“For all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light
Looking for just one reason to get through the night
Every long lost believer caught in the fight
All the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright
– Mat Kearney, Heartbreak Dreamer
On the day of the celebration, the author had prepared a special note for Avery’s teacher to read out loud. The author explained the reason for the party as this:
“Dear Avery, I hope you and your classmates enjoy this special treat. It’s my way of honoring you and saying ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done to inspire so many (including me) just by being who you are – a light who shines from within and a Noticer. I also hope you appreciate just how incredible and how beautiful those two ‘invisible’ gifts are and that you will never stop being you.”
As those words were read, the expression on my child’s face was nearly indescribable, but I will try. Beyond an enormous smile that could not be contained was equal parts joy … certainty … clarity … relief … peace … and fire. Oh yes, behind Avery’s little pair of eyeglasses was a fiery determination I’d never seen before. And above Avery’s head, the Sky of Possibilities opened up. For a brief moment I was a mind reader, feeling quite certain what she was thinking: I am somebody, and I have a gift worthy of sharing.
One week later, Avery began writing music; I am talking real songs, real chords, and soul-stirring lyrics that might be heard on the radio today. Coincidence? I think not. The gift of affirmation is mighty powerful—it has the power to become belief, inspiration, and courage when given at a pivotal time in a person’s life.
I knew something had really ignited in Avery’s heart when this sometimes shy child asked her big sister to make her a YouTube channel. Avery called it “TheHappyGirl2006” and wanted the world to hear her songs.
Shortly after the channel had been up and running, I received a message from someone who was deeply moved by one of Avery’s original songs. This woman said she’d gained indescribable strength from the lyrics of “Oh My Soul”. In addition, she used Avery’s video to encourage her four-year-old daughter—a budding ukulele player just as Avery had once been. The woman added that one morning she could not get Avery’s song out of her head and was happily singing it. Her daughter said, “Hey, what song is that? Is that Avery’s song?”
Knowing only very catchy tunes get stuck in one’s head, I excitedly relayed the story to Avery. And there it was again—that glorious expression of joy … certainty … clarity … relief … peace … and fiery determination shining brighter than her smile. The sky above Avery’s head opened up. The words, “It is possible,” were written in big, bold letters.
My immediate thought was how much I wished every child could receive such powerful affirmation for something they do well or love to do. But then, just as quickly, I thought of you and that little child inside you that once dreamed big, larger-than-life dreams. I hope and pray she or he still does.
For some reason—maybe a million—that dream never made it to fruition. Perhaps no one said, “Yes, you can.” Perhaps no one said, “I believe in you.” Perhaps you were never really sure what made your heart come alive—and if you did, perhaps life got in the way. Maybe doubt and fear overpowered that little voice pleading you to step out on faith. Perhaps life’s choices and circumstances have simply brought you to where you are now, the dreamer child within you nearly silent.
But not gone. No, not gone.
I read your private messages. I read your public comments. And through your words, I see you. I see that little girl or boy who once dreamed of igniting the passion of the heart—the spark that’s felt when you’re doing something that makes your heart come alive.
My little dreamer girl still lives inside me. She’s eight years old, a notebook-filler who loves nothing more than to write stories for hours and hours. But when it came time to choose her career path, she chose teaching. To be honest, she didn’t think she was good enough to become an author. For ten years that dreamer girl taught special needs children for long hours each day so there was no time to write. That left her with an unsettling feeling, like something was missing, like she wasn't using a vital part of her body, like part of her soul had fallen asleep. But there was no time in the day to shake it awake. Whenever her heart would ache to write, she’d tell herself it was too late; she’d chosen her path.
At one point, the little dreamer started a tiny business called, “It’s a Personal Thing,” where she wrote custom poetry for individuals to gift their loved ones in times of celebration and sorrow. Her business never took off, but she saw the way people cried when they read her words. Her soul stirred each time someone said, “How did you manage to say the things on my heart I could not say?” The dreamer girl prayed for a way to use her God-given writing gift to help others while still making a living. For five years, she prayed about this writing dream while keeping a small notebook with her at all times. She wrote down hundreds of ideas. Most of them were not-so-good ideas. But it only took one good idea.
