It was our second playdate.
Technically, it was my four-year-old son CJ’s playdate. I was there visiting with his mom at the breakfast table, sipping water. I had just met my mommy friend the year I was writing my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. She was asking how writing was going. I tell her it’s not easy, not like handing in homework. Not even like writing at work either.
“It’s hard to write on a blank page,” I confess. “There’s so many ways of telling a story. How do I know which way is right?”
“It’s like being an artist,” my friend adds.
“How about you?” I ask. “What do you like to do that’s artistic? Do you like to write?”
“I like to write,” she pauses. “But, if I ever had the time — which I don’t — I’d want to paint.”
My friend doesn’t know I’ve been on an anxiety-ridden journey to uncover the shadow artist in me. I’m suspicious now there is one in her.
“Oh, you like to paint,” I echo. “What do you like to paint? Can I see?”
She tells me she used to paint in college. But, she hasn’t painted since. Really? …Not even once? I prod. It turns out she did. When she returned from her honeymoon years ago, she painted a beach and sky. Can I see it. I smiled. Please?
She leads me into her bedroom. And it’s beautiful. A canvas of brushstrokes of color. A memory.
My friend tells me she loves how it feels when she paints. But, then she sighs. Life’s so busy, keeping up with everyone’s schedules.
“Do you ever feel selfish — like it’d be a waste of time if you painted?” I ask. “I do. That’s how I feel about writing.”
My friend said what do you mean? So, I told her about the spelling bee.
Not So Shiny
I was in second grade. I didn’t even know what a spelling bee was, until I stood at the district level spell-offs one evening. I don’t remember much, but I ended up being one of the last two girls left standing.
I was so excited, because we had been told the top three contestants would get a trophy. And I would at least be number two.
I’m gonna get a trophy!
But, then I got really nervous. Because it dawned on me.
I. could. be. the. champion.
I could actually win this thing.
The moderator took time out to ask everyone to clap for us, explained the rules once again, and reminded the audience to please be quiet. I looked over at the spectacled girl standing next to me from Cumberland Elementary. She had won the year before. She sure looked smart. Only one of us would advance to the next level. Could it be me?
As the moderator announced my next word, I thought I had it in the bag.
“Lunch. L-U-C-H. Lunch.”
I’m sorry. That is incorrect.
I knew how to spell lunch. I don’t know, for the life of me, how I left out the n. But, I did. The whole room sighed with a unanimous, “Ohh…” I felt the panic and looked over at my mom. She shook her head in disappointment.
Afterward, I walked over to tell her I still won a trophy. But she said, “I’m not surprised you didn’t win. The other girl was much more confident. She looked like the winner.”
At the awards ceremony, I stepped up on stage to claim my second place trophy. But, it didn’t seem that shiny anymore. In the car ride back, my mom sighed, “What a waste of time.”
I never did enter another spelling bee after that year. It wasn’t the last time she’d tell me something about me would be a waste of time.
After I finished telling my mommy friend my story, I told her that is what I have to fight every time I try to make time for me. I have to fight against voices that tell me I’m wasting time, especially mine.
It doesn’t just happen when I write. Whenever I want to do something purely for enjoyment, with no other added “value” or “purpose,” I think it’s a waste of time. I think of a gazillion more “important” things I should do. I tell my friend maybe her experience wasn’t exactly like mine. But, I asked her —
What was life growing up for you as a little girl?
Were you encouraged to explore and enjoy doing what you liked? Or was there a focus on getting things done, not wasting time?
I wasn’t planning to stay long that day for my son’s playdate. But, it turned out to be a special summer afternoon, listening to the heart of a new friend and her stories.
“Maybe we can drive out to the museum in the city one morning, when the kids go back to school?” She offered with a smile.
“Yeah. Maybe,” I smiled back.
I told her hopefully, I’ll finish my book by then.
What is Better
It’s very easy to be distracted by what appears to be more important.
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made when she opened her home to Jesus.
She came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me
to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
What’s harder is taking the faith to spend time with Jesus, by doing something we enjoy. It may not look or feel right, just like it may not have seemed right for Mary to sit, while so much needed to be done around her.
