Leaning Into Whitespace {A Giveaway}

by | Jun 12, 2014 | Books, Encouragement, Identity


Two weeks ago on Sunday morning, I got up early, put the kettle on and went to the garage. A stack of cloth covered journals I’d harvested from an attic box were waiting for my attention. Stepping over box flaps layered in dusty strings of spider webs and insect remains stuck to duct tape, I felt giddy with expectancy about leafing through the pages from three decades of my life. What I found surprised me.

I remembered snapshots from the past accurately. And the essence of who I am hasn’t changed a bit.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising to you, especially if you’ve known me through those time periods.  The surprising part is the perception I have of myself. It is often inaccurate. Cue my husband rolling his eyes, grinning while sarcastically chiding, “Duh, ya think?”

Of course H is a bit biased about my gifts. Can I be honest? Sometimes I discount the affirmation of those closest to me because I assume their opinions are slanted and thus not accurate. As if love is a window shade blocking broad perspective.  Yet the very people who know my flaws, inconsistencies and weaknesses choose me anyway, the same way Jesus chooses relationship with us daily.

God is showing me, like a father waving his index finger, to stop and notice. You too?

His thoughts toward you and I are often voiced through the people who know us intimately and still choose to love us. Pay attention. Believe the life giving words spoken over you. And then write them down somewhere so you won’t forget them.

In her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray writes, “Spiritual rest is a journey of awakening our hearts to fully receive.”

This is why I choose Sabbath weekly and practice in community with nearly 300 people. Its why instead of tidying the living room or washing a sink full of Saturday night dishes, I sit on my porch reading personal history. I need to hear His thoughts toward me more than I need to accomplish.

Choosing whitespace to remember gives timely perspective. Perhaps he is nudging you too?

 I’m nodding with the truth written throughout Bonnie’s story.

“Finding spiritual whitespace isn’t about carving out an hour of time to escape the things that stress us. It’s the opposite. It’s getting away from everything we do to distract ourselves from all the hidden places – in order to nurture our soul. It’s getting away from the lie that spiritual rest is something we have to work hard at in order to get closer to God.”

Last Sunday, after a walk on the beach, I sat on the couch next to my Aunt Paula flipping through yellowing pages of photographs covered in cellophane. Visiting from Oklahoma to attend my daughter’s high school graduation, the serendipity touched me.

We lived together when I was the age of my daughter. As a young, single, high school teacher, she agreed to take me in after I refused to continue living with my mother’s struggle with alcoholism.

Remembering the joy in our poverty, we laughed at the avocado green chair and goldenrod plaid couch covered in a crocheted afghan. Marveling over living in a one bedroom apartment, my sleeping on a small cot, and the prom dress she sewed for me from the kitchen table. Aware of the juxtaposition of abundance in the present, thankfulness blossomed on our faces.

As the child of an alcoholic, I identify with Bonnie’s book as she writes about the struggle to discover her authentic shelf. It is a haunting, redemptive account of an onslaught of PTSD during the process of writing her memoir. When the emergence of childhood memories shatters coping mechanisms, it leads to a path of healing and restoration. And just like Bonnie, the whitespace of rest is where I find my authentic voice and the courage to move beyond survival. I like what I see in myself when I the take time to stop and notice.


I’m giving away one copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest to one lucky person who responds in the comments to one or both of the following questions from Chapter 3.

Do you find it hard or easy to receive? How is God taking you on a journey to rest and receive more deeply?

A winner will be selected on Monday of next week.


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. cheryl

    It is hard for me to receive. I feel like its my place to do for others. It has taken me a very long time to get to “thank you for thinking of me” and not feel guilty about it. The hardest thing is to be be nice to myself. Observing Sabbath is something I do now just for me. At first I felt guilty but not so much anymore. The world does not stop spinning because dishes are in the sink or the house is messy. And now that I observe Sabbath, I am finding affirmation everywhere of our need to rest in unlikely places. Today, I had the opportunity to spend 20 minutes just sitting in Starbucks, by myself, reading. It was awesome!

