My Focus for 2015: Gratitude

Just as I did at the start of 2014, I pondered, prayed, and reflected over the past month to come up with one word that I would try to focus on for the year. The word that came to me was “gratitude.” Gratitude

Gratitude is easy when you are clearly surrounded by life’s blessings and you feel like things are going well for you. But what about when you are going through a tough time? Unfortunate circumstances can make it difficult to see the good and to be grateful for what is happening to you or around you. It can be especially hard to discover the silver lining in the dark clouds at this time. But, I believe, in many cases, if we look hard enough, we can find something in each moment to latch onto and to be thankful for.

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances. I can do everything
through him who gives me strength …
God will meet all your needs.” 
Philippians 4:11, 13, 19 (NIV)

Attitude of Gratitude

My goal for this year is to “Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude” despite my circumstances. I created a place on a whiteboard (see above) to remind myself of some of the things I am grateful for on an ongoing basis. Currently, it shows things like family, friends, Bart, Bella, work, nature, and books. What I’d like to do throughout the year is to replace these easy-to-come-up-with concepts with things that might not at first seem to be something one would be thankful or grateful for. I want to dive deeper into my feelings and my life situations and attempt to discover the good within the “bad” or the uncomfortable.

Gratitude_Tip

 I invite you to join me on this journey. I’m thinking about creating some “Growing in Gratitude” kits (including colorful string, mini-clothespins, and pieces of paper in various shapes, sizes, and patterns) for my Etsy shop, depending on interest level. So, let me know if you might be interested in something like that and if so, I’ll put some kits together. Otherwise, it’s very easy to create your own gratitude journal or board, using regular paper and colorful markers or pencils, or whatever strikes your fancy. You can update the concepts daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever the mood hits. There is no right or wrong way to highlight or reflect on your blessings.

Too many blessings

“God, send me anywhere, only go with me.
Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.
And sever any tie in my heart except the tie
that binds my heart to yours.”
David Livingstone

As Zig Ziglar says: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

What helps you maintain an attitude of gratitude? I would love it if you would share some of your thoughts on this with me, as I plan to continue writing about this topic throughout the year.

Thank you, and have a blessed day.

Grateful for trees

“The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust—not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.”  —Brennan Manning

beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge

 

Advertisements

Days 18 and 19: Finding Spiritual Whitespace—You Are Not Forgotten

Even if they don’t know what it means, everyone needs spiritual whitespace. If only we all clearly recognized this need in ourselves or in our loved ones, especially those who struggle with depression or some form of PTSD. Maybe we would be able to save them … save ourselves … from reaching that anguished breaking point where the only source of peace and solace available seems to be death.

On August 12th, Bonnie Gray, author of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest wrote a tribute to Robin Williams and shared a letter she had written to her younger self. This is some of what she shared:

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.

I wish I could tell you, Robin.

There is rest apart from death. There is hope in your hurt.

You can find home. God can meet you in your sorrow.

There Is Hope

From her letter to her younger self, these are the words I believe we can all benefit from:

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. …

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. …

Your need entwines you to Christ.

Brokenness is beauty to Him.

You are not forgotten.

You're Not Alone

In today’s post, Bonnie shares how the journey of telling her story prompted her recent invitation to lead a Spiritual Whitespace Retreat for Wounded Warriors from Fort Campbell, Kentucky in Nashville this weekend. Bonnie asks for prayer for herself and those who attend the event:

Pray for me, as I’ll be sharing my personal journey through non-combat PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks to active duty military leaders along with their spouses.

This will be a three-day retreat to guide soldiers on a journey of Spiritual Whitespace and experience spiritual refreshment through storytelling, journaling, prayer and meditation.

Pray that the brave men and women who serve our country will experience unexpected soul rest — and get a taste of what feeds their soul. That they will be known and rejuvenated from the experience.

Sacred Idleness

Speaking of events for those who have served our country, we are having a local event here in Shelbyville, KY to honor our veterans and remind them that we appreciate them and are here for them.

Veterans Supper

One of the young ladies who used to work (maybe still does part-time) at Shelburne Pet Center (where Bella goes for doggy day care and boarding) came up with the concept for this First Annual Veteran’s Supper and she has been spearheading/organizing the entire event. “This event will honor veterans of the Shelby County, Kentucky area with an afternoon of delicious potluck food, fun local music entertainment, community business basket raffles, and commemoration to the sacrifices they have made for our community.”

