Experiencing Change This Year? Be of Good Cheer.

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For those of us who are lucky enough, Christmas is a special time steeped in rituals and tradition that we celebrate with family and friends. We have favorite foods that we look forward to, special services where we worship together, games we play, stories we share, and certain days or times when we gather and exchange gifts with various members of our families or groups of friends. It can be a wonderful time of year full of joy and anticipation.

As a friend of mine recently shared, “It’s the most wonderful time of year because the spirit of Jesus Christ fills the atmosphere. We talk about Christ more than ever. We walk around saying, “Merry Christmas”; we sing songs about Jesus; we read Christian stories, etc. When Christ gets all of the attention, His love, joy, patience, and peace fills the atmosphere!”

Christmas

Peace — While it’s definitely something we can hope to experience at this time of year, it may also require a bit more focus and work to achieve.

The stress of trying to do too much in too little time; the strain of attempting to appease too many people with different ideas; the tension of putting personal issues or preferences aside to enjoy a harmonious holiday … all these things can actually lead some to dread what should be a joyous and special time of year.

So, what can we do to counter this?

Consider this …

Marriages, births, merging families, cross country moves, and, sadly, deaths can all change family dynamics. Sometimes, with these changes, we have to be open to readjusting our expectations and perceptions of the holidays, and modifying our traditions to accommodate the new family members we have acquired, the locations we find ourselves in (and the logistics of travel), and the various physical and emotional situations some of our loved ones are dealing with.

We need to look at the traditions we have followed in the past, and ask ourselves, “What’s really important about them? … Are they still providing the original meaning? Is a tradition creating more stress than value? Is there another way to convey meaning that would be simpler or more effective … When there’s too much [to] do with too little time; it is vital to scrutinize every activity in terms of the value it adds to your life. Time-honored traditions are no exception.” (Aila Accad, Changing Holiday Traditions)

Christmas Trees2

Just remember that changing or eliminating traditions can sometimes lead to hurt feelings and family quarrels. The most important thing to do when anticipating change is to COMMUNICATE. If you are the one suggesting changes, let others know as early as possible so they have time to adjust. And give them time to adjust; don’t expect immediate acceptance. Also, keep in mind that additions are often more comfortable than deletions. If possible, modify rather than delete a tradition.

If you feel that change is being thrust upon you, try to understand the rationale or reasoning behind the suggestions being made. Re-examine what you hold dear about the holidays and why. If it’s gathering with as many family members as possible, then whose house you gather at shouldn’t matter; if it’s celebrating the birth of Christ with worship and praise, which church you go to and at what time isn’t that important; and if it’s enjoying specific dishes that your mother, uncle, or grandmother used to make and someone wants to alter the menu, pick the dishes that mean the most to you and volunteer to make/bring them yourself.

Ornaments

Like anything, holidays and family gatherings are what you make them. Personally, I am enjoying seeing a few changes with our family celebrations. I think it’s great that some of the younger members of the family are beginning to find their place in the seasonal preparations. It is a wonderful thing to see the “passing of the baton,” or ladle, if you will, from one generation to the next. While many parents and grandparents have enjoyed baking, cooking, and decorating for the rest of the family for special occasions, it’s a beautiful thing to watch members of the next generation discover the joy of creating, serving, and bringing the holidays to life themselves.

I’m not saying that the older family members should stop sharing ideas or taking part in preparations, unless that’s what they really want to do (some of us really need our rest). But perhaps stepping back some, letting go of some of the responsibilities, counseling rather than doing it all, and sharing the opportunities for memory-making moments will allow them (us) to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways with younger members of the family who will be carrying the family traditions into the future —adapting them as their own family dynamics grow and change.

Christmas celebrations, or any family gatherings for that matter, are not the time to be rigid and resentful. We need to be open to new ideas and open to where the Spirit leads us at this particular time in our lives. Most importantly, we should remember the reason for the season.

