“Having come to know Jesus, we are forbidden to return by the way we came.” St. Gregory
The new year is approaching.
It’s right around the corner.
One moment, I’m sure of where I’m heading.
Another moment, I’m thinking, maybe it’s time to change course instead.
There’s a voice that’s not very loud.
There’s a voice that’s soft. Still.
Like a stone cast upon a pond standing cold in the winter, my heart thinks it’s resting when it feels a ripple cascade from the center.
Come back to me, Bonnie.
But, don’t come back the way you came.
I want you to journey ahead — by traveling another way.
Like the wise men who traveled long and hard, to follow the star that finally led them to Jesus, God is telling me in more ways than one.
It’s time for your homecoming. And I want you to return — by a different route.
I don’t know why I was crying so hard.
I told you last week, as I stood in the old, dreary kitchen of my childhood in a flashback, standing there maybe 10 years tall, hair still dripping wet from walking home from school, with my hand on the door of an empty refrigerator, my mind drifted to the scene where Jesus sat at the bedside of another little girl in the Scriptures. And how I imagined Jesus then taking my hand and leading me to a beautiful new home, with the morning light just breaking through into the kitchen — where he sat me at the table and served me a cookie on a plate and a cup of tea to warm my hands.
And as I imagined myself there, looking at His hands in this quiet place, I began to put my head down and just cried.
I don’t have anyone.
These words weren’t from the me-today, mom of two boys, wife to my sweet husband Eric who has loved me since he first held me in his arms and told me, “Just let me love you,” when I told him I wasn’t sure if I wanted to kiss just yet, one moonlit night when we still dating.
No, this was the little-girl-in-me who has carried this feeling of aloneness — that she never dared whisper to herself or anyone else. She wanted to be a good little girl, and good little girls should always ben thankful for what she had. Not saying things that might upset anybody.
As I cried, my therapist Dr. P asked, “What’s happening?…”
I didn’t want to talk about it. I was too busy crying.
But, oddly enough, as I’m waiting for the tears to subside, my mind randomly drifts to another memory: the face of my fifth grade teacher. Mr. Crichton.
Mr. Crichton is one of those teachers people make movies out of. I entered fifth grade, not knowing my multiplication tables — and by the time I finished the year, I was already doing percentages and integers. Mr. Crichton was also the first teacher that took us on a field trip. I went to an elementary school that scores in the bottom 5% in the state, in a neighborhood where drugs and everything associated with those things are common place.
The first field trip he took us to was McClellan Ranch Park — a horse ranch owned by the McClellan family in the 1930s, still preserved with a working milk barn and livestock barn,with a natural reserve in the middle of the park: a famous birding spot.
I had never, ever seen anything like it before. The closest thing I could imagine such a place was on TV watching reruns — a place where Opie would go with Pa Andy — whenever his Pa took him fishing. Or maybe where Laura from Little House on the Praire would go with her Pa, who called her half-pint.
Here I was, just Bonnie with no nick-name riding on a bus to go to a ranch for the first time ever. And it was there, at McClellan, I walked my first nature trail, with Mr. Crichton as our nature guide. God, he looked like Andy Griffith to me. Mr. Crichton stood over 6 feet tall, wearing a soft cotton plaid button shirt, underneath a vest that had a gazillion pockets all over it, filled with stuff I imagined was very useful for being outdoors. And to top off his outfit, he capped his 50’s retro style, salt-and-pepper coiffed hair with what looked to me like a fishing hat.
And whenever he smiled, his whole face broke out in a sandy laugh that shook his entire body, from his elbows down to his knees — and he laughed in a way so big and free, you’d see he had a filling in the back of his molars. It made me happy because I knew that meant he was happy — and I couldn’t help but laugh so big, I’m sure he saw that all my molars were filled with cavities too.
Mr. Crichton always had something nice to say to me. One day, when Mr. Crichton was teaching us social studies, he told us that anybody could write to the President. All we had to do was address it —
“To: President Ronald Reagan,
The Whites House
Washington D.C., U.S.A.”
