In this episode:
Bonnie was born in a story that wasn't filled with love but with brokenness and loneliness. Her mother was a teenage mail-order bride from Hong Kong, and her father was a busboy in a noodle shop in San Francisco Chinatown. He abandoned her when she was seven. God used all her broken pieces to bring beauty to shine the light of his love so she can encourage others who hide in loneliness. Broken was once her identity, but God repurposed it to bring beauty and hope to others.
About Bonnie Gray:
Bonnie Gray is a Soul Care Expert and author of Sweet Like Jasmine, which recently became #1 New Release in Christian Biographies on Amazon, along with Whispers of Rest, and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. As speaker and podcast host of Breathe: The Stress Less Podcast, Bonnie empowers thousands of lives to flourish in emotional wellness and intentional rest. Her writing is featured in numerous Christian media outlets including Relevant Magazine and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and two sons.
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Quotes to Remember from Bonnie Gray
- My mother is a mail-order bride from Hong Kong. And my father is a busboy in a noodle shop.
- My mother was 18 when she had me, and so I grew up in this really strange story…I was born in San Francisco Chinatown.
- I hid from this story, these stories, my whole life
- I already had all these different parts of my identity that was split. At home, there was one world. When I went to school, it was another world. And then at church, when my father left when I was seven years old, you know, it was another place where I felt like I couldn't be all of me because most people at church had beautiful happy families.
- I worked for 15 years, you know, because I didn't get married until later in life.
- I started having panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and it was so odd because I had no idea why. I just had my second baby boy. And my oldest son, Josh, was three years old.
- It's kind of like a sense of shame. It's like, oh, no, you know, like every mom, every mother daughter relationship is supposed to be this beautiful Hallmark card. And mine wasn't. I never heard anybody talk about their mom in other than, like, perfect, picture perfect.
- I think it's important to have our stories good, bad or ugly. I mean, that's a story that God's, you know, walked through with us.
- "The stories, Bonnie, that you've kept hid in your whole life, I don't want you to keep hiding them. Because I'm in them. I'm in every chapter of your life. So I want you to share your stories. First of all, go back to your past, and you lived through it once that you were alone living it. Now, I want to go back with you now, to show you how I loved you in it."
- I went to him only for a referral. I wasn't expecting him to be my therapist, because he is a PTSD therapist. And he said to me, within one minute, when I described what, you know, I just described to you and our listeners, he said, "Oh, this is a classic case of PTSD."
- And guess what? Hurts are not compartmentalized. You can't just like open one door and then keep the other one locked.
- God says, “These pieces of your life are important to me because I love you. And I see you and your priority to me.”
- God says, "No, actually, your vulnerability, your wounds, your scars, your struggles. Your weakness is actually truly where I'm most closest and present to the people that you're trying to bring my comfort, my love, my care."
- I see my anxiety and depression, those moments I have now as, oh, there's something that God wants to heal or God needs me to take time out to nurture myself. I need to learn about soul care.
- I love asking myself… "What would Jesus say to me now if Jesus were standing right here?" And each of us imagines Jesus in a different way. What would he do? And what would he say to you?
- I want to encourage us with this last encouragement, this letter I wrote to myself. "Beloved, you will have to make a very hard decision. One day, to choose peace over fear. You have to keep choosing to believe you are worthy of that peace. Peace isn't freedom from conflict. Peace is trusting God enough to make the right choice in the midst of conflict. Choosing peace will mean you need to let go of something or someone you might have held on to in order to take the hand of God who promises to lead you beside quiet waters.”
Bonnie’s Stories of Faith journal at www.sweetlikejasmine.com
Bonnie’s popular soul care and wellness podcast Breathe: The Stress Less Podcast.
Michelle Rayburn 0:02
Bonnie Gray is a soul care expert and author of Sweet Like Jasmine, which we're going to be talking about in this episode. When it released, it became a number one new release in the Christian biographies on Amazon. She has other books as well, and I'll be sharing those in the resources. As a speaker and a podcast host of Breathe: the Less Stress podcast, Bonnie empowers 1000s of lives to flourish in emotional wellness and intentional rest. Her writing is featured in numerous Christian media outlets, including Relevant Magazine and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and two sons. You can receive Bonnie's free Guided Stories Faith Journal (and I'll talk about that in the resources) and also her newsletter. That will be at theBonniegray.com. You're going to find all the links in the show notes. So, no worries if you forgot one of those. Here's my interview with Bonnie Gray.
