“So come on fly away with me
To a place where we could be anyone we wanna be
And we can bottle up our fears
Grow a taste so sweet, knock us off our feet and more
Burn our troubles
Inhale them all
Paint our future on a fractured wall.”
–Tom Walker, Fly Away with Me
If anyone asked, I’d say I’ve always been Type A—ambitious, competitive, self-critical, anxiety-prone, highly conscientious, and time urgent. My mom adamantly denies I’ve always been this way. As a girl, she says I laughed often, rested beneath shady trees, and spent time leisurely playing, singing, and creating. I remember that little girl vaguely, and I miss her sometimes. The good news is that along my Hands Free journey, I’m learning to soften many of my rigid, Type A characteristics in order to nurture my relationships, my health, and my happiness.
One tangible sign of progress is the substantial productivity break I take every summer. For a solid month, I relinquish the pressure to produce content, boost book sales, and respond to daily email requests and inquiries. It always takes me a few days to stop letting my goal-oriented mind run the show. But around Day 4, I feel a shift. I feel the tension start to leave in my body and a restorative peace settles in.
“Lay with me, Mama,” Avery said to me one night during my recent productivity break in July. We’d gone to the library that day and she checked out four of the Lemony Snicket books. While she checked out her literary treasures, I realized I hadn’t read a book for enjoyment in nine months. Since I read several books a month to provide endorsements for colleagues, there is no time left for pleasure reading. This realization made me sad knowing I’d always loved to read as a girl.
As soon as I settled in next to Avery in bed, I unconsciously released a gigantic sigh.
“You need to sit down more, Mama,” she gently suggested. “It’s good to rest sometimes.”
That is what I love about her. When she is tired, she rests. When she is sad, she writes or talks about it. When she sees something interesting, she stops to look at it. When she feels inclined to help, she does. Avery does not live by the clock or by the expectations of others. She lives by heart.
One of my blog readers once referred to Avery as being Type N – the N stood for Noticer meaning she is acutely aware of the needs, emotions, struggles and triumphs of those around her. But perhaps it is because she is so in tune with her own heart that she’s able to notice and respond compassionately to others.
I thought about her Type N personality when she got braces in July. On the morning of the procedure, she felt very anxious about experiencing pain and discomfort. After expressing her concerns to me, she came up with a mantra to say to herself.
“It’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be great. I can do anything.”
She quietly chanted the phrase throughout the ten-minute drive and in the waiting room. When it was time to take the “before” photos, the mirror held in the hygienist hand hurt her mouth and caused her to choke. Avery began to cry. The orthodontist came in and told her she could come back another day to get her braces. I noticed Avery took a moment to answer. After listening to her heart, she courageously said, “I can do it today.”
Seeing the way Avery checked in with her deep feelings this summer motivated me to help her fulfill a long-time bucket list item. For over two years, she’s dreamed of returning to the church where she was baptized to play her guitar and sing for the congregation. At last, plans were put in place with the worship director and our family made the three-hour trek to our former community.
Avery had one rehearsal right before the service. With a glowing smile, she perched herself on the wooden stool at the front of the stage. With a full band behind her, she was given the power to begin when ready. There was no trepidation. She began confidently, filling the sanctuary with the most soothing, wondrous sound.
What struck me more than the beautiful sound of her voice was the expression on her face. It said: This is where I am supposed to be. This is what I am supposed to be doing.
Her heart had told her so, and she listened.
Seeing the way Avery’s heart-centered confidence brought growth and possibility into her life was exactly what I needed to see at this juncture in my life. It’s been five months since I released my third book, Only Love Today. In the publishing world, it is time to start thinking about the next book – to write that book proposal and dig in. In three years and two months I have published three books, and I am expected to write many more. But as I my mind and body rested for thirty days in July, I heard my heart, and it had something to say.
My heart recalled a long-time dream I’ve had that would utilize my love of teaching to help people in ways my books cannot. This dream requires stepping out of my comfort zone, allowing change, accepting help, and trusting myself and others, (which is probably why I’ve avoided taking steps towards this dream in years past.)
But this time I heard, “I can do it.”
Divinely placed in my life to help me is a new colleague and friend. His talents and strengths fill the areas of uncertainty of my longtime dream. His experience and wisdom fill the uncharted areas of my long-time dream. As we have exchanged ideas over the past six weeks, I’ve watched my dream come to life in ways unimagined.
Last weekend, my colleague and I met in person for the first time. Instead of sitting down to talk over coffee, I asked if he would be up for walking in the park. As we talked under the shady trees, I saw my future looking different than what might have been expected of me. It looked more like the life of a little girl who loved to teach, have meaningful conversations, take leaps of faith, and pursue the passions of her heart.
For the first time in decades, I vividly remember that little girl my mom says I was. But this time instead of drowning her out or pushing her away, I embraced her and listened closely to what she had to say. She tells me I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing. And I trust her. Unlike the world’s voice, she has my best interests in mind.
My friends, I’d like to encourage you today …
To carve pockets of quiet time for your heart to speak and be heard …
To acknowledge deep feelings when making decisions and respond lovingly to them …
To be open to receiving help to reach goals and dreams—you don’t have to have all the pieces to the puzzle …
To remember that little girl or boy you used to be and listen closely to what they want for you now. You can safely assume they won’t direct you to your comfort zone. At first, you might feel uncertain, restless, and a bit scared. Living in tune with your heart is not always easy …
But in that place of heart-centered confidence, the best version of you emerges and possibilities unimagined come to life.
Just remember and say it often:
It’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be great. You can do anything.
Dear friends of The Hands Free Revolution, it is so good to be back! I filled two notebooks with thoughts and ideas during my respite and have so much to share with you over the next weeks and months. Over the summer, I was invited to speak at several incredible events around the country. I hope one of them is in your neck of the woods! Please remember I do not plan my events, I simply go where I am invited if I am able. Click here to submit a speaking request to my speaking agent.
- Mobile, AL– Friday, September 22, 2017. Focus Women’s Conference. Click here for tickets and information
- Cincinnati, OH– Saturday, October 14, 2017. Tom York Speaker Series located at Knox Presbyterian Church Auditorium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Details found here.
- Indiana, PA – Thursday, October 19, 2017. Indiana Regional Medical Spirit of Women Ladies Night Out. Click here to register.
- Ann Arbor, MI – Saturday, November 18, 2017 9am. “Limitless Potential” fundraising Brunchfor GIRLS ON THE RUN at Kensington Hotel. Ticket link coming soon.
- Homewood, AL – Friday, February 2, 2018 7pm. Trinty United Methodist Women Missions Fundraiser. More details coming soon.