This past year, I’ve been receiving an increasing amount of email from our Faith Barista community about the journey to write. Even though many of us may not be writers, we are all on the journey of finding our voice. So, I asked one of our friends if she’d be willing to share a conversation and her questions with us here. And I wrote her a letter, in response to hers.
Each and every time I read a blog post of yours I find myself connecting to what you share in some way…especially lately, I keep thinking how I’d like to write you to ask you something.
I started a blog… My whole goal with it was not to be flashy, not to ever write anything that wasn’t really coming from my heart.
To write what was really going on with me. To be real.
This past year I just found myself unable to write though. I don’t know if it is because the first blog I did was when I was in such a mask wearing state of mind? Or if it’s because of the fear that people I know will read something and misunderstand or be hurt in some way. Maybe both.
Whatever the case I find my mind goes blank when I begin to write a blog post even when just moments before my head was swimming with an entire post or more!
Over this past year I have become involved with so many people in my community…Over and over the theme of story is there. That when people share their story – the raw and the real – people respond and lives are changed. Because of it I found myself opening up and healing taking place.
So why is it so difficult to write and share my story? I don’t want to be stuck here forever.
Or is God just not letting me do it because I am not suppose to share it that way?
I want you to know that every time I’ve written here since my journey through anxiety, I have been hit with a wall of blank whenever my fingers touch the keyboard.
In fact, when I sit myself down and I start to think about writing, my heart starts palpitating, my fingers grow cold and I feel dizzy. Not well. When it was at it’s worse, I’d have panic attacks and I’d end up lying in bed for hours.
I’ve learned that response is not really us “now”. It’s the part of us that has been hurt in the past who is responding.
We have to help the little girl — the teenager — the twenty-something, thirty-something — or whatever part of us — to write. To let her know she is okay.
When our mind goes blank, it doesn’t mean we aren’t meant to write. It doesn’t mean we are doomed.
It’s the opposite. It means we are standing at the crest of something real. Something true and something only you can offer to the world. That we’ve never dared to before.
It’s original. Like you.
We are touching a part of us that is real. And this part is good. And God is there.
Anxiety is the vestige, leftover from the past, when it was safer to be quiet. Our survival instinct. To be alone.
But you and I know it’s not true. We are on a new journey. To no longer stay hidden. To reach out to others and find they can reach out to us too.
Out of Nowhere
So, what is it about writing a blog post? What is it about writing our stories that keeps us frozen? Paralyzed.
It’s the most tortuous place to be. Torn. When we seem to be able to do everything for everyone else — to get things done for any other purpose.
Except for expressing ourselves.
For finding our voice.
We try to move on with our everyday lives, but our soul still whispers — those words that somehow spark in us. As we’re doing the dishes, taking a shower, driving, or picking up Legos off the floor. When we’re lying on our bed at night.
When we’re not trying to write, it comes.
No matter how hard we’d rather forget about finding our voice, those sparks of ideas — a word — a phrase — a visual image — piece of a story — a song — or even a scene from a movie — comes to us.
We don’t even know why these ideas surface. Out of nowhere.
But, it’s true.
Those whispers remind us.
We have voice. We want to speak.
A Saving Grace
Before finding a therapist, I thought that writing was dangerous for me. I felt I was damaged in some way.
Like it was just something I could never have — just like I never had a dad. Just like I never got to play team sports because it was too expensive and I had to be home after school. Just like I never had a happy home.
I just accepted that maybe this was just another one of the things I could never have.
I’m discovering anxiety is my saving grace. Anxiety is the last line of defense for the deepest parts of me. Anxiety has become the biggest indicator for — to the truth — happening in my heart.
Anxiety has turned from being my greatest prison to become the key to unlocking the real me. When I feel anxious, I know I’m brushing close to what my heart really longs for. What it truly wants to be free to say, to do, to feel and to write.
Whenever I start feeling my body gripped in tension and my neck start to stiffen as I think about writing, calling to see a friend, doing something TLC for me — when I’m afraid to waste time on me — I know I’m touching a piece of me I’ve hidden inside.
We have two choices at the point we experience anxiety.