Michelle Rayburn 1:07
You're listening to Life Repurposed, where you'll find practical biblical wisdom for everyday living, creative inspiration, and helpful resources. Grow your faith, improve your relationships, discover your purpose, and reach your goals with topics to encourage you to find hope amid the trashy stuff of life. Thanks for joining me today. I'm your host, Michelle Rayburn. Welcome, Bonnie, thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me today.
Bonnie Gray 1:36
Oh, it's really fun to be able to sit across the virtual table with you and have enjoy a cup of tea or virtual cup of coffee with you.
Michelle Rayburn 1:45
Yeah, I love that part too. And you're a podcaster as well. So how does it feel to be on the other side of the microphone when you're not the one in control of the whole show?
Bonnie Gray 1:54
Oh, no, it's fun. You know, it's so fun to be able to just exchange stories. That's the wonderful thing about being in God's family is that every time I meet a new friend believer, it's like a real, you know, like a reunion, like, oh my gosh, that's so awesome. We have all these things in common because all of us on the journey of faith, we go through valleys to go through mountain top experiences. And so it's an honor to, you know, have that opportunity to share time together. It's a precious commodity in today's world.
Michelle Rayburn 2:21
It really is. So we were introduced by a mutual friend, Sue Donaldson, who's a podcaster. It wasn't even that long ago. So I haven't had a chance to read your book. I've just been stalking you on the internet to learn some things about you. And it was just instant when I'm reading. It was like, oh, people need to hear your story. So I'm so glad that you're vulnerable. And you're putting that out there. So I want you to tell us a little bit about your growing up, and some of the struggles that you experienced even from childhood.
Bonnie Gray 2:53
My mother is a mail order bride from Hong Kong. And my father is a busboy in a noodle shop, he was a busboy working in a noodle shop. And what's interesting about the story, how it began is that it didn't begin with love. My mother, her family escaped from communist China in 1950. They were refugees in Hong Kong. And so my mother being born below the poverty line that she was chosen among eight siblings to be the sacrificial lamb to emigrate the family here to America. My mother was 18 when she had me, and so I grew up in this really strange story. You know, a lot of us, especially as Americans, I was born in San Francisco Chinatown. And I know as Americans, we say, we have the power to write our own stories. But what happens if you're born into a storyline that you did not choose? You know, I think that's really compelling for us to share because most of us are find ourselves in circumstances we did not choose. And yet how does God write his stories through us and with us? That's really the, I guess, the curiosity I had. Because I hid from this story, these stories, my whole life. I, when I stepped through the doorway, I was American, Bonnie. I was cheerful Bonnie, we could do anything, you know, Bonnie, and but yet at home in my family culture, and the family code that I had, was so different. It was silence is shame, meaning if you don't have anything good to say that's helpful for the family, just be quiet. It doesn't matter how you feel because you can't change things. So just move on, get things done, help out, you know. And so, I kind of carried that identity into other areas of my life. I didn't know that at the time growing up, but um, God does not want us to live indefinitely that way. And what was further difficult about my life is that I already had all these different parts of my identity that was split. At home, there was one world. When I went to school, it was another world. And then at church, when my father left when I was seven years old, you know, it was another place where I felt like I couldn't be all of me because most people at church had beautiful happy families. You know, Christmas, Thanksgiving were just wonderful stories people would share about what they did. And I mean, I couldn't participate in that. When my father left, I didn't know where he went. I don't know where he was; he never came back. So even among, you know, children, maybe that have come from divorced families, at least they got to see their dad every once in a while. I never saw him.
Michelle Rayburn 5:54
When was the first time you told your story to somebody else? Like either at church or school? Do you remember revealing a little bit about yourself?
Bonnie Gray 6:02
Well, here's the interesting thing. You know, when I met Jesus as a young girl, I was an early reader. And books were my best friends. Right? First friends, because books, it's kind of like, where I really felt known. Every time I read somebody's story, the more unique and bizarre and odd and weird it was, the more it was like, oh my gosh, like, a little more of myself came home. Every time I read, I'm like, oh, my gosh, that's me, even though the story was different. Yeah. You hear what I'm saying? Yeah. So I mean, I actually my faith in Christ was more like a private matter. And at the time, I called it private. This is between me and Jesus. He's my best friend. He knows everything that's going on. And he's helping me through it. But I learned later that word private is another word for lonely. This life I lived in the privacy of my faith, was actually a lonely life. Because there was nobody in this world actually knew what was going on. In my private, emotional, and spiritual life. It's almost like I only showed the fruits of my relationship with God, but nobody knew actually what was happening. Where were the valleys that I was walking through, it's almost like I always had to hold my breath and just pray and wait until God brought me through the valley, or on the mountaintop, and then I can share my testimony. You know, so I to answer your question. I really never shared about that. These kind of stories about myself and my history, until I was a mom until I was an adult.