Linus_Christmas

Remember that giving is more important than receiving, and that doesn’t only apply to gifts. It applies to our hearts as well. Let’s not give others guilt trips over their personal decisions regarding the holidays; accept them with grace and understanding. Whatever changes we make, whatever new steps we take, we must do them with happy hearts and a more defined focus on what truly matters. Whatever happens, we should try to be of good cheer. Grudgingly going along with things because you have to will only bring everyone else down with you. That will certainly lead to a memorable event, but not one you will want to remember.

If you truly want to fulfill the quest for meaning, joy, and peace this Christmas, re-evaluate your current (or past) holiday plans as a family, and adjust them as needed to create meaningful and simple traditions that are easy to maintain, beneficial for all (or most), and truly serve the family’s purpose and passion. Life moves on and we must be prepared to go with the flow and move along with it.

bible-quote

Book Break: Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor

I don’t normally read much non-fiction, but the topic of human trafficking spoke to my heart. It’s one of those things that’s so heartbreaking and horrifying that many of us bury our heads in the sand and try not to acknowledge it. We prefer to think that this is something that happens in far-off lands and not in our own backyards, and if we do feel led to do something about it, we often don’t know what to do. We need to wake up to the sad reality that human trafficking, and specifically sex trafficking of children, is all around us; it’s happening every day all over the world. But there are many different ways that we can make a difference. I will share a few ideas with you after my book review.

 Stolen: The True Story of a
Sex Trafficking Survivor

From the Back Cover:
There is HOPE, even on the darkest of days

Katariina Rosenblatt was a lonely and abused young girl, yearning to be loved, wanting attention. That made her the perfect target. On an ordinary day, she met a confident young woman—someone Kat wished she could be like—who pretended to be a friend while slowly luring her into a child trafficking ring. A cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence kept her trapped.

As Kat shares her harrowing experiences, her ultimate escape, and her passionate efforts to now free other victims, you’ll see that not only is sex trafficking happening frighteningly close to home—it’s also something that can be stopped. Stolen is a warning, a celebration of survival, and a beacon of hope that will inspire you.

Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD, is living proof of the promise she heard long ago at a Billy Graham crusade that God would never forsake her. Katariina has a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution and an LLM graduate law degree in intercultural rights, and she works closely with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to eliminate human slavery. She has also founded Stolen Ones—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing other victims of human trafficking. [She has been featured on CNN and in Today’s Christian Woman and lives in Florida.]

Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than 130 books, including the bestselling 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper and the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause. He was a collaborator on the bestseller Gifted Hands with Dr. Ben Carson, Cecil resides in Georgia.

Stolen

 ************

In Stolen, Katariina shares her own personal story about how she became a victim of sex trafficking, as well as how she later became a survivor.

She explains how her early life experiences set her up to be victimized. She learned helplessness and powerlessness as a young child from the relationship she witnessed between her father and mother. She admits that a strong, determined part of her personality came from watching her father. But she absorbed a victim mentality by watching her mother’s submission to her dad’s cruel and demanding ways.

In desperate need of friendship and acceptance, Katariina was easily lured in by a woman pretending to be her friend who seemed to show an interest in her life. This was the first person who tried to take advantage of her vulnerability. She was also later lured in by kind daddy-like figures who, at first, seemed to be offering her a safe place, but once she became comfortable, they began to ease her into unsafe situations. She did what they asked of her because she didn’t want to lose what she thought she’d found … what she thought was love and a sense of belonging.

Luckily, her mother had told her about Jesus being God’s Son and God being her heavenly Father when she was about three years old. She later went to a Billy Graham crusade, where she heard him say, “God has a plan for you” and “God will never leave you or forsake you.” She never forgot those words. In fact, those words came back to her time and time again, often serving as the catalyst that reminded her to turn to God for help.

Savior

At one point, she had a moment of clarity where she knew some men were using her and they weren’t planning on letting her go home again. She called out, “God, I’ve been so wrong. Help me. … I’m lost and I want to go home. … I don’t want to do these things. This isn’t love. Lord, I want to go home.”