Choice #1: back off. stay disconnected from your heart. stay hidden.
In the past, anxiety worked in our favor. We were not in safe conditions. We’ve been rejected, shamed, or shot down. Ignored or disregarded.
We needed to be productive and by the grace of God, He made us strong to survive and do what was needed.
It’s easier to fulfill a function, to meet expectations. And that is when anxiety subsides.
When we shove ourselves back in a corner, tell yourselves to be quiet, and say to ourselves —
There is no need for someone like you.
There is no place for your words.
Your story isn’t worth telling.
No one will listen.
Or we can choose option two.
Choice #2: lean into what makes you anxious. stay connected to your heart. become real.
We are on a new journey and anxiety now point us to the door to open into our hearts. We are stronger now because we are not alone.
By the grace of God, we don’t have to survive anymore. We can open up all parts of ourselves because there is beauty there. God is there.
Because listen to what He says —
There is a need for the real you.
There is a place for your words and your story.
Because that is where I’ve always been with you.
Your voice is what I hear everyday.
I’ve lived my whole life without the need to find my voice.
But, that is no longer true for me today. And I can tell that is no longer true for you either.
The truth is that there is a daily journey between these two choices: to move from staying hidden to becoming real.
These choices are not pass/fail. The space between these two choices is a journey — a series of movements.
I’d like to share five of those with you today.
5 Movements To Finding Your Voice & Choosing Your Heart.
Here are the top 5 Movements I take to keep connected to my heart, so I can find my voice.
Anxiety does not disqualify you to write.Remember no matter how your heart or body feels, your spirit is safe and protected by God.
The moments of inspiration that break through even as you are tempted to resign is evidence God’s voice in you is alive and well.
Some days I cannot avoid that blank wall and that is okay. Finding your voice is not a test of your will, but a journey to nurture your heart, to be kind to yourself and to let God love you.
1) Tether your heart-moment with a note and use it to bring you back, so you can write from that place. When you get an idea, don’t analyze it. Jot down that one word or phrase that’s surfacing. If it’s a visual scene that’s flashed across your mind — or a song that’s playing in our heart — scrawl that down. That moment — whether a word or image – is your heart’s tether to that quiet, special place inside you.
Later when you have time to write, look at that word, listen to that music, and close your eyes. Return to that place inside you where there is a feeling. Close your eyes, place your fingers on the keyboard and just start typing.
2) Go on a whitespace walk for 15-30 minutes. Before I write, I put on my shoes, even if I’m wearing my PJs underneath a coat (I change into jeans) and I take a walk outside. I never want to go. If I stopped to think about it, I would stay in my house the whole day. Instead, I walk myself into my shoes and out the door. I listen to a meditation/prayer podcast or listen to some soothing music. I pray if something floats up. Or I don’t say anything. I imagine Jesus and I walking together quietly. And we’re outside together. I go back to my desk. I close my eyes. And I let the thoughts or topics surfaced during the walk float onto the page.
3) Go to your special place. Imagine yourself as a little girl with Jesus. Where would you be? When I started writing my book,I imagined sitting in front of a large window during autumn with Jesus next to me, in front of a cherry blossom tree with its leaves falling to the ground. I’d look out through that window and I’d start hearing myself narrate. I’d start writing whatever I heard myself sharing. I wrote the book from that visual space, reflecting on memories as I looked out into clouds behind a gentle breeze. In my beautiful, secret place, no one can hurt me and it’s there, I am prompted to speak.
4) Listen to music. Because my anxiety was so severe, I needed the aid of music to keep connected to my soulful space. Before I wrote, I would imagine myself in m special place, and put on my ear buds and listened to “solo piano” station on Pandora (its’ free music or for a small fee, you can get it commercial free). No words. Just piano music. Music transports me to heart-connected space.
5) Pray a simple prayer of presence. I did not pray to ask God to help me write. That seemed to put pressure on me to write or else I felt I was failing to connect with Him. Instead, I was drawn to pray just one simple phrase of presence.
Be with me.
Stay close to me.
Take care of me.