When God gave instructions to build the tabernacle where He would dwell, He gave people the gift of artistic design “in all kinds of crafts” — “to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship” to adorn, decorate and make everything. (Ex.31:11)
Now that Jesus is here, you and I have become the tabernacle where God dwells.
We are the living temples, where Jesus lives. (2 Cor. 6:16)
Each of us is created with beauty in mind, to reflect God’s artistic imprint.
There is no sunset, flower or rainbow that does not reflect the time God spent making it come alive with color and feeling.
You and I are no less.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
…You crowned him with glory and honor.”
How may God be inviting you to enjoy something that feeds your soul, that may feel like a waste of time?
What was life growing up for you as a little girl — were you encouraged to explore and enjoy?
Pull up a chair. Click to comment. Share your voice and let’s enjoy a summer breeze together.
Special Update! Okay, you guys are TOTALLY AWESOME! Finding SpiritualWhitespace hit #4 on the Kindle Bestseller List in Christian Spiritual Growth category on Amazon last night! Keep spreading the word about the sale that ends this Sat 8/8. Who knows with your help, maybe we’ll hit #1? 🙂 Thank you so much for your support, sharing & recommending, sweet kindreds! God is doing amazing things through your story! You’re the wind beneath the wings of this book — and my heart! love, Bonnie
Psst… ! Just two more days to order the ebook for Finding Spiritual Whitespace for just $1.99. sale price ends Saturday 8/8/15. enjoy a copy yourself or gift a copy to encourage a friend! if you pick it for your fall book club, send me an email (via my contact page). i have small group guide for you to enjoy!
For more words of encouragement, order a copy of my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace.
Beloved Brews Spotlights
Every week, I’ll spotlight a tagged #SpiritualWhitespace image from Instagram (like the beautiful one to the right) or blogger in our Beloved Brews Community. To be considered as a spotlight blogger, please kindly be sure to use the Beloved Brew badge or link back to Faith Barista in your post. Kindreds, I can’t wait to see your photos & read the stories you live. Thank you for sharing your voice.
Beloved Brews Link Up
Whole-hearted Writing. You & Jesus.
Welcome to our Beloved Brews weekly link-up! Pour out a little love with your words every Thursday (publish any day. link-up on Thursdays). Simply write a blog post about what God’s sharing with your heart this week and then share it here. Don’t have a blog? Just share a comment. Visit thebonniegray.com to read the comments & share your voice too.
Next week’s 8/13 writing prompt: (How is God calling you to say yes?) I’m so excited about this prompt, friends! can’t wait to read.
Please use the Beloved Brews button in your blog post so we’ll know you’re in our community & others can join (use this html code here). When you link up your post, read & leave an encouraging comment on the post linked up just before yours. Thanks, kindreds!
Share photos that touch your heart with God’s beauty and rest using #spiritualwhitespace on Instagram. It’ll be fun to see your pics!
May the writing prompt bring you to a quiet place in your soul as you share your voice. Click here for details.
Thank you for that post. I was just feeling the burden in my heart of motherhood and how it seems when i take time for myself (this weekend it was trying to just really rest after an exhausting week), that I feel like I’m paying a “price” later. In terms of food not cooked, chores not done, chaotic house in the midst of parenting seemingly chaotic 3 year–but that is the thinking I need to change–rather than think “im paying a price here for choosing rest over work, I can think, I’m so glad I chose rest so I can handle the challenges of the week. “
yes! jane i love how you rephrased it! the rest helps you later on as challenges come.
I am growing in seeing the value of “wasting time” with my passions. It’s so hard to let that go. I grew up in a home that encouraged time spent in the arts. Somehow the world changed my mind. I’m striving to return to that. Thanks for encouraging me in this today!!! I’m excited to get your book deal today! I’ve been thinking of getting your book for a while now!
what kind of arts do you love spending time on? painting? would love to hear more. and i hope to meet you in between the pages of finding spiritual whitespace.