Michelle Rayburn 7:48
Wow. So a lot of my listeners are in the younger mom phase, where they are discovering some things about themselves. Do you remember the first time you realized that God had a deep love for you?
Bonnie Gray 8:03
Well, interestingly enough, the first question you asked me in the second one are related. Because, you know, when I became a mom actually was so excited and happy. I got married later in life, Michelle. I fell in love in my 30s. So I had my children in my mid 30s, and 40. I was an older mom,
Michelle Rayburn 8:24
Actually, you look like you're in your mid 30s right now. Trying to figure out the math.
Bonnie Gray 8:29
Well, it's those good Asian genes, you know what I mean? So, um, yeah, so like, I was kind of like, had a big collected, like, a sigh, an exhale, like, oh, my gosh, I made it through my broken childhood, like, thank goodness, praise God. Like, you know, it's almost like, I get to write a new story. I have a loving husband. And I worked for 15 years, you know, because I didn't get married until later in life. I, you know, was in a financially stable place in my life because I worked for 15 years. And so I knew at least for the first few years, I could be a stay at home mom. So I wasn't really worried about anything. It's just like, yay, we get to start over. But it was in that moment that I started having panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and it was so odd because I had no idea why. I just had my second baby boy. And my oldest son, Josh, was three years old. And so I was actually looking for a birth certificate for my son Josh, because as any mom who's had that second child that baby knows you need your older son to be in preschool for a few hours. So they can cut a construction paper and make popsicle stick art.
Michelle Rayburn 9:45
I get it.
Bonnie Gray 9:48
Yeah, so like those couple hours is like sanity right? Even it's for two hours. You're like, Oh my gosh. So well as I was looking for his birth certificate. I ran across my own, I don't know. Have you ever looked closely at your birth certificate?
Bonnie Gray 10:05
It's been a long time since I've had it out. I think I had to get it out to renew my driver's license or something. And that was a long time ago.
Bonnie Gray 10:14
Yeah, so exactly. For a driver's license or whatnot.
Michelle Rayburn 10:17
I just kind of like show it to somebody to prove my identity, but I never really like looked at it.
Bonnie Gray 10:22
But I was looking at it closely for whatever reason, and I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I was born in a hospital called Chinese Hospital. Why is a hospital named after a race?" And in fact, it's the only hospital in America that's named after a race.
Michelle Rayburn 10:38
Wow, it still is?
Bonnie Gray 10:40
Yes. It's still named that
Michelle Rayburn 10:42
That's amazing. Wow.
Bonnie Gray 10:44
Uh huh. I was like, why? So it's like, it's interesting. God uses our curiosity. It's like, the storyteller in me, you know, because I love a good novel. I'm like, "Hey, why, why?" And then the second thing I noticed is, my mother's age is 18 years old. She was a teenager, and it said that the address she lived on was the same street as the hospital. I thought, "Wow, that's really odd." And I realized that I've never been back to my childhood home. Because once I grew up, I wanted to run as far away from Chinatown as possible. I mean, I want to just be like, quote, unquote, normal, like everybody else. So I mean, I had no desire to go back to Chinatown. But I suddenly realized something I did not ever think about because when my father left, he never came back. You know, I would check my mailbox. For my birthday. Every year, I thought, maybe I might get a card from them, if there's ever a card. I hoped to maybe see my father hear from him until I was 18 years old. Because I stood on that graduation platform. And my mother is not a loving mother. She is verbally abusive. She's an emotionally abusive mom. And it's so hard to say that because you know, my whole life, you asked me, "Well, did you share anything?" I go, "No," because in our culture, whether it's our secular or Christian culture, it's very hard. It's very easy to say, easier to say, my dad is disconnected from me. He's not emotionally there. You know, he's not very loving. But it's hard to say that about our moms.
Michelle Rayburn 12:23
That's true. I've never thought about that.
Bonnie Gray 12:25
It's kind of like a sense of shame. It's like, oh, no, you know, like every mom, every mother daughter relationship is supposed to be this beautiful Hallmark card. And mine wasn't. I never heard anybody talk about their mom in other than, like, perfect, picture perfect.
Michelle Rayburn 12:40
Yeah, there's like this code. Don't talk about that.
