grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

When Your Face Goes Numb

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been anxious.
I’ve lived most of my life in a state of fight-or-flight.

I learned not long ago, in a counseling session, that in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder lingo, this state of being, of interacting with the world, has a name: Hypervigilance.

I am a seasoned Hypervigilante.
(Yes, I just made up that word…*smile)

For a long, long time, I managed to be a fairly high-functioning Hypervigilante…

  • I stepped into a leadership role in our local Mothers of Preschoolers group when my four girls were 6, 4, 2, and 5 months.
  • I was an uber-volunteer at their school when the oldest hit elementary age.
  • I coached their volleyball and basketball teams through the middle school years.
  • I owned and operated a small, home-based business.

During those years, I also battled a host of health challenges and fought to keep my head, and heart, above water while the Riptide of Crazy that came with being married to an abusive addict** threatened daily to pull me under.

I sincerely believed it was my job to do everything in my power to make sure all of it looked bright, shiny, and normal…to everyone on the outside, at least.

And, I did that job well.

Until I couldn’t anymore.

I can’t tell you when I hit that wall…when I stopped being so successful at playing the High-Functioning Hypervigilante…when all the tightly-bottled-up anxiety refused to be contained a minute longer.

I just know it happened.
I found myself forced to admit that all my attempts at keeping the panic at bay were ultimately failures.

The most recent evidence of this vain attempt has been numbness.
Specifically, numbness that started in my lips and tongue and has since spread to my whole face.
It comes and goes as the levels of anxiety and panic ebb and flow.

The first time I experienced it, the numbness scared me a little. I wondered, ‘What new health challenge is presenting itself now?’

In fact, I was so worried about what I might find, I asked the Mister to look it up for me…and made him promise not to tell me if it was Something Really Bad. I just couldn’t take the thought of facing another Something Really Bad.

So, he looked it up and let me know that it, the numbness, was likely linked to anxiety.
My anxiety.

I was relieved and frustrated at the same time.
Relieved that it wasn’t Something Really Bad.
Frustrated that it was something I hadn’t been able to master…my tendency toward anxiety…my Hypervigilantism…my horrible record when it came to managing stress.

And, I know I would’ve felt totally hopeless…helpless…if I hadn’t found a kindred soul who’s actually written a book about anxiety, panic, PTSD…a book about finding spiritual whitespace…soul rest.

Bonnie Gray and her brand new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, arrived on scene just before the first Numb Lip Incident.

Divinely timed.

There are no words to convey how very grateful I am for her bravery, her words, her invitation.

Because when your face goes numb, you need some solid ground to stand on.
Because when your face goes numb, you need some compassion and empathy and encouragement.
Because when your face goes numb, you need some dear soul to point the way to Rest.

Reading Bonnie’s book does all of that and more.

Even as I’m tapping these keys to form these words, my face is numb.
But it doesn’t scare me anymore.
It simply brings home to me that being a Hypervigilante can no longer be my gig.

Breathing deep.
Finding rest.
Creating whitespace.
Living as the Beloved.

Those are all part of my new gig.
And I believe that as I lean into each of those inviting but unfamiliar things, the numbness will wear off…like it does after a novacaine-filled dentist appointment.
Gradually.
With some odd tingling.
I’m okay with that.

**The Mister and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this winter. He is in recovery and is actively pursuing tools and strategies that can enable him to be more healthfully engaged while taking responsibility and making amends for the damage his addiction and abuse caused.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace
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A Letter to Six-Year-Old Me…

Two-Year-Old Me

Two-Year-Old Me

Sweet six-year-old Laura ~

I want you to know, as you sit crying on that hard, cold piano bench, that you are going to be okay. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but you are much stronger and more resilient than you could ever imagine. I promise you.

When your daddy took that picture of your sorrow and forced you to look at it, while telling you how Ugly you are when you cry, you had no idea those words would become lodged in your heart for most of your life. Jammed deep. Buried under other wounds inflicted by words. Under some wounds delivered wordless.

Yes, you took those words and swallowed them whole. Gulped them down, along with the tears you believed made you Ugly.

You made a deal with yourself, in a place so hidden you didn’t even know it was there, that you would do everything in your power to never be Ugly like that again. You would never mar what was apparently so tenuous and false (your beauty) that wet, salt-water drops falling from your big blue innocent eyes could reveal an Ugly so revolting that even your daddy couldn’t contain his loathing.

But, that deal you made, dear Laura…that deal was made with currency more false than Monopoly money.
That sealed-with-dry-eyes deal, sweet girl, is invalid.
Null.
Void.
Nonbinding.

The walls you erected – the fortress you built to contain The Ugly…I want you to know they’re not necessary any more.

