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Bonnie Gray Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Gray

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Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is founder of Faith Barista and featured writer for DaySpring’s (in)courage site for women. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted on Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. Her search for God's calling has brought her to thrive through a variety of life transitions. She is a pastoral ministry graduate of Peninsula Bible Church in California, past missionary, and ministry entrepreneur launching a 30's singles ministry and workshops on Bible Study, Prayer, and Leadership. Prior to becoming a writer, Bonnie led a successful career in high tech as engineering and marketing manager, leading teams to deliver innovative products for Fortune 100 companies for 13 years. Bonnie is a passionate speaker serving up shots of faith in everyday life. She lives in the heart of Silicon Valley, California with her techie husband Eric, wrangling two boys on their homestead.

I didn't want to be known for my anxiety, or my stress, and I certainly didn't want to be known for my brokenness. But, at the cusp of a lifelong dream coming true – writing my first book – I was launched into a debilitating season of panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety.

Writing triggered memories to come alive. I began reliving them. Unexpected, painful memories.

I’ve done much harder things in my life, free of panic attacks. I grew up the oldest in a single parent family, put myself through college and launched ministries and communities of faith, while working on technology in the high-tech world. I’ve even traveled halfway around the world as an overseas missionary. But, overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, I was no longer able to cope the ways I always have: by problem solving, taking care of others, planning and doing.

God was allowing my exhausted, weary self to surface, so I could make God known in 3 unexpected ways.

1) MAKE GOD KNOWN BY PRESENCE, NOT PROJECT

When we come into contact with stress, our natural response is to push through. We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.

But, God offers us a different response: Rest. Kindness. Comfort.

Instead of being harder on us, Jesus whispers – “Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

We often hold ourselves back from God, when we're most weary.  

Ironically, those are the times we need God's comforting presence the most. When we make space to confide in God, we can offer that space in return to others -- instead of trying to fix them or their problems. We give them what God offers us: space to be real and rest.

We stop making ministry project focused. We become ministry by making God known by our presence.

2)  MAKE GOD KNOWN BY NURTURING YOUR HEART RATHER THAN IGNORING IT

When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scriptures tell us – “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do.

Putting our hearts firstletting Jesus love us— leads us on the journey of becoming known by Him. 

As leaders, we need to take time to feed our souls. 

We need spiritual whitespace. Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's poeima -- poetry translated as "workmanship" -- created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Is our leadership more like art or cluttered advertisement?

It’s easier to perform—to improve ourselves—rather than rest when it comes to our own lives. Nurturing our souls is a dare to believe the outrageous: we were created for beauty. What if our brokenness revealed more about God’s love for us than our efforts to cover it up?

3. MAKE GOD KNOWN BY YOUR AMBITION TO REST

Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God. (Rom.15:20, 2 Cor.5:9) 

"We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life." 1 Thess. 4:10–11

Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest—is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.

I've always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did.

But God suddenly put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.

We were never made to only do ministry as maintenance. God makes Himself known through us when we are fully alive with rest: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.

As people of faith in a stressed-crazed world, where everyone is trying to be known, we make God radically known by our ambition to rest. As leaders in ministry, we serve at the front lines in the battlefield of everyday life.

The weapons God places in our hands are our stories.  Your story. 

We often want to change things in our lives without first being vulnerable to be known.  

God wants leaders who are real people, fully alive, not just functionally performing. 

Somehow doing has become more important than being.  But, who we are is more important than what we can do.

Because if we're separated from our hearts, we are missing out on what Jesus wants most:  a relationship - a living journey with us - that we can share with others.  

One of the most painful wounds is becoming invisible in ministry.

It turns out, we all long to be known. Let's make room for each other.  To be known and beloved by God. As is.

~~~~~

What are the unexpected ways God is making himself known to and through you?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment.  We become leaders by sharing the journey.

~~~~~ 

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration to explore new ways to rejunvenate intimacy with God and find your voice, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, listing Bonnie Gray as one of the Top 6 notable new religion authors.  This memoir-driven guidebook book for rest is for anyone longing to create space to draw closer to God, for themselves, for rest. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and 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 bestseller author of Unglued

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.

Today's post was originally published on Catalyst Conference Leadership -- as a part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Series {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.


{photo by SandraHeskaKing}

I get asked this question almost every time I'm interviewed about my new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Why is it so hard to rest, if we know it's good for us?

This is what everyone wonders.

And this is what I say:  it's easier not to think about rest.

