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Bonnie Gray Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Gray

The Faith Barista

There’s myth in some Christian social circles that if we’re struggling with discouragement, doubt or feelings of hurt or sadness, it may be due to the fact that we’re not being grateful.

For most of my life, I’ve been afraid to share about the times I’ve felt overwhelmed emotionally, especially when I felt stuck–whether in friendships, ministry, my career, relationships or dysfunctional family dynamics—and particularly during the holidays.

I didn’t want people to misjudge me, because I honestly have been grateful for everything God’s done for me and provided.

But, does being grateful mean emotional amnesia?

Guilt and Compartmentalizing

I’ve always felt like I had to hold my breath until God resolved my journey so I could then show how God came through for me. I based my faith on how competent I was in being happy and strong until everything ended up wrapped up with a pretty bow.

But, most of life isn’t like this.

I had to learn this the hard way. Compartmentalizing certain parts of my story led me to eventually experience anxiety and panic attacks so intense I literally struggled to breathe.

Most of us have been there. Sometimes, when I was down about things, someone would say, “Be thankful. There are so many people who are worse off.” I know it was well intended, but it made me feel guilty and ashamed, so I hid those parts of me that suffered.

That doesn’t sit right with me anymore. In my journey to heal, I’m experiencing a new freedom and intimacy with God that comes from confiding in my wounds and fears.

I don’t think God wants to guilt us into feeling better about our struggles because others are suffering more.

Jesus didn’t say to the blind man, “Be thankful you can walk.”

Jesus had compassion for each person’s plight and condition, never comparing.

Truly Known

Jesus brought honor to brokenness by inviting us to draw near, as is: “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus didn’t say, “Come to me, all who are strong and worry-free.”

Sometimes, we try to alleviate suffering by minimizing our need to be known. We end up living emotionally isolated lives, even though we’re the most 24/7 digitally-connected generation ever.

The truth is that gratitude comes from being truly known–connected to things that break us–by sharing our brokenness with God and each other.

Jesus himself understands that being thankful doesn’t necessarily take away the struggle. On the night Jesus shared a Passover meal of thanksgiving -- grateful for God's providence and protection -- Jesus confided in His inner turmoil – even though Jesus had literally given thanks for the bread and the cup earlier in the evening with His closest friends: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here … With me. I’m very sad. It feels as if I’m dying” (Matthew 26:37-38 (NIV, CEB).

Jesus didn’t want the struggle, but He loved us.

Jesus chose to be broken.

This year, I'm learning to have the courage to be broken. I’m opening my heart to my real thanksgiving list. By redefining how we think about gratitude our journey of faith doesn’t have to be just seen through the lens of success—or failure.

Here are 5 Ways God Redefines Gratitude

I'm thankful ..

1. I can be in need, so I can go on a new journey to find comfort. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).

2. I can feel sadness, so I don't have to live separated from my heart. I can cry and feel afraid because God loves all parts of my story. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”( Psalm 56:8).

3. I don't have to want suffering, but I can choose to embrace it. Because God doesn't see it as shameful. "Do not be afraid. I have reclaimed you. I have called you by name; you are mine”( Psalm 43:1).

4. I can fall apart, because Jesus carries me when I’ve gone as far as I can go. “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you”( Isaiah 46:4).

5. For God's promisesI’ll never abandon you. I’m never going to leave you. “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in” (Psalm 27:10).

We can go on because beautiful things can be found among the devastation of letting go. We can be broken and real, because Jesus still chooses you and me.

If God’s brought you on a journey through a season of brokenness, step out to give thanks. Not because you’re strong. Not because everything is picture perfect. But because you are loved.