I know there was a l-o-n-g time when you spent your days with your heart barricaded behind those walls, trying to ensure no Ugly would accidentally escape. (And, if I’m honest, there are still many days your energy is spent shoring up areas of the fortress where a brick or two has slipped out of place – just to make sure the integrity of those walls is intact.)

There have been years when you told yourself – and your fragile heart – that behind those walls, you were safe.
Dry-eyed-brave safe.

But, sweet child, I’m here to tell you that while those walls – that holding-in-the-Ugly fortress – served their purpose of protection at times when you didn’t have access to the strength, the stamina, the truth necessary to allow them to be dismantled, to come out from behind them…
It. Is. Safe. Now.

You are safe.
You are seen.
Your tears matter.
Your cries are heard.
Your beauty is intact.
(…because it’s not just a meaningless cliche that beauty comes from within…because that’s where your beauty originates…from within your remarkable heart…)

And there is One who catches each of those diamond-value tears of yours and saves them in a bottle, records them in His ledger.
Not one tear falls unnoticed or disregarded or scorned or misunderstood.
Not one.

The Tear Catcher loves you, Little Girl.

And even though you haven’t always sensed His presence,
He has always been near.
Nearer than your muffled-behind-the-walls heart cry.

And even though you haven’t always trusted that His Love, His Truth, His Rescue, His Grace, His Favor, His Mercy have been for you – believing that they were only for everyone else – the True Truth is that ALL of those things of His are YOURS.

YOURS to inhabit.
YOURS to drink in.
YOURS to lean on.
YOURS to rest under.

He calls you Beautiful, love.
For you are His beloved child.
He is nothing at all like the broken, untrustworthy, shattered man who took that crying picture of you, waving it in your face, trying to get you to share the load of his own shame.
He is everything that man – any man – cannot be.
True.
Faithful.
Grace-filled.
Merciful.
Tireless.
He is Love.

Even as I write this to you, today, from the place where I stand 40 years down your road, I know the trepidation that thumps in your chest – the pterodactyl-sized butterflies that start dive-bombing your gut – when you try to accept that it truly is okay to cry.
That, sometimes, it’s necessary to cry.
That, often, it’s a healthful thing to cry.
And that it’s never Ugly to cry.

Do your best to ignore the thumping in your chest, the humongous butterflies rattling your insides, and make a different deal with yourself.
For today.
And for as many days as you need to.
Make a deal with your priceless heart to do the work you need to do to accept the truth that tears do not equal Ugly.
Reach out. Ask for help.

Because, dear little one, you don’t have to worry about trying to cage The Ugly anymore.

Ugly wasn’t the truth then.
Ugly isn’t the truth now.

Love is.

Working with you to believe in the Beauty,
Your older self

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book. ~Psalm 56:8

{this post is a result of Bonnie Gray‘s life-changing book – and her 21 Days of Rest…click on through, grab yourself a copy of her book here, and find the soul-rest, the #spiritualwhitespace your weary spirit craves.}

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace
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Rest: A 4-Letter Word

{This post is part of the “Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour” which I am a part of, along with a group of soulful, journeying kindreds. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!}

There’s a 4-Letter Word I really struggle with.

It’s one that causes my throat to constrict, my palms to get sweaty, my heart pound, and my stomach to feel sucker-punched.

There are probably a variety of 4-Letter Words going through your mind just now – you may even feel confident in venturing a guess or two as to exactly what word it is that causes such an intense physical reaction…but my guess is you’d get it wrong.

Because it’s not a ‘typical’ 4-Letter Word.
It is socially acceptable to say in any setting.
It is not something one would say to elicit shock.
It is even an inviting, sweet word to some ears.

But, to my ears, it is anything but inviting and sweet.

The word in question?
REST.

And, as I’m reading Bonnie Gray’s *brand new book* Finding Spiritual Whitespace, I am starting to understand that my violent reaction to Rest is a coping mechanism that has deep roots in my life. Roots that make sense when examined from the perspective of the 5-year-old little girl that I was, but roots that seem to call out for a treatment or two of Holy Root Killer when viewed from where I stand today.

Rest, it turns out, is something for which my heart, my mind, my spirit, my body is crying out…
Rest, I’m learning, is something that has been calling to me for weeks, months, years, decades…

The thing is, it’s hard to hear anything calling to me when I’m running hard and fast in the opposite direction…cramming my days, jamming my schedule, packing my calendar so full that all the things jostling for my attention actually make enough noise bumping into each other that they drown out the whispers that Bonnie writes of in the pages of her life-changing book:

Rest, Jesus is whispering to you and to me.
Come.
Let me be with you.
As is.’

