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 wanted to try and expand my world, even if just whisper-thin.
I had come to a place where my new normal looked nothing like it did before.
I was someone who was walking through post-traumatic stress.
But, what kind of life could I live now, while I'm in recovery?
I had been going to a mommy-and-me class with my three-year-old once a week since fall last year. And I had started the class immersed in the silent chaos of anxiety attacks that could happen any time during the day.
I kept to myself and hardly spoke to any of the mommies -- except for a "Hi" or casual "How are you?".
I was there to hang out with CJ, which was the only reason why I even signed up to be there in the first place.
This mommy-and-me class was the one time a week I could lavish undivided attention on my second born -- uninterrupted for a big chunk of time -- to do crafts, paint, play and sing songs together. Without the need to clean up the mess or hurt myself trying to think up creative crafty things to do.
Because you see, I'm not so crafty. At all.
But, this class makes up for this. All the supplies are laid out for projects that are age-appropriate and parent-kid proofed. We simply walk in with our hair a mess, clothes crumpled and homey-looking. Every week offers a different theme, matched up with a round-robin of theme-inspired activities to enjoy with our child.
So, for the entirety of last year's classes, I did not interact much with the other mommies, simply because I'd be either holding myself together (barely) or afraid that at any moment, the social demands of engagement would just be too much.
But, as the new year was approaching, I felt moved to brainstorm a small list of small movements I can take in the new year.
These were so small, I even hesitate to write to you about them.
These movements seem so pitiful ordinary and so simple, it makes me feel embarrassed to even confess that I even put them on a mental list. These movements seem so insignificant, confiding in you about them seems to validate how very frail I've become.
But, I know this feeling is my broken self speaking.
This voice I'm having to speak in feels small and insignificant.
And that is exactly the reason why I must bring this part of me into the light. Here with you.
Because the easiest thing to do is to silence the parts of ourselves that feel timid and unsure.
But, I'm learning those are very places in our souls Jesus is longing to touch and bring back to life -- so we can find our place in this world.
I told you about one of those ideas that started to emerge into my thoughts, the way honey first drops thick and heavy into a cup of hot tea: clearing the clutter from my drawers.
Even though from the outside, you'd never think time capsules of papers and momentos were stuck in transit, sitting in the dark of a closed space.
But, let me tell you first about another idea that began to float to the top, like faint sweetness that warms your mouth as you taste that first sip of honeyed tea, before you decide it needs a second stir with your teaspoon.
I thought to myself, I don't know how long God will hold me in this place of tension and dissonance.
Is there anything I can offer to Christ in this place of prison?
My thoughts drifted to the cold iron bars of a cell darkened by chains and the murky damp of isolation.
Paul the apostle.
He was so on fire for God, with so much passion to go beyond bounders. What an orator he was, drawing crowds in the great cities of the Roman Empire's gilded age.
Yet, prison was where Jesus sent Him.
Out of all the places God could have sent Paul, that was where he was to remain.
He could not go where he wanted. Even the last days of his life were spent no further than his front door, for he was confined to house arrest.
And what did Paul do when he was imprisoned? Nothing, except write a handful of letters to a small number of people. They were fery short letters, if you think about it-- compared to classics written by men who were free to roam in the city squares, like Sophocles and Homer.
But, Paul wrote from where he was at -- when he could write -- if at all.
And so, this smallest of ideas floated to rest on my heart.
What small movements could I make -- if and when moments of the fog lifts -- even if the sum of them amounted to nothing at all?
If there is anything I've learned in working through trauma -- and re-living it with Jesus -- it's this: Being present is everything.
I decided I would try to talk with someone in my mommy-and-me class. And I would listen more than speak.
Because I can't sustain too long a conversation.
I chose to trust that Jesus was present in me.
I chose to trust that by simply being present with someone, I was bringing Jesus to them.
I didn't need to do anything. I didn't even need to say much of anything (I can't. Which if you knew me in real life, pre-PTS, you'd know was killing me!)
I chose to believe the smallest movement I make to be present would be bringing Jesus in me to light.
Now, before you think I suddenly rose from the grave and was free from my ailments after this prayer, let me tell you quickly and right away.
I was raccoon eyed, pale-lipped, joint-aching exhausted, dragging my what-not-to-wear self to that first class of the new year.
I did not feel inspired in the least bit as I stood there, dizzy from a night without much sleep. A mommy looking very tired stood near me.
So, I asked her, "Hi, how's it going?" I didn't even remember her name (I had to look at her name tag).
She smiled widely, eyes coming to life, "Great!... How are you?"
"Oh, I'm hanging in there. I'm very tired." I smiled weakly. I noticed she had a limp in her stance.
"I noticed you were limping a bit. What happened?"
"Oh, it's nothing." She shrugs her shoulders and smiles some more. "I just slipped down the stairs. It's so stupid. It's just bruised."
"Oh, that must have hurt..." I grimaced. "Does it bother you at night?"
"Actually... It kinda does..." She confides.
"When you're not feeling well, it can get worse at night." I offer. "It's so distracting... Makes it hard to sleep."
"That is so true..." She whispers. "It's terrible. I haven't been sleeping..."
And so, for longer than I would have predicated, she tells me about her doctor visits and how it's more than a bruise. How stressful it is to try and go to physical therapy, all the while, feeling pain every time she has to run up and down the stairs.
I listen and I nod because I can hardly breathe freely myself.
Then, we both laugh about how insane it is, to have the hardest job in the world taking care of our kids as moms, without time off for sick days.
This was the only one conversation I could sustain for that day, so I didn't think too much about it.
I thought, If this is all I'm able to do. One small conversation. Dude. My life has become a shadow of what it could be.
But, just as I think this, I hear another woman comment in a circle of moms chatting off to the side. "Oh, man. When I'm depressed, the most important thing for me to do is to stay away from people who are depressed. No thank you."
"Totally. I just want to surround myself with happy people," agreed another.
That's when I knew.
The conversation I just had means more to the heart of Jesus than what I thought to be true.
The world does not have room for small. But, Jesus has made His home in you and me. You and I hold one of the greatest gifts we can offer to another person. We can be present --
-- as we are,
-- whenever we can,
-- however we are able to.
Because the smallest movements are not measured by impact, numbers or even duration by Jesus.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.: ~ Hebrews 11:1
In Jesus eyes, the smallest movements we make by faith -- believing Jesus is making them with us -- brings Him the deepest pleasure and holds immeasurable worth.
Jesus sees the weight of your faith by the expense you've expended to exercise it -- the hardness, the fear and even the doubt you put on the line, to carry it out.
Make that list of small movements, friends.
Write it down and don't let anyone tell you it's not worth anything.
Not even when that person is yourself.
Because Jesus is taking that list, reading it with great compassion and He's making it His.
"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had..." ~ Mark 12:41-44
What are some small movements God's put on your heart?
Pull up a chair. When we share, we are present with each other, a gift of faith and friendship in the moment.
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 the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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