This article is an excerpt from Relevant Magazine:  "10 Ways To Redefine Gratitude". To read the entire list of 10 Ways to Redfine Gratitude, read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/10-ways-redefine-gratitude

~~~~~

Pull up a chair.  Share your thoughts.  Share a comment below.

By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. Bonnie writes for DaySpring (in)courage and her work has been spotlighted by Christianity Today, Relevant, Catalyst Leadership and she's been named in the Top 6 notable new religion authors. 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.

For inspiration to create space in your life to breathe, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.  This memoir-driven guidebook for rest will nurture your heart to draw closer to God. 

*December Special*  Free Gifts with your order. Give the gift of rest to a friend -- and yourself -- this Christmas.  Click here to sign up.

Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." - Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestselling author of Unglued

"We live in a culture that brags and boasts about being busy. Into that reality steps Bonnie with a new idea.
Whitespace is an important concept and Bonnie has captured it perfectly. 
-Jon Acuff,NY  Times bestselling author of Start!

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, I'd like welcome you here. Click here to subscribe by email -(free) and get each post in this series served up hot and fresh directly in your mailbox

 

"Comes a time, on the journey, you wonder how you will survive, There comes a time, when you're thirsty and so alone... There is a pool in the desert, where water flows from fountains unseen, Saving water, healing water flowing over me."  The Choir, Flowing Over Me

You don't have to die, in order to feel like you're not really living.

You can even be loved by the man of your dreams whose arms as husband gently encircle your waist every night in bed -- you can love the world's most beautiful two boys, the ones you'll always remember resting warm and soft in the cradle of your neck as newborns -- and yet feel something missing inside.

It's hard to talk to other people about what you find difficult to face yourself.

They might think you're being ungrateful.

They might think you're not counting your blessings.

They might think your faith is broken.

But, it's not that way at all.

There is something deeper going on inside.

The Place Inside

I know what this is like. To make it on my own.

To be okay.

It's a numbness.  In places no one can see.

It's me from my childhood. Still alone.  Holding everything together.

It doesn't show up at work, when I used to stand up making presentations in conference rooms.

It doesn't show up when I'm hanging out with my friends, or even at church, where all is as it should be.

And if you saw me at the grocery store, or driving my kids to soccer, running errands, you would think all is fine.

This place inside me where I pull myself together is where I go whenever I'm feeling down, confused or stressed.

In the privacy of my soul -- where my memories lay -- lies the wounded me.

Greater Faith

You know, the month of November is the time of the year when we talk about being thankful.

But for someone like me, who is going through the journey of healing -- having to remember all the people, places and stories that have wounded me -- what I'm thankful for may not be what everyone else has on their list.

Before my journey through debilitating anxiety, I was able to ignore the undercurrent feeling of shame I've hidden growing up in a dysfunctional home. I wanted to be strong and courageous -- by being competent.

I didn't understand God could make me strong and courageous -- by being broken.

I was still young in my journey of faith.

It wasn't time for me back then, as a little girl, to understand it takes greater faith to be broken than being competent.

Even Though

It's what Jesus chose in the Garden of Gethsamane, the night everyone was remembering Passover and giving thanks for God's protection from passing death. It was the night Jesus chose not to pass death. It was the night Jesus felt like dying --

even though He had just celebrated the Passover meal with His closest friends,

even though Jesus had given thanks, for the bread,

and even though Jesus had given thanks, for the cup.

Jesus confided --

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  
Stay here... With me. I'm very sad.  It feel as if I'm dying..."
Matthew 26:37-38 (NIV, CEB)

 Jesus didn't want pain, but He wanted us more.

So, Jesus chose to be broken.

This Thanksgiving, my heart is opening up.

My soul is awakening with each painful memory coming alive.

I'm stepping out -- even in my numbness -- to give thanks. Not because I'm strong. Not because everything is picture perfect.

I have something this year I've never had before.

I have a heart that is becoming real.

My Real Thanksgiving List

This year, I'm opening my heart to My Real Thanksgiving List.

I'm thankful --

I can be in need, so I can go on a new journey to find comfort.

I can feel sadness, so I don't have to live separated from my heart.  I can cry and feel afraid because it means I'm real.

I don't have to want suffering, but I can choose to embrace it.   Because God doesn't see it as shameful.  He is going to stay with me.  As long as it takes.

I can fall apart.  Because Jesus is holding me tenderly and His tears are dropping onto the hands that have gone limp from praying too long and too hard in silence.

I'm thankful I can hear Him whispering --

I haven't forgotten you.  

I'm not going to leave you.

over and again, even as I choke out in sobs to Him in return, "I don't want this.  I don't want this."

I'm thankful I can finally stop to look at my wounds and investigate how they got there.

I'm learning to say no in ways I've never dared -- to say yes to me and yes to God.

I'm thankful I can smell the rain and remember the dreams I've given up -- so I can ask God if I can taste them again.

I can ask God, "Is it too late?" and still doubt, because God is faithful even when I'm not.

I'm thankful for beautiful things I'm finding among the devastation of letting go.

I'm thankful I can be broken and real.  Because Jesus still chooses me. 

Something Beautiful

I am finding new friends who understand that both sadness and joy can co-exist.  Who aren't trying to fix me.

Friends who trust that love is greater than any resolution.

Friends who understand the journey of faith takes us off script.

Who share their own stories of struggle and dreams.

Who can touch the deep places.

Friends who remember the earth was once formless.

Empty.  

Yet, God was still moving in it, making something new and deep.

Something beautiful and real.

It was so real, that when God looked at what He was holding -- after placing His lips and breathing into the dirt -- He saw something come alive.

Something He never, ever made before.

It's what God sees looking into your heart and mine today.

He is making something beautiful out of you.

Remember

As we walk into the heart of the Thanksgiving season, and all those picture perfect images and stories start flashing onto our screens, remember The Real Thanksgiving List taking shape in God's heart -- inside of yours.

This list is coming alive in the real stories He's walking out with you in the current chapters you are living.  Today.

We can be thankful.

Jesus is going to keep loving us -- the same way He calls the stars out on the darkest nights every day.

He whispers your name.  

And mine.

Tenderly.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 
He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
"
~ Psalm  147:3-5

