I was having a panic attack right there at Costco.
It had been years since my last one. I’d shared about my journey of healing from emotional childhood trauma and learning to rest in God’s love in my book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I thought my wounds had healed. But as I was working on my new book proposal, preparing to share more vulnerable stories, I went shopping at Costco one day, and after realizing I had forgotten milk, I turned my cart around to go get it when bam! I came face to face with someone who had hurt me from my past. This person had caused deep wounds, taking me years of therapy to heal. I hadn’t seen this person in years since I had learned to establish safe boundaries to keep myself from being harmed through verbal and emotional abuse.
My eyes locked with this person’s, and though I’d wondered if this person would ever soften, what I saw before me made me afraid. My heart rate jumped, pounding like a jack hammer against my chest. I didn’t want to stand there to be hurt again, so I made a beeline and zipped to the back of the store. I am a college-educated, grown mom of two boys. Yet, I hid behind the store shelves. I started having trouble breathing. I was dizzy and nauseous, choking and unable to take full breaths. My body lit on fire, tears pushing from deep.
As I stood there, afraid this person was searching for me in the store to chew me out, I felt God whisper, You are my beloved. You don’t have to hide. You are my daughter.
I didn’t want to call my husband Eric at work because he had critical deadlines, so I decided to find the store manager.
I found Mike.
I was shaky, trembling, and asked, “Hi, this is a weird request, but I need help. I ran into someone from my past who emotionally hurt me, and I’m scared they’ll cause a scene. Maybe they’re waiting for me outside to yell at me. Can you escort me to my car?”
“I won’t let this person hurt you. You are safe. I will help you.” Mike said.
You are safe.
At the sound of these three words, I started crying out of his kindness. God was reassuring me through Mike’s words. ”I’m so embarrassed,” I confessed.
“Don’t be. You’re not the only one who runs into people here who need support. Exes, family members . . . people.” he replied.
Mike looked at me and said, ”I won’t let them hurt you.”
As we left the store, Mike kept reassuring me, saying, “It’s going to be okay,” as he walked me to my car and loaded my groceries in the trunk.
Relieved to know I was safe, I turned to him to share a little more about my story of emotional hurt and healing. I shared how much his kindness and his words meant to me, so he would understand the significance when I said, “You are God’s blessing to me today. Thank you so much, Mike!”
I took a moment to ask him about his thoughts on faith. We chatted a bit. I listened. It turned out that I encouraged Mike too, because he felt so encouraged to know God was using him to bless others.
Friend, I share this story with you to encourage you today. I want you to know that you are worth loving. You can ask for help and draw boundary lines with toxic people. God desires to restore your wholeness and to heal you from your wounds. Sometimes, this will happen through the people He places in your life, so take a step of faith when they cross your path. Be open and receive.
And when you can offer the same kindness to another, pause and be present. Be a refuge and shelter so others can experience God’s comfort.
We are not alone in this journey of life. We are God’s beloved, and we do not need to be afraid.
For I am with you and no one will attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.
Acts 18:10 (NIV)
Ada N Orie says
Dear Sister Bonnie,
I am so glad God made a provision for you in a dark moment. I thank God for your honesty and transparency. I am thankful also for Mike. I am a believer in boundaries especially when it comes to toxic people. I used to think I deserved toxicity but God had to remind me of my value and worth bought and paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary. I was confronted earlier this year pre COVID-19 by someone who inflicted emotional harm on me. I saw the person from a distance. He had been texting me which I ignored and eventually blocked. When I saw him, I locked eyes with him and continued doing what I had been doing. I had forgiven him previously but I knew reconciliation was not part of going forward. I am trying to finish my first book. I need to take your class. Thank you for sharing your story. May God continue to use you in a mighty way to change the world and strengthen the Kingdom of God. You are an anointed and powerful daughter of God. God bless you!
Bonnie Gray says
Hi Ada, thank you for sharing your story! Forgiveness takes one, but reconciliation takes two. Forgiveness doesn’t mean open borders to toxicity and your story inspires us to know God is in every woman’s story! Keep shining, beautiful sister! You are worth loving! May God bless you in your writing — your voice is worthy. Your story matters!! Sign up for the free writer’s conference I’m sharing tips and encouragement on writing your God-story – I know you’ll love it!