  2. ro elliott

    Oh Shelly… our husband…aren’t they kind and patient men… I too, brush off compliments from those closest to me…well, for that matter most people… I remember when I started blogging… I figured people left comments and said nice things because they felt sorry for me… I am getting better… and this comes as a result of living in whitespace… listening to God’s heart for me… and learning to hear it through others as well!

  3. MsLorretty

    REST. God is teaching me to crave what I discover about myself through His eyes when I rest. I’m no longer making excuses for why I need to rest…instead, I’m seeking rest because it’s His good gift and it allows me to be more fully His.. and really, to see how much more God is more fully mine. I’m not just hearing Him… I’m listening.

  4. Lisa

    In the course of a social gathering I was in conversation with a long time friend who graced me with an offering of compliments that were totally unexpected. I was struck by the content but equally struck by the shear experience; thinking how long it had been since anyone had remarked on my character. I was humbled low and deflected the praise. Reflecting later on the incident I marveled at the ways of God, wondering if the sender may have been HIM.

  5. RUTH


  6. Becky Keife

    I want to receive from others but then there is an after guilt. Like I didn’t deserve what was given or now I have to make up or even the score. I realize I bring this backwards way of thinking into my relationship with God at times. But I feel Him wooing my heart. I know He wants to assure me that being his child is all I need to be worthy of the good gifts He gives, gifts like rest.

  7. Kelly W

    Hmmm. Easy answer – hard to receive. I tend to identify with Martha and the need to get the work done (not Mary, and rest). Could there be a connection? And yet there is a part of me that wishes I were still a child, but one who was taken care of and who could receive [as an ACOA (adult child of an alcoholic)… ]

  8. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Beautifully written, SHelly, and so much in this post: rest, receiving, retrieving memories from journals, and remembering God’s faithfulness to you, despite the difficulties of your childhood. (I had such wonderful aunties too, so I understand how very special they can be).You pose thought-provoking questions. Do I find it hard or easy to receive? I thnk it depends on what someone is giving. If it’s criticism–even the constructive, honest, truth-in-love kind, I’m not always sure I’m so eager to receive that, even though I know I should. If it’s unconditional love, my arms are open. Other times, I want to receive what I shouldn’t–like maybe accolades. I think I would like to give of myself and the gifts God’s given me with no expectations of receiving anything in return. I’m not quite sure how God is taking me on a journey of rest, because I am in a difficult trial right now, and it is hard to rest in it. Maybe that is when I need to rest the most in Him, especially if that rest equates to trust. Thank you for sharing here and starting the conversation. I have heard a lot about Bonnie’s book in the white spaces of blogs of late. It sounds like something I might need to read.

  9. Melissa R

    Well said, Shelly. I’m like you as far as accepting the positive words of the people closest to me: I tend to think they’re not being objective.

    It’s hard to receive those words, but it’s also hard to receive criticism from those I love. It’s easier when I know they’re speaking the truth in love. A few days ago my husband was reading something I’d written, and he had some suggestions. I was okay with the ones that made sense to me, but I strongly resisted some others. By the end of the time, he asked, “Are you mad at me?” Totally my fault.

    I’m part of the blog tour, so I don’t need another copy of the book. I know the winner will be someone who needs it!

  10. Laura Rath

    I often struggle with receiving from others, although as I look back at different times in my life, I think I might be getting a little better at it. Sometimes it depends on what is being given and from whom. Right or wrong, some opinions matter to me more than others, or I know some are more sincere than others. Also, when there’s history, I think we learn who can or can’t be trusted, and it makes it more difficult to forget the history (if it’s not good) and receive without suspicion.

  11. DeanneMoore

    My word this year is “open.” Yesterday, toes in the sand, I was praying and “heard” the Lord’s gentle nudging “open your hands.” I remember Ann V. saying we come into this world with clinched fists. I think too much of my life I have lived this way? I want to receive. “He withholds no good thing from us.” One of my journals has gone missing…it is one I desperately want to read, a hard year. Looked it for many times…but I think it might be hidden for a reason..?

  12. MargaretFeinberg

    Thanks for being a constant reminder to carve out time for Sabbath each week, Shelly. Grateful for you.

