With every passing day, I realise just how appropriate it is that my word for 2012 is FEARLESS. I’m bumping up against almost every insecurity and fear that I have these days. For instance, coming out from behind the mask of my blog name with my own real name felt significant this week. And then of course, telling you about Jesus Feminist! And doing it through a video blog. Whew.
It was bigger than just sharing the book topic. I was actually scared about speaking out loud. I know that you’re there on the other side of the screen, I know your names, a handful of you have been my friends for more than a decade, another handful have become among my dearest friends, you have always been so kind to me (well, most of you….). But this week, when I was preparing to share my book concept with the world, using my own voice, I was downright scared.
Brene Brown links a lot of these feelings to shame, this sense of “who do I think I am?” So there’s that, for sure, especially given the topic of my work. But it was also about something silly, I suppose. For a lot of my life, I haven’t liked my voice. I get loud, shockingly loud, really easily. I laugh too loud. The know-it-all timbre of my Lecture Mode is legend. I wish I was more measured, less nasal, more gentle, more what I imagine a good Proverbs 31 woman sounds like sometimes – comforting, gentle, poised, holy. I don’t know what holy sounds like, but I imagine it with a British accent for some reason.
It felt weird to be nervous. After all, I have had more than 12 years working in a field that required constant presentations, speeches, meeting leading, in front of all manner of dignitaries and leaders. But I was more nervous this time, talking to a web cam, than I’ve ever been about public speaking to hundreds. It took 38 takes to achieve that easy-breezy-comfort of the video, and I realised something.
I was nervous because it was my actual voice talking about my actual heart and my actual work that I actually cared about OUT LOUD. I had skin in the game. I care about this work because I truly believe in it, my heart is invested here. I was sending out into the world not only my idea and my passion and my convictions, but I was using my own voice to do it. I felt vulnerable, exposed. This was no strategy document, this was no strategic marketing plan, this was me, just me, saying out loud, here’s what matters to me and here’s why and I really, really hope that I honour God with it.
That’s scary. And weirdly beautiful.
For all that you know about me – and after all of these years, you know TOO MUCH ABOUT ME – you didn’t know what my voice sounded like. You didn’t know how I pronounce my words and as the comments piled up about my accent (for the record, you are the ones with accents…), it dawned on me that there is something to being real, something to using our voices before we really feel like we know each other, something to having the courage to speak. As your kind and overwhelming comments poured in – about the book AND my “accent” – something began to unfurl in my thinking, in amongst all of the gratitude, this wondering that for our true heart to be shared, we need to use our true voice. And sometimes that looks like writing – I find my truest voice in my words here on the page – and sometimes it looks like sitting down with a web cam, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it looks like a living room conversation saying a few honest and hard things, sometimes it looks like kitchen table whisperings, sometimes it looks like shouting at the sky in a field, sometimes it’s just humming quiet under our breath while we hold a small soul and sway.
There is something brave in speaking out in your own voice about something that matters to you. It feels a bit like building an altar, a holy thing, in our hyper-connected-but-disconnected world.
I’m learning to trust my voice. I love that I sound like my sister and my mother. I love that almost every one knew right away that I was Canadian. I compulsively sing along with songs, I read paragraphs of books I love out loud to my long suffering husband, I holler my tinies to STOP YELLING, I call for supper, I worship, I praise, I pray, I cry, I pontificate.
I think my voice is connecting to my heart and my mind and my soul, I’m becoming more and more seamless.
That night, I bathed Evelynn before bed, just us two for once. There are few things that make me feel that heaven is here right now like a clean, sleepy baby. I dressed her in soft jammies, combed her wavy damp curls, she was rubbing her eyes, I kept kissing her open mouth to make her laugh in the middle of her yawn. We babbled back and forth, she’s so communicative now, and when we settled into our chair in her room, in the late evening fading sunshine, the door was closed to all the hollering and playing and sounds of family life on the other side. She relaxed and as she nursed deep before bed, I rocked. My heart slowed down and I thought over the day, honoured my voice, released all of my tension and anxiety and fears about it all again, as always, pictured myself laying them down at the feet of my Jesus, I rested in the quiet and the creak and the sighs of a nursing baby girl completely at peace. When I laid her in her bed, half-asleep and content, my voice – my imperfect, flawed, but real voice – was in her baby ears, whispering that she was loved, and sweet dreams, and good night, sweetheart. In the midst of all of it, I want the ones that I love in the daily ways of life to know my voice in its fullness and imperfections, most and first and always speaking a language of Love.