Bonnie Gray 12:44
Exactly. So um, yeah, I forget where it's going with this. But back to the story. So like, I just.. Oh, yeah, I remember. Yeah. So like, I when I was 18, I thought, oh, maybe my dad wants to reach me, but my mom was so toxic, kept him away. I thought, oh, maybe when I graduate high school will be like a movie. Like the crowds will disperse. There'll be this man coming up to me. After I received my diploma, say, "Bonnie, I'm your father. I wanted to talk to you my whole life, but your mother has kept you away." But you know what, Michelle? Nobody came. There was a man that came to shake my hand or tell me. So right then and there. I said, "You know what? That's so childish. Just grew up, Bonnie, you're a woman. Now you're going to go to college, just forget about it." But when I found that birth certificate, it dawned on me. One day, my sons Josh and Caleb, are going to ask me, "Where is grandpa? Why don't we have a grandpa?" And so like, I realized, I don't even know what to tell them. And I married a Caucasian. So my children are half Chinese American. And I know they're going to ask me one day, when did we come to America? Yeah. I have no idea because my mother is the one that, you know, came from Hong Kong. But my father was the one that was the American citizen. But we don't know anything about that story. Like, when did he come? I don't know anything about my cultural heritage. And so I realized, you know what, I need to find the answers. Because I don't want my children to grow up with a sense of shame that I did, which is a missing story. And anybody who's had a less than, you know, Instagram perfection life, which is 99.99% of us. You know, like, I think it's important to have our stories good, bad or ugly. I mean, that's a story that God's, you know, walked through with us.
Bonnie Gray 14:46
So that became the journey that kind of was the inciting incident that led me on a journey to go back and uncover family secrets and to go back and try to find my father: Is he dead our alive? Why did he leave and where is he? So I didn't know at the time I did it for my sons. But you know, God is amazing. He knows what to, like, compel us. And it turned out really God was trying to show me in a new way. "The stories, Bonnie, that you've kept hid in your whole life, I don't want you to keep hiding them. Because I'm in them. I'm in every chapter of your life. So I want you to share your stories. First of all, go back to your past, and you lived through it once that you were alone living it. Now, I want to go back with you now, to show you how I loved you in it." And during that journey, that's when I started sharing my story with somebody for the first time, but it wasn't, quote unquote, voluntary. I started having panic attacks, like I said, and I didn't understand why as a new mom. And I don't know if we want to talk about this. But would you like me to talk about like, why I discovered I was having them?
Michelle Rayburn 16:00
Yeah, go ahead.
Bonnie Gray 16:03
Do you have in your own personal journey? Are you do you feel like that's something that has like touched your life is anxiety, or depression?
Michelle Rayburn 16:14
Anxiety, through walking through it with one of my children when my son was younger. And so I learned more about that thought process as we went to the counselor and the psychiatrist for him. So I learned more about the source of anxiety. And you know, as a little kid, he was learning how to boss back his fears and that kind of thing. So that's where my experience is.
Bonnie Gray 16:40
You see, that's so wonderful. Because as you share that story with me, I feel safe with you. And I think that's kind of the message that I have to carry is that when we share our stories, that's when we, the world is a less lonely place.
Michelle Rayburn 16:57
I remember as a mom wanting to help him and just fix him. And that's the thing that we sometimes try to do with our friends as well, is instead of sitting with somebody in it, we want to fix people. And so it's been a lot more years since I've learned how I would go back and handle it differently with my son, if I could. He's an adult now.
Bonnie Gray 17:19
Well, I think that as an adult, the experiences you have now to be that listening mother. And that kind of being with I would say, mentor, I think as our children grow older, we we go from being a teaching parent to a mentoring parent. And so that listening, that gift of listening is so powerful, so healing. So I really appreciate you sharing that, because I didn't know that because that's kind of was my fear. Because I grew up in, you know, with the faith, a very vibrant faith, but because I never heard anybody share anything that was less than the mountaintop experience. I just didn't want people to judge me. I didn't want people to think that I wasn't forgiving of my mother, or I didn't know God loves me, you know, because sometimes that tends to happen if we share a little bit somebody say, "But don't you know, God loves you. You shouldn't feel that way. Because, you know, you know, God's blood has covered your sins or like your mistakes."