  13. Peggy

    I find it hard to receive… I’d rather give. God is taking me on a journey of quiet. Less talk, more listening to Him and more looking for Him.

  14. Beth

    I find it hard to receive… my husband would agree with that. I still have that try harder/do more mentality even though I know it’s not what He requires of me. This season without my husband leaves me restless and I can have a hard time focusing. I find the best way to get the spiritual rest I need is to head out for a walk or bike ride and enjoy His creation. Bonnie’s book is next on my list. Blessings to you, friend.

  15. Karrilee Aggett

    I love this Shelly! I think I find it is easy to receive for SOME people… but with others I am surprised at my reluctance. Those ‘others’ are getting fewer and farther between, praise God! (It helps to step into your own skin and remember that it is all from Him and He gives freely… taking away the question of worthiness or earning!) As far as the second question, well I just wrote yesterday on how it is ok and even necessary and healthy to take a break from all the things from time to time! To give yourself grace and freedom to break routine and ignore boosy lists of things to do simply to breathe in deep, to relax, to enjoy… it’s vital! (And I can’t believe I don’t have this book yet! #swoon… even the cover helps you to exhale slowly!)

  16. Jolene Underwood

    I’ve spent my life giving and love to give. I have been in a season of needing to receive much. I am still in it but healing to the point of giving while receiving now. After 15 months of fostering 14 children in addition to caring for 4 others, I reached a point of not being physically or emotionally able to give at all anymore. Yet, God had in a relational place where I still needed to. The only way to do so was through deep prayers and hours and hours of crying out to the Lord through prayer, journals, worship music and just plan tears. I’m learning to receive and more importantly, to put myself in a more balanced position to receive from Him all he has to give.

  17. Shelly Hendricks

    Oh, how I struggle with receiving! I must say that chronic illness and disability…. bringing my life to a full-stop…. has softened me in that area. And I’m glad about that. Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

  18. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for your encouragement, Shelly, to believe the life giving words spoken over me, to even write them down so I won’t forget. The idea to record affirmations has occurred to me before, as a way to build up my confidence and help me persevere. But then I thought that such a record would contribute to pride, so I resisted. You have made me rethink the possibility. What if I wrote down the compliment, then thanked God for the evidence of HIS work in my life? What if I turned the record into an opportunity for worship? I think I’ll give it a try!

    • Jillie

      Hi Nancy…I like what you’ve said here. Never thought of it this way. Never written down something kind someone has said to me. I once thought of asking my closest friends to tell me ‘who’ they see in me, the good AND the bad, but chickened out. Truly wanted to change when it came to my many insecurities and fears. Seems my entire adult life has been about changing me. I guess that’s what being a disciple is all about. But a sincerely kind word is incentive to see how far God has brought us along in the journey, and to spur us on in the pursuit of Christlikeness.

  19. Rachel

    We just got back from a trip from Israel, living with three Orthodox Jewish women. Experiencing Shabbot with them was enlightening and helped me to understand better what Sabbath means for me and how important rest truly is. Rest gives us a chance to experience community fully, embracing love and friendship; it gives us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we sit in the quiet or not-so-quiet; and it allows us to open our hearts to what most fulfills us, something that varies for each of us.

  20. Mary Brack

    I do find it difficult to receive, and maybe that is another way that Sabbath keeping transforms us. As we practice Sabbath, not only does it build trust in the One who calls us to rest, but I think it also helps us develop a practice of receiving from God the good gifts He has for us, like rest. Thanks for this giveaway opportunity, Shelly!

  21. Jennifer

    Yes. I do find it hard to receive. God’s Grace is helping me to realize all my sufficiency is found in Him, though. I was so shocked to see your question, i read it over like four times! Ive been here for the past three months anguishing in my soul , reaching for the rest on the other side.It is literally a family curse. Not receiving. Navigating through the waters of self doubt, self worth and insecurity has been 47 yrs of finding my TRUE self in Christ. My struggle is mostly in receiving God’s best for me. My problem: thinking I knew what that was. Letting go of preconceived notions, and stepping out in faith, acknowledging areas of pride, and tearing down the walls that divide me from my internal rest, is where i begin, w/ liada of self introspection. Thanks for the question, as i seek greater resolve in this answer.Looking forward to blogging more about this real soon. Thanks for asking…