While in the deepest darkness, she said, “God reached down and rescued me.” She was able to go home but not before being threatened by the men who said they loved her. At this time, Kateriina and her friends didn’t even realize that they had become prostitutes. No one talked about trafficking back then.

Although she says, “God, in his faithfulness, saved me for a second time,” still in Katariina’s mind, the lifestyle she was leading had become normal, and so she kept finding herself in situations where the abuse and violence were repeated. Even after she would get out of a dangerous situation and get back home, she couldn’t really get free of the vicious cycle of drugs, sex, and violence.

“Despite God’s help, nothing had changed inside me. So it happened again …”

Kateriina goes through a lot of challenging times throughout Stolen. Sometimes you want to cry for her; sometimes you want to just shake her. But you definitely get a better understanding of the tragic circle and cycle that affects the situations children like Kateriina get stuck in.

The book does have a positive ending with Kateriina discovering that God has brought her to a place and a position where she can minister to those in the prostitution and human trafficking circles because she’s been there and she can relate to them firsthand. Her nonprofit organization—There Is H.O.P.E. for Me—strives to stop trafficking through the voices of survivors helping other survivors.

“We do our ministry on a biblical basis. We want to give hope to those who are enslaved. Alone, I may only be one survivor, but united we are stronger than all of the traffickers. Together we can stop human trafficking!”

*******

If you have children, think about this: what you say, what you don’t say, how you act or react to situations, and the way you let others treat you—your children will begin to see these behaviors and patterns as acceptable and normal. If you have healthy relationships, this is a good thing; if you don’t, you are setting them up to experience a similar lifestyle. If you don’t have children, perhaps you can serve a role as a friend and an encourager to the children who cross your path. All children need to know and feel that they have value and worth.

For the trafficking problem in impoverished countries, there are missionaries going into those areas to teach the families what to watch for to avoid sending their children into these unsafe situations. You can go on a mission trip (as our friends Julie and Jason Daniel and their daughters did through e3 Partners) or you can support the missions through prayer and/or financially.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to check out various organizations who seek to shut down the destructive industry of human trafficking and the people who profit from it. Maybe there is one that speaks to your heart. Below is a little information from a couple groups and people who are doing just that.

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Trafficking is just one of the critical social issues tackled by e3 Partners (a ministry formed to Equip Christians to Evangelize in other cultures and Establish churches in various regions). In some poverty-stricken cultures, families will send their children off with people posing as religious leaders, successful businessmen, or sympathetic paternal figures in order to give them a chance at a better life. Unbeknownst to them, they are often sending their children right into the arms of slavery. Many are smuggled into neighboring countries and sold into sexual slavery while others are forced into harsh labor environments —often for less than $100.

Trafficking

e3 Partners says:

“Let’s end modern-day slavery by cutting it off from the source. Venture into remote villages where human trafficking rings are convincing poverty-stricken families to sell their own children. Reveal what’s really happening and save the next generation by sharing the simple truth that every life is priceless.”

 *******

 “Ever since I came across a 13-year-old girl being sold for sex on Backpage, I’ve wondered why we tolerate it. Some 100,000 kids a year are trafficked in the US, and a simple way to help them would be to stop Backpage from profiting on them. Now some brave girls are standing up to Backpage. You go, girls!” —Nicholas Kristof, Half the Sky

Sex trafficking in America is one of the issues tackled by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in the TV show “A Path Appears.” Follow A Path Appears on Facebook to learn more about the individuals and organizations working to end trafficking and other human rights violations.

There is a list of organizations that combat human trafficking on Wikipedia that you might want to check out.

Love OthersThere are many efforts being made to educate families and communities about what to watch for as well as organizations like the one Katariina Rosenblatt founded to reach out to current victims. If you know of other people or groups that are working to end this worldwide epidemic or have personal experience with one, please feel free to post your information in the comments section so that others might learn about them and their efforts. Thank you for your caring heart.

Disclosure: I received this book free of charge from the publisher, Revell, in exchange for my honest review.

Fall, Friends, and the Winds of Change

Fall Forrest

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. Well, since I have been living in Kentucky anyway. I think in Florida and Texas, I preferred spring. But up here, we get to watch as the leaves change from green to yellow (and red and orange in some places), slowly falling along the way, eventually leaving the branches bare and yet still beautiful.

Green

Changing

More yellow

Almost Done

I am trying to breathe it all in and capture what it looks like … what it feels like as the winds of change sweep through, bringing a chill to the air and an anticipation of the things to come. I’m trying to remember it all because this will be our last fall here. We are headed back to Texas. It is something that makes us both happy and sad at the same time. Happy to be seeing those we left behind when we moved up here, sad to be saying good-bye to the new friends we made. Happy that we won’t be experiencing another super cold, snowy winter. Sad that we’ll have the super hot Texas summer instead of the more enjoyable temperatures of Kentucky. Of course our tolerances to the heat and cold have changed somewhat, so we will have some adapting to do … again. But, we look at it all as an adventure to be embraced.

Home is where me, Bart, and Bella are together. It doesn’t matter what state it is. As long as we feel like we are following God’s plan and are operating within his will rather than stubbornly trying to make our own way, all will be well.

Bella_Bart_Nina

And, of course, we’ll always make sure we have a room for Noah. The great thing is we will be closer to Bart’s family again for a while; we’ve missed them. And maybe, one of these days, we’ll be closer to my family for a while. You never know. For now, we are going with the flow and enjoying the show.

Red

To my Kentucky friends, I just want to say thank you. You accepted us and made us feel welcome. In a place where we knew no one and had no family to rely on, you became our brothers and sisters and our friends. You touched our hearts and changed our lives. We will miss you so very much. [So happy to be connected to many of you on Facebook.]

Orange

To our Texas friends and family … WE’RE BACK! (well, almost) We’ll both be there by the end of November. See you all very soon.

For anyone else going through times of transition, you’re attitude makes a huge difference in your ability to get through it. Breathe in the positive, breathe out the negative, and embrace the winds of change.

Book Break: Thunder: A Novel by Bonnie S. Calhoun

Thunder

Thunder: A Novel (Stone Braide Chronicles)

As an avid reader of fantasy, science, fiction, and young adult novels, when I heard about the book Thunder, I knew it would be right up my alley. Set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian* society, the descendants of those who survived The Time of Sorrows either live off the land in a somewhat primitive way, while trying to determine what is still “safe” to eat, or they are part of the self-contained Mountain people (aka The Company) who carry out mysterious scientific experiments with the benefit of technologically advanced equipment.

Thunder

I would describe the overall story as a combination of action, adventure, young romance, and science fiction. It is also a bit of a coming of age book where the teens within (Selah and Bodhi as well as others) are learning about themselves and the world around them, as they strive to not only make the right decisions but to survive. As you meet the various characters and follow along on the journey/quest with them, you will enjoy a tale (told from various points of view) full of secrets, lies, danger, corruption, friendship, betrayal, hope, and love, while all along a battle between good and evil simmers below the surface.

From reading other reviews, I understand that some readers felt that this book did not have a deep enough spiritual tone (coming from a Christian publisher) or that it lacked any mention of faith or spiritual content, I felt like the spiritual references were subtle and intriguing (e.g., references to the Kingdom, the Presence, and one of the experiments being called an “abomination” to name a few). However, I admit that there were a lot of things that were not explained in this book that I would hope are either covered in the FREE e-book prequel—Tremors (which is now available online) or that things will become clearer in book two: Lightning. Perhaps the Landers, who are referred to as Immortals, are angels or some other type of spiritual being; I don’t really know at this point. The good thing about this subtleness, in my opinion, is that those who are not familiar with Revell as a publisher of Christian books will enjoy the adventure, action, and mysteries contained within the story without realizing that there is an underlying message of hope and redemption. A message that will, hopefully, become clearer later on in this series.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to more to come.