Around the time she had one good idea, she was reading Patti’s Digh’s inspiring book called Life is a Verb. It said:
“Early in her career Toni Morrison worked at Random House publishers. One day her head exploded just as mine had, and she started her list of to-do items. She wrote pages and pages of things that she must do. Faced with the long list, she sat and looked at it for a long while, finally asking herself one question: What is it I must do or I shall die?
After answering that question, there were only two things left on her to-do list: 1) Be a mother to her children. 2) Write.”
When the little dreamer girl read that part of the book, the sky opened up. In big, bold letters above her head it said, “It is possible.”
Because that little girl, who was now almost forty years old, knew there were only two things she must do before she left this earth. The first was to truly know her children and spouse by being a constant presence and source of love and support in their lives. The other was to write. Write. Write. Her heart screamed, “It’s time.”
In order to develop her writing gift, as well as her dream, she needed time to write. With two young children, there was little time, so she gave up television. She quickly learned that in the time she could watch a 30-minute show, she could easily write 500 to 1000 words. Her stories began to form before her eyes. She quietly shared them with trusted friends and family who encouraged her to share them more widely.
That little girl kept writing. She also asked lots of questions and researched extensively to learn as much as she could about fulfilling her writing dream. Most days she was excited and hopeful, but some days she was doubtful and teary. She earned little money and many rejections. Once her words were public, there were attacks on her writing, her mothering, and her self-esteem.
But yet, she felt successful.
Why? Because her measure of success was this: To touch ONE life with each story she wrote.
It is still her goal today, two published books later, as she writes this very piece you are reading.
My friends, each time someone on the receiving end of one of my written lifelines says, “Your words helped me today,” the little dreamer girl inside me jumps for joy. “Please keep writing,” you say, and I see the writing in the sky: It is possible.
Each time I hear my child strumming away on her guitar, I pass that encouragement on to her.
“Keep singing,” I urge with every fiber in my body, “Please don't ever stop singing.”
And now it is your turn. Today I am looking into your eyes. Imagine my hands in yours as I speak these words to you:
What is your dream, precious child?
What makes your heart come alive?
What is your dream, little dreamer?
And now listen very carefully to my response:
Yes, you can.
It is possible.
2016 is your year. You have waited a long time for this—and don’t think for one minute those years have been wasted time. Oh no. All these years and experiences have been preparing you for this moment—this moment when the Sky of Possibilities opens up above your head.
What must you do before you leave this earth, precious child?
Now listen to my response:
Your dream is important.
It is so very important. Do not let the naysayers, real or imaginary, tell you otherwise.
From my eight-year-old dreamer heart to yours, “It’s time. It’s time.”
Just look up at the big, bold words written in the sky …
It is possible.
My friends, I just have to tell you. As I was working on this piece, I received a message from a member of The Hands Free Revolution community. Having a publishing dream herself, she asked me to tell her my first step. After corresponding with some details and encouraging words, she said something I will never forget: “You just made my black and white version of life turn into 3D color.” Friends, I saw her sky open up right then and there. And because I think it’s helpful to see real life examples of dreams coming to fruition, I want to tell you about several dear friends who I’ve been blessed to encourage as they take bold steps to do what makes their hearts come alive. Following that list of individuals is a jumping off point for you that I hope you will consider, as well as an incredible resource to help you move you forward. In the comments today, please tell us your dream or simply put #itstime as a declaration of what’s to come. Take a look at what these brave people are doing …
- Katrina Willis – While working full-time as a corporate copywriter, balancing a number of freelance assignments, supporting her husband through the pursuit of his doctoral degree, and raising four children (born within five years), Katrina started a blog, established an online platform, and began her lifelong dream of publishing a novel. After years of writing and editing — and despite numerous setbacks and agent/publisher rejections — that novel, Parting Gifts, releases on April 19, 2016. Follow her here.