I pray that this rejuvenates the spirits of our veterans and their families. Thank you to Molly Carter for not only caring about your hometown, but for being an integral part of making it a better place to live for all of us. I wish you much success, and I’ll see you up there on Saturday. 🙂

In closing, here are just a few of my favorite veterans and VFW members, which I recently shared on my Facebook page:

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Aunt Mary and My Grandma Jo

My Grandfather - Dan Lee

My Grandfather – Dan Lee (with my grandmother)

My Uncle - KC Lee

My Uncle – KC Lee

I have other family members and many friends who have also served or are still serving – thank you all for what you have done and what you continue to do. I hope you never feel alone or forgotten. If you do, call me!

“God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’

So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'”
(Hebrews 13:5-6)

 

Day 16: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Today, Bonnie Gray used her blog post to write about the first step to soul intimacy (something deep that happens when we take time to feed our souls), and to share a story from one of the readers of her book Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

Reading Finding Spiritual Whitespace inspired stay-at-home mom Janine Crum to make time for art and open an online shop of original prints.

If you follow the link to Bonnie’s post above, you’ll find a free Whitespace Printable art piece (Find Rest for Your Soul) created by Janine that you can download. And you can read her beautiful story about what it meant for her to make room for spiritual whitespace in her life. It’s so amazing to hear about the different ways that Bonnie’s words have touched others and reawakened their heart’s desire.

Although I have been done with the book for a while now, I still open it up now and then to read some of the passages I highlighted. This is one I like that Janine also included in her post:

When we make room for spiritual whitespace, we step into the beautiful journey of letting go to discover what’s really worth holding onto.

Noah's Big Fish

One of the fish my stepson, Noah, caught while out with his Dad this summer.

These words remind me about the importance of letting go of stuff and holding onto people, relationships, nature, and activities that bring us joy.

Recently, I started following blogger Rachel Jones from Nourishing Minimalism. She says:

“I don’t believe minimalism is particularly about a small amount of belongings, I believe it’s about being content. That one can come to a place in their life where they don’t need ‘more’ and we can spend our time impacting the lives of those around us, rather than caring for ‘things.’ People are the true things that matter.”

I really relate to a lot of her ideas for simplifying. In fact, I created this simple graphic from information she shared in one of her newsletters.

Simplifying

Rachel describes the lifestyle many of us seem to live with these words:

Feel like you’re running in a million different directions?

Most of the time, I think Americans run their life from 3 feet above their head. We don’t take time to sit and be here. In the moment, in this room, on this chair. It’s a rather disjointed life.

Rachel is describing the life of someone who has not figured out the importance of spiritual whitespace or the need for rest, whether physical or mental. On a related note, too much stuff really does cause stress. And more stuff does not lead to contentment as many seem to believe. You can read more from Rachel on simplifying here.

Tranquil Waters

Even Pope Francis (in an interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva” July 27 ) listed leisure time, or rest, as one of his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life. Another had to do with connecting or building relationships.

“Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

“A healthy sense of leisure.” The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.

“Consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress, causing people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” Their time is “swallowed up” so people can’t share it with anyone.

Spending time with those we love is so much more important than working harder to climb the ladder of success or to acquire more things. Holley Gerth says it best in yesterday’s post:

Jesus didn’t climb ladders … He built bridges.

Instead of reaching up for success He reached out in love.

We can do the same.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

 

Day 15: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

In yesterday’s post, Bonnie Gray (the Faith Barista), invited readers to join her “on the porch” at Ann Voskamp’s blog where she shared one of her most vulnerable chapters – “The Pink Outfit.” As part of the Whitespace Launch team, I took part in helping her choose which chapter to share with Ann’s readers; she gave us the five chapters she was deciding between and we voted on which chapter was most powerful for us personally. This moment won out.

If you do not have the book and/or haven’t read about the pink outfit, I encourage you to follow the link to Ann’s blog above to read a story that Bonnie says she kept hidden away for most of her life. It’s about the moment when she first experienced the lonely feeling that comes with hoping for joy only to have it cruelly snatched away.

Bonnie says: “But, this pink outfit moment is the moment Jesus has never been closer to me, more intimate as a Father holding his newfound daughter — and this is how He has chosen to introduce new friends to meet with me between the pages of our stories.”

Walk with Kindreds

As you read (Bonnie says), may your heart be prompted and encouraged to know this:

You matter.

Your voice matters.

Your story matters.

Because Jesus is living your story with you.

Because Jesus is your story.

He will always be faithful to carry you through everything and anything.

Because He loves you.  

As is.

Bonnie guides us to discover a better story for ourselves, one that feeds our soul and makes room for rest.  

 Give yourself permission today to take the journey to rest – whatever that looks like for you personally.

Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Day 12: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

I seem to have come down with a summer cold. So, even though Bonnie Gray posted her Day 12 (21 Days of Rest Blog Tour) post yesterday, I’m getting my related one out today. I’m keeping it short though, as I really do need my rest in order to feel better faster.

Bonnie shares in her post that we all pay the price when we put ourselves last … “we somehow feel like if we choose to take care of ourselves, we are rejecting God and our usefulness to Him.” Maybe, we’re also a little afraid to face what we may uncover in the quiet.

Afraid to Face the Truth

But when we make space for quiet and rest, we give ourselves the gift of rediscovering our dreams and bringing them with us on our journey to wholeness.

“We need spiritual whitespace to feed our dreams. …

Sometimes, it’s easy to give yourself away,
when you no longer carry any hope for the dreams you once held.

Sometimes it takes more faith to revisit dreams
that have stalled than asking for faith to forget about them.”

Give Yourself Permission

Uncover your story.
Take the journey of rest in Bonnie’s memoir-driven guidebook:
Finding Spiritual Whitespace.”

This book is for you.

findingspiritualwhitespace_book-194x300

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Broken … but Loved As Is

As the slender needle slipped into my wrist, I felt an electric jolt travel through my palm and up into my thumb.

“Feel that?” the doctor asked?

“Mmmhmm.” I got out through clenched teeth.

I thought you weren’t supposed to feel the needles going in with acupuncture. At least that’s what I had read and what I had heard others say. I discovered for myself that this proved to be true more so for my back, but not so much for my hand and forearm.

Acupuncture Treatment

I was at the acupuncturist’s office because my carpal tunnel and arthritis in my right hand/wrist had started getting worse. Numbness had begun affecting my thumb and two fingers while working on the computer during the day, and numbness in my whole hand had started waking me up at night. I was also experiencing pain in my palm with various movements throughout the day.

The cortisone shots that the hand specialist had given me had worn off after only a month. The last shot I got from my orthopedic doctor had helped for a good six months. On top of that, my fibromyalgia was flaring up again (my shoulders and lower ribs felt tender and bruised). I knew it was time to try something else to alleviate the pains I was experiencing. So I thought I’d give acupuncture a shot.

Although, technically speaking, Chinese Medicine doesn’t treat “conditions,” it treats “patterns,” the doctor thought that she could help with my carpal tunnel. And the brochure said that acupuncture could help with arthritis and fibromyalgia as well. However, after half a dozen visits, I didn’t feel like it was making any difference, so I have decided not to go back. I plan to talk to my regular doctor as well as the hand specialist within the next couple of weeks to determine a new course of action. It’s possible that surgery might be on the agenda in the near future, but I don’t even know what my other options are at this point, so I will need their input to make that decision.


So … besides sharing a specific experience in my life, why am I writing this? How is it connected to the topic of spiritual whitespace that I have been writing about lately? Well, in Chapter 8 of Bonnie Gray’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, she shares her experience with insomnia. Some of her thoughts and words resonate with me and I think they might be useful for others who are currently experiencing various health issues as well.

Xxxxxx [insert your specific issue here] “is a soul’s journey to find rest. Self-care is one movement in that journey to make room for whitespace and fill it with rest. Self-care is a step of faith to take care of our body and soul.”

Sometimes we feel guilty or selfish focusing on ourselves; sometimes doing so requires us to make major life changes; sometimes we find that we have to ask others for help on our path toward healing.

“Every movement that gives your body a chance to heal gives your soul room to breathe. Prioritizing self-care is an act of faith to tune your heart with God.”

Nurture Your Voice

“When we care for our well-being, our hearts become tender. We become moveable. God can prompt us. Without whitespace, we become emotionally disconnected. …  Because the focus of God’s heart has always been your heart, self-care is really a soul’s journey to fully receive his love.

Here are some of the things I have discovered while reading this book and/or through my own personal journey:

  • I need to be kind to my body.  I need to begin taking my supplements more regularly again. I need to nourish my body with better foods. And I need to get back to exercising, even if it is just stretching and walking at first. (Bart tries to remind me of this, but ladies, you know how it makes you feel when your husband does this. Not good.) I found out about a yoga class that meets twice a week at the library; I am going to try to go to this, starting Monday.
  • I need to take time for friends and fun. Sharing our stories with others and allowing them to share theirs with us brings us deeper connections and friendships.  Surface friendships may help you get through the day, but “in-the skin” friends (those who can handle the weak, tired, or troubled you) help you get through life. Luckily, I have been able to make more time for friends and fun lately. So, I’m already on the right path there.