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing me with an advance copy for my personal review and my honest opinion.

  *A dystopia is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. (wikipedia.org)

Back Cover copy:

The Time of Sorrows is long past.
The future of Selah and her people is shrouded in mystery.
And the clock is ticking.

Hidden in the tall grasses along a shore littered with the rusted metal remnants of a once-great city, a hunter crouches. It is the eve of her eighteenth Birth Remembrance and high time she proves to herself and her brothers that she can stand on her own two feet. Selah Rishon Chavez waits not for game but for one of the small boats that occasionally crash against the desolate shoreline. Because inside one of these boats she will find her quarry—a Lander. These people from an unknown land across the ocean are highly prized by the Company and bring a good price—especially if they keep the markings they arrive with. Everything falls to pieces when the Lander whom Selah catches is stolen by her brothers, and Selah wakes the next morning to find the Lander’s distinctive mark has appeared on her own flesh. Once the hunter, Selah is now one of the hunted, and she knows only one person who can help her—Bodhi Locke, the Lander her brothers hope to sell in the Mountain.
Inside Cover copy:

With evocative descriptions of a strange new world that combines elements of disturbing scientific advances, devious political conspiracy, and survival in a hostile wilderness, Bonnie S. Calhoun weaves a captivating tale of a society more like our own than we may want to admit. From the tension-laced first scene to the captivating last page, Thunder is an epic journey into the heart of humankind that explores how far we are willing to go when we’re pushed to the limit.

Reblog: Let Go of Guilt and Find Contentment

The following post is not my writing, but I absolutely LOVE the content and wanted to share these thoughts with my own readers. Some of you may have seen this on my Facebook page, but for those who I am not connected to (or who are not on Facebook), I hope you enjoy this article by Rachel (originally posted September 26, 2014). Hop on over to her webpage NourishingMinimalism.com to read more of her content.

Let go of guilt and find contentment

What do you think of, when you think of “minimalism”?

Do you think of stark white walls, no pictures and very little furniture?

Well, you may be right to an extent. But minimalism is much more than a design style or appearance of one’s home.

Minimalism is as much about pitching unnecessary possessions out of your home as it is about pitching unnecessary hurts, obligations and expectations out of your heart. It’s an all encompassing philosophy that works it’s magic in every fiber of life, for those who embrace it.

Minimalism is letting go of overcommitted schedules and being able to enjoy life, not just surviving it.

It means saying “no” to working overtime, “no” to a multitude of obligations, that you would be really good at, but obligations that would rob you of what really matters. It means putting the phone down, walking away from the computer and being present in the moment.

Minimalism is letting go of the guilt and anxiety that these things kept in our lives.

When we reduce the amount of possessions that we have, we reduce the amount of guilt that is attached to them. Be it books you were requiring yourself to read, kitchen gadgets that are supposed to make fancy dishes a breeze or craft projects that have been sitting only partially completed for months or years. It means that when you get clothes from your closet, you know they will fit and you’ll feel attractive in them.

When we have less stuff to care for, it means housecleaning goes faster and success is achievable, not a far-off dream. It means less dishes to wash, less clothes to fold, less toys to pick up off the floor.

It means your home isn’t full of guilt-ridden items (we should keep this because Grandma owned it/gave it/told us to), but rather items the have purpose and give you joy.

Minimalism is relief. Relief to your senses, relief to your mental and emotional health.

When we have removed everything that we hide behind, we come face to face with ourselves. Just us. No more hiding, no more pretending to be something we’re not. Remove the mask of stuff and learn who you really are.

It means letting go of the items that we collected so people would view us in a certain light. Understanding that no amount of fancy dinnerware or party decor is going to magically turn us into Martha Stewart prodigy.

It means being real, accepting who we are [and] what our talents are, and [letting] go of the excess.