- Heather Tolley-Bauer – Heather is no stranger to reinventing herself. She did it when she left her corporate job and started her own company and again a year ago when she accidentally found her next big thing in a stand up comedy class. Spreading her mommy comedy in sold out shows all over Atlanta, this rising comedian is following her passion of inspiring women to be kind to themselves and each other by laughing away the mommy guilt. Follow her here.
- Kerry Foreman – Kerry moved out on her own at age 16 and was the first person in her family to graduate college. She went to graduate school at age 38 to pursue her dream of becoming a counselor. She worked as a school counselor before transitioning to her dream job of psychotherapist. She leads hiking groups as a hiking therapist in the Rocky Mountains and specializes in Mindfulness. She shares her wisdom and experiences on Get Grounded, a site for those who want to live authentically and choose happy. Follow her here.
- Beth Novawk – Taking a GIGANTIC leap of faith, Beth resigned from teaching in 2012 to start her own company, Giving Families. Shortly after developing the concept for its Good Mail Challenges, she received an Honorable Mention in Stanford University's Compassion and Technology Competition and was invited to present “Helping Our Littlest Helpers” at TEDx in 2014. Last year, she began shipping Challenges to families in all 50 states throughout the continental US and, in March 2016, she plans to begin shipping internationally. Follow her here.
- Kaitlin Curtice – Kaitlin is currently writing a book of stories and prayers that reflect on how we can find glory in every day spaces. She recently accepted an invitation to be a deacon at her church, although that meant going out of her comfort zone and stretching herself into new territories. And although she’d never given guitar lessons in her life, she said yes to TheHappyGirl’s mother’s request—and the rest is history. Kaitlin believes we are always and forever learners and that we shouldn’t be afraid of that. She also believes we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace whatever season we are in because it’s teaching us something that shows us who we are, and that’s never worthless. Follow her here.
- Kristin Vanderhey Shaw – Kristin left her job and hung up her frequent flyer card in 2013 to pursue her dream of writing, while spending more time with her family. Now she is regularly published by The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, among other sites, and owns a freelance writing company, Firewheel Communications. Her next goals are to publish a children's book, a novel, and an essay in the New York Times. Follow her here.
If you would like a jumping off point for dream pursing … please consider auditioning for Listen to Your Mother. Last year my friend Kristin Shaw encouraged me to audition in my city. I had no idea the opportunities it would offer me: a chance to go outside my comfort zone & grow … a chance to meet & know some of the most beautiful-hearted people in my city … a chance to fill some missing holes in my life due to our recent move. I especially had no idea it would bring the most amazing guitar & vocal instructor and friend into Avery’s life. Listen to Your Mother auditions are happening very soon in 41 cities (sign ups are happening now click here for updates). Please know you do not have to be a writer or a mother or even a woman to share your story. This is open to everyone. Click here to see what cities are holding productions.
If you would like a resource for dream pursing … please get acquainted with Dr. Jessica Michaelson. I recently got to be a part of her powerful initiative, “Be What You're About” which is an interview series with women who are creating creative and purpose-driven careers while being engaged, present moms. My interview, like the others, covers how I began my dream and how I manage time for my work while maintaining my goals as a mother. There is a wealth of inspiring content on Jessica’s blog, as well as growth opportunities. Beginning January 19, 2015 is another session of Jessica’s Finding What You Didn't Lose, which is a group journaling program for women who have lost themselves to productivity, stress, and perfection, and want to reconnect with their values and the beauty of their lives. Jessica is offering a special savings code to our community. Use the code: HANDSFREE for a 10% discount. This offer is good through 1/16.
One final note – I did not set out to be a speaker when I pursued my writing dream, but it has become one of my favorite parts of this journey. On Saturday, January 30, 2015 from 2:30 to 3:30pm I will be speaking at the Indy Women’s Expo at the IN State Fairgrounds (Ag-Hort Building). I will be doing a book signing of HANDS FREE LIFE directly afterwards. My favorite part about speaking is meeting YOU and hearing your stories. Indiana, please come as you are. Let me see that light within you and tell you how beautiful it is. Click here for ticket and event information.
Don't forget to tell us your dream in the comments or use the hashtag #itstime. Simply by sharing your dream, it becomes a little more real for you and has the power to inspire someone else.