~~~~~

What is God whispering on your heart today?

What is on your Real Thanksgiving List this year?

Pull up a chair.  Express the journey inside you with us here. It matters.  Share a comment below.

By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. Bonnie writes for DaySpring (in)courage and her work has been spotlighted by Christianity Today, Relevant, Catalyst Leadership and she's been named in the Top 6 notable new religion authors. 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.

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration to create space in your life to breathe, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.  This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing for nurture their heart and draw closer to God. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." - Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestselling author of Unglued

"We live in a culture that brags and boasts about being busy. Into that reality steps Bonnie with a new idea.
Whitespace is an important concept and Bonnie has captured it perfectly. 
-Jon Acuff,NY  Times bestselling author of Start!

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, I'd like welcome you here. Click here to subscribe by email -(free) and get each post in this series served up hot and fresh directly in your mailbox

Photo credit: Flickr

"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it everyday." ~ Henri Nouwen {a quiet find in the fog one morning}

Eric and I were driving to Carmel for a weekend anniversary getaway last month. It was a welcome reprieve after months of releasing my new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.  I had journeyed through an unexpected two years of debilitating anxiety from reliving painful memories from childhood trauma, as a result of writing the manuscript. 

But, after surrounding myself with a lot "spiritual whitespace" -- rest and rejuvenation -- to heal and write this book, I found the sudden re-entry into the blogosphere noisy and anxiety generating. I had completed over 40 interviews and articles to get the word out about the book. 

I reached a crossroad that perhaps you may be standing in.

Should I keep pushing myself to produce and perform -- fearful of the consequences if I stopped to slow?

Or should I listen to the quiet Voice of Love -- God's voice -- to feed my soul and cultivate my experience of God in my everyday life rather than what I could produce for Him?

Is there a decision you're facing that makes you fearful of how relevant you would become -- if you put the care of your soul in priority?

For me, the journey to become the beloved is where God is speaking to my heart.

Real Influence

Online life can be enriching and imaginative, connecting us with others with similar challenges and struggles -- when we can be honest about our journey.  

Through blogging, I have found kindred spirits who gave me courage to find my voice through the dark times. But, online life also gets complicated because of social networking and social media.

Social networking. It's a collection of people vying for attention, for their products, platform and messages. Social media. It's the tools used to market and garner influence.

Brand influence is a commodity that is produced by working hard to cultivate an identity and audience.

But you and  I are not products.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 7.01.54 PM

Spiritual influence -- the way Jesus cultivated it -- is a quality of the soul that enables us to feel intimacy with God and vulnerability with others.

True influence cannot be measured but experienced in our everyday lives -- by the strangers we meet, our friends, spouses, children, teachers, co-workers, and even our own selves with Jesus -- in the daily grind.