It's easier to go, go, go.

It's easier to say yes, yes yes. 

No one gets upset, no one gets disappointed and maybe there seems to be fewer conflicts -- at the moment. But, deep inside, the person who pays the price for putting ourselves last is... us.  We somehow erroneously feel if we choose to take care of ourselves, we are rejecting God and our usefulness to Him.

Another reason we avoid the quiet is this:  we don't know what we'd do with ourselves if we had extra time to just be. It's such a foreign concept, if we're used to defining our value by how much we can do -- versus how much intimacy we experience with God.

How can we give of ourselves to God and to others, if we don't even know ourselves? Our God-given dreams hold one of the special keys to our hearts. 

Today, I'd like to share an article I wrote for Relevant Magazine: What To Do When Your Dreams Stall:  5 Steps to Take When You've Given Up, that became one of top trending published posts that week.

When we make space for quiet and rest, we nurture our God-given dreams -- even the ones we're discouraged to give up.

.....

She told me that I was selfish to try to be a writer.

My mother said other people can afford to go off to become a journalist, but God gave me gifts for a reason. Not so I can do whatever I wanted. Writing was good hobby, but it doesn't pay the bills or move us out of our low-income housing.

So, I shoved my applications to Boston U and Columbia into the garbage can.

I applied to become a computer science and engineering major and stayed close to home. I never told anyone about my broken dreams because it always felt like I was being ungrateful for the opportunities I was given to get an education.

I let go of my dream of becoming a writer. I lived separated from my heart.

I eventually found healing, but only after I took the painful path to re-awaken the dreams I tried to deny my whole life.

Maybe you too have given up on the dreams you felt called to when you were younger. Maybe you’re discouraged and think it just isn’t meant to be. I had to learn the hard way that God-given dreams are worth pursuing, even when it’s difficult. 

Here are a few things to do when your dreams stall.

1) Make space for you. Confide in God. It's soul wearying to constantly hide your dreams. To deny our desires and the pain of loss. We feel guilty for not moving on and beat ourselves for not being thankful. Instead, Jesus whispers –

“Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Confide in God about how you really feel. Make space to ask the hard questions. When your soul is free to be real, you can receive the comfort and strength from God to dream again.

2)  Feed your soul instead of ignoring it. We often think of the action-figure Jesus but the Bible tells us –

“Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do. We need spiritual whitespace to feed our dreams. Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's poeima -- poetry translated as "workmanship" -- created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Are our lives more like art or cluttered advertisement?

3. Make Rest Your Ambition Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. Rest is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God (Rom.15:20, 2 Cor.5:9)

"We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life." 1 Thess. 4:10–11

Downtime puts us in touch with our passion instead of numbing ourselves by managing our inboxes, Facebook updates, TV or achievement-oriented productivity. Rest rejuvenated our dreams with creativity, deep relationships and adventure.

4.  Cast Your Net On The Other Side It’s too late, you tell yourself. You’ve moved on and gained strength by helping others.  But Jesus sees the nets you’ve left. Jesus says --

“Cast the net on the [other] side of the boat and you will find a catch” (John 21:6).

Jesus sees the empty nets.  Put out where it is deeper and let down your nets. It’s not too late. Try something radically different.  Maybe even the opposite direction you've been heading.

5.  Journey To Find the Open Door You're ready to give up. But no matter how long the journey or how broken you feel your story has become, none of it can change who God made you to be. The door to your dreams God has intended for you can never be lost, closed or destroyed by anyone or anything.

I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." Revelations 3:8

Sometimes, it's easy to give yourself away, when you no longer carry any hope for the dreams you once held.

Sometimes it takes more faith to revisit dreams that have stalled than asking for faith to forget about them.

I went on to finish my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace and find my voice.  

I hope you will take the journey to recover yours with God too.

~~~~~

Tell us about your journey -- your dreams?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment.  Your voice helps each of us to find God in ours.

~~~~~ 

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration to explore new ways to rejunvenate intimacy with God and find your voice, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, has garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly, listing Bonnie Gray as one of the Top 6 notable new religion authors.  This memoir-driven guidebook book for rest is for anyone longing to create space in life for God and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart's home. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and 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 bestseller author of Unglued

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.

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Blog Tour Series -- {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.

 

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Tour Series  {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.

The clock is my dictator

I shall not rest.

It makes me lie down only when exhausted.

It leads me to deep depression.

It hounds my soul.

It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.

Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done.

For my “ideal” is with me. 