Bonnie Gray 18:21
So you need to, you know, have more grace, or whatever it is, it's like, those things are well meaning but for, for what God wants us to do. And I like to talk about this because I learned about it. Because I didn't understand why I was having panic attacks. And because I felt I was doing everything correctly, meaning I was praying. I love God's Word. The Bible teacher at that time was a Christian author, like I was so afraid to tell people. And so it was almost like a secret I didn't want anybody to know. So I went to see a therapist because I would wake up choking every two hours. When I was sleeping, there's nothing I'm worried about absolutely nothing yet I would wake up choking. My body felt like it was lit up like a match. Sweat will be pouring out of every pore, and I was crying. This is the kind of cry people that understand anxiety, or panic attacks is a kind of crime where you can't control it's just like coming out like an torrent of tears. And I had no idea. That was a scary part. I had no idea. Or maybe I'd wake up and I just would feel like kind of like in a fog. And I didn't know why or like I just keep obsessing over something that was worrying me even though I knew in my mind, there's nothing to worry about. There's nothing I could do about it. So it was like gosh, everything that I used to use that helps me survive and cope which was my mind telling myself the truth, reciting Scripture, praying, listening to worship, music, all those things. It wasn't helping my panic attacks and anxiety and depression so that was really scary moment. But when I went to a therapist, I went to the top. The founder of the Christian Counseling Center here in Silicon Valley. There's 100 therapists that he oversees. And I went to the top and I said, "Okay, here's this thing that's happening. And who do you recommend?" I went to him only for a referral. I wasn't expecting him to be my therapist, because he is a PTSD therapist. And he said to me, within one minute, when I described what, you know, I just described to you and our listeners, he said, "Oh, this is a classic case of PTSD."
Bonnie Gray 18:36
And I said, "Oh, no, like, I'm not a soldier. I've not seen anything violent. I have a very loving husband." It's almost like I wanted to, like defend myself like, yeah, my marriage. There's nothing wrong with my faith. You know, it's like that kind of that taboo. Mm hmm. As women of faith like I have, you know, anxiety. So he said, "Bonnie, did you know that verbal abuse and emotional abuse has the same impact as physical abuse?"
Bonnie Gray 21:06
I did not know that. And he said, "It's like if a woman was battered, you'd see bruises on her skin and her bones, but you're bruised in your heart." Yeah, I've never known that.
Bonnie Gray 21:20
And I said, "What, wait a minute." I said, "Everything's good in my life. I mean, I've been through really much worse times. Why would it be happening now?" And he said, "Well, did you know that a soldier is very strong when he's on the battlefield? He's helping everybody. He's been super resourceful problem solving. Really helpful? And when does he experience anxiety and panic attacks?"
Bonnie Gray 21:49
I'll just ask you rhetorically, Michelle.
Bonnie Gray 21:51
I think it's when he's alone. And then yeah, when he's when it's just him?
Bonnie Gray 21:59
Uh huh. Yes, when he safe when he returns home, when he returns home, and he gets off the battlefield. And so he said, "There's nothing wrong with you. Now, your life is wonderful. But you're finally in a safe space." And so for many of the moms that are listening, you might be experiencing anxiety or depression that you've never experienced before. You're like, oh, my gosh, this is the wrong timing. Like I have a little people to take care of, like what is going on with me? And you might be telling yourself, stop it. You know, stop being anxious, stop being depressed, and you don't know what I didn't know. Okay, but freed me from the shame is that you've done good, it's because you've been strong, that now that you're trading this beautiful new family, your hearts just wide open to love your children, and you have so many dreams that are opening up your heart, it's like you're what he told me is that our nervous system, the way God created it, is that it silently relaxes, and your body is able to experience the things that hurt or wounded you previously in life. And now it's free to do so. So that's why motherhood is just a vulnerable time for us, as long as our heart is wide open. And guess what? Hurts are not compartmentalized. You can't just like open one door and then keep the other one locked. So that's why we become very, very, like vulnerable, our hearts are open.
Bonnie Gray 23:28
And so it started me to have to go through the journey of healing, I needed to go back and, and look at all the pieces of my life that I kind of just, you know, brushed under the rug, and said, "Guess what, it doesn't matter how I feel, or I can't change it anyway, just like move on." Apparently, God doesn't want us to move on. God says, “These pieces of your life are important to me because I love you. And I see you and your priority to me.” This is to start to hearing a very loving, kind whisper of the Lord to guide me back to look at those pieces in my life and and to find out God, what do you want me? What do you want to say to me as we look at these pieces together?