— and it would get there.
So, I did. I wrote a letter to President Reagan. The President had just been shot and I told him I was praying for him, told him how important it was for him to believe in Jesus, threw in some Bible verses and gave him a few pointers on how to accept Jesus in his heart, so he could be saved.
And guess what? President Reagan wrote back.
Mr. Crichton was so proud of me. The local newspaper came out, took my picture and there I was, a celebrity for a day. He told me — “You should be very proud of yourself, young lady. You are very special. You are a good writer.”
But, I told him what my mom had said to me, “I’m sure everybody who writes to the President gets a letter back. Probably his secretary wrote it and that’s just stamped. That’s not his real signature.”
Mr. Crichton looked very serious now, took his reading glasses out of his pocket and looked very closely at my letter. And after studying it for a bit, he put his glasses down, and looking straight into my eyes, he said, “No, I think this is a very personal letter written to you. You can tell that he read your letter. I wouldn’t doubt that he signed it himself.”
“Bonnie… listen to me. Don’t ever doubt the accomplishment you’ve achieved. Do you understand?” He said it with concern and even with a little tough correction in his voice.
I wanted to believe him. I wished I could’ve believe him. But, he didn’t know me. Or my life. He was just my fifth grade teacher. Of course, teachers say nice things to their students.
But, as I saw Mr. Crichton come back to life to me in this memory re-ignited, his voice as clear and crisp as the day I heard him say those words to me, his eyes clear and the chalkboard dust still fresh on his fingers as he handed the letter back to me, my throat thickened with tears and I began to cry.
Because as I saw myself standing there, I remembered what I felt — what I wished — right as I stood ten years tall with the letter in my hand, in the middle of this memory.
I wish he was my daddy.
I wish I could fall into his arms and have him hug me.
I wish I could whisper into his ear —
I wish I had a daddy. Like you.
The thought pierced my heart, and I began to sob with an ache in my chest that was too painful to remember.
I guess it was a truth too much for me to fully embrace as a little girl. So, I hid it away. This cry for a daddy.
But, why now, God? For a teacher who I never saw again after elementary school.
As I sat in the quiet and waited for the tears to subside, I imagined myself back in the kitchen with Jesus, sitting at the table with the cookie and tea next to me — His eyes full of sorrow and sadness for me — I understand why Jesus was trying to say to me.
I’m trying to tell you. How proud I was of you.
I was trying to tell you then — through Mr. Crichton.
I know you wanted to have a daddy.
I am trying to tell you now. I am your Daddy.
I loved you then.
I love you now.
Friends, this is the first memory — in my three years of therapy healing from childhood PTSD — that a happy memory has surfaced.
He Loved Me
Out of so many wounding memories that have been uncovered, this is the first time something beautiful has surfaced.
I can remember a moment where I was happy.
God is helping me recovery memories when He loved me. Quietly.
Unknown to the little girl back then, I am beginning to hear God’s whispers of love for me today — in the moments of joy and beauty that God — my Heavenly Father — gave to the little girl in me.
And Mr. Crichton is among my first ones.
More memories are resurfacing friends. Flashbacks to intimate, beautiful memories — that have been hidden behind the most painful memories — are now returning to me.
Returning to this world of pain, to journey through it — it’s what Jesus calls healing.
This journey of healing is my heart’s homecoming.
Reflect. The Christmas Story
I’m sure the wise men who followed a star in the sky for an unknown number of time expended a great many emotional, financial and personal sacrifice and expense to keep following the star — for so many unknown number of days.
You’d think having finally found Jesus, they would finally return home the way they came. In peace and with ease.
The moment they found Christ, they were overjoyed and ecstatic. They were able to finally give their gifts to Jesus and experienced the thrill of reaching their goal.
But, their journey wasn’t over. They could not return home the way they came.
They received news their lives were in danger. They had to go home another way.
If you’re like me, looking into the new year and wondering, how in the world will I navigate my plans in the midst of sudden changes?…
If you are burdened with anxiety, fearful it’s too late — that the journey of faith is taking too much time — with too many detours…
Jesus may be calling you to take a different route, to bring your heart to a new homecoming.