  22. Jillie

    After reading all the comments of your readers, Shelly, I must say that I’m glad I’m not the only one who has trouble receiving the kindnesses of others. I see I am in good company. But I must ask myself “Why?” receiving is so difficult for me? Like you, growing up in an alcoholic home, constantly barraged with insults, fighting, and negativity, I have pegged myself for years as some kind of “Loser”. Sometimes even to the point of cowering if my husband so much as raises his voice to me. You say, “When the emergence of childhood memories shatters coping mechanisms, it leads to a path of healing and restoration.” You talk about finding “your authentic voice and the courage to move beyond survival.”
    I ‘thought’ I was doing better in these regards, until last Saturday when I received news from my older brother that our Dad has terminal cancer–they’ve given him 3 months! Dad didn’t even want me to know. This week I have been assaulted with memories. I’m having trouble finding many good ones. Have never heard, “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, “You’ve been a good daughter.” I haven’t even seen my Dad in two years even though he lives nearby. After a particularly unkind phone conversation some 5 years back, I finally decided I’d had enough of begging crumbs from his table. Now I am left wondering what on earth to say, what to do. I have worked with God for years to come to the place of forgiveness, but the memories live on. I ‘thought’ I had resigned myself to the realities of our non-relationship, but this news of him has really thrown me. Why have I run all my life after something I will not have? One thing I’ve learned today though, is to just accept the kindness of others and be grateful. And to start writing things down on paper. Thank you for this, Shelly. Your post is beautiful, like you.

  23. Mary Bonner

    Shelly, I have had this post open on my computer for more than 24 hours, trying to process it. Determine how to answer your questions. The simple answer is yes, I find it hard to receive, but I am finding that the more I take the time to open Bible, study His words and dig deeper than before that is the time I am more are rest. That and reading good books. Thank you for this insightful post.

  24. Asheritah Ciuciu

    I, like you, often feel that those close to me are “just being nice” so I do have a hard time receiving their encouragement or praise. Just this past week though, I’ve been sensing The Lord telling me to be still, to cease, to stop. And it’s been good. In that space I’ve reevaluated what I do and why I’m doing it, and I’ve been listening intently for the answer to just one question: “God, what do YOU want me to do?” It’s so freeing to shrug off the spiritual to-do lists and simply BE as a child of the King.

    I’ve heard so many good things about this book–I’d love to read it!

  25. Debbie Detten Huff

    Several months back I joined a new group and I’ve very recently come to the realization that I have been giving out of proportion, again. Not that giving isn’t good, rather I’m finding I’m snagged on a very old pattern of trying to “earn my keep (and my place).” I’m taking a step back reminding myself that I want to be a part of and offer what I have (when I have it) to give while also asking for (and receiving) what I need as well.

  26. Melissa Centuori Chuney

    I am trying to honor the sabbath as a day of worship, rest and family. It’s so hard not to catch up on house chores or shopping, but I’m learning that a day of rest is a gift, not an obligation to fulfill. By resting and enjoying quiet time or family time, I am receiving gifts of peace, love and refreshment. And listening for God’s voice in those moments.

  27. Sheila Dailie

    Being raised in a home where I often heard “It is more blessed to give than receive” and watching my mom give more to every neighbor kid than she did to my brother or me made it nearly impossible for me to receive, even God’s gift of grace which I knew that I needed so desperately.

    Thankfully, God is a patient teacher. While it is still easier to give than to receive, I’m learning to leave spaces in my life. These spaces remind me that it is impossible to do it all. Rest comes only if I CHOOSE to leave that space in my life.