Deadlines and my need for approval,
they drive me.

They demand performance from me
beyond the limits of my schedule.

They anoint my head with migraines.

My in-basket overflows.

Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me
all the days of my life.

- by Marcia Hornok

Which line in The Clock is My Dictator by Marica Hornok resonates with where you are now?

Fatigue and time pressure is what I don't want following me.

But, if I only think this desire -- without making changes to move in the opposite direction of surely goodness and mercy -- I will by default get sucked into the flow of answering emails, being online or performing to address the constant growing demands pulling on me.

I end up feeling like all I'm doing is paddling upstream, trying to get to a place where I've done everything -- so I can see the bottom of my to do list.

But, you know what?

That to-do list is bottomless.

It keeps growing as I check my way down the list.

Even if I've checked every box on my list -- that moment is only fleeting.

My self-engineered moments of "rest" were only gained after a lot of hard work, toil and stress.

It's not that I'm some maniacal workaholic.  I'm not.

No More For Me

On the outside, I might look calm as a cucumber. But I'm more like an prisoner inside, never  free of the list.

My soul is shut off while my heart is frantically executing constant shifting tetris-like maneuvers.

It's all very demanding emotionally -- especially if a bump along the way comes up.

Those days are no more for me.

I don't want to work hard to see the bottom of a list.

I was made for more than executing blocks of time on a schedule well.

I something more real, more alive, more meaning for to reach and see.

I have decided to follow Jesus onto the journey of rest.  I want to see the top of my soul at rest with Jesus.

I am declaring --

-  the clock is not my shepherd.

- the list is not my shepherd.

- dysfunctional relationships are not my shepherds.

- my failure or accomplishment is not my shepherd.

I can't control how things on my list works out.  

It's real life.  Not everything gets resolved.

It doesn't mean God isn't in control.

The one thing I am sure God is in control of is my heart -- when I yield it to Him.

The one thing I can count on is who I can count on.

Jesus is my shepherd.

Choices

All of us, after all, is resting in something.

The question is what our heart has chosen to rest in?

I don't want the clock and my to-do list to control how my day goes.

I want Jesus to be in control of my heart -- by making choices that help me engage my heart and access to my heart:

receiving comfort,

savoring beauty and quiet,

enjoying things that feed my soul,

giving myself permission to say yes or no from the prompting of my heart -- rather than saying yes or no based on how much time my schedule has open.

connecting 1-1 with real people, instead of hiding in the anonymity of group activities or the heart-numbing work of doing.

I'm taking a different approach now.

I am finding my spiritual whitspace.  I am making room for me, for God, for rest. I am taking time to feed my soul, to care for what God holds most precious: who am I, not what I can do.  

I want to live out of a restful soul.

I what to choose a living story -- a real life following Jesus -- instead of my ideal or other's ideal of me.

From a List to the Beloved

I want to simply be God's sheep.

I want to say unapologetically -- I need.

The Lord is my shepherd.

To make this truth a reality, I am changing the rules.

I'm not going to operate from a list.

I am going to make changes as a beloved daughter.

Because you and I are God's beloved, we don't have to be run by that to-do list.

Instead of pushing ourselves to follow any rules of the world to be successful, popular or loved, we can change the rules.

Choose what goodness and mercy to your heart would lead you to say yes.

Because goodness and mercy is what follows after a woman loved by God.

Do the things where we can be the kind of person who hears Jesus whispering.

I love you. Just rest. -- while doing them. Instead of hearing the clock tick.

We can say, "I can't do it all."

Because as God's beloved children, we don't have to do it all.

Change Some Rules

Rest is radical.

It takes the walls down; We become real, authentic, human, and spiritual. 

We become real, vulnerable, open to God and eachother.

Let go of anything and anyone that keeps you from God and His rest for you. Say the harder "no" to expectations, performing, dysfunctional relationships -- and say "yes" to finding Spiritual Whitespace.

Give yourself permission to rest.

What rules can you change -- for you -- to make Jesus your shepherd -- and not the clock?

Change some rules.  

It may not be easy.  But, you are not alone.  Let's be the radical community moving away from the clock rest so we can live by soul rest with Jesus along you too.

A new chapter is being written.  Let's not look back at the clock anymore.