Respond. Share Your Heart
It takes courage to be loved.
It might seem easier to be the strong one.
To never need. Or dream.
But, God’s love sees beyond what we reveal to others – and sometimes dare to see in ourselves. God is Shepherd of our hearts. He sees it all. He sees us.
God whispers –
Let me love you.
You can be with me.
He opens his arms to hold us, when life’s imperfections wound us.
Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why we can’t just forget about our disappointments. Or our dreams. Instead, Jesus keeps pointing to the changes He wants us to make.
To be real. To be known.
These are not changes that are easy to check off a list. Expectations are a very painful thing to break.
We may not know how life will look like, but we can recognize the Voice of Jesus, who whispers —
Speak. In your full voice.
We won’t be able to explain very much. We may feel hesitant. Yes, even afraid.
But, we must go.
Because we want to go where God leads us.
Let’s go, as the wise men returned home – the other way — where the Shepherd of Our Heart calls for us to return.
It’s our heart’s homecoming.
Let’s make our way back where Jesus is at the center — back to where we are at home with Jesus — feeling safe and loved.
Let’s let God love us.
Pray. Our #OneWordAdvent Prayer Today
Dear Heavenly Father,
Give me courage to let you love me.
Help me return to you as a little girl.
Fold me into your arms in return.
Be my Guiding Star ahead.
Let Love Come Down one starry night years ago
Come true again in me today.
Be born in me again, I pray.
How is God encouraging you — in that Quiet Voice — to let him love you?
What is the different route God is calling you to take?
Pull up a chair. Click to comment — Share your thoughts as we turn over a new year.
Merry Christmas, sweet kindreds.
I share today’s blog post as a gift from my heart — to thank you for sharing this journey with me, encouraging me this year, as we together released my book Finding Spiritual Whitespace, my heart bound in pages for you. Thank you for being a friend to me. May you and your loved ones experience Christmas to be as real and as loving to your soul as I am praying it to be true for you this year. God loves you deeply, irrevocably and I’m grateful we can discover this truth together, day by day, as our stories unfold. As is. love, bonnie
Welcome to our special #OneWordAdvent Blog Link Up!
This week’s 12/24/15 #OneWordAdvent Prompt: love
** Special New Year 1/14/16 #OneWordCoffee Prompt:
What is your One Word for 2016?
OneWordAdvent is my invitation this month to do a Thursday weekly one word prompt writing challenge for you for Advent: hope, peace, joy, love.
* Thank you to Jamie@writinginthestillness for gifting her beautiful calligraphy just for our #OneWordArt badges. Please visit Jamie’s shop & browse her artistry! Use ‘whitespace15’ for 15% off until 12/31/15.
Join me. Here are two ways:
1. Link up your reflection on our #OneWordAdvent prompt at the end of Thursday’s blog post. Click the Link Up button below & share the specific url of your post (not just your website). You can also directly share a comment.
– Place the #OneWordAdvent badge in your blog post & link back to thebonniegray.com. It lets me know you’re part of this community. Download the badge by right-clicking your mouse on the image & click “save image”.
– Read the post before yours and comment. Let’s savor the journey together.
May the writing prompt bring you to a quiet place in your soul as you share your voice. Click here for details.
This week, I want to spotlight Anna Smit from Joy in His Presence, who share her thoughts on joy:
“I don’t know why, but joy for me is a mix of deep sadness and an overwhelming love that envelops me in the yearning of grief. It’s as if in stopping to rest in His Presence, I am overcome by His Knowing of me.”
Every week, I’ll spotlight a tagged #OneWordAdvent image from Instagram (like the beautiful one to the right) or blogger in our community. * To be considered as a spotlight blogger: please kindly be sure to use the #OneWordAdvent Badge and link back to Faith Barista in your post.
Kindreds, I can’t wait to see your photos & read your words. Thank you for sharing your voice.
photo credit: kelly ishmael @mindingmynest