Bonnie Gray is author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest, garnering starred review praise from Publisher's Weekly, named as one of PW's top 6 notable new religion authors. Bonnie is a featured contributor at (in)courage and her writing is nationally syndicated, spotlighted by Relevant Magazine, Catalyst Leadership, Today's Christian Woman, and Christianity Today. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie has been a missionary, ministry entrepreneur and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. Bonnie serves up shots of faith for the daily grind on her blog Faith Barista.com. Bonnie lives in Northern California with her husband Eric and their two sons.
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.
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.
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.
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 --
numbing my desires or negative feelings,
are actually my defense mechanisms.
To avoid being myself.
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
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 Rest, which garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She 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.
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