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Summer is officially here!

The schedules of the school year, of sports and other recreational activities, of work and all that is part of the rest of the year have been put on hold for rest, relaxation and recreation.

One of the best parts of summer is looking at the calendar of July and August in comparison to the rest of the months … there are so many clean blocks, with no writing on many of the days of the week. The calendar in FULL of whitespace!

Whitespace is the part of paper that is not written on.

According to Bonnie Gray, who writes at incourage.me, and faith Barista,

“just as beautiful art needs whitespace,

our souls need spiritual whitespace.”

Enjoy this guest post from Bonnie Gray.

I didn’t want to get out.

But Daddy swung the car door open.

My parents had just divorced and Daddy took me and little sister to the toy store one Saturday morning.

He wanted to buy us something to “Remember Daddy loves you,” as he placed the plastic bag in my hand at checkout. But, all I could think about was Momma. What she told me that morning. That I better not take anything from him.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that visit was going to be the last time I ever saw him again. I was a little girl, seven years tall.

Daddy kept telling me, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” But I didn’t want to walk up to the porch. My legs drilled down into the ground like roots to a thicket of thorns at the bottom of concrete steps.

My Daddy put one hand on my back, pressing me forward, as he grabbed my little sister’s hand in the other. He rapped on the screen door while I blinked and sucked my breath in.

As I held myself there for a million years, the door flew open.

There she stood. Over me.

Even behind the screen, I could see Momma clearly. Her ragged jawline, her teeth clenched and face flushed. Her chest heaving. She took one look at me, at the plastic bag I was holding. I could see it in her eyes.

Anger.

And I broke apart in a thousand pieces right then and there. I knew I shouldn’t do what I did next, because it would make everything worse. But, I couldn’t help it.

I started shaking. Tears began to erupt and my mouth pulled down into a trembling sob. I couldn’t swallow them down. So I began to cry.

Things didn’t go well for me that day, as I stood there at the screen door out on the porch.

There was no space for me.

I was split between who to please and what to do.

I could not find rest.

Longing

Even though I’m all grown up now – mom to two adorable boys, married to a loving husband — deep inside, I’m still that little girl looking for rest.

Longing for space to breathe.

To feed my soul.

To feel and dream dreams.

To just be me.

I need rest.

But, stress seems to always be one step ahead of me.

I’ve wondered if I could ever really stop.

Then, God allowed my life to come to a big stop.

A Beautiful Discovery

Two years ago, at the cusp of a childhood 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.

I’ve done much harder things in my life, free of panic attacks. I grew up as the oldest child in a single parent family, put myself through college, and launched first-to-market technologies in the high-tech world. I’ve even traveled halfway around the world as an overseas missionary.

But, now overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, I was no longer able to cope the way I always have:

by problem solving,

taking care of others,

planning and doing.

God was allowing my exhausted, weary self to surface, so that I could go on a new beautiful discovery: the journey of rest.

A New Journey

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

When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scripture 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—is a new journey of resting with Him.

As people of faith, our response to stress is not to avoid it.

What we need is rest.

What we need is spiritual whitespace.

Spiritual Whitespace

Whitespace. It’s the space left on a page left unmarked.

Whitespace is not blank. It breathes beauty.

Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, our souls need spiritual whitespace. We need rest.

We are not project plans for God. We are not God’s stock investments, where our value rises and falls with performance.

God after all is an artist. And we are His works of art.

“For we are God’s poeima (the Greek word for workmanship, from which we derive the word “poem”)…
which God prepared beforehand…”
Ephesians 2:10

I ended writing a different book than I started.  I wrote a memoir-driven guide about my search to find rest and the answers as I found them.

To find the things I somehow lost along the way –

Quiet.

Stillness.

Beauty.

Intimacy with God.

Rest is a journey we don’t have to take alone. We need each other.

Let’s live a better story. Move beyond surviving.

Take the journey to rest. Find your spiritual whitespace.  

Listen to Jesus’ gentle whispers –

You’re loved.

You’re cherished.

Just rest.”

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Last week I wrote about wanting to be really me … who I really am, and who God made me to be.

As I opened my emails the other day, one written by Bonnie Gray (faithbarista), jumped off the screen and into my heart. What captured me were the words :

“something beautiful and real”

Bonnie wrote that as she reminded her readers of the formless earth, before Creation. She wrote that, on the cusp of God creating all that was to come, when there was … no form … God was still moving in it.

And then He Created … making something new, and it was :

“something beautiful and real”

I am one who struggles at times with yearning for something more (The Day I Wanted To Run Away), and I know that all of us do, because we were created to live in a place of perfect peace (Peace-on-Earth), a place of perfect peace. And so, since leaving the perfect garden, we have been yearning for more …

It is a dichotomy that our yearning for the future, for the perfection that is to come, can keep us from seeing the very real beauty of today.

Although the personal reflections that Bonnie shares (below) may not be your experience, there is a very tangible lesson from the walk she is taking through her past, so as to see light and life in her future …

“both sadness and joy can co-exist”

and I would say that when they do co-exist we are living something beautiful and real!

Just like Jesus did not want to experience torture on a cross … separation from his Father … he chose to endure the pain, the rejection and the loss because …

WE were worth it …
WE are worth it …

“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

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