I discovered that whenever I felt comforted or nurtured, I would find my voice. Words were the result of feeling safe and intimate with Jesus. Not the goal.
As you can imagine, these 5 Movements for Finding My Voice wasn’t really about writing. Finding our voice is really about choosing our hearts — and discovering Jesus more intimately on this journey.
Finding our voice takes place in every area of our lives — in our relationships, marriages, our parenting — in our jobs, careers, and ministry — as well as our dreams, passions and pursuits.
Finding our voice is a journey all of us long to take. Because our voice is the one thing no one else can offer to the world.
Except through you.
What are your thoughts on choosing you heart — and finding your voice?
Pull up a chair. Dear you. Click to comment.
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1) I serve up a writing prompt. Let the topic soak in your heart, then publish your post the following Thursday and link up to share it with us. If you don’t have a blog, just write directly in the comments.
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3) Then, pull up a chair. Visit the post before yours and say hi with a comment. Make a faith friend.
*Today’s Thursday’s 2/20/14 Writing prompt :
Finding Your Voice
*Next Thursday 2/27/14 Writing prompt:
What I’m Learning About Myself.
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So, so many riches things in this post, Bonnie. I don’t think I’ve thought of anxiety in this positive way before, but I sure would like to. Thank you for baring your heart and sharing what you’ve been learning.
Here are some of my favorites among your words today:
“It means we are standing at the crest of something real. Something true and some only you can offer to the world. That we’ve never dared to before.”
“We are on a new journey. To no longer stay hidden. To reach out to others and find they can reach out to us too.”
“We have voice. We want to speak.”
“When I feel anxious, I know I’m brushing close to what my heart really longs for. What it truly wants to be free to say, to do, to feel and to write.”
This was a tough one for me to write. Writing I’m learning in the moment is always something in progress. And that’s what I appreciate about your writing, Lisa. Thanks for walking along together. Having companions for the journey is definitely is key to leaning into anxiety and becoming real.
I’m smiling because every post you write, I feel like we’re on the same wavelength. So many of the things you share are things I go through and experience.
I’ve gotten to a place where I sit down to write and I go blank. I try typing whatever comes to mind but then I read it back and it just doesn’t feel right.
I have a story to share. When i’ve started to write about it I feel like the frozen part of me is starting to melt. my only setback is my story consists of something that involves someone very close to me. I’ve asked their permission to share but they don’t feel it’s appropriate to share. I feel I must honor their feelings at this time. However, at this point I feel like I may never get to share my story… sigh…
didn’t mean to sound so ho-hum today. sorry about that.
I love that we can come here to this place and feel safe enough to share. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story Bonnie, I can’t tell you what a blessing you’ve been. ((HUGS))
You’re definitely brushing up to something real. And your heart wants to express it. You feel the frozen part of you is coming alive and this is very important. As for getting people’s permission when writing our real stories (or not) — this is a complicated issue — because whenever something is real — not everyone may like what we have to say. I guess this would be another blog post. 😉 But, I would not see this as a setback. I do think it is important to honor your story. In one form or another, Krista. I do want to affirm you: your life is your story. And if God gives you a voice, you can do it in a way that honors what happened to you, without being malicious in motivation to ruin the other person. And we can still write it in a way that doesn’t “single” that person out to the world. That person will know it’s them, but no one else would know. I think motivation is the key — if it’s being honest about the journey and not out to injure the other person, I say find a way to do it. Write it out first. And don’t worry about the end product right now. You need to give yourself permission first and foremost. To write for *you*. I believe God will give you next steps after it’s written. You can edit later. And think through the gray areas of the people that are involved in your story.
Thank you so much for understanding my heart and giving me hope, Bonnie. (And whoever wrote the letter, you’re not alone.) Sometimes it’s so hard for me to separate that hurting child/teen who responds with panic and the present adult. Sometimes my heart feels so presently bruised that I can’t discern between the two.
This statement makes me cry since I was sorely tempted to quit this week – “The moments of inspiration that break through even as you are tempted to resign is evidence God’s voice in you is alive and well.” I also love the positive spin you place on anxiety: “I’m discovering anxiety is my saving grace. Anxiety is the last line of defense for the deepest parts of me. Anxiety has become the biggest indicator for — to the truth — happening in my heart.” It would be a lot less stressful, it seems, to remain hidden, but I know in my head that God wants us to get truly connected with the truth in our hearts.