My biggest love is photography and seeing how God uses it on my blog along with writing. Another love is painting. I recently painted on vacation and was reminded of how enjoyable it is. It is an area that I often think of as a waste of time and would like to change that. My husband bought an art instruction class for me 5 years ago for mother’s day and it forced me to take time to do it. Perhaps I need to delve into that again…
[…] at Beloved Brews, Thought-Provoking […]
I appreciated this post today! Just what I needed! in fact, I come here often to link up and read your past posts which are ALWAYS a blessing! You write so well and straight to the heart! Thank you for using your influence for good and encouraging women like me!
thank you so much for your kind words, danielle!
With each message your words stir something in my heart and mind and I know I am changing. I am finding my way, slow but sure. Writing well was a dream I carried in me for so long and I let it go, because the tools and the opportunity once given to seemed hard and confusing and was’nt real help in my eyes, I thought it was a waste of money and couldn’t keep on spending that money every month when thing were so tight. So I with my eyes wide open shut that door with a bang! There was no one in my life who ever encouraged me, this was my dream and my struggle to get a good story out of me and put it on paper. It’s been a while but Bonnie your words do something in me that makes me want to begin again, your words stir that dream in me to write again. I am journaling again for starters.
journaling is a great way to start… thank you for sharing your heart with me, sherry. i hope that you will continue to dream and write in some form. kindreds <3
Thanks again Bonnie, kindreds at heart ?
I grew up feeling I was a “bother” and a “mess” in a perfectionistic, fast-paced, goal-oriented household. I loved observing the world around me and pondered the meaning of everything, wanting to write about it, but never feeling free to do so.
carol, have you tried journaling what you observe? it is such a beautiful way to practice spiritual whitespace.
Thanks for the reminder, Bonnie, that time is never wasted when it’s spent with Jesus. And that time can look different for each one of us.
As a child, I was always creative. I loved to draw…horses were my favorite, followed by trees. I also loved to help my grandmother “design” the clothes she sewed for me. When bell-bottoms became the rage, I only had hand-me-down straight-legged jeans, but I used my creativity to split the seams and sew triangular panels into the legs, making a larger bottom. My grandmother helped me sew tops from the same fabric so that they matched. She sewed out of necessity. It was less expensive than buying ready-made. I learned to sew, and I’m a fair seamstress. I have made many things over the years, mostly home interior stuff. I am not a fashion forward gal, but I have my own style. I still have a sewing machine, and I have this “notion” (pun intended) of re-purposing thrift store finds into new garments. Sometimes, it feels silly and I do not have a dress from, which would certainly help. I keep thinking…maybe one day!
I also love gardening and landscape design. After my oldest son died in 1991, we bought and moved into a small home with a wonderful outdoor space. In the spring as the beautiful flowers began to emerge, the birds sang in nearby treetops, and it seemed possible to experience joy again. I worked the garden, weeding, pruning, cutting blossoms for bouquets to enjoy inside our home. Fast forward 10 years, and I decide after reading an article in the paper about the local technical college expanding their horticulture studies program. I decided to take the plunge! I went back to school with the intent of starting my own landscape design business. I graduated with honors and felt I had achieved something worthwhile. Then the economy began to falter and people were not spending money on such frivolous things as landscaping…they were worried about keeping their homes! I felt like a failure. Why did I choose to pursue something like that? Why not a career that would actually make me employable where I could make good money? My husband has often been unkind to me in regard to this. But, I still love to “paint with plants” using color, texture, contrast and size to create beautiful, restful places to while away time with God. So is it a waste of time to me? NO. God has nurtured my soul time and time again as I use the creativity He placed within me. He speaks to me through each growing thing. He reveals His ways to me in the new life that springs forth from the place of dark winter’s death. HOPE. It is well with my soul…
‘Love that verse, Exodus 31:11, you shared. To engage in craftsmanship for God’s glory is a blessing HE has provided. It carries his stamp of approval! And surely our efforts give him pleasure, to see us use his materials in creative ways, just as you experienced pleasure while viewing the seascape painting of your friend. Thank you for reminding us, Bonnie, of the value of crafting–feeding our souls and the souls of others!
