Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
(nanu, nanu... younger me. third grade)
When I heard of Robin Williams' suicide and death yesterday, I was crushed with heartbreak. I wanted to cry.
Robin Williams made me laugh during a time in my life when my parents divorced. When life was falling apart.
I loved watching Mork and Mindy. (proof: my third grade photo as mork)
I thought he was so funny, doing his little dances and totally spazzing out every now and then.
I loved he was an adorable Alien who somehow fell from the sky and had no idea how to get back home. I think that's how divorce felt like to seven year old Bonnie. Something so catalytic, it propelled me far from home and landed me as an emotional alien on this earth.
Mork didn't understand how the world works -- but he never stopped telling the truth. And asking questions. About how things don't make sense.
I think the little girl Bonnie wished she could do the same. She wanted to be known.
No matter how weird Mork appeared to others, he never stopped being who he was. Caring. Curious. Different.
Mork never stopped making me laugh.
And I loved Robin Williams for doing that -- for giving me the gift of laughter at a time I wanted the world to be full of aliens who wore suspenders and said "Nanu Nanu".
I wish I had a chance to talk with Robin in that dark moment he decided to take his life.
I wish I could say something to bring him some hope, some comfort -- the same way he brought a measure of it into my life through his art.
I'm telling you. I shed some tears. For my yesterday. For Robin.
For we are all soul-starved and hungry. Soul-loneliness is our sad modern epidemic.
Because we're all soul-hungry, nothing is more soul-filling than to be known.
I wish I could tell you, Robin.
You don't need to die in order to taste rest.
There is hope in your hurt.
You can find home right where you are.
God can meet you in your sorrow.
Robin, I wish you didn't go.
I will miss you.
What I Know Now: A Letter To My Younger Self
" You are not forgotten. Don't run from your need. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams. "
Today, in memory of Robin Williams, I'm sharing a letter I wrote to my younger self during the Mork and Mindy era. I wrote it two years ago, when my panic attacks began, to bring her near to me again. To heal and rest.
This letter reminds us no matter how long we've known God or walked with Him, we will all have questions about why life doesn't make sense. We all experience broken feelings that we don't seem to fit into this world.
And there will be times we will need to speak to the truth, even if it feels like no one else is saying it. We need to ask the questions. And we must give ourselves permission to tell our stories, because we all long for home. So we can know we are not alone on this journey of life. And offer kindness and kinship to each other. As is.
Here is the post...
This is a school picture of me, taken in third grade. I loved wearing my Mork from Ork suspenders and my Hello Kitty necklace dangling front and center. My hubby Eric cracks up everytime I show him this picture. But, it doesn't surprise him. Yeah, I'm geeky.
I loved school even more than TV, so you can imagine -- my teachers loved me and always made me feel special. I was the chatterbox among my school friends, so I can't say I was shy. I made good friends, played hot lava tag at recess and hold many wonderful, warm memories of elementary school life.
But, life back at home was a very different story.
Third grade was very significant for me. Not only because the multiplication tables eluded me, while Pippy Longstocking won my heart.
But, it was a year of enduring many dark struggles, as a single parent child, from a divorced family.
My letter today is to her -- my younger self -- when I was the only Chinese-American girl who sat in my California third grade class.
You are bubbly by nature, curious and tomboy all rolled up into one. You play kickball with the boys, but deep inside, you wish you had a pair of patent leather black party shoes too.
You always did your best and never stopped caring, thinking and doing until all was taken care of. You wear a smile well and laughter is your default weather. Your eyes sparkle with sunshine because the dreams in your heart keep you content and very low maintenance.
But, I see deep where no one can see. I see your need.
I know that your father left two years ago suddenly. Without warning, you woke up to find him packing to leave. Your mother is not a safe person. And there is no one left to confide in.
You are the girl who can't stop talking in class -- who the teacher forced into exile in Siberia, scooting your desk to the class corner (still to no avail - no one can keep Bonnie from talking!).
But, here you are, with no one to hold your broken heart or hear your thousandth question. You don't think anyone hears you when you cry at night, when you stare up into the ceiling and watch the shadows dance off headlights from street traffic streaming outside your bedroom window.
Last year, you won second place in the district spelling bee. But, your momma met you with a sigh in her shoulders, her head shaking in disappointment, as you met her eyes of apathy after the awards ceremony. Second place became last place and your sweet young heart fell crushed with regret.
Next year you will you write your first poem. It will be selected to be published in the school newspaper, which you will carefully fold, to carry home and put away quietly in your desk.
You've been brought up to believe that nothing good comes easy. Only what's hard and bitter is served to you as love.
You don't know it yet, Bonnie.
But, none of your tears can erode God's love for you.
None of your loneliness can be hidden away, like your poem -- in the drawer of forgotten.
None of the coldness you wrap around for comfort is going to freeze the gifts God's given you.
I don't have an answer to why for you. But, I can tell you -- with undeniable certainty --- that you are not forgotten.
Every word you whisper on paper is carving out a hungry heart that will grow wide and deep for Jesus to speak into. You will not stop writing, even though no one seems to care.
You will not stop loving, because your need will keep you vulnerable, longing and tender.
Whatever you do, you must remember this. Nothing and nobody can change who God has made you.
No mistake, no guilt, no abuse, no lies, no missed opportunities, no shameful words.
You will be afraid. Very afraid.
But, even this cannot destroy you. Even if you don't believe it, it won't matter.
God's purpose for you cannot be erased.
So, these are my words to you: it's worth it.
Be broken. Don't run from it. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams.
And when you feel you've been too broken and cannot stand the pain of being alone one breath longer -- break your silence.
Tell someone. Anyone. Everyone.
Be that annoying needy someone -- until someone who can recognize the voice of Christ in your pain answers.
You must not hide, even at the risk of more hurt. Which you surely will be, because you want to live fully. And you will.
When you give yourself permission to need -- to touch the place of empty, the place of wanting -- that ache of unrequited desire will lead you to fulfill God-sized dreams imprinted in you before you were even named.
Before the beginning of time, you were designed to need.
The more you lean into your need, the more you will be able to trust your dreams and pursue them with passion and fervor. No matter what the cost. No matter how long it takes.
Your need entwines you to Christ.
Brokenness is beauty to Him. You are not forgotten.
No matter what comes. No matter how invisible. You are not forgotten.
With all my love and tenderness for you,
"It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken,"
Nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate";
But you will be called, "My delight is in her," ...
For the LORD delights in you"
~ My Abba Father, Is.62:4
Are you feeling soul-hungry today?
What would you say to your younger self -- based on what you know now?
At what point in life would you wish to speak to her-- and what would you say?
Pull up a chair. Write that letter and stay a little longer today.
Share a comment below. Let's swap some stories.
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.
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