Michelle Rayburn 24:15
That's such helpful information. Because sometimes it helps to understand not only why things happen in a season in life, but also to process through some of the grief of what we go through and thinking about the past. So when you look in the eyes of your innocent children, it's hard to imagine how your own mother or your own father could be emotionally abusive or could walk away when you have such incredible love as you look at your own children. So I can understand why that would start to bubble up and some of the your own pain would come back as well. One of the themes that I'm hearing you talk about, it's centered around this idea of being perfect. So, I know from reading your bio, that perfectionism has been a challenge. How have you overcome that? Like trying to paint the perfect picture at church and network and with your friends and, and being the right, perfect person? How have you overcome that?
Bonnie Gray 25:18
You know, what's interesting about perfectionism is that I didn't see it as a negative light at the time. I saw it more as how to be an encourager. I can add to your life, you know, how can I be joy? bring joy into your life?
Michelle Rayburn 25:35
So are you saying that you used perfectionism as a way of ministering to other people, and to be more focused on their needs than your own? Is that what I'm hearing you say?
Bonnie Gray 25:48
Yes, you have the spirit of discernment. You have that gift of discernment. That's another way to put it. Exactly. So, um, you know, sometimes perfectionism the way we talk about it is usually just focused on like, hyping it seen as negative, but I see it more as for those of us who are loving and caring, you're gifted as an encourager, and love to see people filled with joy. That's exactly what happened. It's more like, you know, this part of myself, that doesn't really help anybody. This doesn't help anything. So I think that I don't really need to share this. That's part for me, my perfectionism, kind of believing like, what's, what's the value in sharing this part of myself? And God says, "No, actually, your vulnerability, your wounds, your scars, your struggles. Your weakness is actually truly where I'm most closest and present to the people that you're trying to bring my comfort, my love, my care."
Michelle Rayburn 27:03
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Michelle Rayburn 28:12
So you talk about embracing your flaws, and really celebrating your true self and making peace with your difficult past. For the person who's listening, who has a difficult past—and everybody's story is different—how can you encourage them to get to get through that process of making peace with their past?
Bonnie Gray 28:32
I think the first part is recognizing that you have needs that are valid, your emotions are valid. And maybe through this podcast, through my sharing, you recognize that there isn't something wrong with you. Actually, it's just part of our humanity, that the more we try to hide it, the more we experience anxiety and depression, and they're not negative things. It's actually like I see it now as a positive, meaning a signal. It's like, I describe it in my books as a touch of God's hand on my heart. Before if I had anxiety or depression, I'd be like, "Oh, no, no, how can I solve this? How can I stop this now?" It's like, oh, God's hand is on my heart. He's in he's holding me because, you know, for those of us who are moms, you know, when your child falls or trips, if a stranger comes to them, say, "Oh, what's...well, sweetie," they don't cry. You know, they kind of just like, take steps backwards. But if it's you, they're like, they fall in your arms. And so it's kind of like I see my anxiety and depression, those moments I have now is, oh, there's something that God wants to heal or God needs me to take time out to nurture myself. I need to learn about soul care.
Bonnie Gray 29:45
It started me in a whole new trajectory, which is about soul care, which is like a foreign language to me like hmm, like, what what makes you what brings you joy or peace? Nobody's ever asked me that, and yet, God is asking us that so I would say the person who's hurting, and kind of in that place in the valley. This is a wonderful moment for you to feel affirmed, too, that you are worthy of being loved, you are worth taking better care of yourself. And for those of us who have been hurt, we haven't had that loving voice. Well, now is the time where we can explore that. What does that mean, God, for me? What are some changes that I can make that I can, you know, really prioritize and recognize that I can't comfort others, if I don't receive your comfort?
Bonnie Gray 30:33
First. I am not this person that just, you know, continuously, eternally, just, you know, just give out to others. Oh, my gosh, I actually, you know, I need to be filled. So it's almost like we're an advocate for ourselves. And Jesus in Scripture says, Jesus is our advocate. So that's the other question that I love asking myself, and I get stuck, you know, I feel stressed out, I say, "What would Jesus say to me now if Jesus were standing right here?" And each of us imagines Jesus in a different way. What would he do? And what would he say to you? Oh, my goodness. So I'm a writer. I'm a journaler, so I start writing those. And actually, this is what my books are about. It's like, what did Jesus say to me in that moment? I'm like, I don't know what to do. I feel like I just totally messed up, what? And I was like, "Okay, Jesus, what, what would you say for me to do?" So my books are all about these conversations about these 20 topics. For me, Sweet Like Jasmine, God had to—when I stopped to, you know, actually stopped—and asked, "Okay, what do you have to say about this Jesus?" You know, these are the conversations that I share. And these are the stories. So that's what I would say to the sister is that you're worth it. You're worthy of it. And God says, "You are my beloved, in whom I'm well pleased."