  28. Mary Gemmill

    Do you find it hard or easy to receive?
    I used to find it hard because God says the opposite to the closest people to me and so I thought I must be hearing incorrectly and that maybe the kind words of affirmation were just me wishful thinking.
    How is God taking you on a journey to rest and receive more deeply?
    Since my marriage ended, God has had me on a journey to discover His incredible love for me. He has confided in me His plans and purposes for my life and has taught me that as they are His plans, it is up to Him to see they are all fulfilled.
    Striving has, for the most part, become a thing of the past.
    I love this line Shelly:
    “Spiritual rest is a journey of awakening our hearts to fully receive.”
    as they perfectly describe what has been happening in my Journey towards His Heart over the past few years, and it is a journey of continual joy and delight as I believe what I hear Him saying to me:)

  29. Dawn González

    I would love to read this book. So to answer the question about receiving…when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, he was literally dying from it. His vital organs had begun to fail, and when one domino falls, well, you know. He was in the hospital for 32 days while they tried to keep him alive long enough to get a firm diagnosis and know exactly what kind of cancer to treat. Difficult days to say the least. Some of the best advice I received from someone during that time was to accept help. When people asked if they could do anything for me, that I should actually take them up on it. One friend made a bank deposit for me. Another put fresh sheets on my bed for my aunt and uncle who were coming to give me a hand with my three young uns. As I saw that people were elated to be able to lend a helping hand, I realized I was ministering to them by giving them a way to minister to me. It. Was. Freeing. While receiving can still sometimes be hard (old habits — and pride — die hard, you know), it also remains humbling. But I am much more apt to receive graciously now than I ever was before. To be able to graciously receive is a beautiful thing. It’s one of the many lessons I learned through that very trying time in my family’s life.

  30. Raelene Hammond Munn

    I am beginning to think I really need to read this book. In answer to the question I find it very difficult to receive from others…and from God. Wow…I said that out loud!

  31. Teresa R

    I am more of a giver than a receiver. I struggle to receive. . even from God.
    The second question hit me hard- – my husband and I have been dealing with an infestation of bed bugs and 90% of our apartment is boxed or bagged up, all tops of tables, nightstands, desks, anything wood had to be cleared of all items so they could be treated. I have three outfits to rotate for work and two sets of shorts/tops and my husband has two sets of shorts/tops. The table I had planned on using for bible reading & study was cluttered with stuff; now it is totally clear, so now I can put my Bible, a journal and a pen on it to start spending time with God and His Word

  32. Kelly Greer

    Shelly…I think I am teetering at the threshold of a deeper understanding of who I am and what has shaped me. There is a story inside me that longs to be told to reveal and heal and work towards wholeness. I am intrigued by Bonnie’s story Shelly. And so ready to receive all that God has for me.

  33. Alee Behymer

    Shelly, receiving is hard. God leads me to rest and true receiving by reminding me that both are according to His will for me, and for each of us. He corrects me when I want to be the driving force in my children’s lives, reminding me that rest and restoration are necessary, and without them they will not be able to hear His voice. If they can’t hear, then they can’t grow or follow His direction for their lives. I know from experience that if something is true for them, then it is also true for me. His desire is for relationship with us. That is truly astounding and mind blowing for me. I don’t feel as though I have thoroughly answered your questions, but that’ll do for now. Blessings!

  34. Lara

    This is not an easy question! I’d like to think I find it easy to receive, in some instances I do like the love of my children, but it’s been a lot more difficult learning to just rest and receive from my loving Heavenly Father. Step by step He is teaching me! I am so eager to read this book! Thank you for the opportunity:)

  35. CindeeSniderRe

    I find it much more difficult to receive. I’ve learned to love giving, to seek opportunities to bless, to listen for barely whispered longings and unspoken hopes, to open my hands and heart and pour out God’s blessing, His love, His provision for another through me. But I find it extremely hard to receive and almost impossible to ask for tangible help. For prayer? Yes. But for physical help? No. I think, because it’s more vulnerable to receive than to give, to ask than to offer. Asking for — or in my case, admitting I need — help requires me to strip away my protective layers, to be humble, vulnerable, really real, exposing the tenderest parts of my heart, something I’m learning I’m not good at — even a little. But this past year, God has been continually placing me in this area of weakness. Progress is slow, growth nearly imperceptible, but I have a feeling He’s going to leave me here in this dry and dusty place until I learn to ask, learn to receive — with as much joy as I give — His love and provision through the willing hands and hearts of His children.

Pin It on Pinterest