I’m so sorry you experienced such hurts as a child. I love how you’ve used your scars to help others. I’m eager to read your book.
[…] adding to the soul refreshment being served over at Bonnie Gray’s place for Beloved Brews. Do come over and take a fuel stop there.. […]
I love your book and I love your posts… they always seem to speak to where I am. You and I had a somewhat similar childhood experience. I am working on a book now myself… about a lifetime of domestic violence. It is hard to write, as I relive the experiences. So I have tried to balance it with more enjoyable pastimes. Yet, there is always the call to doing something more “important.” I hope the mom in the play date went back to painting. I have a very close friend whose mom knew the importance of that and helped her to continue with lessons for all the years her children were young… she is an accomplished artist but still sometimes feels guilty for taking time for herself. Thank you for the reminders you send us all.
dear bonnie, i’m so touched that we can be sojourners on this journey of life — and that my words can be a companion. 😉 it sounds like you’re on the right path — pouring out the pain in words & also refilling it with spiritual whitespace! that is what I’m doing. it’s an ongoing journey and we are being made new, day by day. keep being courageous. don’t stop. the real you and me are emerging!! (hugs)
I purchased your book about a year ago, started reading and put it down for a minute…a long, long minute. I knew I wanted to savor it and I just couldn’t carve out the time to do it justice. I picked it back up about 3 weeks ago and feel like I’ve been given a priceless treasure for my soul and to share with others.
I am an a visual artist, so of course the title intrigued me. As your life story began to unfold it wasn’t quite what I had anticipated, yet I felt drawn in and captivated by your beautifully written story of love, grace and finding spiritual rest in the midst of dealing with your pain and suffering. The term “spiritual white space” helped me to define what has been a part of my life for quite some time in a way that spoke to my artistic soul. You painted a beautiful portrait of brokenness cradled in the hands of a loving God, then framed it with insightful scripture references, thoughts and prompts so that everyone could see their own story within those hands.
My story and upbringing was quite different, but that is unimportant. What is universal is our quest to know and be known by God. To understand the power of His presence within and to live authentically as we learn to embrace our brokenness as a strength and a powerful voice that draws others to God.
For me, life had become a five course meal everyday, too much to consume and no time to digest. I felt I was chasing my days instead of living them. I went to school late in life and was enjoying a part-time job as a medical assistant in a Dr.s’ office, which I loved despite the long hours. I have 3 grandchildren that I babysit for, 2 daughters, 4 sisters, friends and a church I am involved with.
I was painting some, producing paintings for specific church series and painting ‘live’ during worship services, yet I felt I was suppose to be doing something more with my art and writing. Whether it was a calling or a desire I was not sure, but like my first effort at reading your book, I didn’t have the time to pursue the answer, I just knew my soul was starving creatively for a few years.
Long story short. I quit my job, to everyones surprise, stating that I wanted to pursue what I felt God had been laying on my heart…to write about art/faith and paint. It felt frivolous and fabulous, then frightening! I realized very quickly that freeing up the time, which was hard enough to do, turned out to be the easy part.
Art and writing ideas didn’t just bubble up to the top and pour out me like I thought they would. I wasn’t carried away into another world like I envisioned now that I had the time. What I realized was that having the time just made me more available….for others and more worthy causes than my own selfish pursuits.
I’m learning that I have to be intentional in the pursuit, that it’s okay to say “no” even to grandkids and that I need to schedule time to be creative, which looks like nothing to most people and protect it as one of the most valuable times I could spend with Christ.
Dear Jodi, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story about how you and God are writing the story of you .. with him. It’s real because it involves time and I can see how you’re hearing God’s whispers and allowing your heart to follow. I feel so blessed that my words can be part of your journey, as a companion – a sojourner. Continue to give yourself permission to be who God created you to be — and to be protective of that – it’s God loving you as His little girl, His beloved. And it’s a beautiful thing that you are alive and glowing — which will flow to your family… in ways that go beyond meeting other’s expectations. You’re nurturing your soul and that is God-glorifying because He is in YOU, expressing Himself through your art.