Michelle Rayburn 30:34
I always leave a resource with my listener. So you're transitioning perfectly into talking about that with your memoir, where you talk about more. We're never gonna be able to get into all of it in one podcast, but you have such depth to your story. There's so much more there. And you talk about how you found beauty in your brokenness. Tell us why somebody needs to pick up Sweet Like Jasmine, your book, and read your memoir.
Bonnie Gray 32:32
Well, you know, I don't get nervous. For those listeners. I am showing Michelle I'm opening up the book. Don't get nervous. I want to read an excerpt. This is a moment where I had to get the short excerpt, but I wanted to show that in this moment in my 30s, there was a code in my family, which was family's most important. So we I could not spend any holiday separate from my mom. She's—otherwise you're putting other people friends above your family. But I finally met Eric that I felt I might like him, and he, I think he likes me. And so, a group of us 30 singles wanted to go ride roller coasters during July 4. And so this is the night before I decided I'm going to go
Bonnie Gray 33:19
Ama (mama— this is mother for China, Chinese mother)—Ama this is just a simple fun weekend to go ride roller coasters. I haven't dated anyone since college. I'm 31 years old. May be a ride and won't last, but I like Eric. I won't know if I don't try. I've taken care of you my whole life. Why can't you be happy for me? I started crying because I was more scared than anything. Scared that I said it so bluntly. Scared because I've never spoken to my mom this this way.
Bonnie Gray 33:49
"How stupid can you be?" Ama said. "A man comes along and pays you a little attention, and you think that makes you special?" Ama scoffed. "You've forgotten who you are, Bonnie Lee. You're my daughter. You belong to me." She screamed at the top of her lungs, her eyes wild with rage, wailing with all her might. Her hands balled up in fists and her face turning purple. If I thought I was scared before, I was beyond terrified now. I thought she would storm out, and I hear her grab her car keys and slam the front door as she often did when I was a little girl, leaving me behind alone in the house.
Bonnie Gray 34:24
Instead, she tore out, thundered into the kitchen. I heard drawers opening and slamming shut, and the next thing I knew, she flew back into the room with a glint of steel, brandishing a large pair of scissors in her hand. She shoved my sliding closet doors open, violently yanking clothes off the hangers, shaking as she pulled my clothes apart, tugging at them, rubbing the blade of the shears against the clothes with one hand. "Everything you have, everything you are, is because of me. If it weren't for me, there would be no you," Ama screamed. She clutched everything she could get our hands on, ejecting my books, knickknacks, throwing them in a room in a confetti of fury. I stood there choking in my tears afraid to move or breathe. And confusion engulfs me. How can something so simple become so wrong? And a thought hit me like a siren. Something is really, really wrong.
Bonnie Gray 35:23
Now I read the story to you, because I want to leave you on a cliffhanger. So you can pick up a copy of my book. But I also want to read this excerpt to you because each of us may be at a crossroads right now. Each of us may be in that moment where we feeling like you know what, something that has worked for me in the past, and I thought I could shoulder it alone is not working, and something is wrong. And I need to do something different. So I want to affirm every sister that's listening, that God cares about those forks in the road, those moments where we feel like I am so confused, I don't know what to do. We need to share that burden with someone. And first of all, we can know we're not alone. So I want to encourage us with this last encouragement, this letter I wrote to myself. "Beloved, you will have to make a very hard decision. One day, to choose peace over fear. You have to keep choosing to believe you are worthy of that peace. Peace isn't freedom from conflict. Peace is trusting God enough to make the right choice in the midst of conflict. Choosing peace will mean you need to let go of something or someone you might have held on to, in order to take the hand of God who promises to lead you beside quiet waters. Because it continues staying with something or carrying a burden with someone who is hurting you emotionally or toxic. It's hurting the heart of God."
Bonnie Gray 36:58
To choose peace, you'll need to be honest with yourself. There will come a time for this honesty. And that honesty, that time is now. So listener, dear sister, I just want you to know that God is with you. And there's nothing that's too much for him. And you'll find that as you open your heart to confide in someone, somebody else, you'll be giving that person permission to share her story and to let you know that you're not alone. So there is a resource, it's a free journal. It's a Stories of Faith journal that I offer as a free gift when you pick up a copy of my book, because these are the questions I had to ask myself. And as you answer these questions through this journal has inspired Scripture guiding you in this journaling experience, you'll find that God is with you. And that there is goodness. Life doesn't have to be perfect in order for you to experience God's peace and love. And you don't have to be alone you, and I do not have to be alone. We're here to walk each other home.