It might seem less stressful, but really, we are carrying the stress of staying hidden. I don’t think it’s sustainable. Our bodies, health and spirit become crushed. I’m glad you heard encouragement — because your voice is important to God and to us.
I enjoyed this post. Anxiety makes us think about our thoughts and words before we act. it takes us to a deeper place in our souls…a place we keep at bay. So, when we start to open the gate, the feelings flow…some good…some, not so good. But, the beauty is that we are “feeling” and the old hurts and wounds are healing. You know how a wound itches, as the scab is growing over the open flesh? Aaaarghhh! That’s how anxiety feels and heals. All we have to do is ask the Father to lend His comforter and we will be filled with a patience and quiet that is not of this world.
So awesome to have your voice is here, Cynthia. It helps so much to hear how you experience this.
I write, but it’s sporad
Thank you so so much for your openness and honesty about your journey with anxiety. I have communicated with you a few times…it brings tears when I read your posts because I see that I am not alone, that others have gone through what I am experiencing, and that there is healing. That God is found in times of anxiety, fear. That He is close. That you did not run from anxiety, but instead persevered. It’s really good to read your blog-thanks for writing. Aislinn
I know I need to write, but it comes very sporadically at this point. My blog appears to be neglected, but lately I’ve written more as comments on others’ blogs or in response to a friend’s book, or… . For a time I wrote poetry. I have learned to write down anything I get when it comes, but it doesn’t come on my schedule. I am learning so much that it’s hard to put into words. The only thing I know to do is keep everything and believe that when it’s needed, it will come together like the poems did. I have also written my story as a testimony, as well as continued to work on Bible studies I’ve written from the book of Genesis. I just don’t yet know what form my writing will take. I haven’t yet got all the pieces. – Any thoughts?
[…] Tonight I’m teaming up with Bonnie over at Faith Barista for Jam With Me Thursday! https://www.thebonniegray.com/join-faith-barista-jam-thursdays/ […]
Bonnie, thanks for all the wisdom shared in this post, for opening up your heart and sharing from it. You are such a caring person, and so encouraging to each one. All the while, you are growing through some of these same areas yourself. Thanks for your model of being open and transparent – I am so thankful for you, and am learning from you!
I especially liked this: “Finding our voice is really about choosing our hearts — and discovering Jesus more intimately on this journey.” I think that the key for me is exactly this … as I discover Jesus and grow more and more intimate with Him, then I am more free to be me. For as we come to know Him, our Creator, we come to know our true selves. And it takes a lifetime (and beyond) to keep growing more and more in love with Him! Can you imagine how amazing it will be when we are in heaven with Him for eternity – definitely we will always be living and breathing in our true voice then, forever …
That’s what I want to encourage… people to feel brave and share their story. Not let others silence them.
So thankful you are sharing this! What a huge encouragement and help to hear others process “out loud”. Things I never thought of before are coming to light.
Thank you Bonnie, for taking the time and personal commitment to write. Your words always speak to me. I have a complete book of poetry sitting in a notebook all ready to be placed in a devotional book of some sort, I think. But it’s sitting in a drawer. Waiting. And waiting. I have yet to move beyond the writing to the next step of faith in commitment to sharing the words God has given me. But I sincerely thank you for sharing your words and your heart. Your insights and life experience are immeasurably helpful and most encouraging.
[…] linking up in the Faith Jam today and the writing prompt is … Finding Your […]
when I clicked on the caption “Dear You, Choose your heart, find your voice a huge lump formed in my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes. Moments earlier I was brow beating myself for somethings I had shared this morning with three friends. We are in the process of putting together a women’s day retreat/ conference for our church. My input was I had a sense the Lord wanted us to offer a spiritual makeover for women-The theme being “Broken and Beautiful”. As I shared my ideals I was find but the moment I left that meeting I went into doubt questioning why I had said what I did. It was definetly not their vision. The line Anxiety does not disquailfy you even though you are tempted to resign.” hit me. YES!!!!! I want to hide. Yet there is this truth within your words that encourages me despite the anixety, this is the path walk in it. Pray for me, as I pray for you-may the road he has placed us on help us to be all that he created us to be, real authentic, unafraid risk takers vulnerable yet confident we are his BELOVED.