Let's live and rest.

~~~~~

How Can You Say The Lord Is Your Shepherd -- and Not The Clock?

What rules can you change?

What can you let go to say yes to a soul at rest following Jesus ahead?

To do the things you are free to pursue as a beloved rather than a stressed out child of God?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment. Let's encourage and support each other. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

~~~~~

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration and encouragement to explore new ways to renew prayer and intimacy with God, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest . This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing to create space in life to draw closer to God, to rest and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart's home. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and 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 bestseller author of Unglued

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.

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Blog Tour Series -- {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.

I didn't know that I was hiding. I've always been good at praying. 

Or so I thought.

My daddy left when I was seven. I've always looked to God as my Father, my provider. I didn't realize that God wanted to be more than just my provider. God longed to be my soul's confidante -- deep where I feel lonely, where I struggle to receive and make space for me.

I find it easier to take care of others and do things for God, rather than be vulnerable with my needs.

But God is showing me prayer is an intimate soul conversation to be loved and known, rather than a spiritual transaction to be made better.

This journey of restful prayer began in the most unexpected way:  my first panic attack.

At the cusp of a life-long dream -- writing a book -- painful childhood memories re-ignited as live events.  I began reliving them. Even though I was married to my soulmate hubby, mom to two beautiful boys, even traveled halfway across the world as a missionary to tell others about Jesus, I couldn't stop my heart from pounding like a jackhammer, unable to breathe. I couldn't stop endless nights of insomnia or fatigue so thick I laid in bed by day.

I felt ashamed.  It seemed the peace of Jesus I've always prayed for others and myself was out of reach.

I knew how to pray to be competent and strong.  But I didn't know there were deeper, beautiful prayers for broken me.

Instead of abandoning me, Jesus whispers --

"Come to me, weary and heavy-laden. And I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28

Sometimes, it takes more faith to fall apart with Jesus than praying for faith to stop it from happening. I began praying new intimate prayers.

I began finding spiritual whitespace:  making room for rest instead of ignoring my wounding and exhaustion.

As I took the journey to find rest, I uncovered Five Soulful Ways to Pray When You Don't Know How:

1.  When you're overwhelmed, whisper His name.

Remember receiving a first love note?  It didn't have to be long. Yet your heart felt known seeing your handwritten name.  It kept you company in the daily grind, the mention of your name.

Whisper His name and listen for his echo in the quiet moments in your day.

God names the stars and He whispers your name.

"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

2. When you don't have words to pray, rest knowing Jesus is praying for you.

Your silence will not drive Jesus away. Nothing can separate you from His love. Not even your unrest. He'll never get tired of you. Sometimes, the greatest prayer we can experience is God's complete understanding and compassion. His presence.

"Who then is the one who condemns?
No one. Christ Jesus who died...is also interceding for us."
- Rom 8:34

3. When you are too stressed to pray, take care of you.

Extend yourself the kindness and comfort you so generously give others. Ironically, the times we most need God's comfort are the times we deprive ourselves of soul-nurturing time.

We feel selfish. Yet, God says, we can only comfort others, with the comfort we first receive ourselves. (2 Cor 1:4)  

Instead of layering on guilt, head in the opposite direction. Let God love you through your choices to prioritize taking care of you.

4.  When you are numb and don't want to pray, invite Jesus into your world.

Instead of struggling to reach Jesus, invite Jesus to enter your world.

Let us strive to enter that rest. . . . For the word of God is living and active. . . It penetrates dividing soul and spirit.." Heb. 4:11–12

The “the word of God” used here is the Greek word logos—translated as living voice. This means God is not limited to the written word.

God uses everything living to speak into our lives. He knows what’s on your heart and the everyday life you are living. God leaves us love notes in that everyday life to let us know: you are God's living prayer.

Take a walk outside.  Listen to music.  Read a good book.  Confide in a friend with a cup of coffee.

 5.  When you're too exhausted to pray, stop and rest.

"Arise and eat.
For the journey is too great for you."
- 1 Kings 19:7

Elijah had done everything he knew to do—even defeating the prophets of Baal.   Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah's spirit.  In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him.

Not only that. God sent an angel — to touch him -- twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first — in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.

No more hiding.

You’re loved.

You’re worth it.

Just rest.

~~~~~

What is one way you are going to carve out time for whitespace and rest today?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment. This is a quiet space for you & me.

~~~~~

findingspiritualwhitespace_book For inspiration and encouragement to explore new ways to renew prayer and intimacy with God, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest . This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing to create space in life to draw closer to God, to rest and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart's home. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and 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 bestseller author of Unglued

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.

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Blog Tour Series -- {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.

 
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