July 23, 2014

A Book Review: Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray

Dear friends, I have just finished a book that has stirred my soul. And although this review was supposed to take place in June, I'm pushing through the guilt to share it with you. How is it not still June? These past weeks have flown by way too fast!

Perhaps you are in a busy season too, or maybe looking for something to tuck in your holiday suitcase? If you are, the thoughts Bonnie shares will be well worth the read. When I began, I felt I needed to rush through, but I was stopped in my tracks and had to slow down to take it all in.

From the cover:

"How many of us find ourselves running on empty with no time for rest, not time for ourselves, no time for God? Bonnie Gray knows what that is like. On the brink of fulfilling a lifelong dream, she saw her plans shatter into a journey through painful memories and anxiety. In her search for answers, she made an important discovery: we all need spiritual whitespace.

Whitespace. It's the space on a page left unmarked. Untouched. Whitespace makes art beautiful. It gives the eye a place to rest.

With heartbreaking honesty, Bonnie guides you to discover a better story for yourself, one that feeds your soul and makes room for rest."

Before I began to read, I was afraid the ideas in the book would just add to my growing list of to-do's, or provide a step by step a recipe on how I could improve my relationship with God. I do not do so well with relationship recipes, I did not want a way to fail. What I found was a way to fly. 

Bonnie's idea of whitespace is simply being aware of everyday moments with Jesus. It's pushing stress and anxiety out, to let rest, refreshment and faith in. She moves away from prescriptive quiet time with God and shows through her experiences how God speaks to us, moves us and encourages us through a simple word, a glance out the window, a song lyric, a walk in a field. It is all relationship. 

Each chapter draws you in with personal stories written in small segments, and ends with thought-provoking reflection questions and a Whitespace Prompt. I enjoyed this format because I could read in small spurts and really take in what Bonnie shares. Her story, her journey through painful childhood memories, struggles with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and life-saving moments with Jesus drew me in and helped me to see my everyday life through Jesus' eyes. Bonnie shares with the utmost grace, truth and hope. 

I wanted to share a few of my favourite thoughts from the book, to give you a taste of what has impacted my heart these last weeks:

"Peace has not come to me this way. Not as an eraser. It's the opposite. Peace is only returning with with each piece of my broken story I'm recovering. One memory at a time... My journey to find rest is now a journey towards wholeness. A putting back together that includes broken pieces."

"Is God calling you to something that feels too hard? Are you struggling to understand how to walk the everyday while holding your dreams in one hand and the reality of your circumstances in the other? Is there something you desire or fear that is so painful you don't know if you should hold on tighter or let it go entirely?

To avoid the hardness of the journey, you may be tempted, as I have been, to deny yourself the permission to feel, to dream or to grieve. Jesus turns to us and tenderly whispers: 'Live as my beloved. Lay your heart bare with me.' When you hear these words take a step closer... beyond your place of control into a place of faith - where you are under the control of God's love and timetable, purposed for you."

"Where are your deep waters friend? Are you empty of dreams? Behind every pain lies a lost dream. Perhaps, like me, you've made a choice at some point to forget. You've tried to shield yourself from that loss by submerging your dreams. 'It's too late,' you tell yourself. 'It's been too long. Another lifetime ago.' 

You've moved on and gained strength by helping others. But Jesus sees the nets you've left... He feels the ache inside that comes from having no catch. He knows your soul has grown hungry. He sees you are too tired to go back out.

Yet Jesus stands on the shore at the break of dawn. He calls to you and me - 'Cast the net on the [other] side of the boat and you will find a catch' (John 21:6). Jesus sees the empty nets. 'Put out where it is deeper and let down your nets.' It's not too late. To come as you are."

"I'm sharing this important juncture in my story to let you know the journey of faith sets your heart free. It gets deeper. And the deeper it goes, the more what's at stake emerges. You. Jesus in you.

We can't go back the way we came. Let's travel ahead with each other - to awaken our hearts to rest, to recover those pockets of our real selves."

Lovelies, God knows exactly what we need. I needed this book, this lifeline, and he spoke to me so powerfully, in ways I had been missing. Bonnie is vulnerable and overcame many fears to write in her full voice. She has inspired me. Over these past months I feel I have muzzled my writing voice, afraid to be vulnerable, to share anything below the surface. There is a time for everything, and I feel a time coming for a full voice. A return to sharing what runs beneath the surface.

I found out about Bonnie, her blog Faith Barista and the opportunity for a book review from a friend. Thank you. God uses friends to speak to our hearts. Is there someone you know who would enjoy this book? A friend perhaps, or even an acquaintance you could pass it on to? Or maybe God wants to speak to your heart? The book is available on Amazon here.

Praying that you may have many summer moments where Jesus encourages your heart.


July 4, 2014

Snapshot of Summer (and a comment issue)

June wound down, I said goodbye to some fantastic grade 4 kids after a C.S. Lewis novel study, lots of art projects, and beautiful days playing sports outside. July has blown in with an amazing heat wave, which has necessitated lots of ice cream and walks downtown in the shade of beautiful big old trees. The apartment is basically a sweat box. We get out however and whenever we can, even if it's just to stand in the frozen food aisles at the grocery store. Siding is going on the house and drywall will be up soon. We had a few cracker-jack downpours and spent some time pulling wet insulation out of the walls and squeegeeing a foot of water out of the basement. All part of the new adventure! I've been gearing up behind the scenes for our church VBS kids camp next week, and we are looking forward to spending time with friends and enjoying the summer together. We've had a bit of sad news in the passing of Neal's grandmother, and are so thankful we were able to see her and spend time with her on our last trip out east. She will be missed.

And dear Prairie Rose and Lisa - for some reason I can't comment on your blogs, and I've really wanted to! So I thought I'd leave you both a note here. Prarie Rose - your chickens look fantastic (and I bet they  really appreciate the watermelon!). Lisa - I am so happy for you and your new job position - yay for real weekends and holidays (and Not Being on Call!) Welcome back, I always look forward to your posts!

Happy Summer,