Blessings my Friend
Hey radical rose, I am SO, SO proud of you for being you. Speaking your heart and your mind. I’m sure your head and heart must have been pounding leaving that meeting. But, you can go to sleep at night knowing you were true to your voice. and you were real and present. I am with you — along with all the friends here doing the same. It is hard when what we have to offer may not resonate with others, but I want you to know you were *alive* in that moment you offered your theme for the retreat. You found your voice. And I bet you during that retreat, broken and beautiful is going to be a message you share with other women as you connect with them at the retreat. Jesus, may you assure radical rose that she is YOUR message — I pray you provide her with opportunities to share her heart — your theme in her life of “broken & beautiful” — so she knows the theme you put on her heart is special from you to her. And you will use that message to touch others at the retreat, regardless of the official theme. She is so precious. Thanks for her courage to share it with the women’s retreat team. In your name, Amen.
I want to find my voice, but I am terrified!
Hi Ann. Praying for you. Just writing that you are terrified is a start, I think!
Ann, you are not alone. We are all terrified. And we are not disqualified. Together, on the journey.
I don’t know if I’ll get time to sit down and write my post (it hit me today, late…) so here’s an outline:
I was teaching History in fall of 2012, and had an amazing day with chivalry. I told one class the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
In the spring of 2013 that class got to make a movie of the Gawain but they were 5-6 graders and needed to edit the story. Kissing? no way.
My English lit MA self unexpectedly hit my Christian homeschooling mom self.
We edited out the kissing, making symbolic gifts his temptation.
The MA still is thinking about the kissing (do you know this story?) and my mom self is shrinking from how the scene could be acted–yuck, a man giving a wife’s passionate kiss back to her husband in full company at dinner?
Then the sermon/talk writing part of me thinks of I Corinthians where Paul says that a wife’s body belongs to her husband, and husband’s to wife. I think, yes, he’s right to give back the wife’s kisses to her husband, how the milieu of England in the age of chivalry was more Biblically based than we realize. Or maybe it’s what Lewis means in Mere Christianity about morality being common and inbred.
I’ve referenced three parts of me, three voices…and I’m not done, really, thinking about the courage to speak up. That’s what these five years 45-50 are about, for me, and I am learning that there is power in the speaking when the words have wrestled with the speaker first.
All those parts of you are you… whatever comes out in the moment. let that voice be heard. what a season we’re in..
I’m a day late and a dollar short, but I shared my post on the link up today 🙂
You my friend are never late. I so love your words. And *you*.
Thanks to you, I can now put a reason behind why I hold my breath when I start to write (I tend to do that when I am stressed).
Thank you for the ideas to get past the anxiety and to get down to writing.
Because of you, this morning I have been honest with myself about something that has been causing me more than a bit of anxiety since I started my blog in 2010.
I have a ‘friend’ in another state who doesn’t appreciate my blog and doesn’t hesitate to tell me so. Most of the time in a snide and condescending manner. I have been using the fear as to what he may say to still my voice. Even now, as I write this, I worry that somehow he may find it and know it is about him.
And to be very honest, I don’t pray for the Lord’s guidance in my writing. Forgive me, Lord.
This morning, all that is changing. When the fear and anxiety try to turn me blue in the face from holding my breath, I will turn to your prayer of presence.