Reach for Joy

  • I need to remember to ask for help. I’m a pretty self-sufficient person most of the time. I enjoy helping others, but I don’t always feel like asking for help myself. Especially with my hand in a more sensitive state at the moment, I need to quit trying to act like there’s nothing wrong with it. Until I get more feedback from the doctors on what will help or hurt it, I have to stop lifting, turning, and gripping things as if there’s nothing wrong. I don’t want to make the problem worse. (Don’t worry Mrs. Avis, if I end up needing your help, I will call and ask you to come up.) 🙂 [ And thank you Bart for steam-cleaning the living room rug tonight.]
  • I need to seek the expertise of professionals and the will of God. Sometimes I try so hard to figure things out on my own when I really don’t have the knowledge or background to do so. I also forget to seek God’s answer and/or lack the patience to wait on a response. I read somewhere that sometimes God invites us into an encounter with Him and other times He waits for us to extend the invitation. I need to remember to ask and then to be still enough to allow God to speak to my heart. I am working on this, and will also be calling my primary care doctor this next week to get in to see him and consult with him.

“Even in the storm … God is alive and faithful to make something beautiful out of us. We don’t need to understand how it will happen, how he can carry us through … It doesn’t matter. … God won’t abandon us. … He’s carrying us in his arms, no matter how bruised or broken we feel. He’s planting beautiful seed for our journey … That seed is Jesus. Alive in us.”

Every time we invite Jesus directly into our situation, whenever we allow the seed of rest to grow in our lives and hope to triumph over despair, we are caring for our hearts and bodies and creating spiritual whitespace: space for self-care … space to be loved. As is.

BookArt4_brokenbeauty-300x300

“Hope is secure when it is aligned with God’s desires,
which are revealed in the Bible. However, our expectations
are often based on wishes, feelings, and personal preferences—
we yearn for job promotions, good health, or quick solutions
to problems. Such desires can be strong, but we have no
sure promise from God that they’re part of His will for us.
… Ask Him to clarify and direct your desires to coincide with His way.
Then rest in His goodness and keep your hope in Him.
(Dr. Charles Stanley)

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind FaithBarista.com. She wrote about her own heart-breaking but inspiring journey to find rest in Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest. I have found so many nuggets of insight and words of wisdom in this book. I invite you to read it and join me on the journey to rest.

You can get your own copy HERE.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Day 6: 21 Days of Rest

I have been reading a book about rest for the past month, and even though a lighter work schedule has given me time away from my desk, the “doer” in me has continued to find a way to fill up my schedule. I have been making promises and setting up self-imposed deadlines for projects that really don’t need to be completed by a specific date/time. So, I was delighted to read Bonnie Gray’s post this morning “The Clock Is Not My Shepherd,” where she shared her decision to change her 21 Days of Rest blog tour. She says,

“I am so excited to continue sharing 21 Days of Rest and Whitespace Challenges.

But, these will not be consecutive 21 Days.

These will be 21 Days written with the rhythm of rest. I will write to you out of a heart fully alive, engaged.

Because Faith Barista is about making a quiet space for you and me, I want to always return to my own heart to live and write from a journey of rest myself.”

Rest


Read more about and/or purchase the book here.So, in keeping with the spirit and intention of the book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, and the Faith Barista’s words, I will also be giving the perfectionist in me permission to move away from self-imposed deadlines and toward living a journey of rest. I will add blog tour posts as they coincide with Bonnie’s posts so that others may continue to enjoy her words and my photography. And I may write other posts on various days of the month, but quite likely, there will be days with no posts at all. The rhythm of my life, slowing down to allow me to breathe, will set the pace.

Meanwhile, here is my Day 6 blog tour contribution, containing my photo and Bonnie’s words. Feel free to share it.

Acceptance and Rest

Also, check out this rewrite of Psalm 23, “The Clock Is My Dictator” by Marcia Hornok, which appeared on the Faith Barista’s Day 6 blog. This was the first time I had seen it, although it has been around for years. I think many of you will relate to it. I know I did.

The clock is my dictator

I shall not rest.

It makes me lie down
only when exhausted.

It leads me to deep depression.
It hounds my soul.

It leads me in circles of frenzy
for activity’s sake.

Even though I run
frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done.

For my “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval,
they drive me.

They demand performance from me
beyond the limits of my schedule.

They anoint my head with migraines.
My in-basket overflows.

Surely fatigue and time pressure
shall follow me all the days of my life.

by Marcia Hornok
(1990, In Discipleship Journal)

Let’s give up the quest to reach the end of the “to do” list, and accept that it will never happen. Instead, think about maintaining a more realistic schedule and reaching for physical and spiritual rest along the way. If you’d like to participate in this faith journey that I’m on and connect with the Whitespace Community, click here.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace