The safest and perhaps least threatening action to take in order to avoid imploding when I am burned out worse than toast — is to run away. Like hide in a closet and watch an eagle take care of her new eaglet (Have you seen Moms Night Out?).
And drink decaf coffee.
Plus go on vacation.
The black crusty parts surrounding my heart, threatening the purity that God provides through Jesus, reveal a need to pay attention and create TRUE spiritual whitespace. I am discovering that the burned crumbs are beginning to collect on my children, just like they do in my toaster oven.
(FYI — 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! )
We recently took a vacation to forget what it was we are battling. Simply to breathe. Laugh. Relax a little. Stuff the stress of a chronic condition in the suitcase and forget to unpack it.
And just live in the moment. With abandon.
I wanted a week where I didn’t have to lock myself in the bathroom. Where drinking lots of coffee was encouraged. .I wanted to create moments where I thought to myself, “This is all worth it. The pain and the joy.”
We have been living our lives the past 6+ months on what appears to be a normal and moderately functional level even though our dreams and daily life has been thrown upside down. We have avoided asking many people for help. The details of our journey have been keep quiet.
Over the past several years, The Engineer has been experiencing slight changes in his body that were surprising and unexpected – considering he has always been a bit of a health nut. What initially appeared to be a sports injury, never went away. Then another “injury” appeared. And then another.
Finding the root problem of The Engineer’s health has been like being behind an elderly woman taking her 80 year old driving test – every single time she is behind the wheel. Slow with lots of stops and cautious turns. Lots of blood work. Plenty of time to read year-old magazines in waiting rooms. And a silent game of volleyball between various doctors. However, we “think” we have found a diagnosis.
Psoriatic Arthritis. (And maybe a leftover parasite from living in India.)
Presently, the Engineer is 36. But that means this first emerged when he was a young 31.
Everyone Has Arthritis
I thought everyone had arthritis. It’s not big deal. It’s a little uncomfortable but people seem generally fine.
They aren’t fine. I live with an amazing man who is not fine.
In October, The Engineer did a 100 mile Gran Fondo, He was excelling at Cross Fit. To his sons’ delight, their daddy was advancing in Taekwondo rank alongside of them.
And then . . .
It. All. Stopped.
Biking to work. Taekwondo. Wrestling on the floor. Yard work. Backpacking. Winter camping. Graduate school.
Arthritis can completely turn your world upside down and demolish any dreams you held dearly.
Spiritual Whitespace Helps The Ache
I have been reading a beautiful book called Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray.
I don’t really even know where to begin with how Bonnie’s story, while radically different than my story, has provided the fortitude for my soul that I needed. I understand now from Bonnie teaching me about whitespace, why I have yet to paint the walls in my house. We have lived in this house nearly 4 years. I love the white walls – they let me breath. My coral bike is most definitely a safe haven – and that’s ok. Afternoon coffee, creates a quietness where my soul calms down from the constant disappointment and steady need of perseverance to pursue the healing path we have chosen for the Engineer.
In art, Bonnie explains that whitespace is many things:
It’s the space on a page left unmarked. Untouched. Whitespace makes beautiful art.
Whitespace is an important concept taken from the world of art and design. Whitespace is not blank – it breathes beauty and gives the eye a place to rest. Without it, clutter takes over the art.
Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, we need whitespace: spiritual whitespace. Our souls need rest. To find balance and beauty.
Spiritual whitespace makes room – room in our hearts for a deeper more intimate relationship with God, room in our lives for rest, room in our souls for rejuvenation.
Spiritual whitespace isn’t just doing your quiet time every morning, like I thought.
Doing your time.
Studying the Word of God and moving on.
In a nutshell, spiritual whitespace is “getting away from the lie that spiritual rest is something we have to work hard at in order to get closer to God. Spiritual whitespace moves us away from making spiritual rest an activity to please God, instead of enjoying his comfort and pleasure.”
I have been searching for joy. Desperately clinging to things that make me happy. Looking for even miniscule dots of hope. To keep my head from spinning and my mind from questioning, I’ve been doing that morning quiet time, going to church, hanging out in a Bible study, talking about Jesus to the kids, and keeping up with life . . . but inside . . . I’m a mess. I have never felt so close yet so far from God. Life feels like it is on hold in a continuing repeat cycle with little progress.
And I am weary. The Engineer is weary.
Hard Work Ahead
Why I like Bonnie’s book perhaps better than any other book on rest or getting closer to God is because she has done the work . . . and she has provided the HARD questions and guide for me to do the hard work. For me to make my journey through the pain and disappointment I feel over the change of plans.
I know that what God has allowed to happen to the Engineer can be used for good. Can be used to encourage others. Can draw us closer to Him. I know that this does not have to be a sad story for our children – of when Dad stopped – but instead of how Psoriatic Arthritis grew our family.
As Bonnie says, we can rest with God outside the constraints of time. My heart is God’s throne. I want Him to reign there always.
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.