Blessings ~ Dorothy
Dorothy, there are people who don’t like what I have shared either. And have let me know as well. It may feel threatening for them to hear us be ourselves. They like to put us in a box. And they are like to control who we are, what or how we express our feelings and thoughts. It may seem safer to stay in the boxes others have constructed for us, but really inside, you and I know, it is painful to be hidden and to be afraid… That is not where life is for us. Life is like a quiet river flowing underneath, deep inside us, there is a still small voice. Let us give ourselves the shelter and protection to say, “I hear you. I won’t let you stay hidden anymore. No matter the cost. Jesus is with me. And He stands behind me.” And so are we here. Together. Let the critics hear us. And let us be afraid… and still write and publish… we are not alone. xoxo
After over 30 years of pushing myself to be productive and “successful”, to fulfill expectations, to achieve, I find myself standing at the edge of a precipice to the unknown. My last day of full-time, paycheck rewarded employment is looming ever closer and I see the dragon peeking out of his cave planning when to pounce. I want you to know, Faith Barista, that I count your words as God’s gift to me during this last year and especially now as the Day approaches. On good days, I see myself writing with this time I will be given. On the rest of the days, the well-rutted negative, self-bashing script runs its familiar loop, so familiar I don’t really hear it anymore, it just continues to guide my life within its narrow confines. And on the really bad days, I feel my insides begin to quake at the thought of facing the dragon who I anticipate will fully appear with his ferocious roars and talons and teeth as I begin to live without being clock, achievement, and busy driven. Thanks for being faithful and offering a different kind of script for the days ahead.
Hi Bonnie, Having trouble with the computer, but will be linking and reading …slowly- as I want to savor your post- later. So appreciate you in this space, sister! In His- still amazing- Grace, Dawn
Its happened again your email has spoken to my inner being, Im at a stage whereby I dont want to remain hiding in the shadows, my voice wants to be heard, I yearn to hear it and be real, I have been struggling with praying out loud in front of people, sometimes im okay most of the time i freeze up words are jumbled inside I can’t get to grips with what it is im meant to be saying whether its me or Holy spirit, whether it my will or God’s , I don’t like to speak ill of my family but find it hard not too as it boils down to my childhood of not being able to speak out confidendly or at school either,having no confidence, and wanting to be someone else other than me, I just believed myself to be ugly through and through unlovable, could not understand why as I had so much love inside no one seemed to want it so must of been something to do with me, it haunts me even now , my son is 34 and never had a proper relationship and i blame myself if it wasnt for the fact he had me as his mum he would of met someone by now, and all my relationships have been abusive physically, mentally,sexually so what do i expect, and yesterday I went to a prayer meeting for hour, all was well until the leader asked us to read different style newspapers pick article to pray about, i chose american the article staring me in the face was a young girl of 12 who was abducted by sports teacher he killed her and when I was asked to pray I felt cornered i didnt know how, what to , ask, i felt like i was being crushed could feel myself burning up with a shame anguish all sorts of emotions what do you say, i did not know what to ask for speechless , so why is it so easy for others to pray why is it the hardest thing in the world for me to do because all it is is communicating like you would a friend but God is at the centre aaaagh its like my words are all stuck together and they won’t unstick!!!! I have really taken on board your steps to help me find my voice amongst all the anxious thoughts feelings its so good to know Im not alone in my struggles as sometimes well often i finding how lonely i actually am in myself dis- connected from everything around me it scares me so Im leaning more into God , Jesus, my desire for God is utmost becoming first which is where He wants to be. Blessings to you Alison xxxxx big hugs
These “Five Movements” to connect with the heart are inspired! Three of them I’ve already discovered as helpful to my writing-self: 1) collecting “seed” ideas from things I see, hear, read, think about, etc., 2) listening to instrumental classical music as I write, and 3) praying before I write and while I write. Now I want to add two more: a walk outdoors and an imaginary place where I can sit with Jesus, safe and accepted. Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing your heart, to help each of us find her voice!
My computer is acting up, so I’ll make this short. In response to Kelly, in 2008 I retired and the ‘dragon’ has been my ever-present companion. What I have discovered lately, though, is the precipice at the end of the road is actually a fork in the road. To the left, the dance of survival with the ‘dragon’, the path to the right, Abundant Spirit Life. As I read Bonnie’s post on the 5 steps, I felt I have a blueprint for how to step out of survival and onto the path of Life (faith is a verb). The concept that anxiety is proof I am close to my heart and God’s plan for my life is going to be life changing. Kelly I am praying for you. dear sister, you are beloved!