My Real Thanksgiving List: Courage To Be Broken

Originally published Wednesday, 19 November 2014.

"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.


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.


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.


"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.

 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 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!

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