Bonnie, your post is so timely and relevant to me I know it’s no accident. I’ve been diagnosed with PTS from childhood trauma. I’ve had years of therapy and I thought I was doing well. An event has brought up my abandonment issues and I feel broken and anxious. I can’t seem to let it go. I have a wonderful husband but it’s not good for our relationship. Thanks for sharing. I’m signing up for your workshop.
Bonnie Gray says
Hi Rita, thank you for sharing your journey, as we are sisters in Christ and you are so worthy loving. And I am thrilled you’re signed up for the live webinar on overcoming anxiety with me. I can’t wait to encourage you! Remember to do what gives your soul rest and peace – during this tender time past wounds are touched. Prioritize your wellbeing. As you refill your tank, your heart will be able to open up to your husband and offer to him to comfort you receive from God and from nurturing your emotions. Dear Lord Jesus, reassure Rita on this journey of healing. Place on her heart a friend to connect with. Her burden is too heavy to bare alone and we are meant to help lift each other. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Oh thank you for sharing that hard story. The exact thing happened to me a few years ago, as I was reading this, I was thinking-that’s what I did…that’s what I did too!!! Praise God for putting managers in place to help those that need it, in whatever form it may be. Praise God that He is with us and that we are truly never alone…even though Satan wants to convince us otherwise-he is wrong! Keep on keeping on as you journey through healing and hope. God’s blessings upon you as you serve Him with your words and your life.
Bonnie Gray says
It’s amazing how we feel the encouragement of being together on this journey of life – when we share our stories. THank you for sharing yours, Lydia, here with us! May God bless you – thank you for your words of blessing. I hope we can continue to connect on this journey. I’m at @thebonniegray on FB and IG!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
There have been times in which I think I see my ex-husband who was narcissistic, emotionally, and verbally abusive. Even just the hint of thinking it’s him sets off a tsunami wave of anxiety that rises up from my toes and chokes my heart. We gain emotional ground when we are no longer in toxic relationships, but if we are inadvertently thrown back into proximity, it can wreak havoc. God has placed numerous angels in my path when the panic attacks hit. He has also shown me that His grace is sufficient if no one human can come to my rescue. God does NOT want His beautiful daughters to be submitted to abuse of any kind. Just because it’s not physical, doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. Seek counsel (safety) if you are in a toxic/abusive relationship. You can’t change an abuser and their behavior is NOT your fault. I speak from experience. When you allow yourself to stay in an abusive relationship like a marriage, your children learn that this is an “okay” way to talk to and treat someone else. What we allow, we condone. So thankful for my godly husband of 7 years who has shown me a whole different “normal” way that I am to be treated and cherished. Excellent post Bonnie and I’ve loved your books!
Bonnie Gray says
So wonderful to hear how you walk through your journey of healing and praise God who provided you a loving husband!! Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom from your story, Bev!
Thank you for sharing a very real part of you. Your story sheds light on what one of our family members is living through. I know God will find a way and bring continued healing in his life. God’s love is so great – Amen!
Bonnie Gray says
Thank you so much Carolyn for your encouraging words! so wonderful to meet another sister through sharing our stories! May you feel as beloved and beautiful as you truly are, just as you are!
Hi, Bonnie, I don’t have panic attacks and I’m not running from anyone, thank the Lord. But this is the second email I received this morning that mentioned “white space”. (The first was by an artist/author who spoke of the need of margin in your life in order to be a better artist and achieve.) So while I was blessed so much by your story of Mike, I’m also wondering where I need margin/spiritual white space in my life! God doesn’t do coincidences! I don’t feel like my life is over-busy, but obviously God is trying to tell me something…and using you to help get my attention! So thank you!
Bonnie Gray says
Oh, you’d LOVE my book on Spiritual Whitespace as I explore how rest is like artwork – the more white space there is on a canvas, the more the beauty of the image is revealed. So excited for you on this new journey that’s inspired by creating space to nurture YOU to come alive to who God created you to be and flourish!
Julie Garmon says
Beautiful. Wide-open honest. Powerful!
Bonnie Gray says
Thanks so much, sweet Julie! May you feel as beloved and beautiful as you truly are, just as you are!
Jacquelyn Platek says
Thank you for sharing, Bonnie. Your story showed me how God provides for those He loves. I have shared your post on my Facebook page in the hope that others who have past trauma may find encouragement and help through your vulnerability and the love of Christ. It takes a brave person to share as you do. Thank you.
Bonnie Gray says
thank you so much for sharing with your beloved friends on Facebook, Jacquelyn!! It’s so powerful when we share our stories and we are together on the journey! May you feel as beloved and beautiful as you truly are, just as you are!
Thanks for sharing, being so honest and real. I needed to read this today.
Peace and Blessings to you!
Bonnie Gray says
thank you, Tonya! May you feel as beloved and beautiful as you truly are, just as you are!
Thankful for the way God showed His Love to a young wife and mom in need. Sometimes it seems no one knows the depths of what some of us have to deal with, and perhaps nobody needs to know some details, other than Father God. He is always there, the Only One Who can really help us to overcome, to escort and deliver us to greater heights of His LOVE. The LORD of Hosts was there in the form of a type of archangel Michael on earth as it is in the heavenlies for the author, and He surely can do similar for His other children in need. He is a ‘Can Do’ God! https://youtu.be/kTvv-9zosPs
A great reminder that Satan is the ruler of darkness but God’s light is greater than the darkness. When I was young, (I’m now 75) there was a song about how one little candle could dispel the darkness. The words and title escape me but the truth of that song is still with me. God said Be not afraid for I am with thee. Hold your head up and keep going in the direction God has placed before you.
Bonnie Gray says
May GOd’s light shine on your and bring you His peace! Thanks for sharing the song that floated on your heart! so wonderful how God places what speaks to you on your heart to hsare with us, Liretta!
Thank you so much for sharing this story, Bonnie. You show us how healing from trauma is a continuing journey. I love how God sent the right person to help you through it and how it ended up helping him as well. These words encourage me so much – “I want you to know that you are worth loving. You can ask for help and draw boundary lines with toxic people.” Thank you! Love and blessings to you!
I love you friend. Your heart is so precious my friend. Thank you for sharing it. I have had my own panic attacks and triggers. Boundaries are a welcome refuge. Kindness helps shelter you. Hugs.
Karen H. says
Good morning Bonnie! I want to encourage you that your experience at Costco gave you Gods reassurance that He is always there to rescue, and that is exactly what He did by seeking out Mike’s help. I’m so proud of you! You were also a blessing for Mike. Thank you for sharing. You are loved so much. ❤️ Your girlfriend from Lilacs and Daphne (Instagram)
Thank you for sharing, Bonnie. I can relate so very much to your situation. The words God gives you have helped me toward healing over the years. I thank God for you!
One verse in the Bible that has really helped me is from Psalm 23. I have embraced the words and they are profound to me.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Ps 23:5
The table that the Lord has prepared for me is in the presence of my enemies, not later in heaven. It’s right now, with my enemies looking on. When I face an enemy, immediately I intentionally focus on the table, and feel the oil dripping down over me and the overflowing cup in my hand. The light from God becomes greater and stronger than any darkness in front of me. <3 Blessings to you dear friend!
Beth Williams says
God bless you for sharing your story. It is important for others to know they aren’t alone
Women, especially, need to understand that they don’t have to live in fear. They is help out there. Their stories need to be told. That is part of the healing process. Far to often the abuser was abused themselves & the cycle continues. My prayer is that I can be like the store manager & willingly assist someone who feels afraid. Asking God to show me who needs a cup of encouragement or a kind word to soothe their anxious souls. It only takes a few minutes to either talk or walk with someone & help them calm down. You are a shining example of Jesus to this world. May God continue to bless you & heal you from past hurts.
How wonderful it was that the store manager helped you when you needed it the most! He was truly God’s blessing to you and I’m glad you escaped that awful person who hurt you so badly. She still has to answer to the Lord for that. Love you, Bonnie, and I hope you never have to run into her again. Don’t feel bad that you reacted the way you did. The Lord was watching out for you and knows your pain.
I found your book and it is helping me with childhood trauma reading this article reminds Im safe now but tough days are still to come but is sovereign and will provide for me. Thank you so much for sharing your story it was like reading my own.
Cassie Rhoda says
After being so encouraged listening to your interview at the Flourish Writers Conference, I decided to head over to your blog to check it out. You my dear have been an answer to my prayer. I have found the unique voice in me to tell my story unafraid to be me. This blog post had me in tears and needing to know how God helped you through this. This blessed me in many ways! Keep being you and sharing your vulnerability. Your courage was used to equip me to be vulnerable, too. Thank you!