Real influence is a quality of the soul that enables others to feel at home with us  -- more loved, comforted, accepted and known -- because we feel at home with God. As is. 

Those moments are often quiet and small.

Soul Loneliness

At the soul of who God made us -- where Psalmist David calls "the innermost being" -- God first touched dirt and fashioned in us the capacity to create and dream, to need Him and each other. He created a soul in each of us.

The soul does not survive on successes and the soul cannot be fed with productivity or achievement. The soul becomes lonely. 

The Atlantic published a powerful article sharing new research that suggests we have never been lonelier because of social media, even though we are more densely networked than ever. All this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.

"...within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier.

Our omnipresent new technologies... make avoiding the mess of human interaction easy.

Self-presentation... is continuous, intensely mediated.  Curating the exhibition of the self has become a 24/7 occupation.

Sherry Turkle, a professor of computer culture at MIT [talks] about the effects of online society:

'These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time.'

The problem with digital intimacy is that it is ultimately incomplete: 'The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy,' she writes."

In a sea of voices, stories, experiences, do you find yourself preoccupied by what others are doing, saying, writing or producing?

Too much online life drains the life of the soul.

Soul Fed:  Beloved

The soul hungers to be fed --

-- by quiet things.  Like the sound of a walk in the morning, with the wind waving your hair against your eyelashes when you blink.

-- by stillness.  Like standing in your kitchen, to steep a pot of tea, so you can savor a book long enough pour cups to sip until it's empty.

-- by prayer.  Like hearing the sound of your pencil drag across your journal, as you pour out every thought and feeling, confiding as friend to friend with Jesus.

-- by choosing the small.  Like stopping to listen to a friend who is feels troubled or sitting down with your child to read a book for no reason at all.

The soul longs to rest and refresh --

-- by being known.  connected and vulnerable with friends.

-- by being creative.  with a brush, pen, or guitar strings.

-- by resting in solitude. taking care of your body.

The soul of who we are is God's Beloved. Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 7.02.40 PM

Intimacy & Rest

When Jesus finally arrived on earth to share the greatest Message anyone had ever known, Jesus choose to invest and spend His time with just 12 everyday, ordinary people. Jesus didn't spread His message in the synagogues and temples.  

Jesus focused on experiencing life with everyday people who didn't have any access to large venues or power structures. Jesus chose to be present in His everyday life. Jesus was real. 

When Jesus resurrected from the dead, He could have done a gazillion high profile things. Instead, Jesus went to a beach, made a fire and watched fish turn tender and warmed bread on hot stones to love on his weary-worn friends, discouraged with empty nets. 

He loved them by experiencing life with them. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31) -- while He himself "often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16).

Jesus longs for this intimacy with us.  

What are you letting come between you and experiencing life with God -- and others?

Let God love you. Today.

Make room to be present. As is. Take your rightful place with Him. Invited rather than driven.

In those quiet moments, something real and honest will flow out of you and me, transforming this world into a more beautiful place. Work will no longer be about striving.  Work will be transformed into a soulful expression of who we as people of faith, loved by God. 

We will no longer be lonely people. We will journey together by faith.

You are not a brand. You are Beloved.

"I will heal your wandering. I will love you freely.
You will be like dew to Israel, you will blossom like the lily..." Hosea 14:4  

~~~~~

How is God calling you to be His Beloved?

How is He inviting you experience life with Him -- instead of being driven to accomplish or produce?

Share a comment. This is a quiet space to stop and share the journey. 

~~~~~

By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. Bonnie is the soulful author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. Bonnie writes for DaySpring (in)courage and her work has been spotlighted by Christianity Today, Relevant, Catalyst Leadership and she's been named in the Top 6 notable new religion authors. 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.

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration to create space in your life to breathe, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, which has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.  This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing for nurture their heart and draw closer to God. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." - Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestselling author of Unglued

"We live in a culture that brags and boasts about being busy. Into that reality steps Bonnie with a new idea.
Whitespace is an important concept and Bonnie has captured it perfectly. 
-Jon Acuff,NY  Times bestselling author of Start!

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, I'd like welcome you here. Click here to subscribe by email -(free) and get each post in this series served up hot and fresh directly in your mailbox

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