Rachel, the original author, says her goal in writing her blog is to help people clear the clutter, invite calmness into their homes, and enjoy the time they spend together. She also has a Facebook page; if you’d like to check it out and keep up with her posts, click here. I hope you enjoyed her words as much as I did.

Book Break: Check out Deceived by Irene Hannon

Rest

In the last few months, I have found myself with a little more free time than usual, so I have been taking my own advice about enjoying some rest and relaxation. For me, this includes one of my favorite activities: reading. And, I’m excited to share that I have signed up with Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group to read and review some of their books. Now, I’m not getting paid for this, but I do get the books for free, and I get to choose what I want to read and what I have time for; that’s good enough for me. So, on to my first review (I will have more books to share with you in the days ahead).

An Enjoyable Read That Will Have You
Thinking About the Characters and Pondering
the Plot Throughout the Day

Deceived

If you enjoy suspense stories with well-developed characters that are easy to relate to, and an intriguing plot line peppered with a bit of romance and just the right amount of danger and deception, you will want to pick up Irene Hannon’s book Deceived and read it for yourself.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I have never read any of this author’s works before, but after devouring this book in only a few days, I have a feeling I will be adding more of her works to my list. Deceived is the third book in the Private Justice series. However, not having read the prior two books—Vanished and Trapped—was not an issue for me. Although there were stories behind some of the characters from the private investigator’s office that were alluded to in this book, the story within these pages stood on its own from start to finish.

This is the description you will find on the back cover: For three years, Kate Marshall has been grieving the loss of her husband and their four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was dead. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious but agrees to investigate. Digging into the case he discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Kate’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden—and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.

As Irene Hannon’s many fans have come to expect, Deceived is filled with complex characters, unexpected twists, and a riveting plot line that accelerates to an explosive finish

*****

I loved the banter between the members of Phoenix, Inc., the private investigators who took on Kate’s case. And even though the interaction and attraction between Kate and Connor, the ex-Secret Service man who agreed to help her, was somewhat predictable, it was still fun to follow along as they found themselves drawn together while the story unraveled.

The “villain” or antagonist in Deceived is quite complex. In fact, he has some very likeable traits, which make it very disturbing to discover the role he played in the event that happened three years earlier in Kate’s life. However, I think it’s a good thing; it shows that even people who have good qualities can snap and do crazy things under extreme circumstances.  I liked that the mystery or suspense was more about the why and how rather than the who.

I was pleased that the book contained a spiritual aspect with mentions of God, prayer, and faith that did not seem to be forced or in-your-face but was naturally woven into the story and through the characters. In fact, I found some of the references to be somewhat inspirational and applicable to my own life; for example: One character says, “That’s God for you. He likes to throw us a few curves now and then, turn things upside down. At least he’s giving us a sign of what’s coming today…” and from Connor we get, “I learned … to take every story seriously until it was proven otherwise. As for coincidences—I like that old saying about them being small miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”

Coincidences

I would describe this book to others as a Christian romantic suspense novel with no graphic violence or language … a very enjoyable read that will have you thinking about the characters and pondering the plot throughout the day until you can once again pick the book back up and immerse yourself in following this intriguing story to its conclusion.

*****

Thank you to the publisher, Revell, for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy for my personal review and my honest opinion of the book.

 

Days 20 and 21: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—What Your Heart Seeks

Evening Sky

Roy Lessin reminds us: “Everyone is a seeker. We seek because there is something we need, something that is missing, something that tells us there must be more.”

We seek contentment, happiness, fulfillment, security, acceptance, hope, love, joy, peace, friendship, balance, and, often, to find meaning, as well as our place in this world.

For those who have been regularly following my blog posts, you’ll remember that a while back I read the book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest by Bonnie Gray. Since then, I have shared many of my favorite quotes, and decided to take an active part in her 21 Days of Rest Blog Tour. Little did I know, at the time, what a commitment that would be. Of course, Bonnie did not ask me or her other followers to do this but I had discovered a lot of really good thoughts from her book that I wanted to share. However, I wasn’t always able to “keep up,” and I began to feel like I took on more than I should have.