Michelle Rayburn 38:10
So powerful. Thank you so much for sharing that. And people can find that at SweetLikeJasmine.com. I will link to that in the show notes as well. Bonnie, I know you also have a podcast, and I don't want to miss mentioning that. So your podcast is Breathe: the Stress Less podcast. So just give us a quick synopsis of what that's about.
Bonnie Gray 38:32
That one actually is really important resource. Thank you for watching my back there, sister. Because this is a quick podcast that gives specific thing that you can do to lower stress anxiety in your body. I never knew anything about that. Because, you know, I really felt like I didn't need it. But as I was experiencing stress and anxiety, I give a tip in every podcast, it's about a 15-minute podcasts really quick. It connects a scientific research tip that you can do. It only takes 10 minutes. And it's connected to a Scripture in the Bible. So for instance, Jesus says look at the flowers. You see how precious they are and how much more valuable are you than these are research shows that women who put flowers in their kitchen counter and they see those flowers in the morning, their mood is lifted, and there's a release of serotonin, which is a natural mood enhancer. And compared to women who don't have flowers there. So I was never a person to buy myself flowers because I'm like, I can buy a gallon of milk. I can buy cream cheese. I'm the first to pick up some flowers and drop them at your doorstep. Michelle, if I knew you're feeling down, that's just kind of person I am, but I never bought it for myself. But as I went through my journey of healing and learned about this soul care tip, I realized God was saying, "You're worth it. I made these flowers and painted them just for you. And yeah, they only last two, three days. But I did that intentionally so that you would know you're worth it, worth that beauty. Even if it's for two, three days, you're worth it." So now I do that especially knowing the way God made our eyes, sometimes something about the ways you look at flowers, your body literally responds by relaxing."
Michelle Rayburn 40:24
I have a flower garden out in front of my house, and I go cut lilies out of that and bring them in all the time. I love that. There is something about that sitting there at lunch, it's on my table. And I'll grab my camera and just take a picture with my phone, zoom in on something on the flower. I love doing that. So they can find your podcast where?
Bonnie Gray 40:45
Anywhere podcasts are aired. It's called Breathe: the Stress Less podcast. And I say this humbly. It's actually trending right now as the top 200 Apple podcasts.
Michelle Rayburn 40:56
Bonnie Gray 40:57
And the reason why I share that is because this is a universal need. That we are all human beings. We all go through stress and anxiety. And so I only mentioned that because to affirm that there's nothing that we need to hide. I mean, if we're feeling stressed or anxious, trust me, if you share that with another woman or a mom, they'll be like, "Oh my gosh, me too."
Michelle Rayburn 41:18
Bonnie Gray 41:20
Thank goodness, I'm not I'm on my own on this.
Michelle Rayburn 41:24
Yes, we're all in this together. Well, I've so much appreciated that you've shared your heart today. And I encouraged my listeners to pick up your book Sweet Like Jasmine, and you have other books, too. I'll link to those in the show notes. But I hope they connect with you on social media too, because then they can continue to have these conversations with you. .
Bonnie Gray 41:44
Yeah, I'm on Instagram at @theBonnieGray.
Michelle Rayburn 41:47
The Bonnie Gray; there's only one unique Bonnie Gray.
Bonnie Gray 41:52
You're so sweet.
Michelle Rayburn 41:54
Thanks so much. I hope we get to meet in real life sometime soon.
Bonnie Gray 41:57
Thank you, Michelle.
Michelle Rayburn 42:01
What a powerful story Bonnie has. As I'm editing this episode in producing it, getting it ready to go to you, I've just added her book to my downloads on Audible. And I'm going to be traveling a little bit, so I'm going to be listening to her entire book while I'm traveling. I invite you to listen to her book or read her book as well, because there's so much more to her story. And I just can't wait to get into it. We had just touched a little bit of it today as we had this little chat together my gratitude for Bonnie's vulnerability and for being so articulate in how she shares her story with all of us. So I hope you're inspired by this.
Michelle Rayburn 42:42
I will be back next time with a solo episode. Thank you so much for joining me today. You've been listening to Life Repurposed with Michelle Rayburn. Check out tips, resources, and inspiration at MichelleRayburn.com to get the show notes for this episode. Each week I share links to everything mentioned in the episode, graphics you can share, and guest quotes. I also invite you to join the Life Repurposed Facebook community for weekly conversation with others on the journey of discovering the repurpose life. Before you go: which friend needs to hear this episode? Share a link with a note to invite them to listen. And thank you for listening too.
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