Recently I’ve found myself driving like my seventy-four year old mom. I’ve been double and triple checking before making left turns. I’ve gone a mile out of my way just to avoid a dangerous intersection. I’ve also been chewing my food slowly so I don’t choke and taking a multi-vitamin. I’ve been determined to do the best job I can of keeping myself alive.
I didn’t connect these heightened safety precautions to my current project until I came to the conclusion section of the book I am writing. My hands began shaking as I typed the closing thoughts that I’d been waiting … living … and making cautious left turns in order to finish. And although I knew my editor would probably remove these final and unnecessary words, I typed, “The End,” in fancy font at the close of my 63,714-word manuscript. And then I cried. I cried because I lived to tell the story.
This particular book was not the easiest to book write, not that any books are—a fact I failed to appreciate until I actually wrote one. This book called for my deepest truths and my most painful reflections. But even more, it called for me to trust that the words would come in due time, not in Rachel’s time. Knowing the deadline for submitting this manuscript to my publisher would sneak up on me as far-off events often do, I tried writing this book last fall. I wrote lots of notes. I wrote lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. I tried writing this book again in the spring. I took lots of notes. I wrote down lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. And then summer involved moving boxes, anxious children, tearful goodbyes, and new territories to navigate. I didn’t even try to jot notes or cultivate ideas. I allowed myself to be in “receiving mode” rather than “producing mode.” I decided I would live. I would taste. I would cry. I would walk. I would laugh. I would read. I would say yes to as many Moments That Mattered as I possibly could. I ended up filling lots of little notebooks with experiences that only come from living, real living. And when my family felt settled in our new home, my husband and I went to a Counting Crows concert at a beautiful outdoor venue in our new city. I thought I’d heard every lyric Adam Duritz had ever sang, but on this particular night, he was the master of improvisation. “Round Here” turned into a message my soul had been longing to hear. “Climb out your window,” Adam sang. “Come outside before the world gets any colder, and you and I get too much older. Climb out your window.”
Tears streamed down my face, and I didn’t even try to wipe them away. The lyrics, in conjunction with the beautiful melody, made me want to love … to dream … to embrace … to forgive … to live … and to write. The way this song made me feel about living life was exactly what I wanted people to feel when they read my book. I wanted them to feel an urgency to clean the smudges from their dirty windows and see the real living that was out there waiting for them. At last, I had a concrete goal: Write words that ignite this feeling of living and loving freely and fully without distraction, fear, or reservation holding you back. I laid awake in bed for three hours that night, the book writing itself in my head.
The fall and spring notes and ideas, along with my summer living experiences all came together to create the pieces of the puzzle that would make up my book. I printed out a paper calendar and broke down the daunting task of completing a 65,000-word manuscript into smaller, more achievable goals. Having a daily writing goal helped me cut out time wasters and external distractions during my work hours. There were times when internal distraction would invade my sacred space and attempt to discourage me.
“You cannot do this,” Fear would say.
“You will never finish on time,” Insecurity would chime in.
“This is too hard,” Fatigue would whine.
“Don’t forget about the curse of the second book,” Skepticism snarled.
I would go directly to my file where I keep uplifting e-mails and powerful comments from readers of my blog that remind me why I write. “Someone is waiting for this book,” I would remind myself. And then I’d throw an “I can do this!” at the naysayers in my head and resume my work with determination and prayer.
Late afternoon was my refueling time. The orange bus would deposit my inspiration for living freely and loving fully right at my feet. My daughters and I would have a snack on a shady picnic table where we would talk about their day before driving to swim team practice. After dinner was guitar time with my younger daughter, Avery. One evening she grabbed her instrument and headed out the front door. With bare feet, she walked right through the lush green grass to the sunlit sidewalk in front of our house. Avery sat down and began strumming. She paused briefly when she saw me watching from the open door.
“Come outside!” she hollered.
I’d heard those life-changing words before. I didn’t even bother shutting the door behind me.
I sat down next to Avery, the warm cement and tiny pebbles beneath me made my bare legs feel alive. I bowed my head and listened. I couldn’t remember a time when her voice and guitar sounded so rich, so deep, so moving.
Pretty soon a father and his two sons walked down from their basketball game to listen. Avery sang and strummed a few lines of “Peace” by O.A.R. for them. It was a moment to remember.
My child and I walked back inside the house at dusk. “I am glad we went outside,” she said setting her guitar in its usual spot. “I am going to do it again tomorrow. There’s a whole world out there that needs my music,” she said.
I could not argue with that.
Climb out your window.
Don’t you dare let fear, insecurity, or the endless to-do list stop you.
I finished my 64,714-word book on the patio yesterday. I finished with the birds and the sun and the whispering wind. That seemed appropriate.
I felt so thankful I lived to write it.
I felt so thankful I write to live it.
My friends, there is something to be said for waking up with an urgency to finish what you started … to live like you might possibly perish today. There is something to be said for acknowledging that time is in deed limited. This powerful combination of awareness and passion are the enemy of procrastination. Procrastination doesn’t have a chance when a heart decides what it must do before it stops beating.
What if tomorrow morning you were to wake up and think:
I must get those paints out.
I must dust off that keyboard.
I must make amends.
I must look at that course catalog.
I must make that call.
I must fill out that application.
I must take her to that museum that we keep passing by.
I must get that family reunion in the books.
I must buff that camera lens ‘til it shines.
I must lace up my running shoes.
I must plan that trip.
I must plant that garden.
I must quit this job.
I must go after my dream.
I must start living … really living.
My friends, there is a window. You may have not looked out that window in a long, long time. It may be dirty and dusty. The locks might be tight and stubborn. It might not be time to climb out that window just yet; it might be time to simply see the window. Yes, seeing the window is a good first step. Let yourself peek out that window and notice all of the possibilities you’ve forgotten or denied yourself for too long. Maybe, just maybe, you are ready to open that window and breathe in that fresh, invigorating air. Let that air bring ideas to mind and butterflies of anticipation to your stomach. Maybe it is time to crawl out and put your feet in the soft, green grass, move your body, and stop being confined to what is or what used to be. If you are one of the lucky ones who already found your way out of your window, maybe it’s time to reach in and invite someone else out. Maybe it’s time to tell someone what happens when you start painting to live … singing to live … creating to live … writing to live … living to live.
Maybe it’s time to say, “I can do this,” to the naysayers real or imaginary.
One tiny step.
One small daily goal.
The world needs your song.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, my second book will go through many rounds of edits with my skillful editors at HarperCollins/Zondervan before it becomes available to you in the Fall of 2015. My hope is that you will find it was worth the wait. It doesn’t have a pretty cover just yet, but it looks beautiful to my grateful eyes.
Please take a moment and share what you see when you look out your life’s window. What is your passion? What small action step you will take today? What are your obstacles? The comment section of this blog never fails to be a place of inspiration, camaraderie, and hope for many people because you share your hearts each week. My friends, if you have a little hope to spare today, there is a 13-year-old girl in desperate need of it. Emma Grace recently learned she has a rare brain tumor and is facing a tremendous fight. Maybe someone out there has words of comfort or has been where this family finds themselves today. Visit the site or feel free to message me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure your message is given to their family. And if nothing else, accept this as an invitation to live, really live. Come outside.
*If you found this post meaningful, I’d be grateful if you share it.
**The inspiring rendition of “Round Here” can be found here. Take 12:47 and let it inspire you.