The Best YesBecause of this, as well as several other poor choices, Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands,  is now on my “to be read” list. Lysa points out that “there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God.” Those of us who are people pleasers or stressed by an “overwhelmed schedule and underwhelmed soul” will likely get a great deal out of this book and the tools provided in it for better processing our thoughts and actions. If you haven’t heard of this book yet, click on the link above and read more about it.

In Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie shares that “The world calls us to hide our stressed-out selves. But Jesus calls us to a radical new rest. … Jesus invites us into a new relationship to set our hearts free. Jesus wants us to bring him what’s real and worrisome as well as what’s simple and beautiful.”

Simple Beauty

“Taking time for whitespace to rest, create, and play—
to laugh, enjoy friends, see new places,
and explore new adventures—
is heart-freeing faith.”
Bonnie Gray

On Bonnie’s post for Day 20: Find Me in the Quiet Places: A Little Big Change, she shares some of the ways that she seeks rest from stress and/or the daily grind by choosing to meet Jesus in the quiet spaces. These moments don’t have to be long or regularly scheduled; the “moments will come, if you listen to your soul…”

As you come to a fork in the road in your day today and this week — between choosing the quiet or filling it up with doing, performing, pleasing, or disappearing — stop.

Choose what’s harder, but more soul-filling.

Choose to spend that time doing something no one would be able to point at it and say, “She is someone. She did something.”

And choose to be loved instead.

Butterfly

On Day 21, Bonnie posted Me & the Military: It Changed Me to share with her readers the results of her first multi-day Spiritual Whitespace Retreat, which she was invited to lead for the Wounded Transition Battalion headquartered in Fort Campbell, KY. (The retreat was held earlier in September in Nashville, TN.) While she originally intended to speak to soldiers, the focus changed and she ended up working with a group of officers and their wives. She asked herself: “What does a Chinese-American 5 foot woman born in San Francisco, Chinatown — who suffered PTSD for the past two years with broken memories, uncontrollable anxiety and insomnia — have to say to officers caring for injured soldiers, wounded from the battlefield?”

Leaders who have been in combat themselves are reliving [their experiences] through the soldiers they care for 24 hours-a-day, on-call 7 days a week. Phone calls wake them up at crazy hours during the night. By day, they look into eyes of soldiers who are confused, angry or depressed to guide them on the disorienting journey of healing and recovery. They are responsible for each soldier’s disorienting transition back to active duty, or for some with irreversible injuries, prepare them for the unexpected re-entrance into civilian life.

It’s soul-wearying work.

It’s a heavy burden to carry because it’s often the strong ones — the encouragers – the doers –

who carry the heaviest burdens,

and incur the greatest emotional and physical cost,

who find it hard to express want or need,

while finding it easier to just get things done,

even if they truly long to receive comfort,

yet can’t seem to give themselves permission to rest.

Like many of us who doubt ourselves, Bonnie’s biggest fear was whether she was good enough, qualified enough, to lead this group on a soul journey toward discovery and rest. Then it struck her: The weekend was about experiencing Spiritual Whitespace, not teaching it. The event included storytelling, journaling, connecting to God through silence and solitude on a solo nature walk or through prayer and meditation, even painting. It was about facing fears and becoming real in community. And it was successful!

We all have stories…

On the outside, we might look different. But, inside, we’re all on the same journey.

We’re all on the same mission.

To be loved.

To be known.

To be close to God.

To each other.

We all long for rest…

We can all live lives that include rest and refreshment by taking the time to develop an intimacy, a deep relationship, with Jesus. He knows what moves us and encourages us; he knows what spiritual whitespace looks like for each of us. And once we discover the ways our own needs for renewal can be met—through nature, music, God’s Word, song lyrics, art (our own creativity or that of others), etc.—we can reach out and help others discover the beauty, the transformational nature, the freeing power, of walking in faith with Jesus in the quiet of our hearts.

 

 21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace