of Life 2.0? How is Jesus calling you to The Second Follow?

~~~~~

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.

 

 


{photo credit} printbles hand-lettering & photography by Kelly Ishmael Minding my nest.

"You see, there are two very different types of hope in this world. One is hoping for something, and the other is hoping in Someone." ~ Pete Wilson

I didn't see it coming. 

I went to bed like I always had, ate dinner with my chopsticks and brushed my teeth just fine.  The next morning, I got dressed and drove into work as usual.  Logged into my account and started checking my emails. 

I started typing.

Needles of pain shot through my wrists.  My fingers felt numb and tingly, like they'd fallen asleep.   Confused, I tried to mouse and click around.  My forearm started hurting even more. My fingers refused to hit another keystroke.

Two hours later, I found myself sitting in front of a doctor who specialized in treating work related injuries.

"You won't be going back to work for a while.  You have RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury).  Might be carpel tunnel syndrome.  We won't know yet, until you get some therapy."

How long will I be out? I asked, thinking a day or two.

When it all was said and done, combining full and partial disability, my road to recovery took nearly three years.

Getting Better Or Getting Worse?

When I first started physical therapy, I was very optimistic. 

I was determined to heal fast. Take my meds, get my therapy, do my exercises and wear my wrist braces.

The problem was healing isn't a linear process.

I was progressively hurting more week after week.  My pain extended to my upper arms, my shoulders, neck and even my back. 

Was I just falling apart?

My physical therapist Tom educated me. You're actually getting better, even if it feels like you're getting worse.

Tom drew a swirl of concentric circles on his note pad. He said that healing is like peeling an onion.   He said that I had ignored the fatigue initially in my muscles so well, that it caused my body to compensate in other areas.

Pain, Tom explained, was a healthy indicator that my body was finally speaking to me.

My path to recovery was to swirl out first -- to understand exactly how far my injury went. 

Tom gently pointed out that as one muscle group got better, I would start feeling the pain in other areas that had been masked on top of the other.

I have found myself in the same condition for many Easters.

I wanted so badly to celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday resurrection, I ignored the layers of stress and unanswered questions from my everyday life.

The Saturday In-Between

Don't get me wrong, I've been filled with joy for Jesus on Easter Sunday, in praise and thankfulness for the sacrifice and love He poured out for me on Good Friday 2000 years ago. 

I am always brought to tears meditating on the suffering our Lord endured emotionally, physically and spiritually by taking up the cross.  But, I was often heart heavy waiting to taste the power of resurrection in some difficult circumstances.

It seemed whenever I thought of Easter, I thought only of Easter Sunday -- the celebration of resurrected life -- or Good Friday -- the death Christ suffered on the cross. 

I forgot that the journey of Easter includes the Saturday In-Between -- for Jesus -- and for me.

Pastor and author Pete Wilson points out in Plan B, of the Saturday In-Between:

"Saturday... It seems like a day when nothing is happening.
It's a day of questioning, doubting, wondering and definitely waiting...helplessness or hopelessness.

Is it possible that Saturday is actually a day of preparation?
... Saturday was the day God was engineering a resurrection."

My One Thing

This year, I'm celebrating Easter Sunday with a lot of my story resurrected from my "Saturday" life.  Not in a way where everything has worked out. A lot of the questions I've been asking for a very long time haven't been answered. 

In fact, some of the problems I've asked God to solve haven't gotten better. 

But, I have learned one thing through my time in this extended season of waiting.

That one thing is this:  Jesus' love continues to be one thing I can always say yes to.

In lieu of answers and resolution, we can continually make a choice.  Do we let our pain and hurt shape my faith -- or do we take our faith and run into the arms of Jesus?

This has been my greatest joy:  Not that my life is perfect, but that I can choose love -- because Love chose me.

I've been able to find when I couldn't possibly wait any longer in dissonance and lack of closure -- the love of Jesus continues to heal me, carry me and attract me to Him.  I can continue choosing to love God, love others, and pour myself out -- even in weakness and imperfection.

All because Jesus loves me.

Because of the cross.

~~~~~

I had given up hope of ever getting better. Then I got up one day, not feeling any pain.

But, it took me many years to get to that one morning. 

I will always remember who got me through it. 

It wasn't hope in recovery. It was hope in Jesus.

I don't know how long our Saturdays will last, friend.

But one thing I do know, Jesus has walked that Saturday into eternity for us. 

His love will never leave us and His love will get us through to our Easter Sundays.

He knows all about the Saturday-in-between.  And He won't leave us all alone in that time of waiting.

He loves us all the way.

 

"The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you
and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
~ 1 Peter 5:10

How is Jesus speaking to you this Easter?

Pull up a chair. 

~~~~~

By Bonnie Gray. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, named as the Top 6 notable new religion authors.  Bonnie blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  After graduating from UCLA, 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.

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