When I look at that little 5-year-old version of me, it breaks my heart to see her with her eyes squinched shut, her fingers stopping her ears, her tiny shoulders tensed, and her little mouth shouting, ‘La la la la la la laaaa…I can’t hear you!’ in response to any invitation to Rest.

She knew even then the panic that the thought of Rest wells up in a soul unable to sense safety…like stockinged-feet on a slick, moving surface that aren’t able to find a stable place.

Now, as I think of her – of me – it’s hard to fight the lump in my throat that’s working overtime to hold back the frightened, lonely, overwhelmed tears. In coming face-to-face with just how long this lack of safety, this scarcity of a stable place has been A Thing in my life, it’s really no surprise that Rest sparks within me the response it does.

Having the privilege of being part of the Finding Spiritual Whitespace launch team is, in my estimation, a divinely-timed assignment. One of those ‘for such a time as this’ things.

And I am making a promise to 5-year-old me because of it.

We – she and I – are going to take back that word…Rest.
We’re going to redeem it.
We are going to lean into it and, with Jesus’ help, turn it into one that sounds like, feels like another 4-Letter Word: Love.

Because, this…
‘Jesus is prompting me to step out to rest in a new way with him. It’s so much easier to take care of everyone, to tend to problems and everything else. It’s easier to be strong and not need or feel.
We’ve been taught our feelings are not reliable, so we throw them to the wayside. Trouble is, there is a part of ourselves we throw to the side too. Sometimes the harder path to rest is following your heart and holding on to nothing but Jesus.
Let’s not take the easier path. Let’s take the harder path to rest, paved by new ways of faith. Let’s take those feelings to Jesus and speak to him as friend to friend. Let’s listen to Jesus speak to us in a different way –
in the voice of intimate confidante,
where he takes our tears and shows us where they lead,
so we can whisper all we’ve never dared to share.
This is the harder path of faith I’m learning. Putting our hearts first – letting Jesus love us – is a new way of resting with him.’ ~Bonnie Gray, Finding Spiritual Whitespace

Bonnie’s book is available now – and it’s changing lives already.

I’m so grateful mine is one of them.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. I’m taking the journey to find rest through this guidebook and invite you to read it too. You can get a copy HERE.

{While you’re here, friend, give this sweet, hope-filled book trailer a view…}

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

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Surviving’s Easy – Rest Comes Hard

#spiritualwhitespaceI’m good at surviving.

After all, I’ve survived a chaotic, broken childhood that fueled destructive choices during my teens and early twenties, many serious health challenges (including a rare esophageal disease, more than a dozen surgeries, autoimmune thyroid disease, a very aggressive form of breast cancer and the reconstruction that came along with with it), an abusive addict husband (who is currently in recovery and with whom I will be celebrating 25 years of marriage this year), raising four spirited daughters, difficult and broken family relationships, and the sudden, confusing loss of friendships I held dear for a decade.

Survival. Resilience.
I’ve got that part down.
Looking at that list, it’s obvious I’ve had lots of practice.
(And the help of some amazing mental health professionals over the years. *smile)

What I’m NOT good at is rest.
Historically, rest has not felt safe.
Rest has left me vulnerable.

Enter the breathtakingly amazing timing of an opportunity to be part of the launch team for Bonnie Gray’s new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest.

And this line from the book: ‘I am very good at surviving. I am an expert at figuring out how to do things right and do them well. I am not afraid of working hard, swallowing whatever might get me down, and pushing through.’

{I actually put a box around that whole passage instead of just underlining it because it resonated so deeply in my soul as I read it. For the record, though, I have underlined, double-underlined, starred, asterisked, and exclamation-pointed close to 90% of what I’ve read so far. It’s. That. Good.}

To be honest, though, rest – even the thought of it – causes panic to well up inside of me…squeezes my chest with anxiety…blasts at full volume the voices that try to convince me that rest is not for me. That rest is not a thing I am worthy of. That rest is a sign of weakness. (Huh – maybe the contradiction woven in those voices should be the first clue that they’re lying?)

It’s no accident that the concept of Spiritual Whitespace has entered my life during this season…

I have one baby left at home (and at 17, she’s not much of a baby anymore).
I’m near the anniversary of the fourth year since that cancer was found.
As Baby’s boyfriend informed me a few weeks ago, I’m only three years away from turning 50.
And, as I work to discover what God has for me to do in my Second Act, I know He’s calling me to rest. In Him.

As Bonnie so beautifully, invitingly puts it, ‘Finding whitespace is daring to discover the places in your heart that are virgin, tender, soft, untraveled, wounded, or broken – so Jesus can make those places yours and his.’

I’m going to be looking for whitespace over the next few weeks and will share what I find with you here, friend.

And I hope someday soon to be able to say ‘I’m good at resting.’

Whitespace Community Linkup @ faithbarista.com
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